Tool backpacks represent the next evolution for contractors and laborers looking for an efficient way to move their equipment. Historically, people working in construction, electrical, plumbing, or HVAC have used everything from tool belts to suspenders to plain old buckets to move their gear around.
Tool backpacks offer a superior option in almost every way. They have specialized designs that allow users to keep their tools organized, accessible, and out of the elements thanks to features like waterproof materials and raised bases that keep the bag out of slush or mud.
Bags designed to carry sharp or heavy tools around wet or dusty job sites need a rugged design. None of them will last forever, especially when they get challenged by tough job sites. But some of them are certainly better than others.
In this article, we’ll take a look at a few of the best products out there to help you decide what’s right for you.
- Dimensions: 20” x 14.5” x 7.25”
- Material: 1680d Ballistic Weave
- Weight: 6.05 lbs
- Pockets: 39
- Base: Fully molded
- Orange lining makes it easier to spot tools.
- Special pocket for laptop/tablet
- Specialized long pockets for screwdrivers
- Padded shoulder straps
- Padded exterior pocket for fragile items
- Struggles to stay upright on the base
- Too narrow to handle bulkier tools
- Somewhat uncomfortable when fully loaded
The Klein Tools Heavy Duty Tradesman backpack has a lot going for it. It has a somewhat unique shape among the products on this list, and with 39 pockets sporting a variety of designs, it can carry a lot of gear.
With padded shoulder straps and a padded “fragiles” pocket upfront, Klein has taken some significant steps to design a quality tool backpack. They took great pains to make a backpack that can handle a wide variety of tools.
But they did miss the mark on a few key factors. Several users have noted that the dimensions and shape don’t accommodate more significant power tools like drills, and even the devices it does hold kind of stretch the limits of the pack’s capacity. The shoulder straps and zippers wear down quickly when the bag gets fully loaded.
Moreover, the fully loaded pack struggles to take advantage of the rubberized base, which further compromises an otherwise smart design element. Overall, it’s a good pack but skimps on a few critical features for more bells and whistles than it probably needs.
- Dimensions: 13.27” x 8.5” x 16”
- Material: Polyester/Canvas
- Weight: 4.4 pounds
- Pockets: 48
- Base: Molded corners
- Adjustable compression pocket
- Padded back support and chest straps
- Easy access top pocket
- Two main zippered compartments
- Stands up well on its base
- Lacks durability
- Uncomfortable with a full load
- Zippers can fail at a full load.
The CLC Custom Leathercraft Carpenter’s Tool is one of the most well-designed backpacks on this list. The wide variety of pockets makes it possible to organize a vast cache of tools neatly. The adjustable compression pocket allows users to carry large tools without having them bounce around inside the bag.
The bag sits nicely even when fully unzipped, which keeps the tools out of muck or dust on the job site. The material does a good job repelling moisture, and the zippers keep dust and debris from getting into the interior.
The two main zippered pockets add an additional level of organization, which makes this pack exceptional for handling complex jobs when coupled with the special top pocket.
But it does have a few issues with durability. Namely, the shoulder straps start to rip, especially if you load the pack down too much. Likewise, the zippers tend to lose their locking ability if the bag gets overstuffed.
- Dimensions: 8.5” x 7.4” x 4.45”
- Material: Heavy-duty polyester blend
- Weight: 4.6 pounds
- Pockets: 57
- Base: Reinforced with padded feet
- LED light for looking in the pack or lighting job site
- Spacious, well-designed pockets
- Easy access front and side pockets
- Lie-flat front flap
- Rides comfortably fully loaded.
- Zipper failures common
- Less waterproof than other bags
Dewalt has a long history of serving tradespeople of all kinds. They have developed a reputation as one of the most reliable brands on the market for power and hand tools. Therefore, it stands to reason that their tool backpack would be among the best.
In reality, the bag does an excellent job of meeting that reputation. The bevy of pockets and stashes make it extremely accommodating to almost any permutation of tools you can imagine. It can hold cordless drills and extension cords easily, and the well-designed side pockets make it simple to arrange your tools for easy access while on the job site.
But it does have some significant flaws. The craftsmanship and durability of the stitching seem legit, but somehow Dewalt failed to adequately quality control the zippers. If you’re careful with them and don’t overstuff, though, I think this pack is a solid choice.
Fortunately, the bag does have two sets of zippers for each set of teeth so you can get some reprieve, but most people expect more from a Dewalt product, so this one glaring flaw stands out all that much more.
- Dimensions: 16” x 15” x 8.5”
- Material: 100% polyester with PVC coated polyester interior
- Weight: 4.48 pounds
- Pockets: 51
- Base: Non-reinforced
- Comfortable material
- Padded back support
- Less robust base
- Too small to hold a power tool
The AmazonBasics Padded Tool backpack eschews extraneous features for a simple design that doesn’t break the bank. The subtle appearance looks excellent but doesn’t attract too much attention, and the padded shoulder straps make it comfortable even on long trips up and down a ladder.
The bag splits up into four different compartments with an array of loops and pouches. Unlike some of the other bags on this list, the AmazonBasics bag sacrifices some bells and whistles to keep the pack lightweight.
The padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap allow this bag to ride comfortably, and with four different zippered compartments, you have a lot of options to organize your tools.
This does mean sacrificing some comfort and usability. The carry handles don’t feel great when the bag has lots of tools, and the lack of a reinforced base makes this bag a little more susceptible to wear and tear and encroachment from the elements. It does manage to sit up well on a flat surface, though.
Many users have noticed the bag doesn’t seem like real tool users got a chance to road test it. The bag flops open when it’s hung up unzipped – a pretty typical occurrence on a job site – but the loops and pouches don’t hold gear upside down. The problem even emerges when riding in a vehicle, if the bag tips over.
All in all, though, the bag hits a sweet spot between functionality and price point.
- Dimensions: 20” x 15” x 9.84”
- Material: 100% polyester with PVC coated polyester interior
- Weight: 5.6 pounds
- Pockets: 60
- Base: EVA molded plastic
- Removable tool caddy
- Waterproof rubber base
- Padded laptop pocket
- Adjustable power tool pouch
- Looks more like a regular backpack
- Poor use of space
- Tool holders not well designed
The Swissgear Work Pack Pro backpack might be the most stylish on our list. The bag looks equally at home on a morning commute and at a dirty job site. Its heavy-duty materials stand up well to weather and physical punishment, and with more space than the other packs I’ve tried, it has the build of a real workhorse.
The additional tool caddy inside adds excellent versatility. It allows you to keep the most-needed items separate and take just a part of the pack with you to different parts of the work area – a huge plus when you’re carrying many tools.
The bag is especially suited to more techy jobs thanks to a well-protected laptop pocket and USB holders. The waterproof base ensures that expensive electronics don’t get damaged by setting the bag down in a wet environment.
However, some of its features as a tool bag have me scratching my head. While the bag has plenty of volume, the pockets and pouches’ arrangement makes it awkward to use the bag for the larger tools it could accommodate with a more thoughtful design.
A lot of users also complain about the tool loops. A lot of bags go with elastic loops to allow them to hold different sized tools. Swissgear, however, made the loops out of inelastic cloth. It does make them a little more long-lasting since they won’t stretch out, but it also means they only hold a tool that fits pretty precisely in there.
Tool Backpack Buyer’s Guide
The world of tool backpacks runs deep, and with that depth comes confusion. The type of work you do and the needs you have will inform what – if any – kind of tool backpack you should buy.
Who Should Buy A Tool Backpack?
Tool backpacks work wonderfully in a lot of different contexts. First and foremost, anyone who does work where their vehicle may not immediately be on-site would do well to have their gear strapped to their shoulders. Going back and forth to a vehicle toolbox can limit productivity and potentially annoy both clients and workers.
Even those who do have easy access to their vehicle may benefit greatly from a tool backpack. Not only do they do a better job of keeping tools organized than a box or *shudder* a bucket, but people working as part of a big crew know the struggle of trying to sort out whose tools belong to who after a long day at a spread-out job site.
Last but not least, tool backpacks allow workers who need both hands to more easily move their gear around. Going up and down a ladder with just one hand because the other has to carry something compromises safety and efficiency. A tool backpack can be a literal lifesaver with multi-level construction jobs and elevated electrical work.
What To Look For In A Tool Backpack
- Size: It may seem obvious that the bigger, the better, but just because a bag can carry 50 lbs of tools doesn’t mean you’ll need all that space. Get the smallest size that will work for you.
- Weight distribution: Each pack has a different arrangement of its pockets, loops, and pouches. Make sure to get a pack that allows your heaviest tools to sit closest to your back for a more comfortable carry.
- Openings/Closures: Some bags come with “bucket style” openings easily accessed from the top. Others have a full zipper that flops all the way open, making it easier to reach your tools in an enclosed space.
Are these tool backpacks waterproof?
Not all of them. You might pay a slight premium to get a more weather-resistant pack, but if you have a job out of the elements, you can get by without it.
Do these tool backpacks hold power tools?
That depends on the bag and the tool. Some of them easily accommodate a cordless drill, some need a little engineering to make them fit, and some were designed to handle smaller hand tools.
How long will these packs last?
One of the main complaints about all of these packs relates to their durability. Simply stated, tool backpacks take a lot of punishment, and none of them will last forever. You’ll need to calculate whether you want to spend more on a long-lasting bag or deal with more frequent replacements for less cost.
Overall, the Klein Tools Heavy Duty Tradesman pack is my favorite option of the bunch. It strikes the right balance between versatility, durability, form, and function, and it does so without too high a price tag.