In response to my preview of Dewalt’s new lighted tool backpack, John said:
Backpacks belong in a classroom not out in the field.
John’s not the only pro to have this opinion. I have also heard that tool backpacks are a solution in need of a problem. Tool backpacks are, however, quite popular with a lot of users.
A couple of months ago, a facilities maintenance tech came by to fix something, and he was sporting a very large tool backpack. Other techs might carry small tool bags – or nothing at all – forcing them to leave to retrieve a tool they need but don’t have on them. Sometimes they’ll just ask to borrow my tools if something they need is in plain sight.
Tool bags can get heavy really fast. They also need to be carried by hand, at least most of the time.
Backpacks, on the other hand, distribute weight a lot differently, and can be more comfortable for longer treks. Sometimes a tool bag or box and a wheeled cart or dolly is a better option, but isn’t always feasible, such as when crowds or stairs are involved.
I once saw a tech in Manhattan traveling between jobs with a tool backpack on.
Tool backpacks make a lot of sense to me, at least for certain work environments. It’s the same reason you go hiking with a backpack and not a messenger bag – two straps around the shoulders are easier to bear than one in the hand or around the shoulder.
So what do you think – do tool bags have a place in professional work environments, or are they better left to student and hikers?
Backpacks came to the classroom from the field! They’ve been used outdoors for ages. I am a veto pro Pac user, and when you have to carry long distances, it would be nice to strap the weight on the back. For general everyday use, regular toolbags are fine. Backpacks are for the long haul, a great solution for those that need it.
I like the idea, but I personally don’t have a need for one.
I find most tool backpacks lack or have an under-developed padded waist strap that helps distribute the weight. I feel more people would use tool backpacks if this feature was incorporated. However; that being said, for certain tech’s, tradesmen, contractors, etc. Who carry very specific tools daily these can be great to improve speed.
While I prefer open soft side toolboxes, I can definitely see instances where a well designed backpack would be preferred. Have you every had to climb a ladder with a toolbox? Maybe you work a job in a large facility where you have to walk around quite a bit. Carrying a toolbox a long distance can get old. Maybe you need your hands free when you are walking around.
Even if you just prefer a backpack over another method of carrying tools, I’d never disparage anybody for how they choose to carry their tools, I’d judge them on the quality of their work.
I can see a backpack over a tool BRIEFCASE-I used one of those for a while and it was quite heavy.
While I don’t need a tool backpack I do see the appeal for one. And I would definitely get one if I felt it would be more useful to me and my job. But im usually working out in the field close to my truck or in the warehouse and I use a cart to push my tools around on.
I guess a regular strong backpack would work fine too. But, some people like brand names on their accessories.
Great if doing work in woods or on rooftop instead of trying to carry a tool box or 5 gal. Bucket.
It may be a generational thing. If you became used to using a backpack as a book-bag you may be a fan of this form factor. As a boy scout then a scoutmaster for many years I became used to various frame packs that carried most of the weight on you hips, As others have noted – some of the tool backpacks seem to rely mostly on shoulders for this – but then again it is not likely that a technician will be hiking in 10 miles to a jobsite – and it may be just as likely that the bag gets slung over just one shoulder on the way up an elevator to a commercial jobsite.
Btw – we got a few backpacks bundled with Paslode impulse roofing nailers that we bought for punchlist and small repair roofing jobs. While I never heard any of the crews complain about them – neither did I hear anyone say they were a good idea.
I didn’t even know tool backpacks until just recently. I have been wanting a good tool backpack for a long time. My biggest need/use for it, is going to junkyards. I usually hunt for smaller items but I like to bring a lot of tools “just in case” I find something really good worth snagging, and having to carry a tool roll, or tool bag is really annoying. Lately I have been using my old Dickies Messenger bag, as it is more comfortable to wear, and can hold large items easily. Especially for larger junkyards, where I want to take more tools. I don’t feel like lugging a large tool bag or 5 gallon bucket for a few acres. Backpack though, is much more comfortable.
Backpacks are handy when doing work in apartment buildings. When you have buzz, and open and get through several self closing doors (I hate elevators), it’s much more convenient to have my hands free. Also, I can carry more stuff with a backpack, and make less trips through all those hallways and doors. The backpack, if used alone, is also easier to manipulate through narrow hallways.
Ironic that I find them useful in high density living quarters, as well as wilderness travel, but no so much for working around houses.
You know – I’ve used Roll arounds (the small suitcase thing with extended handles and wheels) and I’ve used other forms of computer cases. I’ve always thought a backpack if setup right would work better. but 2 things I need.
1) some form of padding/protection for the more expensive tools but also poke through strength so that screwdrivers, awls, etc – don’t damage me or things in the bad. I see many have this.
2) a hard box with drawers for consumables like screws, bolts, wire terminals etc.
I love my metal tool boxes – of which I have 3 – but. they don’t travel well
The techs at the hospital where I work are required to where backpacks when the use of a ladder is involved.
I imagine these techs are using vertical, bolted ladders or some extension ladders – that they can get off of. Can’t work on a step ladder with a backpack, right? But I also imagine hospital techs use stepladders much more than the longer higher types…
Yep. They have carts with step ladders for the easy light bulb change type work, but we have a lot of different height roofs where the extension type are necessary.
Just bought my first one earlier in the month. I plan on using it at my camper. Ever try climbing one of those little ladders to a camper roof with a tool bag? It should also work good in my car when traveling cross country. Everything seals in nicely.
That’s just my earliest thoughts on uses.
A tool bag needs to stand up on its own, offer some organizational assistance, zip closed (to prevent loss), and have at least one shoulder strap, right?
Unstructured junk bins causing the user to lean oddly, bash others when turning and bang on your butt when walking are unwelcome to any thoughtful person.
One strap or two, there are fundamentals to consider first.
(Written by someone who’s regularly bashed by others’ backpacks.)
I recently bought a Klein tool backpack , works well , both hands are free for carrying a ladder , and parts boxes .
They are great on ladders .
I used to carry a Pelican tool briefcase , it weighed in at 10 lbs. empty , and got heavy way too fast . It was great for air travel , but wouldn’t stretch / bulge to conform to the demands of different tool quorums .
I’m tempted to try a Veto Tech Pack , but the price is about 2.5 times that of my Klein . Plus it weighs about 9 lbs.
I think they are a good idea for some things but not for every kit. For those electrical types I think they are the most logical choice.
I´m a CLC Backpack user: http://www.goclc.com/ProductDetail.aspx?sku=1132
As Facilities Manager for a smaller company whom thought they had the necessary tools, I need away to carry my own personal tools from the truck, to my office, and around the building. Much of my day is spent in front of the computer these days, but you´d be surprised at how many toilets, coffee machines, and breaker calls I get. The need to carry all the tools I need in order to at least temporarily correct an issue is massive. As you tool collection grows you learn to chose the tools that are multi faceted. From multi bit screw drivers to an M12 hammer drill, it all fits in my pack. Yes, its heavy but it works.
Ha, ha. I reverse this. I use a rolling Stanley canvas toolbag to carry books and teaching materials in. I don’t like backpacks because you can easily hurt your back or shoulders hoisting them around. Not likely to bump people in the elevator, either.
Others use rolling suitcases and those milk crates on wheels but they break easier and don’t have easy access like the toolbag. Other teachers have eyed my bag and said it was superior to their systems. This thing really holds up! I’ve even dragged it through the snow without a problem. Still looks like new after 2 years of abuse.
I can see the advantage of a backpack for working up on a ladder, though. I may use one of my old backpacks next time I need to do that. I have one built for travel with computers that I rarely use because I don’t travel with a computer anymore, but it would cushion against a sharp tool breaking through the canvas.
I am a network engineer that travels the subway daily
I used to carry a laptop case and a tool bag.
On a lark I bought the Klein 55456BPL. Other than the laptop and charger I stuff in it at least every day:
a 12v Impact driver, 3/8″ chuck, 2 batteries, a handful of my favorite bits and extensions, 1/4 bit ratchet with some sockets, basic screws and nuts (self tapping, rack screws etc) a quick change screw driver using 1/4 power bits, 8oz ballpeen hammer (with non marring heads), a crescent wrench, Vampliers pro, Cable testers, crimping tools, electricians scissors, cable stripper, punchdown tool, snips, zip ties, velcro, 20ft chain, folding knife, 20ft CatV, Drywall Saw, 50ft Fish Tape, Sharpies, WHITE electrical tape (instant labels!) Flashlight, Single line Telephone, Compound pliers, Compound Diagonal cutters.
yeah . . . it fits and fits well.
I put an extra bit of plexi between the laptop and the tools just in case but for the most part everything is perfect.
I used to not see the appeal of tool backpacks. As a residential HVAC technician I used a Veto Pro Pac LC which I loved. I recently took on a new position working on strictly commercial and industrial HVAC which requires quite a bit more climbing/walking. It wasn’t long before I realized a more traditional style tool bag with a shoulder strap was not ideal. I picked up Veto’s tool backpack and I love it. It allows me to carry most of more basic test equipment, laptop, and tools up ladders and across job sites easier and safer than before.
Absolutely. They also work well when you have to service commercial package units on strip malls that are not interconnected on the roofs.
I do custom mill work & finish carpentry. Working in downtown Boston a lot I see the appeal of the backpack. I just made the investment in the new Ridgid stackable toolboxes. Love the system and I will be putting all my power tools in the boxes soon enough. However, I don’t like the idea of putting my hand tools ect. In a just a big open toolbox which leads to disorganization. I think the backpack would be the pefect solution for anyone with and type of rolling stackable boxes (L-boxx, toughsystem, festool, ridgid) because it leaves you 2 free hands to moneauvor the cart around. Or if I am pushing my festool vac around
As with every tool storage and carry option, the answer is “It Depends on the needs of the User.”
If you’re a tool user in a remote location, whether that is on a mountain or high on a ladder or suspension arm of some sort, a backpack of one kind or another may well be good for you. An Electrician or HVAC in a large industrial area, who may or may not be in a dark place doing their work, may well want a very well designed backpack to carry the necessary tools and supplies with them, rather than go back and forth to their larger stash of tools. I’m all for “Just walk over and get it, don’t be lazy” as much as anyone else, but sometimes you’re talking huge buildings, and very high ladders, and that costs everyone time AND money to do that. So, it CAN be efficient for some people.
All of that said… A Contractor, a Construction Worker, a Carpenter… Generally anyone who is using bigger tools, lots of supplies, or working in a small-to-medium sized room that you can sprint across without losing your breath (In theory) is a job for a tool box or bag that makes you happy. That could be a rickety hand-made hand-toolbox, or an expansive compartment-designed custom tool box system and associated dolly, or anywhere in between.
If you don’t need to save time by strapping all your tools to your body to get to the work area, it doesn’t pay to strap all your tools to your body. But, if you DO need to strap your tools to your body to save time and/or money for the job, then a WELL-DESIGNED Backpack may be called for. I honestly don’t think we’re to the point where there is such a thing as “THE Perfect Tool Backpack” yet. There’s just not enough of a call for them yet. But, if you want features in a backpack that don’t exist, you’re going to have to share that input with the manufacturers of these things, or they’ll never try to make them. Lighting, strap combinations, sizes, you HAVE to give your input to the big companies or they’ll let the schmucks in marketing design everything, and they’ll never get it right for your needs. Marketing never gets the needs of Tool People/DIYers right.
I’m a DeWalt guy, through and through. And even I would hesitate at that DeWalt lighted backpack. Is it bad quality? Is it stupid? I don’t know. I don’t care, because I don’t need to strap my tools to my body, so it’s a non-issue for me. This is probably going to be the case for a lot of people, and DeWalt will take that as a failure, and possibly stop trying to make a better version for those who DO want one, based on how many people don’t need it. Without input from people who genuinely want one, they’ll stop trying.
I have been eyeing an backpack at a local Home Depot style store here in Sweden. Did not know there was actually so many options around for tool backpacks.
I do maintence at a larger resort site hotel, bowling alley , bungalows, rv-camping etc. You need a million and one tools and I often chose to bring ones from my own collection, I also started to get called out to an outlaying site to help out plus all the stuff family and friends needs help with in my spare time and as I live in a small town and like to bike a tool backpack would be perfect for me. Now I just have to research which one to get hold of ….
Like has already been mentioned, ladders make a big difference in how you might think about a tool backpack. I have to work on roofs a lot now and realized how much hassle it is to get even a few hand tools up a vertical ladder, open the hatch, and climb out on the roof. Have been researching options for a few weeks now.
All the HVAC control guys I see are using backpacks, most of the network guys I work with are using backpacks, and the fire system guys are using backpacks. Occasionally I see an electrician working out of a backpack, but that is rare. From what I have seen the fire system and HVAC control guys are using the Klein brand.
I was an HVAC/Digital Controls Tech for about 10 years. Depending on the environment I had a small belt case that let me do most wiring jobs, a larger tool bag that could carry my drill and screws and a larger selection of tools, a two wheel hand truck that let me carry wire boxes, extra parts, tools, and the kitchen sink. I often considered the tool backpack for rooftop work. Stringing rope to drag stuff up the side of the building is always PITA. The problem is, by the time I’m on a roof, odds are I’ll need the vacuum pump, the torch, the replacement compressor, etc. You aren’t going to fit those in a backpack, back to the rope.
Now I’m an in-house manger type, I’ve got a small ammo-box type tool box that gets most of the little tasks done and a small tool bag if I need a drill. Handy for working in inclement weather and small enough that I don’t pack every single tool I have access too. I’ve got staff if the job gets that big. 🙂
Incidentally, the staff all prefer the square CLC bags, they sit in work trucks nicely and it’s easy to find the tools you need even when you overload them.
I agree with Stuart; the backpack definitely has a place. I would expect that an an electrician/electronics tech could carry most of his/her tools in one and be comfortable using it. A backpack and a well-organized tool belt should work for most jobs. It’s impossible to carry everything with you at all times anyway, so it reduces the amount of baggage you would carry to essential items. And it frees up your hands to perform other tasks while moving from job to job. Yes, it’s a bit more limiting for other trades or uses, but no one said it made sense for everybody.
I’m still working on the tool quorum for my Klien backpack . I’ve decided on the first line of defence drill/driving system – an M12 Fuel impact and a Festool CSX , plus angle chuck for drilling . I’ll evict the meter from the large front pocket . I’ll use a malice clip to attach the meter bag to the tape clip .
By switching to earplugs , from ear muffs , I can save quite a bit of space .
Chris–As a follow-up, do you work in areas that have loud, concussive noise as a regular part of the work environment? If so, you might want to rethink the notion of earplugs over muffs. Personally, I find it annoying to have something stuck inside my ears all day. While they do knock-down the decibels, they can’t really replace a good pair of ear muffs for hearing protection and wearing comfort.
You can also take off muffs as often as needed without the effort required to re-insert plugs in your ears. You’ll need to replace plugs several times a day as earwax makes them unusable. It also gets packed down in your ear canal, causing discomfort and, possibly, an infection.
I’d say yes to the Veto Pro Pack Tech Pac. I can see my self using it on a regular basis.I just have to get over the sticker shock of the price tag. I am curious to see the Dewalt bag in person.
I have a tool backpack, but I rarely use it, because its like walking around with a giant sign that says “I HAVE A BAG FULL OF TOOLS”. I prefer to use my old Jansport bag when riding the L in Chicago, its not as organized, but still holds what I need it to hold, as looks far less conspicuous.
Noah–I don’t know your circumstances obviously, so I’m wondering why you’re carrying a bag of tools on the L. Can you not secure them at work, so you don’t have to carry them back and forth from home? Or is this a trip to another jobsite during the workday? If you’re telling us that someone would recognize that you’re carrying a bag of tools and hold you up at knifepoint on the train for them, I’d be looking for an alternative way to commute.
It sounds as though you’ve been accosted at least once before. If it’s really that dangerous, take a bus or a cab. Yes, it costs money, but your employer should cover the tab. They’re putting you in that position by assigning you the work, so they should be willing to bear the expense. Who pays for the ride on the L? Apparently, your employer does not provide you with company transportation (a car, van or truck) to get around the city during the workday. If so, all the more reason they should provide you with a safe(r) means of commuting. If they still won’t cover it, check with the IRS as to how much you can deduct as transportation expenses, and get a deduction for your taxes.
Just a few more impressions ; in re: the packs most of us would look at . The Milwaukee is a tad bit gaudy for my taste , I also believe the cut and sew work , while adequate , is somewhat inferior to the Klein . Minor customization like water bottle holders and waist straps can easily be done after the fact . The Red Team pack is a tiny bit smaller , the examples I’ve seen in the field don’t ride as nice as the Klien , that may be as simple as users who don’t know how to square away a backpack .
I’ve been a big fan of DeWalt soft goods over the years , tools , not so much .
I suspect that I may eventually end up with a Veto Tech Pack , and the larger of the two Meter bags .
I personally think that they absolutely have a place in the professional work environment. If I was not already heavily invested in other storage solutions, I would not hesitate to get one.
I see them all the time on the subway worn by construction workers. I have no need for one. But the tradesman seem to use them. Pretty cool idea though.
I work in the oilfield and between going up and down a lot of stairs and trekking through the mud to get to equipment, backpacks just make sense. Besides that, it feels a lot better on my back than a heavy bag on my shoulder!
This has turned out to be a great article! All the feedback and input from people has been awesome, but it sprung up from a very ignorant statement. The same person that think backpacks don’t belong on job sites, is probably the same person, that thinks lights shouldn’t be on tools, or tools shouldn’t be cordless.
Personally, I have always been very excited to see leaps and innovations in tools, and in the ways in which they’re transported. Bring on the tool bags, bring on the innovations, and bring on the solutions, for the end users who need them. And as always, the solution is a very simple one. If you don’t like tool bags, you don’t have to buy one!
As one of those odd people who works in the trades, but doesn’t drive, I find my Klein backpack to be really useful. It holds about all I need for the work I do, and is a lot more comfortable than carrying toolboxes.
I’m looking for a tool back pack. I have been using a folding dolly,Kennedy tool box, Klein canvas 16″ bag and a bucket boss. And that’s just hand tools. My crew also carries Makita impact, driver, sawzall, hammedrill,ports band,grinder often pro press and b tank, tri vice, snapp cutters,Oxy acet cutting rig But lately I have been running a crew traveling lite all over this big job. I always bring a swiss army backpack filled with little tools but an extra shirt and towel., notepad, scale rule, fitting books, prints and our company are providing I pads to lead men like me and foreman . I have been carrying some lite tools as I travel its tearing up my semi tough backpack amf o have no iPad protection. We have a lot of fabed ladders and everything must be hoisted. A better backpack would help as I transition from journey to lead. But which one?
I don’t use tool backpacks, but here are a couple that I have written about previously:
Veto Pro Pac: https://toolguyd.com/veto-propac-backpack/
Custom LeatherCraft: https://toolguyd.com/custom-leathercraft-tool-backpack/
There are plenty of other models, and their designs and features vary widely.
Gentlemen, good topic and as I suspected, very diverse and usable opinions. I would add a couple of points just to see if others have run into these issues as I have.
First, on topic. I see a lot more backpacks on our site than I ever have before. Mostly Klein. I work for a state agency and one or two of our contract suppliers are Klein dealers so that makes sense. Most of the lads I have spoken with like them well enough.
They tended to carry a pack of some sort with them before the tool packs came out so it allowed them to combine the odds and bits they were toting in the backpacks with their tool bags or boxes and kept them to one large item to carry from truck to building.
My limited experience with them reveals two possible issues for those of use who need more of a two bag or box solution. I work commercial and industrial electrical maintenance and you really cannot carry everything you use in one bag.
The first limitation I have noted is size vs girth of the pockets. Most are too big to hold typical electrical hand tools securely in the uptight position. It is the only thing keeping a Veto XL out of my tool kit I carry a number of 6 inch(150mm) nut drivers and screwdrivers and at least three different 8 inch(200mm) shaft screwdrivers both Philips and slotted.
In a vertical tool bag like Veto I want them at them the very back and the pockets are so huge unless you have multiples in them they flop all over the place. Same for the pockets in front of them where I would keep the next tallest tools in my kit, pliers.
I don’t like expensive pliers or drivers knocking into each other on a continuous basis. Particularly since I also carry insulated models and will not/cannot have them banging into each other. So the Veto XL was initially looked at for keeping the regular tools on one side and the insulated and ‘clean’ tools on the other. I have watched some videos on YouTube where a couple of blokes modified the pockets in their Veto models by using Chicago bolts to pull the front of some of the pockets back to the rear of the bag making two smaller pockets from the large one. Seems to work but would like opinions.
So with that out as a baseline idea, how deep and wide are the pockets in most of the backpacks in regards to how they hold drivers and pliers? I like the two tiered approach myself. A backpack or Veto type bag as mobile tool storage and a smaller leather belt type pouch such as my Klein 5167 for the tools you carry in each and every call. Thanks and sorry for the long post.
Sorry, second question was about overall durability. I spoke to one of our suppliers and they have already warranted a Klein Tradesman Pro bag that just ripped out with little or no abuse. He did not say which model his indication was tear out near where a zipper was sewn to the bag.
As a marine fleet engineer, I love tool back packs, its so much easier and safer to step between boats, climb down engine room ladders and climb up and down quay walls.
Ones that have descent padded shoulder straps with a solid back plate are mandatory, if I could find one with a padded waist belt that would be ideal!
Many compartments are good, with the option to have a divider that can just lift out with the regularly used screwdrivers, spanners, pliers and sockets etc.
Also now a days on newer vessels a padded laptop slot is needed!
Basically, the small one is great for your basic tools and is easy and comfortable to actually carry around a lot. The large one doesn’t seem THAT much bigger, but it really is, you can load that thing up so much that you are totally stocked with every tool you might need, but it’s so heavy that it’s ridiculous to carry. It’s the ultimate T cart tool bag. Carries everything but has a very small footprint and requires minimal real estate.
The downside to those bags is weather resistance and the fact that all of your tools will fall out if you put them in a truck bed, or in a gang box and someone knocks them over. I’ll eventually buy one that is better suited for my needs, which would solve the stuff falling out and weather resistance problems but at 4x the cost of a CLC, it will have to wait.