From the Pros: Best Tool Storage and Transport Ideas
Pros reveal their favorite tried-and-true ways to haul and store tools. Check out these ingenious solutions and see which ones will work for you.
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Ditch the Factory Boxes
I’m not a big fan of the cases that power tools come in. Some are OK, but it’s often a battle to get the tool back in the case, and there’s never enough room for accessories. I don’t care for soft cases either because they don’t stack and are hard to label. Instead, I prefer buying aftermarket plastic toolboxes for my storage needs.
I like to keep all the accessories with the tools: router bits go into a box with routers, sanding belts stay with the belt sander, etc. The boxes stack well in your vehicle and are reasonably waterproof. I spray a square of yellow paint on both ends and the top so they’re easy to label, which makes them easy to identify even when they’re stacked. Finally, the cords fit with no fiddling. Besides power tools, these cases are particularly good for corralling small stuff like safety gear, drill bits and work gloves.
– Ken Collier
Leave a Space for Grabbing Stuff
All my trucks have had ladder racks with hi-side toolboxes that fit between them (they can be installed without ladder racks as well). I love hi-side boxes because tools and supplies don’t get buried like they do in cross-bed boxes, and I don’t loose any bed space. Also, I never scratch up the side of my truck when reaching over the bed while wearing a tool pouch.
Initially, I bought 8-foot boxes that ran the length of the bed on my first truck … that was a big mistake. It basically turned my truck into a van, a van without a side door. Whenever I had to lay on the brakes, a tool box or soda cooler would invariably slide up toward the cab, and I would have to climb up inside the truck to get it—what a pain. I installed smaller boxes toward the back on all my subsequent trucks and left a little grabbing space so I could access the bed. Sure, I lost a little storage capacity, but it was well worth it.
– Mark Petersen
Stow the Little Stuff
Parachute bags have been my fastener storage system of choice for at least 30 years now. Why? Cuz they’re not made out of plastic, which means no lids to open, no hinges or latches to break and no predetermined wrong-size cubbyholes. Just extremely simple, durable canvas bags with individual pie-wedge shaped pockets held closed or pulled open with a simple cord. This isn’t new, space-age technology, just ordinary sewn canvas or nylon fitted with intelligently designed cordage, but it’s one of the best ways on the planet to store and haul all those small things every tradesperson needs every day. They also stack inside a 5-gallon bucket so you can haul a few different bags at the same time.
– Travis Larson
Get Yourself a Co-Pilot
If you drive a two-door pickup truck like I do, you know the drill. You hop in your truck and set all of your important papers, your lunch, and other assorted junk on the passenger seat because, well, where else are you going to put it? Invariably, though, you take a corner too fast or hit the breaks a little too hard and all of your stuff goes flying, along with a few expletives.
About 10 years ago I found a great solution for both my truck and profanity problems—the Cab Commander from Duluth Trading Co.
My Cab Commander is made of rugged polyester, and stays in place with a strap that loops around the passenger seat’s headrest. There’s a big open pocket, into which you can stuff your laptop, clipboard, bungee cords and other assorted jobsite necessities. I’ve even shoved a framing nailer in there once or twice. There are also lots of small pockets for things like your cell phone, tape measure and business cards. The two tubular-shaped pockets on either end work great for long, round objects like a thermos, water bottle or flashlight.
– Jason White
No More Tangled Poles
As a professional cleaner, I have to haul around a bunch of long-handled tools: mops, vacuum wands, squeegee extensions. Driving between jobs, all those poles would dance around and get tangled up with each other, making it nearly impossible to pull out my other tools without a big hassle. My solution was to build a simple rack out of some scrap 2x4s and plywood. It took me about an hour to throw together and cost nothing. Now I just need a good storage system to keep my mop bucket from doing the tango back there.
– Curtis Peterson
Upgrade Your Wheelbarrow’s Storage
The slanted shape of a wheelbarrow makes it perfect for moving dirt and concrete, but square stuff like toolboxes—not so much. As a lead carpenter for a remodeling firm, I was constantly hauling tools back and forth from my truck to the jobsite, twice a day, everyday. On a whim, I built a box that sat on top of my wheelbarrow (which was onsite from start to finish), so I could haul more tools at once. I liked it so much that I brought it to the next job, and the one after that, and the one after that. It’s just a simple plywood box with cleats fastened to the bottom to keep it from slipping off the wheelbarrow. I’ve hauled mountains of stuff with it over the years.
– Josh Risberg
More Anchor Points Are Always Better
Anchor points and tie-down rings are a must for every truck, but when I installed a truck bed toolbox, I lost access to the ones at the front of the bed. I solved this problem by bolting a few anchor rings to the toolbox itself. In addition to strapping down materials and gear, I also use them to chain and padlock my expensive tools.
– Gary Wentz
Floor-Friendly Tool Tote
When I was a remodeling contractor I was always on the lookout for ways to keep my tools organized and accessible. One day I was browsing the tool aisle at the lumberyard and noticed a canvas riggers bag that looked like it would do the trick. Thirty-five years later and it’s still my favorite tool tote for storage (not the same bag though—they do wear out). The soft bottom allows me to set the bag down on a finished floor without worrying about scratching it, and the exterior pockets keep all my hand tools visible and within easy reach.
– Jeff Gorton