Tool backpacks are the next big thing in personal tool management for contractors and their crews on the go. They provide an efficient way to transport tools to and around a jobsite and keep them organized, visible, easily accessible, and at hand where you need them during the day, whether working on the ground or up a ladder.
Several manufacturers have introduced heavy duty and/or ruggedized, cleverly compartmentalized backpacks aimed squarely at the construction market that are designed to carry a heavy load of tools and other items for that day’s work and survive the abuse of a harsh jobsite environment.
Tool backpacks typically utilize durable water-resistant or waterproof materials and feature a mix of various sized pockets (inside and out), loops, and straps to hold that workday’s selection of screwdrivers and wrenches, pliers, and other hand tools, as well as bulkier items such as meters, parts boxes, power and extension cords, gauges, and hole saws, and smaller items such as drill bits and screw driver tips. Some models have padded spaces for a tablet and/or a smartphone. Many units include D-rings onto which you can hang a pair of work gloves or anything else with a clip.
Many of the backpacks have a fully molded water resistant base that rises up a couple of inches or more, protecting against ground moisture, mud, and slush and preventing fraying, rips or tears if the pack is dragged against concrete or other abrasive surface. A hard molded base also enables the backpack to stand up on its own, closed or open, full or empty. All the models below have heavy duty double zippers that meet in the middle. Some have a metal hook or ring on top to hang the pack off the ground.
Among differentiators worth considering in tool backpacks when aiming for ideal for your purposes are: material - e.g. Dernier (or D) nylon with a given thread count; dimensions; number and type of pockets, loops, and D-rings to arrange storage; weight of bag when empty; and type of bottom.
Shown above, the Klein Tradesman Pro Organizer Backpack 55421BP-14 (www.kleintools.com) has a rubberized molded 2.5” high base, 39 pockets, a swivel hook on the outside on one side with an 8” ribbon strap handy for holding a roll of tape, and a small metal bar on the other side which can secure a flashlight or tape measure. A hard molded crush-resistant exterior front compartment is designed to protect safety glasses, cellphone or other fragile items. A large heavily padded zippered front pocket can hold a larger smartphone or mini-tablet. The two handles are made from the same sturdy fabric as the backpack.
The rear wall folds down to the base, for easy picking from pockets and web loops. The bright orange interior enables easy visibility of tools. The main zipper (lockable when closed) opens all the way down to the base so the each side can lay almost flat for full access to any tool. The back of the base and the backpack is slightly concave, enabling contact against the wearer’s lower back when carried. Two contoured pads, or pods on the back enable the wearer’s back to breathe and help cushion the load. The shoulder straps are almost 3” wide and padded for comfort.
Material: 1680 denier ballistic nylon weave
Dimensions: 20” H x 14.5” L x 7.25” W
Weight: 6.05 lbs
Handles: double grip fabric
Base: molded, supports freestanding
Tablet storage: No
Pros: High capacity; well-designed contoured strap
Con: no water bottle pocket
Ergodyne Arsenal 5843 Tool Backpack (www.ergodyne.com), with a contrasting light gray interior, has two main compartments and 33 pockets. The interior pockets are primarily on both sides of the semi-soft easily rotated middle divider. In the front compartment, there’s also a tarpaulin pouch that could hold wrenches and six webbing loops to hold hammers, awls, and other long tools. The back wall of the rear compartment has five webbing loops and a large fleece lined sleeve suitable for documents or a tablet. The inside wall of the back compartment has 13 pockets, five webbing loops, and four D-rings. On the front exterior is a double slotted sleeve for power cords or other bulky items. Also handy: a nickel plated tape measure clip, a water bottle holder, and a tall tool holster on a side panel for tools over 18”, such as a pipe wrench or long-handled hammer.
The backpack features reinforced breathable comfort padding on the upper back and extended lumbar padding designed to take some weight off the shoulders. The base is the same fabric as the backpack and the four molded rubber nibs on the bottom base don’t elevate the base off the ground.
Material: 1200 D ballistic polyester with PVC
Dimensions: 18” H x13.5” L x 8.5” W
Weight: 5.8 lbs.
Handles: two fabric handles held together by strong Velcro middle strap
Straps: padded, breathable
Tablet storage: yes
Pro: Extended lumbar support
Con: Base is not molded
The 56 pocket VETO Pro Pac Tech Pac (www.vetopropac.com) features a 5 ½” framework, similar to stand-up wheelie luggage, that rises from a molded hard-surface waterproof base that slants from 2 ½” in the back to 3” in the front. The backpack zips open to dual bays, with an interior hard-backed wall between the two that stabilizes the backpack. The interior of the padded rear sports a zippered pocket wide and deep enough to hold a tablet. An exterior padded flapped pocket on the front of the backpack could hold most any smartphone. The front compartment is configured primarily for vertical tool storage while the back compartment is designed to hold larger items. The backpack also has a manifold gauge and hose storage pocket, four large and five small powder coated steel D-rings and an outside mounted stainless steel tape clip.
The backpack features particularly sturdy construction, including double stitched, heavy duty plastic coil zippers with oversized zipper tabs, marine grade rivets, and industrial strength double nylon stitching. The thermo-formed EVA padded back panel helps cushion the load and the padded load-displacing adjustable padded shoulder strap system has multiple adjustment points. The heavy duty ergonomic TVP rubberized grip handle rotates on heavy metal pins for convenient rotation when lifting from any angle and can be folded down. Plus there’s an internally stored aluminum hook to hang the bag.
Material: body - weatherproof 950 and 1250 PVC
impregnated dernier nylon body fabric; tool pocket fabric - 1800 PVC
Impregnated denier nylon
Dimensions: 18.125” (21.5 with handle extended) H x 14.25” L x 9.875” W
Weight: 9 lbs.
Handle: heavy duty plastic with rubberized grip
Tablet storage: yes
Base: injection molded waterproof polypropylene base
Tablet storage: Yes
Pros: Extremely stable closed or open; many varied
Con: Very heavy even when empty
Milwaukee Jobsite Backpack 48-22-8200 (www.milwaukeetool.com) is a 35 pocket two-compartment bag that stands sturdily on a 2/12” high contoured molded base. The front compartment has most of the pockets. The bright “Milwaukee red” interior provides high contrast against the tools. The cover to the front compartment zips all the way down and has two straps to keep it open at 90 degrees, providing easy access whether on the floor or on a table. The back compartment is narrow and not designed to swing down. A wide, deep sleeve on the inside of the padded back wall can hold a laptop up to 15.6”. A large fold-down accordion style pouch on the exterior front opens to about 45 degrees for storage of large or bulky items such as a small power tool or LED flashlight and has adjustable straps to secure the load. Just above that are four elasticized small-tool holders positioned for quick grabs.
The backpack has heavy canvas handle, breathable padded shoulder straps, and a sternum strap and there are daisy chain attachment straps running down both straps. (A secondary rear handle is too short to grip along with the longer one.) A Velcro horizontal strap on the back of the pack will secure to vertical handles on a handcart. Plus there’s an elasticized water bottle holder on one exterior side. And there’s a water bottle holder.
Material: 1680D ballistic material
Dimensions: 24.4” H x 15.4” L x 9” W
Weight of bag: 7.25 lbs.
Handles: single fabric
Straps: padded and breathable
Tablet storage: Yes
Pro: moderate weight, very stable
Con: No hook for hanging at the jobsite or in a van, no tape measure clip.
The hilmor backpack tool bag (www.hilmor.com) is configured much like a traditional single interior compartment backpack, with a front flap that clasps into place over a large exterior pocket. Bright green outside trim and inside fabric enliven the look. The divided pockets are all on back wall; the front minimally padded front wall has one wide fairly deep pocket which could hold a tablet. The 2” rubberized water resistant bottom is slightly contoured, as is the back of the bag. There are 8 exterior pockets and 11 interior pockets. The flap includes a zipper compartment where a cell phone can be stored and a secure metal u-hook off which a full backpack can be hung on the job or in the truck without stressing the handles. Two deep outside padded pockets can hold meters or a water bottle. There are four padded air vents on the back and the 2.5” shoulder straps are vented as well.
Material: 1680 D ballistic weave nylon
Dimensions: 16” H x 14” L x 6” W
Weight: 4.5 lbs.
Handles: double grip padded fabric
Base: molded, supports freestanding
Tablet storage: No
Pro: lightweight, compact
Con: among models discussed here, least stable on its base