No one wants to be running back and forth from project to tool bench to pick up a forgotten hammer. Nor does anyone want to be scrambling around looking for the nail set that was put down…somewhere. A carpenter worth their salt needs a good framing tool belt that holds all the required tools and fasteners, preventing the need to hunt down that screwdriver or set of pliers that have gone missing.
Framing tool belts include a loop for a hammer, large pouches for a carpenter’s square and hand tools, medium pouches for tape measures, and smaller pouches with wide openings for nails and other fasteners. These tool belts are made from durable materials, such as denier nylon and genuine leather, and feature adjustable belts and suspenders with thick padding for fit and comfort.
Anyone in the market for a better way to organize the tools used on framing projects should read on to learn about some of the best framing tool belts. And, to prove these models get the job done, we performed hands-on testing with the following models. We put them through five specific tests to ensure that these belts could stand up to the athletic demands of a framing project.
- BEST OVERALL: Occidental Leather 5089 Seven Bag Framer Set
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Dead On Tools Journeyman’s Tool Belt With Suspenders
- BEST SOLO BAG: AWP TrapJaw Oil-Tan Leather Tool Pouch
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: CLC Pro Framer’s Heavy-Duty Leather Combo System
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Occidental Leather OxyLights 7 Bag Framer Set
- ALSO CONSIDER: DeWalt 20-Pocket Pro Framer’s Combo Apron Tool Belt
There’s quite a bit to framing carpentry, and as such, there’s a lot to choosing the best framing tool belt. The following are some of the most important considerations to keep in mind when comparing framing belts. While each framer’s setup is different, these tips can help in the decision-making process.
Capacity and Design
A framing tool belt’s design is arguably the most important consideration when comparing models. Everyone’s preferences are different, but it’s important to find a bag that holds the tools and fasteners that they’re most likely to carry. For instance, small pockets for items like pry bars and chisels can be important as well as pouches for chalk lines and tape measures. Some framers like to keep it light though, and they prefer wide-open pockets. All framers need hammer loops: steel, leather, or nylon.
Also, tool belts can be very heavy, especially when fully loaded. For this reason, they typically come with very wide and sturdy leather or padded nylon belts. Many tool-belt manufacturers also solve the weight problem by including suspenders to distribute the weight over the shoulders and hips.
Framing tool belts generally come in two materials: leather or nylon. Each material has its pros and cons, and which option to choose depends on the user.
Leather is the traditional choice. It’s durable against puncture and tears and can last for years if cared for properly. This includes keeping the leather clean, conditioned, and treated with oil or another waterproofing agent. However, leather bags tend to be very heavy and expensive, and they don’t breathe well on hot days. They do break in and get more comfortable over time, however.
Nylon is very light and breathes well, allowing framers wearing nylon bags to remain comfortable in hot weather. Nylon framing bags tend to be a bit less expensive than leather (but not always), and while they’re not nearly as puncture- and tear-resistant as leather, they’re still durable enough for most jobsites.
Some very high-quality tool belts may feature nylon bags with leather pockets and lips (the edges around the pocket) as well as leather belts. These bags are a nice blend between the two materials, allowing users to remain comfortable but also providing extra durability.
One other point to consider is the stitching and riveting. Look for tool belts with thick, easily visible stitching as well as rivets along the pockets and seams. These details can ensure the bags will last.
Comfort and Fit
Most professional framers wear their belts for hours on end each day. With that much weight hanging on the hips, these belts need to be comfortable and secure. Look for a belt that offers plenty of adjustment holes to ensure a snug but comfortable fit. Some tool belts feature hook-and-loop adjustments that shorten or lengthen the waistband, allowing them to cover a wider range of sizes.
Also, consider the weight. Leather bags are extremely durable, but for folks with back or hip problems, nylon might be a better option. Also, framers who like to load their bags might prefer suspenders rather than cinching that belt down tight enough to keep the tools up.
Finally, size is also a consideration to keep in mind. Most framing bags are large as they have to handle speed squares, pry bars, screwdrivers, pliers, chalk lines, plumb bobs, fasteners, knives, and a host of other gear. Bigger can be better, but it almost always means more weight.
Our Top Picks
That’s a lot of background information on how to choose the best framing tool belt, but the topic might still be difficult to nail down. To help with shopping for one, we put together the following list of framing tool belts, performing hands-on testing with each of the following models. Be sure to keep the top considerations in mind when comparing these models.
77Serious framers who want a set of hard-wearing nail bags should check out this framer set from Occidental Leather. It comes with a heavy-duty belt, a hammer loop, and two bags with plenty of tool pockets. This set comes in medium, large, or extra-large sizes, and the bags slide on the belt for maximum adjustability.
This framing tool belt is made of high-quality top-grain leather. It has reinforced leather lips around all of the pockets, slots, hammer loops, and tool holders for keeping things organized. It has a thick combination of nylon and waxed linen stitching as well as stainless steel rivets all around for durability.
With its thick material and ample stitching and rivets, we found that there was no doubt about this belt’s quality and durability. Also, though we are suspenders guys, the belt itself was comfortable and distributed weight nicely, and since it tapers at the front, it’s comfortable when bending forward. Being able to slide the bags around on the belt was also a big part of that.
We will admit that we initially only counted 21 of the 23 tool holders, including the oversize hammer loop, but we found those 21 pockets to be the most usable, and they held almost all of the tools we’re used to carrying around a jobsite. (The two pockets that we didn’t find right away seemed more like folds between sections and were rather small.) The one complaint we do have is that we didn’t find a pocket suitable for a standard pencil, though we were able to stash a carpenter’s pencil without an issue.
- Material: Leather
- Tool holders: 23
- Suspenders: None
- Extremely thick and durable leather with rivets and a combination of nylon and waxed linen stitching
- Plenty of pockets for carrying the most important tools around a jobsite
- Design allows the user to position the bags and bend over comfortably
- No good spot to hold a regular pencil
Get the Occidental Leather 5089 framing tool belt at Amazon, Acme Tools, Toolbarn, or Occidental Leather.
One of the main gripes with tool belts is their tendency to sag and shift under the weight of tools, which inevitably causes pain. This Dead OnTools belt features a set of suspenders with heavy padding that extends from the shoulder blades around the shoulders and across the chest, helping the wearer avoid hiking up their belt every few minutes or suffering from aching shoulders by day’s end.
This focus on comfort continues to the hips, which features an extra-wide belt with thick padding, guarding against uncomfortable hot spots. All of this support and padding is crucial, given that this belt does pack quite a bit of tools, hardware, and miscellaneous items. Keep in mind that the extra padding around the belt gives it a smaller waist size range of 28 to 48 inches.
We weren’t sure what to make of the Dead On tool belt at first, just based on the silly skull logo and blacked-out color scheme. However, once we threw this set on and got it adjusted, we were actually quite impressed. There were plenty of pockets to carry all of the tools that we would need to bring with us, as well as plenty of room for fasteners—33 pockets or tool holders altogether. The bags themselves were adjustable with hook-and-loop strips along the belt and backside of the bags that kept them from sliding on the belt. We also liked how comfortable this set was, thanks to the lightweight polyester, padded belt, and suspenders.
However, the suspenders were not as secure as we would have liked. The keeper that attached the suspenders to the belt slid around and easily came off when the belt was taken off. They also slid forward, making bending over somewhat uncomfortable.
- Material: Polyester
- Tool holders: 33
- Suspenders: Yes
- 33 pockets to organize and secure all of the tools that most framers generally carry
- Lightweight polyester material, padded belt, and suspenders allow for plenty of comfort
- Hook-and-loop strips keep the bags from sliding but allow for plenty of adjustability
- Suspender keepers difficult to keep in place, particularly when bending over
Get the Dead On Tools framing tool belt at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Dead On Tools.
Some framers like to keep it light or move to a lighter belt for working on roofs or rafters. In those cases, the AWP TrapJaw Oil-Tan Leather Tool Pouch might be worth considering. This single bag slides onto a tool belt and allows the user to bring a small selection of tools and fasteners to the work without a heavy tool belt in tow.
This bag has seven total pockets and a steel hammer loop, allowing users to bring fasteners, measuring tools, knives, chisels, and other gear along. The fastener pocket features the brand’s TrapJaw technology, which snaps shut to prevent nails from falling out while jumping off a deck or climbing down a ladder. This pouch consists of leather construction with thick stitching and metal rivets for plenty of strength and durability. Also, the pocket corners feature leather reinforcement to prevent tools and fasteners from poking through.
In testing, we had one complaint about the AWP pouch: its leather felt hard and brittle compared to the more expensive framing bags on the list. However, for the price, it’s still a good deal. We liked that it had thick stitching and riveting all around to increase durability, and there was also a surprising amount of storage. The TrapJaw feature was nice, and it did its job during testing, keeping fasteners in the pouch when we jumped from the truck. However, it doesn’t seem like a feature most framers will use often.
- Material: Leather
- Tool holders: 7
- Suspenders: No
- Size and capacity are great for tricky framing duties like climbing roofs and ladders
- Thick stitching and rivets at all of the pockets for added durability and hard use
- Faster pocket snaps shut, preventing fasteners from falling out when jumping down or climbing
- The leather wasn’t nearly as high quality as some of the other bags in the test
Get the AWP framing tool pouch at Amazon.
The CLC Pro Framer’s Heavy-Duty Leather Combo System may be the tool belt for framers who like things overbuilt. This model features heavy-duty top-grain leather construction with leather rolled lips around each pocket, thick stitching, and multiple rivets at stress points throughout the set.
This belt has more to offer than just durable construction. It has several pockets and tool organizers, including one steel hammer loop and one leather, allowing framers to keep the majority of their important tools with them at all times. It’s also easy to adjust, with sliding nail bags and a thick leather belt with plenty of adjustability, and it tapers in the front for comfort. Also, built-in fabric-grab handles make transporting or taking it off a breeze during lunch or at the end of the day.
In testing, we found this to be a serious set of framing bags. The belt was slightly thinner than we would’ve liked, and our buckle came slightly bent, but other than that, it felt like it was bombproof. The thick leather was tough, and there were rivets everywhere, meaning it’s highly unlikely that this belt will tear or rip apart down the road. Also, we counted more pockets and tool holders than CLC gives itself credit for, with 21 in total, not the 18 stated in the product description. It is heavy so suspenders might be a good idea, though the built-in fabric handles make swinging it around the hips easy.
- Material: Leather
- Tool holders: 21
- Suspenders: No
- Durable leather and thick stitching, with rivets everywhere for plenty of strength
- Plenty of tool pockets for keeping hand tools organized, tidy, and secure
- Built-in grab handles make putting this belt on and taking it off easy
- It’s a bit heavy, so pairing with suspenders is suggested
Get the CLC framing tool belt at Amazon, Acme Tools, or CLC.
With rugged leather and nylon construction, this tool belt from Occidental Leather should perform through many years of projects. Its material combination is designed to be lightweight and comfortable—something relatively rare from a rugged belt.
This framing belt features a 3-inch-wide belt that comes in six sizes. The belt tapers in the front to allow for bending, and the bags will slide wherever they’re needed for comfortable access. There are also 22 pockets and tool holders for tape measures, utility knives, hammers, and fasteners. Many of the pockets are actually leather, while others feature leather-reinforced corners as well as riveted stress points for plenty of durability.
This framing tool belt might be the ideal combination of rugged and lightweight. With a durable combination of waxed-linen and nylon stitching as well as leather-reinforced pockets and tool holders, this belt seemed very strong. We also liked that despite this tool belt having enough pockets and bags to hold everything we needed, it was less bulky than an all-leather belt. Our only slight complaint was that we like side-by-side pockets for two fasteners on the left side, and this belt has them in a tieredlike fashion. This is more of a preference than a qualm, but it’s the one thing we’d change about this bag.
- Material: Leather and nylon
- Tool holders: 22
- Suspenders: No
- Combination of rugged leather and nylon make this belt lightweight and comfortable
- All the seams feature a combination of waxed-lined and nylon stitching and riveted stress points to promote durability
- Plenty of room for tools and fasteners yet still remains less bulky than other belts
- We prefer side-by-side fastener pockets
Get the Occidental Leather OxyLights framing tool belt at Amazon, Acme Tools, or Occidental Leather.
With its comfortable design, numerous pockets for organization, and sturdy construction, this framer’s tool belt from DeWalt is worth considering. Organization is always crucial for a functional tool belt, and this model boasts two hammer loops and 20 pockets, including nine main pockets for pliers, squares, clamps, and other hand tools. There are numerous smaller pockets and sleeves for nails, pencils, and miscellaneous hardware. There’s even a cell phone pocket on the suspenders to keep a phone safe and secure.
This belt features suspenders and a belt with dense padding for the shoulders and hips, preventing it from pressing on uncomfortable pressure points as the day wears on. A wide adjustment range on the suspenders and a belt that fits waists from 29 to 46 inches make this a suitable choice for a variety of body sizes.
This framing tool belt from DeWalt did some things very well in testing, such as supporting weight with a slick set of suspenders and providing simple hook-and-loop waist adjustments. Setting up the waistband took seconds and resulted in a snug but comfortable fit. We found the cell phone pocket comical, as we’re sure a phone small enough to fit in it hasn’t existed in the past decade, but it ended up being the perfect spot for a laser measure. There were plenty of pockets and tool holders, but we did find the webbing stitched inside the right pocket a little disappointing, as it was the only logical place for a chisel and it seemed like the webbing would slice sooner rather than later. Otherwise, we found this belt to be extremely comfortable during all of the tests, including bending and climbing.
- Material: Polyester
- Tool holders: 20
- Suspenders: Yes
- Padded belt and suspenders make it comfortable to wear all day, distributing weight across the shoulders and hips
- Plenty of pockets and holders for items like pencils, small hand tools, and fasteners
- Hook-and-loop setup makes adjusting the belt to a snug and comfortable fit a breeze
- Webbing used for tool holder doesn’t seem great for long-term durability
Get the DeWalt framing tool belt at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Acme Tools.
Bucket Boss Airlift Tool Belt With Suspenders
This model from Bucket Boss features 15 tool holders and pockets, including two pouches for medium and small tools and smaller pockets of varying sizes for tools, hardware, pencils, and other necessities. It also has one steel and one fabric hammer loop to keep hammers at the ready.
In testing, we liked that this tool belt was lightweight, highly adjustable, and came with very comfortable suspenders. We also appreciated its ripstop polyester construction as that should help this belt last a while. However, it didn’t have many pockets and did not have any organizing slots inside the bags, which would have been handy. When we jumped down from the truck, the tools and fasteners popped out of the pockets. Also, we didn’t like that there weren’t any rivets for reinforcement and the suspender clasps were a bit flimsy. It may still be a good choice for a framer who’s just starting out, but it didn’t quite meet our recommendation standards.
A day on a framing crew involves much more than pounding nails. It’s climbing ladders, lifting boards, jumping from decks, bending over, twisting between stud walls, and much more. In short, it’s an athletic job and only some of it involves swinging a hammer. To ensure that these bags had what it takes to be the best, we put them through some of our own tests.
First, we spent a few minutes with each bag testing their setup. We loaded them with the tools we always carry on framing jobs, including framing hammers, utility knives, chalk lines, tape measures, chisels, pry bars, and more.
Then, we performed a series of tests with each model. With our fully set rig, we bent over to drive nails into a chunk of wood, simulating framing a wall on a plywood floor. Then, we bent over and picked up a piece of 2×12 lumber to test whether the belt would shift or prevent efficient movement. After that, we climbed up and down some ladders to see if the belts limited motion or hung up on the rungs. Finally, we tested the belts by wearing them while climbing into and jumping out of a truck bed to see if fasteners or tools would fall out. By the end of these tests, we had a good idea of each model’s strengths and weaknesses.
Choosing a framing tool belt can be complicated business, and even with all that information above, there might still be some questions. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about framing tool belts.
Q. What should I look for in a tool belt?
It’s important to look for signs of durable construction. Thick nylon stitching and rivets at stress points are good indications of quality, as are thick leather or nylon.
Q. What should a framer have in their tool belt?
Every framer is different, but a good start includes:
- Framing hammer
- Carpenter’s pencil
- Tape measure
- Bubble level
- Chalk line
- Plumb bob
- Utility knife
- Pry bar
- Pliers or adjustable wrench
- A small clamp
Q. Are tool belt suspenders worth it?
Absolutely. If you’re comfortable wearing suspenders, they can help distribute the load from the tool belt over the shoulders, lessening back and hip pain throughout the day.