Tool Tote: A Recommended Tool Box Alternative

November 27, 2009 | by Fred (email) |

traditional-tool-boxKeeping hand tools organized and accessible on the go is tough. The lionshare of portable toolboxes on the market come with a deep bottom storage bin and one or two removable shelves (like the one shown at the right). These solutions aren’t bad per se, but we find that they’re better for hauling power tools and associated accessories rather than a host of hand tools.

In larger traditional boxes, the bottom storage area becomes a well for all the hand tools that don’t easily fit in the trays. And the trays… well, they’re usually divided in less-than-helpful ways. You have to remove one or both of them to get to the tools on the bottom, and you can’t quickly assess the contents of an opaque box when you’re rushing to the next job.

Of course, not all tool boxes suffer from these drawbacks. There are side-drawer toolboxes, and those with organizational inserts, but we think for many jobs there’s a better choice altogether.

The Tool Tote Alternative

The better choice: a tool tote, like this Sears Craftsman Tool Tote we recently picked up. It’s designed with plumbers, electricians, and carpenters in mind, but it also works great for everyday DIY use. This tote sports tool storage all the way around the perimeter on both the interior and exterior of the tote. It has a confidence-inspiring aluminum handle wrapped with a comfort grip.


What makes a tool tote so much better than a toolbox? Here’s a few ideas…

  • Hand tools are stored handle-up for easy access.
  • Tools are stored in holders on the inside and outside of the box (on most totes), making optimum use of the space.
  • Center bin remains accessible without clumsy shelves.
  • Open-top totes enable easy assessment of tool contents without opening anything.
  • Most are available in a variety of sizes, just like tool boxes.

So what’re the drawbacks? High quality totes tend to cost a little more than plastic tool boxes; open-top totes aren’t weatherproof; and totes usually don’t lock. But, even with these drawbacks, we think tool totes make a lot of sense for the occasional DIYer or serious weekend warrior, especially if you’re drawing and returning tools to a large work shop tool box.

Where to Find Tool Totes?

All the major home improvement and tool stores offer totes in various shapes and sizes (including ones that will fit over a standard 5-gallon bucket). You can find a healthy selection online too. Amazon offers hundreds of tool totes at prices ranging from $20-$60. You can also browse around Home Depot, Lowes, and any other home improvement retailer to find their full selections.

What do you think? How do you move your tools around?

(photo credit for first photo: ocean yamaha)

4 Responses
  1. I want that. Wish they made it in other colors. I know, it’s a chick thing. Kidding. Black is fine with me. 🙂

  2. William says:

    I prefer tool bags to tool totes. I like the Husky bags from Big Orange. They often go on sale as a two bag set- one large and one smaller one, for around $10 or some ridiculous price. I use my small one at work to keep an extra pair of sock and underwear, extra gloves, and extra Nomex hood, a couple of files, and a granola bar or two for long and/or messy calls. The larger bag has been instrumental when my truck has broken down near home but not AT home. I can go home, load up whatever tools I need in the bag, and take them to wherever my truck is and get the job done. I have replaced a catalytic converter and a fuel filter in this manner. The Husky tool bags, like most others, are heavy duty and have metal-reinforced mouths. The zippers are very rugged. We use the large Husky bags at work as hydrant bags, to carry 18″ pipe wrenches, couplings, appliances, and all sorts of tools for hooking up 5″ hose to fire hydrants. They’ve held up well.

  3. HANDYMAN51 says:

    I got a nice tote that fits in/ around a 5 gallon bucket, and I like the accessibility/ visibility it offers. Another plus: Pull the tote out, and the bottom of the bucket is easily washed. Also nice to have the waterproof, easily- cleaned bottom of the bucket to set down in messy areas.

  4. caleb says:

    I use boxes and bags for different things. In the truck and Jeep, where it is easy to see in, I use a bag folded flat and stuffed under a seat. I have a larger box in the trunk of the car, as well as a much larger box that I put in truck/jeep when going on longer trips/to the mountains.

    I also have 2 small bags in the large bin of my tool chest – one for electrical and one for plumbing, though I may have to upgrade to a larger one for plumbing when I get a torch. My wife has a bag for her flower/wedding decorating business and I use one as a range bag. Much less conspicuous than an actual range bag when I take it out to the car or someone sees it setting in the trunk. I have a coworker who uses one for his lunch. Mostly Craftsman.

    I have never used an open top bag or tote. Seems like it would get dirty. Nearly everyone I’ve seen use one really didn’t know how to use what was in it, so that may have sullied my opinion. And with where I go and what I do, I really want something my tools can’t far out of. If there is a possibility, they will fall out 🙂

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