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Calavera 5# Gear Bags

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.

(Note: Click any image to enlarge)

Even better, the company stated that six of the 5# Gear Bags would fit nicely into one of the Systainers from Tanos/Festool. I’ve relied on Systainers to organize our shop and trucks for years and just happened to have an extra Open Top Systainer 1 waiting to be put in service, so I bought a set of six bags.
They arrived just a few days after my order. I was immediately impressed when I opened the shipping box and was able to see the quality of the bags. Maybe it’s because I’m so accustomed to the many cheap goods permeating the marketplace, but the quality of the fabric and attention to detail on the Calavera bags stood out in sharp contrast to the bags I’m used to seeing in box stores. To begin with, each bag is made with a heavy duty ballistic nylon bottom–the same stuff originally developed for use in flak jackets.  

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.

There’s a nice spring metal belt clip attached over a leather reinforcement patch that’s sewn to the rear of each bag. The leather does double duty, as it also serves as a loop, allowing a belt to be passed through it for the times you want a more secure connection to your person.

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!


6 Responses to “Calavera 5# Gear Bags”

  1. Kreg mcmahon

    They look nice, is it easy to reach in the bag and
    get stuff out ? And also to dump a handful of screws or dominion out also ??
    Where do you order
    them ?
    Thanks greg and nice video


  2. David Tuttle

    First love the video. Would a blister pack XL Dominos fit in one of those? they look a lot bigger than the VueTainers that I’ve been using for several years, but don’t fit neetly into the SysTote

    • Greg Burnet

      That I don’t know, David. We typically use Sipo XL Dominoes & buy the stock uncut. As a result, I’m not familiar with the blister packs.

      Perhaps someone else might know the answer to this question?

  3. Aaron Telian

    I’ve been using these on site since December, mounted on the front of a utility cart. I think they are fantastic. They are ideal for rapidly changing tasks and not carrying more than is necessary at any given moment. And the color-coding is genius.

    • Greg Burnet

      Nice tip, Aaron, thanks. We’re currently designing a new crash cart for use on larger jobs & I may borrow your idea. Much appreciated.

  4. Ben Wojcikiewicz

    Great review Greg! I have a set of these and have been using one as a mini-tool-belt. I keep a stone pitching chisel, hammer, stone marker, torpedo level and tape measure in it to take with me to and from our shop (if I’m prototyping something). I take out the hammer and maybe chisel when I get there and hang the rest off a belt loop. Stone work is dusty and rugged, chisels are pointy and that amount of weight in any tote is generally destructive. I was fortunate to be asked to test an early prototype in my own wood shop – instead I took it to work. I’ve since picked up production models and used in all of my stone projects/prototyping and have nothing but good things to say.

    We all enjoy fine craft and carpentry here – but This also gives you the ability of this to help you cross-categories. If you occasionally do some plumbing or odd tasks that require a small set of tools or materials, it’s a great way to consolidate it, keep it handy but off your body or out of the way when you don’t need it.


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