At first glance, it's hard to see how this bag differs from most other open-top models — until you notice the Velcro. The Flex bag (9) is covered inside and out with this material, to which assorted sleeves and pockets can be attached.

The pockets come in widths from 1 to 4 inches in 1-inch increments. They attach to the bag practically anywhere, permitting almost unlimited customization. The pockets don't attach to just the bag, either — they can also be stuck to the 3-inch-wide shoulder strap, which doubles as a belt. It too is lined with Velcro, making adjustments quick and easy — regardless of whether it's being used as a shoulder strap or a belt.

The bag has a stout metal carrying handle attached to its top. This handle is well-padded for comfort, but it's fixed rather than pivoting — which is unfortunate, because it sometimes restricts access to the interior. The Flex Bag is shipped with 12 pockets, the strap/belt, and a magnetic “Pro Hold,” which can be attached to the bag or worn on your wrist for securing small metal items like screws or drill/driver bits. Additional pockets are available individually. Web price: $80.





The Pro Pac XLT (10) is a soft-sided organizer with zippered side flaps. It's designed for the person who does trade work but also needs an on-site office. On one side of the center divider is a tool-storage space and on the other is a computer sleeve and places for electronic equipment and files.

The office side of the bag contains a series of ascending storage pockets — some open and some with flaps. I particularly like the neoprene pockets, as they offer excellent protection for cameras and can be stretched to accept cables, AC adapters, and the like.

The tool-storage half of the bag has lots of space — 47 pockets, to be exact. The exterior has a removable shoulder strap and various loops, pockets, and metal D-rings. This 9.5-pound bag is solidly made and has a waterproof polypropylene base, a double-stitched nylon body, heavy-duty zippers, and an injection-molded nylon handle with an overmolded rubber grip.

The Pro Pac XLT would be a good option for tradesmen who carry both traditional and 0modern tools, since it basically combines a toolbox and a briefcase. There is also the XL (11) model, for those who like the bag but only need to carry tools. Web price: $220.


10 & 11 VETO


I've seen bags, boxes, chests, buckets, and totes for storing tools — but this is the first tool backpack. From the outside, it looks like the backpack your kid takes to school (12), but on the inside it's configured to hold a variety of common hand tools (13).

The bag contains six panels that are hinged at the bottom and arranged in the manner of a Rolodex. Tools store in the pockets on each of the panels, which can be flipped forward so you can access the tools on the ones behind. There are 106 pockets in all — and while that's certainly a generous number, they're a bit on the small side. Fortunately, the pack is designed to be modified: You can combine pockets by removing the stitching between them to create larger openings for specific tools.

Features include padding on the back and shoulder straps, lockable zippers, and a compartment large enough to stow a laptop computer. The ToolPak is a creative solution for the tradesman on the go. Though too small for everyday use by carpenters and remodelers, it's well-suited to the service technician who uses a lot of small hand tools. Web price: $100.


12 & 13 TOOLPAK


The Dr. Wood Tool Case is an impressive but heavy organizer shaped like an old-fashioned doctor's bag (14). Empty, it weighs just over 15 pounds. It's made of ballistic nylon and leather, with a steel frame, stainless steel hardware, and a wear- and water-resistant high-density polyethylene bottom.

Inside are two roomy storage areas (15) on either side of a center divider. Thanks to the case's 88 pockets and sleeves, I was able to pack in an astonishing number of hand tools. The interior sleeves are well-thought-out, with the majority of each one's contents immediately visible when the outer flaps of the bag are folded back. The two zippered compartments inside each flap are a nice touch, as is the removable leather rear Pocket Caddy, which can accommodate pliers, screwdrivers, and other assorted hand tools one might need for hardware installations.

The bag has a leather top handle as well as leather trimmed handles on either end — which is a good thing, because you'll need both hands to carry it fully loaded. If this bag were a car it would be a Rolls Royce, in terms of both quality and price. It's made in Sonoma County, Calif. Web price: $500.




Greg Burnet runs Manor Services, a carpentry contracting firm in Chicago that specializes in door and window installations.