Concord Carpenter

Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Tote and Bag

Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Tote and Bag

The open-top Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Tote (part number CMST21451, above) and it’s soft-top sibling the Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Bag (part number CMST21450, below) are new products from Craftsman — part of their new TradeStack system of stackable, rolling tool storage.  The tote is of particular interest to me, although the bag is extremely useful and will definitely earn its keep too.

It’s the way I came up

After WWII my dad was discharged from the Marine Corps and entered an electrician apprenticeship program.  In those early days there was very little commercially available tool storage for tradesman’s tools (and it was almost all men back then), particularly at a price that a working man could afford.  They were expected to build their own toolbox (es), and my dad, like all of the guys he worked with, did…out of plywood.  The handle running across the top was ridged pipe (not the lighter weight EMT conduit).  It looked a bit like the one below.

Loaded with the heavy steel tools of the day, that sucker was heavy!  It must have weighed a good 40-50 pounds with its complement of tools.  As a scrawny teenager working with my dad (135 pounds at high school graduation and less before) I had the “honor” of schlepping that thing, one-handed, around job sites: to and fro, and up and downstairs.  I developed a healthy dislike for it.

Tools are lighter now, and storage systems are much more functional and better designed.  But a simple open-top tote with a cross handle is still my main toolbox.  In it I keep all the tools I normally use or want with me on almost any job.  Other, job-specific, tools are then carried in one or more ancillary totes and bags.

Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Tote  — the right size

The problem I’ve had until now is that all the open-top totes that combined vertical and horizontal storage were too small for my normal compliment of tools.  I’ve been waiting for years for one like the Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Tote to come along.  In a nutshell its features:

TradeStack vs. VersaStack

The Tradestack system is new to Craftsman, and orientated towards professional users.  This is in contrast to the older Craftsman Versastack system which was derived from the DeWalt TStak system (both Craftsman and DeWalt are part of the Stanley Black & Decker family).  There’s a TradeStack adaptor that allows VersaStack modules to integrate with the newer TradeStack components.

I should note that this isn’t a review of the entire TradeStack system; a rolling system like that isn’t necessary for most of the jobs I do.   Rather it’s a look at the two components of that system (the tote and bag) that are of interest to those of us that usually work on jobsites where it’s easy to carry our tools from our vehicle to the actual work location.

Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Tote

The tote has a total of 57 “pockets” if you count every possible tool holding device.  If you count only the major pockets – the ones you’re most likely to use – the total is 32 without counting the few on the removable main compartment divider (which I usually remove anyway).  That’s about as many locations as I can keep track off, and it’s really a perfect amount and setup for me to store hand tools vertically.  The long zippered pocket on one long side has zipper pulls that can be locked if you need to keep your wallet, credit card, phone, diamond pinky ring, nuclear launch codes, or whatever, secure.

The main compartment is large enough to comfortably hold several hand-held battery-powered tools such as an impact driver, drill, and other odds and end: bits, batteries, etc .  This ability to hold and carry both my commonly used hand tools and battery-powered tools is what sets this tote apart from all the others I’ve seen.  Also, the carry handle rotates to either side so you can actually get those larger tools in and out of the main compartment.  (I’ve had to drill out rivets on other totes to allow the handle to rotate – what were they thinking?)

Heavy-duty, not heavy

The Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Tote weighs eight pounds on my scale, which is reasonably light for its size.  But the construction is heavy-duty.  Hefty 1650 denier material covers the walls and constitutes the pockets – it’s not going to tear anytime soon.  Stitching is heavy.  The handle and solid bottom are made of a very sturdy-feeling polymer, and the handle is attached to each side with four rivets.  The handle pivot axle is likewise thick and heavy.  The whole thing has a very solid, professional feel to it.  While only years of use will tell for sure, I have no doubt that this unit isn’t breaking under even heavy use anytime soon.

Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Bag

The fully enclosed sibling of the TradeStack Tote is the Craftsman TradeStack 22” Tool Bag.  Specs:

A new opening approach

The pictures tell the story here, so I’ll just relate what more you get from working with this bag in person.  The obvious unique thing about this bag is its dual-zipper top opening, akin to the openings used for years on electronics bags (such as camera bags).  This is in contrast to the usual accordion opening found on most all other tool bags.  The main advantage of the TradeStack approach is that it makes more efficient use of the volume that the bag occupies in your truck: there’s no sloped top on the closed bag that houses only empty space.  I suspect that this will soon become the norm for soft-sided tool bags.

As with the tote above, the material, base, and components are heavy-duty and feel that way, inspiring confidence.  For me this bag makes the perfect complement to the tote – the tote carries all my “regular” tools, the bag gets loaded with the job-specific ones.  Both are as large as they could be and still be comfortable to carry, maximizing capacity while maintaining ease of transport.

Comfortable in use

The pictures show you how the compartments are laid out on these units.  What more I can add, besides the above description of the materials and overall impression, is how the tote and bag feel when loaded and carried.  Both are obviously designed with the same footprint as the TradeStack system.  If anything was to make them uncomfortable to carry by themselves, it would be that they were too wide.  But they aren’t — they are very comfortably sized for carrying.  While they hold a lot – really a LOT! – they aren’t so wide that they extend uncomfortably far out from your body.  I hope I never have to load either up to its 66-pound capacity (I’d have to find a scrawny teenager of my own to carry them then!), but loaded heavily with hand tools and several battery-powered tools they carried easily with all the weight hanging almost straight down from the shoulders.

Finally, they both look sharp.  No one expects a tradie to look like they just came from a photoshoot, but neither does it inspire confidence when one shows up looking like they were dragged through a sewer.  A grimy tool bag filled with dirty, filthy tools will certainly get the job done if the person using them knows what they’re doing, but as professionals it helps to look like one.  It used to be that a hiring manager would ask of those who knew a prospective trade hire, “Does he take care of his tools?”  Well, similarly your clients are noticing if you do.

What to expect

While this tote and bag are new offerings from SBD/Craftsman, I fully expect them to hold up and more than hold their own.  A while ago I reviewed some other Craftsman storage products, shortly after Craftsman had joined the SBD family.  I’ve used both regularly since then and have nothing but good things to say about them.  I expect the same from these two.

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