Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila
There comes a point when collecting a complete DIY set of tools starts causing storage issues. A tool box might do the trick, but they definitely have their shortcomings. Tool boxes are tough, but they’re so prone to disorganization that the bottom can easily become a black hole of screwdrivers, hammers, and other common go-to tools.
The best tool bag, on the other hand, is carefully designed to provide as much organization as possible while being lightweight for easy toting. These bags are also durable. A quality tool bag made from materials like doubled-canvas, nylon, and polyester can last a lifetime.
One other detail users should look for, according to John Lin, professional mechanic and co-founder of JB Motor Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recommends that shoppers look for a sturdy base. “Having a tool bag with a sturdy waterproof base isn’t just about durability but also about cleanliness, as it prevents dirt and grime from construction sites from entering your vehicle or workspace.”
But, there are lots of tool bags available, so I went ahead and tested some of the best options to make your shopping experience fast and efficient. Here are all of the best tool bags I tested, each earning its own award tailored to its specific strengths.
- BEST OVERALL: CLC 18-Inch Multi-Compartment Tool Carrier
- RUNNER-UP: Carhartt Legacy 14-Inch Tool Bag
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: WorkPro 16-Inch Wide Mouth Tool Bag with Molded Base
- UPGRADE PICK: Husky 18-Inch, 18-Pocket Rolling Tool Bag
- BEST FOR POWER TOOLS: Dickies Work Gear 20-Inch Work Bag
- BEST FOR LARGE HAND TOOLS: Klein Tools Canvas Tool Bag, 16-Inch
Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila
Through years of working as a commercial maintenance technician and carpenter, I’ve used plenty of tool bags to get my gear to the job. Those experiences led me to develop a test that would be applicable to a DIYer. Equipped with a scoring rubric and questionnaire, each bag garnered a score at the different stages listed below. I then relied on that rubric to score each tool bag overall.
First, I compiled a kit of basic DIY tools, including several sets of pliers, hammers, screwdrivers, a power drill, a tape measure, some marking tools, and other odds and ends. I filled each of the bags with this test kit, and then took the bag through its paces.
The first test involved assessing how easy the bag was to organize. I placed tools in the more intuitive places and tried to leave the most frequently used tool in the most accessible areas, and then loaded everything else accordingly.
The second test involved simulating the wear and tear and ease of carrying each fully-loaded bag. The bags were carried from my garage shop to my truck, and then from the truck to an imaginary job site at the other end of the property, and then back to the vehicle and shop. This was repeated several times to test how well the bags would hold up as well as how comfortable the bag was to carry (or roll, in one case).
Our Top Picks
The following list is here to help users select the best tool bag for their needs. It consists of some of the most popular options on the market, which I tested. Just be sure to keep the top shopping considerations listed below in mind when comparing these models to each other.
- Size: 18 inches long by 14 inches high by 7 inches wide
- Weight: 6 pounds
- Number of compartments: 50
- Super high quality nylon for long-term use and durability
- Incredible amount of storage; comes with multiple storage compartments, inside and out
- Best shoulder strap in group; comes padded and completely adjustable
- Almost all storage is zippered to keep all components safe and in place
- May be too much for the average tool kit
- Bottom isn’t waterproof; may not be ideal for rainy weather or outdoor work
- Tape measure clip might not hold a tape securely
Any DIYer with a lot of hand tools who requires some serious storage should check out this bag from CLC. The CLC 18-inch carrier gives every tool a home and keeps them all organized. It has a zippered flap on either side that opens to reveal tons of pockets, plus a center pocket large enough to lug a few power tools at once. And, everything zips away for secure storage.
During testing, I tested both carrying options; a pair of rolled and padded nylon handles and a high-quality shoulder strap with a cushioned pad and swivel hardware to keep it from tangling. Both options did very well. I also loaded all the tools in the test kit into the bag, and still had an entire side of the bag left to fill, meaning this bag could hold double the kit without sacrificing organization.
One thing to understand about this bag is that the bottom isn’t waterproof, though it does feature sewed-on plastic feet.
Get the CLC tool bag at Amazon.
- Size: 14 inches long by 10.5 inches high by 9 inches wide
- Weight: 2.2 pounds
- Number of compartments: 27
- Comfortable handles make this option easy to hold for long periods
- Durable enough to easily hold sharp chisels, screwdrivers, and other sharp tools
- Framed opening allows it stay open on its own; suitable for those that need to reach into their bag frequently
- No zippered or buttoned pockets; may not be as reliable as some comparable options
- Average tape measure only fits in one pocket
- No shoulder strap; may not be ideal for some users’ preferences
DIYers and pros alike will likely enjoy this durable bag from Carhartt. This 14-inch tool bag features heavy-duty polyester construction and padded handles that remain comfortable while carrying fully loaded. This bag has 26 tool pockets plus the main compartment, offering plenty of storage for hand tools and a power drill.
When testing the Legacy, there were a few points that truly stood out. The material itself appears to be the most durable in the test, and there wasn’t any fear of placing chisels inside some of the smaller side pockets. Also, the compact design allowed for plenty of storage without taking up too much space. I also liked that the bag stayed open on its own and that the carrying handles were very comfortable.
The main downsides of this bag is that it lacks a shoulder strap, though the handles truly are comfortable, and there are no zippered pockets for smaller items.
Get the Carhartt tool bag at Amazon.
- Size: 15.75 inches long by 11 inches high by 9 inches wide
- Weight: 12.3 ounces
- Number of compartments: 21
- Waterproof bottom provides peace of mind when working outside
- Shoulder strap is comfortable, adjustable, and padded for ease of use
- Obvious storage for writing utensils or frequently used tools on the outside of the bag
- Great price point compared to other options on the market
- Flimsy pull tabs may not be ideal for some users’ preferences
- Pockets are strangely shaped; may not fit some tools
Homeowners and DIYers who need a small, lightweight bag to keep their gear in place without a bloated price tag should check out the WorkPro 16-inch Wide Mouth Tool Bag. This compact bag features polyester construction, a molded rubber base for waterproofing and extended durability, and two hook-and-loop handles and a padded shoulder strap. The bag offers two zipper pulls, which when positioned in the middle of the zipper, make for easy one-handed opening.
Tests revealed that the shoulder strap was comfortable and certainly the best method for carrying this bag. I also liked the waterproof bottom and the obvious storage for writing utensils — a detail many tool bags don’t feature. There are 21 spots for storing tools, but the pockets were oddly shaped inside the bag, so secure storage might be an issue. The material is lower quality than the other bags on the list, but the price reflects that and makes it a good value.
Get the WorkPro tool bag at Amazon.
- Size: 18 inches long by 9 inches wide by 17 inches high
- Weight: 11.85 pounds
- Number of compartments: 18
- Most versatile handles in the group; comes with carrying handles and a telescoping handle
- Pockets are deep enough to hold large and small tools and accessories
- Velcro closure in front is perfect for driver bits and small odds and ends
- Wheels roll well over rough terrain; suitable for both indoor and outdoor job sites
- Pockets are not specific for any tools; may not suit the needs of some users
- May become too heavy if loaded to its full capacity
- No side handles or shoulder strap for lifting and carrying long-term
Anyone with a pile of tools to drag back and forth can give their back a rest with the Husky Rolling Tool Bag. This bag features doubled polyester fabric and a telescoping handle with a set of wheels that roll well across rugged surfaces. This construction and design gives the Husky a 100-pound weight capacity.
The Husky is really a premium product. I liked the 18 well-designed pockets, one of which features a hook-and-loop closure that’s suitable for smaller items like driver and drill bits. I also found that the two padded handles were the most comfortable in this group despite this bag’s nearly 12-pound unloaded weight. The main compartment is very large and it held lots of tools during testing— I even snuck an extra circular saw in for good measure. Also, the telescoping handle worked flawlessly with one hand and the wheels were smooth and rugged.
The one problem? There are no side-mounted handles to make lifting in and out of a vehicle easier.
Get the Husky tool bag at The Home Depot, Amazon, or DK Hardware.
- Size: 22.5 inches long by 12 inches wide by 12.25 inches high
- Weight: 2.77 pounds
- Number of compartments: 14
- Billowed pockets with nylon webbing hold lots of items securely
- Comfortable to carry, evenly loaded; comes with carrying handles and a shoulder strap
- Tons of storage; comes with 14 pockets and a large internal space for larger tools
- Zipper sticks from time to time; may not be ideal for some users
- Shoulder strap is comfortable but low quality
- Interior pockets aren’t billowed and are all the same size
Haul everything, regardless of weight, with the Dickies 20-Inch Work Bag. Built from durable canvas with a polyester interior lining to be strong and lightweight, it boasts a huge center compartment that will accommodate a drill, reciprocating saw, circular saw, and even a few batteries. There are eight outside pockets and six interior for small tools and hardware as well.
Testing the Dickies bag provided some pleasant results. The long, deep center compartment held large hand tools well, and made room for power tools and batteries as well. Also, the pockets feature a billowed design with a strap of nylon webbing at the top, offering lots of secure storage. And this bag was comfortable to carry, even when it was fully loaded. I didn’t like that the zipper was a little sticky during one-handed opening and that the pockets are too general in size, but overall, it’s a great bag.
Get the Dickies tool bag at Amazon.
- Size: 16 inches long by 6 inches wide by 14 inches high
- Weight: 3 pounds
- Number of compartments: 1
- Durable leather handles and buckles as well as canvas material for long-term use
- Abrasion-resistant leather reinfoced bottom; suitable for indoor and outdoor use
- Heavy-duty hinged metal opening keeps the bag open during projects
- Lacks organization compartments; no pockets integrated into the design
- Handles are comfortable but a little slippery
Klein Tools Canvas Tool Bag is a classic take on the modern tool bag. This bag features a durable canvas construction that’s resistant to tearing. It also has natural leather handles which are rolled and stitched for maximum comfort. Also, the thick leather straps and metal buckle will ensure this bag stays shut.
Testing proved what I already suspected: quality is top-tier while organization might be lacking. I appreciated the heavy-duty, hinged metal opening, as well as it’s incredibly durable canvas and vegetable tanned leather handles and buckles. Also, I appreciated that Klein stitches an abrasion-resistant leather over the bottom of the one-piece canvas bag instead of just stitching the walls of the bag to a piece of leather for improved strength.
Keep in mind that there are no pockets, so it’s best for large hand tools or plastic organizers.
Get the Klein Tools tool bag at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
Choosing the best tool bag might seem like a simple proposition, but there are a few points to consider before dropping some cash on any old bag. The following sections include some of the most essential considerations to keep in mind when shopping for the best tool bag, from storage to material and more.
Number of Storage Pockets
If someone has a lot of small hand tools, meters, and gadgets, they probably don’t want them all piled up at the bottom of a tool bag. For these DIYers, the more pockets, the merrier—and the less messy. The best tool bags have plenty of storage options for keeping gear stowed away properly and safely—leading to more efficient workflow and better end results.
Often on a job site, workflow requires reaching for a tool or putting one away with one hand. A tool bag with a floppy opening will make this frustrating, if not impossible. To beat the frustration, look for a tool bag with wire or metal frame reinforcing the opening of the main compartment. This allows for one-handed opening and closing.
If that doesn’t seem important, consider how much money a quality tool set costs to assemble. Without that structured opening, those expensive tools have a tendency to lay on the ground where they can become bent or ruined. That frame will save a tremendous amount of time and prevent laying tools on the ground or accidentally dropping them.
According to Terry Dussault, the CEO of Yellowknife Safety in Huntington Beach, California, shoppers may want to look for “a tool bag made from sturdy materials like heavy-duty fabric or reinforced nylon to withstand the wear and tear of projects.” Dussault also recommends a tool bag with water-resistant or waterproof material that will protect your tools from rain or accidental spills.
The most common materials for tool bags are thick nylon, canvas, and polyester. They’ll withstand a lot of weight and sharp tools won’t poke through the sides. Rubber makes a top-notch base for a tool bag due to its durability and non-slip attributes. Inexpensive bags made of cheaper materials like faux leather and low-grade nylon are bound to rip prematurely and end up costing more in the long run when it comes time to replace them.
Zippers and Buckles
There’s no sense organizing a tool bag if everything falls out of it in the truck or backseat. These bags are meant to be closed and secured, so make sure any bag chosen uses a high-quality zipper or buckle system. Look for large, nylon zippers with pull tabs that operate with a gloved hand. As for buckles, look for traditional bags with metal buckles and leather straps, which will hold up well over time. If there’s a preference for lightweight buckles, go for durable nylon over plastic.
Size and Intended Use
Tool bags come in all shapes, sizes, and styles—some are tailored toward particular trades while others are general catch-alls—in sizes commonly ranging from 14 to 24 inches. That’s why it’s important to consider the type of use the bag is likely to see before buying one.
If it’s headed to a job site every day with a lot of large, heavy tools, a 14- or 16-inch bag with a 50-pocket main compartment won’t be much good; a 20- or 24-inch bag with fewer pockets and ample room for large tools would do better. Conversely, if the tool bag serves as a caddy for carrying tools from the garage to the house, a smaller bag with lots of storage pockets might be the best tool bag.
The best tool bags have large handles with over-molded rubber grips, rolled nylon handles, or a leather sleeve. These are all comfortable options when hauling a heavily loaded bag for any distance.
For larger bags, look for shoulder straps with thick padding to keep them from digging into a shoulder. Avoid thin, flat straps that put a lot of pressure on a very small area; they’re sure to cause pain and fatigue. A thin strap without any padding will mean stopping often to switch grips as well, slowing the entire process down.
Even with that extensive background on choosing the best tool bag, there might be some additional questions popping up. This section aims to answer those queries, as it’s a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about tool bags. Be sure to check for an answer to your question listed below.
Q. What is the ideal size for a tool bag?
The ideal size for a tool bag depends on the use. For smaller hand tools and a drill, a 14 or 16-inch bag will do the trick. For larger power tools, a longer bag in the 20-inch range might be better
Q. What should I look for in a tool bag?
The most important features to look for in a tool bag are durable materials and plenty of storage. Nylon, polyester, canvas, and leather are typically the best materials.
Q. Are there water-resistant tool bags?
Most polyester and nylon bags will shed quite a bit of water before becoming soaked, though you could treat any bag with a water repellent for weather-resistance.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Tom Scalisi is a full-time DIY and construction writer for many of the largest websites in the industry, including BobVila.com, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Forbes. He also owns and operates a pest control blog, RiddaBugs.com.