Harbor Freight has launched a new Bauer modular tool box system, and they encourage users to “compare to Milwaukee [Packout]”.
Not to mince words, this is no Milwaukee Packout competitor. The Bauer tool boxes have extremely lightweight load ratings, such as 25 lbs for the small tool box and 60 lbs for the rolling tool box.
Milwaukee Packout tool boxes can hold up to 75 lbs, and their rolling tool box is rated at 250 lbs if weight capacity.
So while Harbor Freight encourages shoppers to “compare to Milwaukee” on price, the Bauer tool boxes don’t compare on even ground with respect to features, construction, or specs.
This is still an interesting product line.
Harbor Freight describes the Bauer tool boxes as “incredibly rugged.” They also emphasize that their 5 options allow for “over 50 storage configurations.”
At the time of this posting, there are just 5 Bauer modular tool box and organizer options:
- Small tool box w/ 6 removable parts cups: $30
- Storage tote: $20
- Large tool box: $40
- Rolling tool box: $70
- 12-compartment parts organizer: $35
The pricing seems a bit high, as a 3-piece system built with a rolling tool box with small and large tool boxes would come out to be $140.
The Craftsman Versastack combo (with organizer instead of tool box) is $90 at Lowe’s, and the Craftsman Tradestack launched at $169 at Lowe’s. There’s also the Ridgid Pro tool box system 3pc combo, currently $119 at Home Depot, and a Hart Stack system that’s $89 at Walmart.
With Harbor Freight so focused on how their lower pricing compares to “competing” systems, one would think they would have been more conscious about how their pricing actually compared to true competitors’ modular tool box systems.
There are some interesting and notable features. The Bauer parts organizer, for instance, is said to be IP65-rated watertight and dustproof. All of the tool boxes look to have metal latches.
I’m a little hesitant about Bauer’s side latches, which are used to lock stacked tool boxes together. Maybe the images give a false sense of scale, but it looks like there is a tiny finger loop built into a sliding tab. It’s hard to say without seeing and feeling it in person, but this doesn’t look very user-friendly to me.
It’s unclear as to whether Harbor Freight has a broader lineup in mind for Bauer, and it will be interesting to see where they go with this. Maybe their more premium brushless motor Hercules cordless power tools could be bundled with Bauer tool boxes? There’s plenty of potential.
It’s always good to have more tool options, but how does Bauer differentiate from all of the other modular tool box systems currently on the market?
Maybe Rigid would be a better “compare to”? Or Tstak maybe.
It usually seems like HF’s choice for competing product makes more sense. Perhaps they just had a price in mind and therefore needed a more expensive product to compare it to.
Nevertheless, could still be a good product.
Isn’t Hercules their more “premium” brand? Why not offer these with that branding as opposed to Bauer?
Maybe if this does well they’ll have a “pro” system under Hercules branding.
Harbor freight used to be the best deal in town if you knew what to buy there as in respect to quality… Lately their prices are through the roof you can get a Craftsman air compressor cheaper than a central pneumatic at Lowe’s versus harbor freight… Home depot’s Ridgid tool box is better than DeWalt and Milwaukee I have compared them in my opinion anyway… Even their pliers and things like that are too overpriced the only thing they have in harbor freight anymore is odd and Ian goofball items I cannot believe they’re still in business with the way that they have changed their business model in the past 10 years… Now they are stickler for returns when they never were before they are just over all a worse and worse store
They got corporate greedy
With the pricing of these already, do you think a “pro” system under Hercules branding would survive with the prices they’d have to charge above these?
Hercules in Blue with the drawer system. The drawers are nice because you don’t have to un stack the boxes. sometimes you go to a job or jobs site and you don’t have the room to but boxes down all around you as with the drawers you have no need to unstuck boxed, and for speed. Oper a drawer grab your drill/driver vs I have to unstack everything just for a drill /driver.
P. S. Hurry up and come out with a battery powered stapler for romex and coaxial cable.
Because they are working on the other “premium” system under Hercules (something like Dewalt 2.0). For the Bauer, it’s just their MPP brand, which is absolutely compared to Rigid, not Milwaukee…..
They’re identical to Masterforce at Menards. A little less expensive. They must have used the same supplier.
At least the Menards version has a contrasting distinguishing green color.
Oh. And already “on sale”.
Though I’m two time zones from ever seeing these in person.
They might ship them – and Menards is spreading – they’ve reached Casper which is Mountain Time so you may only be one timezone away now!
I bought mine from Bunnings Australia a few years back. Branded as Tactix. Exact including moulding of the lids, locking clips and all.
Google Tactix rolling toolbox Bunnings
Most of stackable toolboxes are made from only one company and I mean Dewalts Milwaukees all major brands
That is not correct.
I still consider HF’s advertising a bit dodgy They created the Bauer (farmer in German) name to sound Germanic. For other Chinese tools they apply names like Pittsburgh and Chicago or other names that suggest that they have USA roots. They tout their tools as comparable to whatever they think will add to their sales volume. In general – other than disposables like chip brushes and nitrile gloves – nothing at HF appeals to me. But I’m not their target customer – and they seem to be doing a good business catering to those who are. They are trying to move upscale and be more credible – but they have a long way to go.
Ohhhhh not nitrile gloves there anymore!! Their new, standard, non sales price is just a hair under what you’d get if you took their old sales price for gloves & doubled! it.
Remember when their light blue gloves were $5.99 on sale…. Yeah…. Crazy high now.
I have been getting mine from Sam’s Club back in the pharmacy. Same nitrile, feels like the same thickness as well as the same durometer, too 👍
But I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen substantial (and most likely barely warranted) consumer item price hikes in the last few months.
I suspect that something akin to piling on is in play right now. New cars are in short supply – so if one dealer can get $2000 over MSRP – then the next one might see if $5000 over is possible. The nitrile glove shortage may be a real thing since COVID has increased demand for them – but many with many other items I’m guessing that it is just more money chasing the same number of items – thus pushing the price up. It is sort of a mixed blessing and curse – as many are forced to pay more for the necessities of life – while many others are sitting on a lot more cash.
Matt the Hoople
I even consider their power tools as disposable. Bought a 4” angle grinder, angle drill and rotary hammer all because I needed each for a single project and buying to use one time was cheaper than renting.
Bought their floor standing drill press at $150 on sale cause it was limited use for me and couldn’t justify $500 plus for a real one. Is still running 20 years later. Only down side is that the chuck falls out from time to time when backing out a drill bit cause of the crappy fit of the taper into the spindle. Only happens when I’m too lazy to clamp my work and I’m holding it to the table by hand.
Agreed that today’s prices keep me away anymore.
Note that “compare to” and “comparable to” have completely different meanings.
Next time the chuck comes off give this a try:
Clean the male end of the arbor and the hole in the chuck carefully to make sure there’s no debris or oil in there. Open up the chuck all the way so the teeth are retracted inside the body. Heat up the chuck–careful use of a torch, a heat gun, hotplate, etc. is sufficient, you don’t have to get it crazy hot, 200F is fine. While it’s hot place it back on the arbor and give it a good tap with a hammer. As it cools and shrinks it will grab the arbor extra tight. It may not help if the tapers aren’t a proper match but I have used this trick many times in the past with good results.
Matt the Hoople
Thanks. I’ll definitely give this a try. Thinking about this, after tapping the chuck on, I can place a block of wood under it and jam it down against the wood to hold it tight as it cools.
I’ve always felt the cost of the drill is not worth the effort of blueing the parts to check the fit because it wouldn’t be worth the effort/cost to correct if it were bad taper.
Well, to be fair, I worked at a place with a brand new Chinese-made Powermatic 2800 a few years ago and it couldn’t be trusted to keep its chuck on the taper either. Total POS that also started eating its belts and the shop quickly got fed up and gave it back under warranty. So it’s possible to get a lemon anywhere. That said, if I were looking for a new-to-me drill press I’d be looking for an old one.
And my old Walker Turner radial and newer (1960’s) Delta – just keep soldiering on
Walker Turner cabinet saw and two drill presses here (one has a dedicated mortising attachment). Parts are hard to come by, but there’s a company that actually produces replacements. Best stationary woodworking tools I own.
HF still has some good stuff. Their Apache cases are a good value (not sure how they will hold up over the long term in comparison to a Pelican.). Lately, I’ve mostly been buying hand tools and pigskin work gloves from HF. The Doyle and Bremen pliers are a very good value. They still sell crap versions of hand tools, but a lot of them are pretty darned good. Some pros are using them every day. I have a small 2-gallon Fortress compressor that I like. The U.S. General tool chests are highly regarded.
All in all, HF still sells just as much crap (if not more) than they do good stuff. You’ve just gotta pick and choose. People say the return policies are not as easy as they used to be, but it’s still at least as good as all other big-box stores. After decades of people abusing return policies, retailers are having to make changes.
The Apache cases might be a good value, but I’ve handled them in store, and they’re nowhere close to Pelican quality.
The problem with HF is that, in general, their quality stuff isn’t much (or any) cheaper than the competition, so why buy it? (US General is definitely an exception here).
I would go apache over pelican all day. I’ve used pelican cases in the uscg and my bridge inspection job. We lost 2 over a dam and we got apache and it does the same. I think pope are just bias. Even the article is bias.
Bauer company is in Virginia been making air compressors for years
There are 2 different Bauers. One makes industrial air systems, and the other is the Harbor Freight brand we’re talking about here.
I get what you’re saying, but to offer some perspective, there are many tool brands that seem like they are American, but are only that in name. Milwaukee is owned by TTI, which is headquartered is Hong Kong. That “American” brand is not only made in China but is even owned by a Chinese corporation. TTI is playing the same game, they just get away with it better.
Milwaukee has a huge USA footprint and is expanding further. Yes, their parent company is a publicly-traded company that’s HQed overseas. It’s not even close to being the same thing.
they told you to compare it to packout, and you did just that!
They are including a feature that I’ve wished for in other systems: internal tool wall dividers.
*Removable tool cards organize screwdrivers and pliers
(looks like the masterforce has this too)
helps to avoid the “big dumb box” issue
Matt the Hoople
I too like the tool wall. Would consider getting just this one box for the “inside the house” tools for that reason. Some of the Husky tool bags have the tool wall feature and I always thought it was one of the best things about them.
“Compare to” Milwaukee because that’s the most expensive option, therefore luring more potential buyers to “savings”. “Compare to” doesn’t have to mean “nearly identical”; their hope is that when some Joe comes through the door and sees this is half price or more over Milwaukee, they’ll pull the trigger. Only after the sale, and weeks/months down the road when there’s a failure, or they ACTUALLY compare this to Milwaukee side by side, do they realize they got the dollar store version and the only comparison is they vaguely look the same.
Yeah their comparison ads always drove me crazy. They just have a scammy feel, and are always obvious mismatches based on price alone. “Reg. price $199, ON SALE $19.95. Compare to Snap-On $3,750.” Sure.
This looks awful similar to Container Store’s Tactix series – whose main claim to fame is a two drawer box with storage in top. I wish that a few folks would realize Packout’s other great feature – the red boxes are easier to find small tools in the bottom, instead of black. These are very ‘me too!’ and boring as all get out.
True! Yellow or tan would be even better, at least to my eyes, but red stands out nicely when it’s the box itself that you’re trying to find, rather than something inside the box.
Orange is probably the best compromise. Hey TTI! Call up Keter and ask them for a quote on orange boxes for Ridgid!
That’s the classic “can’t find stuff” issue with all so-called professional carrying cases. Foam lined included.
And while yellow is even easier to see to differentiate parts and pieces it get dirty a lot faster.
When Harbor Freight is more than the big box… they aren’t going to win unless they are doubling down on the loss leader type stuff that all the other crap plus this does better for them. I started with the Dewalt Deep Pro $10 deal and have grown frustrated that Home Depot can’t keep them in stock except at $20-25 which makes me price shop. I can do the Craftsman Versastack or Hart stuff for the same. Why go for this? unless I can coupon the crap out of it.
Just saw these in the store yesterday. I wanted to check them out but they seemed anxious for me to leave as they were closing in 10 minutes. It looks like Ridgid and Dewalt Tstak had a baby and this is what happened.
I find Harbor Freight good for that tool you use once. Anything I need somewhat frequently, I go somewhere else.
I bought an electric body saw there for 28 bucks. They wanted to know if I wanted to purchase insurance on it!
HF has really lost its appeal to me. I used to enjoy wandering through there but nowadays the prices on so many things don’t seem as compelling, and I still don’t trust them for the kind of stuff I never trusted them for.
It’s good to see more competition in this space. I wish there were a non-major brand who made something that would fit in with anyone’s chosen color of tools. I’m a Makita guy and Packout seems awesome, but I honestly hate the high-viz red color.
I want my crate of expensive tools to be as inconspicuous as possible thanks.
Kind of modest, and not as rugged/rigid/load-bearing, but the Husky Rolling Connect are just black and silver — they now have a set of drawers which makes them a lot more flexible, and reduces the need to rearrange a stack — I just wish the bottom of the cart was drawers.
This is my pet peeve of pet peeves. Why don’t any of the systems have a base unit with drawers? Almost any loadout would be more efficient with drawers as a base and less unstacking.
I still buy the tstak single drawer from my local hardware store for that reason. Its so much easier to access what you need. As far as these storage systems go, No Drawers=No Interest
Looks like another wannabe knock off from China-Freight to me. I’m sure it would be a decent box for a few weeks, or some home owner. But to think this would actually last on a job site or two ? I’d have to take it to task myself. We’ll see. I know some YT and IG channels will probably have these being used and some abused and torture tested. But I doubt they’ll really be able to compare to DeWalt, Ridgid or even Husky, let alone Milwaukee.
I have the Ridged 3 piece and the Milwaukee 4 piece packout. While Milwaukee packout is the best of all these boxes, the Ridged is still very good and I would put it up against this Bauer crap.
Just to let you know how good Packout is, all my power tools are yellow and black, yes I’m a DeWalt guy with all my tools in a Milwaukee set of boxes. That’s how they are. I do get a lot of crap for that but I’m not being brand loyal, I’m buying what I think is best. And it ain’t Harbor Freight Bauer.
Won’t buy this at those weight ratings. If I was looking for a budget the Craftsman tradestack looks like a decent middle ground especially when it will do on sale. They just added a 22″ tool tote and tools bag for 70 each, it is it 80. Off they are not on sale probably not, but still better than a Bauer kit.
Finally an article with real comparisons and information. Thanks for a great review!
2 different companies hecules is biult in China and bauer is made in Virginia American made
That is incorrect. The Bauer that we’re talking about here is Harbor Freight’s entry/mid-price tool brand, and most if not all of their products are NOT American-made.
The Bauer that you’re talking about is a specialty company that makes industrial and breathing air systems.
I haven’t been to a Harbor Freight in well over a year. With the substantially lower weight ratings of the Bauer, I don’t see how they can compare or compete. I bought some of their wrenches so I’d have a set in my backyard shed where I work on the lawn equipment; so far, they’ve been fine. I can’t take Harbor Freight power tools seriously as long as they continue to offer only a 90-day warranty. Even their Bauer and Hercules power tools only have a 90-day warranty.
Packout has its flaws but (hopefully) Milwaukee should listen to the criticisms people put in and continue to make it better. If not at least the community is doing things with all the 3d printed designs to expand Packout or make it better / more functional. I wish they would sell a rolling cart base with draws instead of a big box. For one set of tools this would make it perfect. Yea I know there’s a box with drawers in it but to make it a rolling base would be perfect. With such a following at least we can hope Milwaukee keeps on keeping with it. I can’t say I see the same unfortunately with the other systems. I mean the Rigid stack is where I started and it’s great for what it is (especially price). I still have my emergency to go kit of tools in the original set I purchased but my go to job tools are in my Packout kit.
With how I know Dewalt gets ADHD about products I just can’t fully invest into the Toughsystem and not know in a few years it’s still a viable product from them. They do have some interesting add ons that I wish Milwaukee had but yea.
The HF system looks viable for a home gamer that wants to step it up from 5 gallon buckets for jobs around the house and the price is good for that.
The Ridgid boxes are ten times the boxes then Milwaukee junk out had my Ridgid boxes for months now and and have no compatants I take them down dirt roads and have.no worries packout shit falls off them or
agree does seem high price
This system is also sold under the TACTIX brand in Australia (not sure about the US, it might be available on Amazon), which is the factory brand.
There are other configurations and even drawers available here so shouldn’t be too far away from entering the Bauer lineup.
I have some of the Tactix gear and it is a massive step up from the SBD and other lower priced modular offerings, but is still a mile off pack out quality so it seems to be a good alternative for pro-sumers or occasional users (like myself).
HD Modular System from TACTIX it is!
Ridgid pro is 146
Milwaukee also has mounting feet to mount the boxes on a truck ( or any other surface). I would have loved to mount this in my Jeep .
Are the Craftsman modular tool boxes compatible with Bauer boxes?
I very highly doubt it.
I’ve got 205lbs of bullets in my rolling box. Works fine.