Last week I was at a tool industry tradeshow waiting for the exhibition hall to open when I happened upon a guy wearing a cool-looking tool vest. It was made from some kind of mesh and had a couple of chest pockets plus a pair of side pouches crammed full of tools. I thought he was a maintenance tech for the convention center and was going to ask if it would be okay to photograph his tool rig, but he was on the phone and I did not want to interrupt his call. The next day I ran into him again—this time on the tradeshow floor. Turns out he was one of the exhibitors.
The inventor, Michael Frank, is an HVAC contractor in Wisconsin. He developed the vest because he didn’t like the tool carry systems available to him: Standard tool belts hurt his back, suspenders cut into his shoulders, and the vests he’d used were too hot. The Shop Pockets system is intended to address those problems. Like other vests, it spreads the load across your shoulders. It's made from a breathable synthetic mesh that sheds dirt and won’t absorb sweat. The bottom two or three inches of the vest are covered by a heavy non-ventilated material with a series of grommets attached. The grommets have rectangular holes that mate with the posts on supplied adapter pieces. The adapters are used to fasten tool bags to the vest, and will work with any tool bag that fits on a belt. To attach a bag, slip the adapter through the belt loop, push the posts (two per adapter) through the grommets, and then twist the tops of the posts 90 degrees. Removing the bag is a matter of reversing the process. Each vest comes with two adapters—enough for two pouches.
The vest can be equipped with several accessories, the most interesting being chest pockets that are held on by Velcro. They attach at the top only so tools won’t fall out when you bend over, a feature similar to that of vests made by Blaklader and Bjornklader—though their pockets are permanently attached. The Shop Pockets vest can also be fitted with an iPad pouch, utility pouch, and chest expander. The pouches attach to the bottom of the vest where a tool bag would go. The chest expander increases the girth of the vest so you can wear it over a jacket or insulated coveralls. An opening in the back makes it possible to wear the vest over a safety harness and still be able to connect the D-ring.
A vest plus two adapters sell for around $100 and accessories for $20-30 each.
[This story was revised on 11/21/14. The original incorrectly stated that the vest is not yet available for purchase. It is available.For information on where the vest can be purchased contact the manufacturer at shoppockets.com]