Building a Small Tool Bag

When I was among the employed I always maintained a small tool bag of my most used tools rather than carry the giant hard size case of crappy tools that work provided.   Now that I am retired I still need a go bag of tools but clearly the mission has changed.  I’m no longer the Aircraft Visual Landing Aid Tech Rep who worked on the light arrays that give your pilots a visual glide slope reference.

Now I’m the guy who goes from the house to my workshop or who runs to friends or families houses to help with more household chores.  Bear in mind that this bag gets you from the truck to the house or shed.  You can always go back to the truck for the 10 lb. crescent wrench.

Red Oxx Lil Roy

In my opinion, canvas bags are the only way to roll for your tool bag.  Tools are heavy.  Your tool bag doesn’t need to add to that.   Even though this isn’t advertised as a tool bag, my favorite bag for a small tool compliment is the Red Oxx Lil Roy EDC bag.  It is almost perfect although I do wish it were an inch or two longer.  Are you listening Red Oxx?   Red Oxx bags are THE BEST.  They cost a few bucks but I have never had one let me down.  Carrying screwdrivers and other sharp things will expose a poorly made bag the first few times you toss it down or when it slides off the seat of your pickup truck.

My Lil Roy bag has nary a tear or defect after years of repurposing it as a tool bag.  I love this bag so much that I got a couple more of them.  The Olive color that I have the (stock) pic of hides dirt pretty well.  After years of use my bag still looks pretty snappy.  I’m not kidding when I say this bag has been through a lot and it still looks almost brand new.

Years of use.


Enough about the bag.  Everyone’s tool compliment will be different based on what you do but I think it is safe to say that everyone will need some kind of screwdriver or screwdriver set.   For my bag I’ve included a Wera Ratcheting Screwdriver.

Wera Ratcheting Screwdriver (click pics to enlarge)

This screwdriver will get you through most tasks.  Depending on what you mostly work on you’ll probably want to augment.

Wera Tool Check Plus

For example if you are the family electronics or computer geek you’ll probably need some smaller screwdrivers.  In this case I’m going with the Wera Tool Check Plus.  (Metric)

This also gives you the advantage of having a lot more tips for the ratcheting screwdriver above.

It also has a small handle and a ratchet with some (metric or imperial) sockets.  And it has a magnetic bit holder/driver called the Rapidator.

Best of all this is small and compact.  Again, depending on what work you do and where you do it you may want the imperial (US) socket set.  Nowadays everything is imported and has metric screws and bolts however, in my Dad’s lifetime and my early lifetime you couldn’t find a metric screw or bolt.   So if you are fixing your kids stuff……..get metric.   If you are helping your parents or grandparents you may want the imperial set.

Last word on screwdrivers.  Ratcheting screwdrivers might not fit every bill.  I recommend maybe throwing a standard screwdriver or two in your bag.  Maybe a couple larger ones or a couple smaller ones depending on what you typically encounter.

A good multitool is vital to your go bag as well.  Even though I am a Swiss Army knife nut and use Swiss Army knives to save the day regularly I’m going to opt to put a Leatherman in my tool bag.   A lot of good choices.  The Leatherman Surge is AWESOME with a good tool compliment but it is big and heavy.  If you want to economize size and weight a bit, go with a Leatherman Wave Plus.  It is cheaper as well.

Leatherman Wave +

The Leathman is going to give you a great knife and a pair of decent needle nose pliers .  You may want to add a vanilla pair of pliers to your go bag as well.

The Wave + has 18 tools and one of them is a good wire cutter with replaceable blades.

There is a tiny pair of scissors in there which are handy but most everybody has a pair of scissors in their house already.

And of course it has a screwdriver and possibly most importantly there is a bottle opener on here so you can open the beer that your grateful repair recipient offers you up for a job well done.


Hey, that’s important too.

In the plier / wrench category this tool has no equal.  The Knipex Pliers Wrench.  This is basically a set of Channellock pliers that acts as a locking crescent wrench as well.  Simply a marvel of engineering.

Knipex Wrench Combo

Certainly a decent set of wrenches and a good socket set are ideal, but remember this is a bag of tools.  We need to travel light.

These will get you through most basic tasks without having to go get the hard side case full of wrenches and sockets.

They make these in a variety of sizes as well.  Get the Comfort Grip as well.  You’ll thank me.

So now we have a screwdriver with lots of different tips, a minimalist socket set, a ratcheting tool, and the most versatile pair of pliers on the planet.  Like I said earlier, throw in a couple of standard screwdrivers (large or small) and a pair of vanilla pliers.  Add in some wire strippers and you can handle most COMMON household tasks.

Fluke 111

Because I am the light fixture and ceiling fan changing super hero I also have a multi-meter in my bag.  There is only one multi-meter in my opinion and that is a Fluke Meter.  Here is my Fluke 111 that I bought oh so many years ago.  This is another item that just plain old holds up and stands the test of time.


Yep you can get way smaller and way cheaper meters, but why?


And lastly when you can’t touch the ends of something to see if it is a hot wire or not you can use a Fluke 1AC2.  Touch it to a wire and it’ll turn red and beep if it detects voltage.

Fluke 1AC

It’s not much bigger than fat sharpie and I use these quite a bit.

Next up……some sockets.

$25 Gear Wrench Socket Set

If you still have a little room in the bag I found a small 20 piece socket set (metric and SAE) on sale for $25 at NAPA auto parts.  The manufacturer is Gear Wrench who makes decent ratchets and sockets And this is a 3/8″ drive set..  It’s not Mac or Snap On but I dare say most folks don’t need Mac or Snap On.  It doesn’t come in a little hard case so I’ll throw the metrics in one small zip lock bag or pouch and the SAE’s in another.  And that’s just what I did.  A rail would be nice but it would be a hair too long for this bag I think and have sharp ends.


While there is NOTHING wrong with the Gear Wrench ratchet in the set I’ve augmented it with a Wera – 8000 B 3/8 Zyklop Speed Ratchet.

Wera Zyklop

It is a speed ratchet that locks into 5 different positions at 0 degrees and both sides of 15 degrees and 90 degrees.  Standard box wrenches have a 15 degree offset so you have some idea of where that number comes from.


Are you beginning to see that I love Wera Tools?


Next up a fella needs a decent pair of wire strippers.  Klein tools makes a good one, maybe the best one and best of all it is affordable.  It is the Klein 11055

Klein Wire Strippers

Again, your mileage may vary a lot as to what you think vital tool bag tools are.  I round my kit out by throwing in a pair of side cutters and a couple of plastic scrapers.

No, you can’t do it all with this kit…….BUT YOU CAN DO A LOT.   You can certainly change ceiling fans and toilet seats and tighten the cabinet door hinges with it.



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