I have organizational envy. When it comes to a well thought out shop, trailer, jobsite or truck, I’m easily impressed. Even though (or perhaps because) I’m usually somewhat disorganized by nature, over the years I’ve tried to spend extra time and attention attempting to overcome this shortcoming as it relates to my business. I’ve tested many organizational systems for tools, hardware, and fasteners. I’ve built out shelving, racking, and storage areas in my shops and on some of my jobs. I’ve gone so far as to build out entire trucks and trailers in an effort to become better organized and more efficient. I’ve even written about my quest for organization, hoping to share some of what I’ve learned with other organizationally-challenged folks. (You’ll find some of those articles on Tools of the Trade and JLC Online; here’s one I wrote on Modular Tool Organizers, which might be an interesting compliment to this article.)
So it was only natural that I was curious when I stumbled upon a new organizational offering from a new company–5# Gear Bags from Calavera Tool Works.
|Inspired by the chalk bags climbers carry, these neat black bags didn’t seem that extraordinary on paper (okay, actually online), yet I couldn’t find anything similar on the market. Part storage vessel, part tool pouch, they promised to address what has become the bane of my somewhat OCD-fueled need to organize everything in sight–those ubiquitous, yet crummy cardboard boxes that hold five pounds of varying fasteners many of us in the trades often purchase en masse.
Okay, so your bags probably won’t need to stand up to enemy fire, but they will need to be tough enough not to succumb to the ravages of nails, screws, tools, or other sharp items you store in them. The nylon encompasses about three inches of the bottom of the bag while the remainder (or “upper” as Calavera calls it) utilizes a diamond ripstop material.
Next up is the fact there are a number of ways for the bags to be carried or hung.
A nylon hanging strap is sewn into the side of the bag and a metal carabiner attached to the strap permits the bag to be hung from a hook, a nail, or the accessory “Gear Hitch” (more on this later).
A drawstring allows the top of the bag to be closed fairly tightly, sealing out most of the elements while preventing the contents from spilling.
Two provisions are made to identify the contents: A label pocket with a clear window is sewn to the front of the bag and the nylon strap that the carabiner hooks to is available in six different colors, permitting the bag’s contents to be coded according to the various colors. By the way, I was pleased to discover the label pocket is positioned high enough that it’s visible above the sides of an Open Top Systainer 1–a very nice feature.
I took the bags into the field with me, using them to tote and store a variety of fasteners. I found the bags to be just about the perfect size and shape. They pack very nicely into the aforementioned Systainer, though not so tightly they’re unwieldy to insert or remove. And I discovered they clipped to and hung from my belt with ease. I used them to hold the fasteners needed for some remodeling punch-out work I was doing and found myself swapping various bags rather than filling and emptying my tool pouches as I moved from one task to the next. This efficiency makes the bags, which I’d initially considered primarily to be a storage method, even more versatile. And their shape seemed to contribute to their stability as well; I didn’t spill any of the contents during my work. I can go so far as to see these simple bags changing the way I work on occasion, as they may permit me to shed my tool belt more frequently, which would be a welcome relief.
5# Gear Bags are available singly or in lots of 6. Calavera also sells a couple packages that include Gear Bags as well as hardware to attach a bracket dubbed a Gear Hitch to Festool MFT tables or just about any other flat surface.
The concept is simple: an offset aluminum bar (the Gear Hitch) is attached to the edge of an MFT. This in turn allows users to hang one or more Gear Bags to the Hitch using the bag’s carabiner (a slot in the bottom of the Hitch also permits Festool clamps to be hung from it). Since my primary use for the bags was to organize and transport fasteners and small parts in our trucks, I didn’t order the kit that included the Gear Hitch. I did however use the bags in my shop, hanging the bags on my primary work table, which is set up with numerous hooks and accessories. The bags worked well for keeping Dominoes, biscuits, screws and the like close at hand yet off the surface of the table and out of the path of projects. They worked so well in fact that I’ll likely be ordering another set, dedicating them specifically to shop work.
All these features come at a cost, which warrants some discussion. I paid about $20 per bag plus a modest shipping fee. Is this expensive? I feel it’s all relative. Some may be put off by the price, as there are probably cheaper alternatives on the market (though these are undoubtedly unique). But it seems apparent these bags weren’t made to a specific price point, as evidenced by the quality of construction, attention to detail, and the fact they’re designed and manufactured in the USA. I see value in the product and don’t feel the price is unreasonable, especially since I’m optimistic I’ll get many years of service from them and they have already allowed me to purge a lot of those cheesy cardboard boxes in favor of something far more elegant and NOT just in my own shop!