I have tried quite a few portable tool boxes with drawers over the years, and Milwaukee’s Packout is the best so far.
I’ve used Dewalt ToughSystem, Bosch L-Boxx, Dewalt Tstak, Festool Sortainer, and Milwaukee Packout. I have also handled other systems, such as Husky’s.
Shown above is a photo of my new Milwaukee Packout 3-drawer tool box, as the start of its journey home.
Even with a $20 off $200 coupon – thank you Home Depot Pro Xtra program! – it was pricey. $164. That’s… a lot.
But, this is the right tool box for my growing needs.
Milwaukee has a 2- and 3-drawer Packout tool boxes. I have one each at home that I’ve been testing out (thank you to Milwaukee for the review samples!), and they’ve been good, maybe even great.
But, they’re not perfect.
Tool boxes made from plastic, polymer blends, composites or similar materials, are prone to deflection, deformation, sagging, or binding under heavier loads.
Load up the drawers, place some more loaded-up tool boxes on top, and the drawers will be harder to open.
Plastic bends, and drawers can rub.
Milwaukee’s Packout tool box isn’t immune to this issue, but it seems to minimize it quite well. Milwaukee Packout drawered tool boxes are the best on the market, at least right now.
The issue is inevitable, and so it’s not a question of will there be flex, but how much flex and binding will there be?
I bring this up partly to express my sentiment that the Milwaukee Packout 2- and 3-drawer tool boxes are good, at least in my opinion so far, but also because I’ve seen a lot of readers asking for drawered tool boxes from other makers.
Tool box drawers are convenient, at least in theory. It’s great to be able to access tools without having to disassemble a stack of tool boxes.
But, if you have a tool box with drawers, and it’s placed at the bottom or even middle of a stack of heavy tools, those drawers are not going to open as smoothly as when the tool box is empty and by itself.
Whether with Packout or another system, there’s need to form reasonable expectations.
Just because I was disappointed by other systems, such as Tstak drawer boxes, that doesn’t mean they’re not good products. It just means that I wasn’t prepared for how much they would bind when placed in a tall stack of loaded tool boxes.
You can take measures to help reduce binding, such as by keeping drawered tool boxes towards the top of a stack, but it’s always going to be a risk with plastic-bodied portable tool boxes.
There are compromises. Loaded drawers never open and close as smoothly as when the tool box is empty and by itself with nothing on top.
I believe that this is why some brands have yet to bring drawered tool boxes to market.
If a modular tool box system is designed around certain price points, that brand might be unable to deliver a good-enough drawered unit at a price point their target customers would be willing to spend.
I noticed a little sagging but I keep heavy copper fittings and tools in them. I won’t give them up. Best Packout purchase to date. I have 2 sets, of 2-drawer and 3-drawer sections. I really want Milwaukee to make a large drawer roller to replace the current one they have made since the beginning of Packout. That way I can have the roller drawer with a 2-drawer and 3-drawer section on top to roll around. All drawers would be ideal for me. No more removing all the sections to get in the bottom. What a pain in the A$$!
I know Pelican and other avionics/mil mobile tool cases is in another class. But wonder how they fared. They seems to be much more refined. Adding modulization and they will be the best. I wonder if this will be the next step for Packout type.
I have some Pelican 0450 tool cases and they pretty much don’t deform even loaded with 100+ pounds. However, the drawers do deform if they’re taken out… they’re really just trays. Usually there a foam or blow molded insert for the tools or equipment, and that adds rigidity. I don’t look at the drawers as being used as a “junk drawer” or for organizing parts.
The older ones don’t have drawer slides. The newer cases have ball bearing glides, but they reduce the size of the drawer a bit.
I’ve also found Pelican to be excellent with warranty. I’ve read several negative experiences online with Pelican’s warranty, but I’ve always had quick responses. In my first contact I tell them what I have, what the problem is, include a picture, and tell them the invoice and which dealer. They usually send out the part or a return label by the next day.
But you’re right, it’s a completely different class of product, and priced accordingly.
I found the Tstak drawers to be fine if you grind off the feet. The unit won’t drop into place on others, but the side locks will still hold it in place.
Curious, why grind off the feet?
The feet on the Tstak drawer units are under the drawers. The Tstak system was designed without thinking about drawers, so the feet are too close together. If the drawers are heavily laden, the weight is carried down the sides of the case. But the feet aren’t under the sides, so the vector of the force causes the bottom to twist.
When you put the drawer case directly on to another case, the feet go into the recess in the top of the other case, and weight on the sides is supported right under the side. By grinding the feet off, the sides can directly contact the floor/table/workbench and support the weight (the downward force and upward force vectors are completely opposite, so no twisting).
I bought a Pelican 0450 a long time ago, and it is indeed in a very different class, but it’s also more designed for hand tools than parts or supplies.
Bought a 2 drawer and a 3drawer and immediately sold them both off. Too darn big for my organizing needs. I guess I already knew the packout footprint, but still was surprised when I saw them in person.
If I needed them for plumbing fittings or conduit, etc., I could see the utility, but for organizing fasteners, etc, no thanks. Decided I’d just keep the packout setup as the basic 3-piece, some small organizers, maybe a small toolbox and a modified M12 vac with it’s wall mount on the face of the large roller for a “packout” vac at a low cost.
No interest in having the fancy wall of red like some guys.
Maybe if they came out with a shorter 3-4 drawer with 1.5-2” drawers I could see them for screws, etc.
I’ve got a few Festool Sortainers and too equate the Systainer system with Packout is a bit silly. The Tanos stuff is basically interlocking single tool boxes, the packout is interlocking tools and supplies transport.
I’ve been using the Dewalt tstak drawer units for several years and now have the craftsman ones (same, different color). No issues, mostly for fasteners (screws and nails for my guns) but have one set up for electrical work. Love them, cheap and well made.
I have quite a few of the 2 drawer units, one of which is fully loaded with sockets, and they’ve held up fine. The way tstack feet work is part of the issue. If you have a drawer unit on the bottom of a stack the feet will cause deflection of the case, but if its on top of another tstack box the walls of the case bear on the next one down. I have my big stack of drawers on top of the silly expensive 4 wheel cart so the cases dont’ flex and no trouble.
I wonder if they improved them over time, because this doesn’t sound like my experience at all.
When I had tested the different drawer units, Tstak tool boxes loaded with tool boxes on top caused enough deflection to really hamper operation, even when everything wasn’t close to full capacity.
its the box under it that matters. the feet cause the floor of the box to deflect up because the load is at the exterior as it transfers through the box but then it bears on the feet which are an inch in. When the feet sit in their little notch in the box below there isn’t enough flex for that to happen before the other surfaces of the floor of the box start bearing load. The load needs to transfer through the sidewalls of the box and it should work fine. It doesn’t work as smoothly as unloaded, but it works well enough that once I figured out the “trick” I’ve never had any second thoughts about using them.
Thanks for the tip. The electric set up up I have is a drawer unit on the bottom with a top lid on tip of that full of outlets switches etc. I haven’t had any deflection and my Dewalt is my oldest one, maybe 6-7 years.
I really like my tstak/ versastack drawer boxes. I have 5 on a cart base that I use on jobsites with no issues, but I only have one clear top container box on top, I cam see how it could warp the trays if it were a heavy box on top.
The toughsystem ones slide on to the bars of the cart, does that keep the weight from the upper boxes off enough that it doesn’t affect them?
That should definitely help.
Not a fan of the drawers…would prefer hand tool organizers..i can find any that fit the boxes
I have the drawer unit on the bottom of my stack and what helps keep the bottom from binding is connecting it to the blank wall mount plate.
I have mine on the mobile dolly.
I jumped on Dewalt’s Tough System trays when they came out. Stack the trays inside Large or Extra-large Tough System Tool Boxes. Not as convenient as drawers but water resistant and no issues stacking or moving.
Packout is great. I have a simple solution for the sagging problem. Just add a sheet of aluminum to each drawer bottom and a drawer liner over that and badda bing….no more sagging.
In my experience, the issue is with weight on the frames causing cross-members to sag.
The Festool Sortainer is exceptional but it doesn’t really have much cross-compatibility. But, if you’re invested in the Systainer system, it’s a great way to go.
I wouldn’t buy plastic drawer system, especially drawers it’s never going to last, I would make my own from 1/2 inch plywood .
Just had a chance to check these out a 3x drawer and the XL for the first time at HD.
When I opened it up, it seems a set of 3 drawers comes with only bundle package of drawer dividers? For that quite high price???