Oliver | Luxury Fiberglass Travel Trailers, Campers & RVs › Forums › OLIVER CAMPFIRE › General Discussion › The Compact Toolkit
- January 29, 2019 at 3:58 pm #159989
Like a lot of people a year or so into ownership, I’ve been working lately on reducing the amount of stuff I carry – getting rid of things we never use and also finding strategies of making what we do carry lighter and more compact. I’ve also been working on a dedicated toolkit that would just stay in the truck permanently, so I don’t have to worry about packing tools up and inevitably forgetting the one tool I need that trip. So what I’ve been after is, 1) a complete toolkit that has everything I might reasonably need for roadside or campsite repairs; 2) compact enough that it can be stored in the cab of the truck permanently, without being in the way; 3) can be stored in a way that still gives easy access when traveling; i.e., I don’t have to completely unpack the truck to get to them; and 4) contains quality tools that can be relied upon.
Certainly the easier solution is to ignore requirement #2 and just put a toolbox of some sort in the bed of the truck. I think that’s perfectly fine; but personally, I’d rather keep them in the cab to protect them from moisture, trail dust, theft, and getting all scuffed up from being jostled around. Plus by keeping everything compact, I’m also forcing myself to keep the weight down.
So in the following posts, I’m going to try to list all the tools I’ve placed in my kit, the reasons for choosing what I did, and then some ideas on how to best store them in your vehicle. The tools I’ve included are, as I said, what I think constitute a “reasonable” tool kit for repairs while traveling. “Reasonable”, of course, is subjective. If you’re the type who is likely to call Good Sam to change a flat tire (nothing wrong with that), then your “reasonable” might be limited to a few screwdrivers and a pair of pliers. On the other end of the spectrum, there are guys over on Expedition Portal who wouldn’t go to the grocery store without a welder in their Jeep. And nothing wrong with that, either – to each his own.
With that in mind, I’d like to think that my following posts are just a starting point for conversation. I’d love to know what others think about these choices – surely I’ve forgotten something, or one of you knows some better options or alternatives. With some additional voices, hopefully this thread can provide some guidance for new owners or others like me who are looking to pare down what they’ve been carrying.
Fair warning, I do like nice tools, and have a thing for German tools in particular, so some of the stuff listed below is pricey. But I don’t think that there’s anything here for which you couldn’t find a decently priced alternative, and arguably a better value. Or, you might be the guy who doesn’t accept anything shy of Snap-On. Either way, buying all of these at once will put a good dent in your checkbook, even if you’re shopping at Harbor Freight. So keep in mind that this isn’t intended to be a “must have” list. Like I said, you probably don’t “need” any of this. All you really need, in most situations, is a cell phone. But if you do decide to put together a toolkit of any size from scratch, I suggest you make an Amazon list and then set price alerts for each tool using 3 Camels (www.camelcamelcamel.com). That way you can buy at the lowest price and spread your purchases out over several months to make the cost seem more palatable. (I’ve also found after explaining that strategy to my wife, that when the packages arrive, she asks how much we saved vs complaining that I’ve bought yet another tool.). Actually, she does both, but I think there’s less complaining than before.
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford RaptorJanuary 29, 2019 at 3:59 pm #159992
I’ve found that screwdrivers can get out of hand pretty quickly. Trucks these days are full of torx and hex head screws and I’ve run across some square drive screws in the trailer – so if you carry a full set of each of those, with both Metric and SAE hex and then a decent set of Phillips and flat head drivers, you can end up with pretty bulky bag of screwdrivers. I think the easiest way to pare that down is to switch to hand held bit drivers, and then you can carry all the bits in the world pretty compactly.
Advantages: you can carry dozens if not hundreds of bit types and spares in a box the size of your hand; the bits can be used with power drivers and ratchets; replacing a damaged bit is far cheaper than a screwdriver.
Downsides: bits are easy to lose; the ones you typically find in big box stores are cheap, have a lose fit both in the driver and in the screw, and are prone to breaking; some bit drivers don’t hold onto the bits well, so they tend to fall out; the bit connector on drivers can be bulky and limit access to screws; if you’re dealing with multiple screw types, swapping out bits can be a pain.
I combat the downsides by carrying spares of the most used bits, carrying multiple bit drivers in different sizes so that I can easily swap between them if needed, and of course buying quality bits that aren’t likely to break and quality drivers that hold the bits well. I prefer the magnet bit holders. I’ve found that the locking type ones are too bulky and even the nicer ones are prone to jam. I also carry a regular 3/16″ flat head screwdriver in case I need to pry on something.
The bit drivers I have are from Wera and Wiha (pronounced Vera and Veeha – it’s not a German tool unless it’s pronounced weirdly). I prefer the handle style of the Wiha, but Wera makes some interesting bit holders so I’ve ended up with more of those:
Wera Kraftform Kompakt 28 – I keep this one in the center console of my truck along with all my bits. It’s very compact and the most versatile bit holder I have, since it’s both a regular handle driver and a (large) stubby. As a bonus, the shaft can be removed and used with a power driver, or combine it with another driver to double its length
Wera Kraftform Kompakt 27 – If I’m pulling out a bag of tools rather than just grabbing the one above from the console, then this is what I’ll use. Once you use a ratcheting screwdriver, you’re spoiled for life. This one is quality enough to not feel gimmicky.
Wera 813 Bit Holder – This is a smaller and thinner driver that’s good when you’re working on electronics or some other detail work.
Wiha 57mm Stubby – Just a good sized stubby with a nice grippy rubber handle.
Wiha 125mm Bit Holder – I use this as a backup to my Wera bit holders, since both of those have features that could potentially break. This driver also has an interesting finish on the handle that maintains a good grip when either wet or oily.
The bits I use are from Wera:
Wera 30-Piece Bit Check Set – this is a good starter set and includes a locking bit holder if that’s what you prefer.
Misc. Wera Bits – KC Tools keeps just about anything you’d want in stock and at a good price. They ship pretty quickly, too.
I’ve also found that some ratcheting “sticks” can be indispensable when getting to a screw in a tight spot. You could use a bit holding socket on a regular ratchet, but I’ve found that those won’t always fit where you need them, whereas these will slip into almost any nook. Right now, these are the best ones I’ve found – they’re super thin and I like the length and adjustable heads, but they aren’t the best quality. Time will tell if they hold up:
Power drivers have also become compact enough that I don’t mind including one and a couple of batteries in the toolkit. I have the Bosch below, but Milwaukee also makes a compact one, and that may be the better buy. If you prefer a non-impact version, I know that Bosch makes one so perhaps Milwaukee does as well. Here are links to each:
For bit storage, these will give you easy access without taking up a ton of space. I divide mine up by bit type and store the holders in one of these Plano boxes. I think I have something like 125 bits in that box. That’s a lot of screwdrivers!
One final extra that will come in handy when using bits is a magnetic holder to use when working. This can be one of those trays that they often give away for free at Harbor Freight, or you can try these wrist bands:
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor
1 user thanked author for this post.January 29, 2019 at 4:00 pm #159993
Socket sets are a huge space hog. Worse than that, they can add a ton of weight to your toolkit. Not only do you have ¼”, ⅜” and ½” sets, but you’ve got to carry both SAE and metric, plus both shallow and deep sockets. One strategy for lightening the load is to eliminate the overlap among your socket sets. In fact, sometimes you can eliminate the ⅜” drive sockets all together by just carrying a complete ¼” and ½” set. But of course, the ½” set is the bulkiest and heaviest of the three, so there’s an argument to be made for keeping a full ¼” set and then eliminating the overlap as you go up in the two larger ones. Some people try to do without the deep sockets, but I’ve found that it’s inevitable that I’ll need one if I don’t carry them. And of course if you only carry deeps, then you’re bound to find a bolt without enough clearance for them.
Fortunately now we have pass-thru socket sets, and to me, that’s the way to go, as they have other advantages beyond their pass-thru feature. If you’re not familiar with them, these sockets are hollow, with ratchets that connect around the outside of the sockets so that you can slide them over even the longest bolt. They’re becoming more prevalent, and you can find lesser expensive sets in the big box stores, but you have to be careful to find a set that has a broad enough range that you don’t find yourself having to carry along a standard set anyway just because you can’t find a particular size socket.
I zeroed in on the GearWrench sets for a number of reasons. First, here are the two sets I have:
GearWrench Flex Head Pass-Thru Socket Sets – I have the ¼” set #891427, and the ⅜” set #893823
Generally, I trust GearWrench tools. I have a set of their ratcheting wrenches that I’ve owned for years and they’ve never given me a bit of trouble. I also know that a few of the mechanics at the garage I go to use GearWrench rather than Snap-On. They just seem to have a good balance of price to quality. The first things you’ll notice about these sets are that they’re small and they’re light. Like, very small and light. I have the standard GearWrench sets for home use, and the ⅜” pass-thru set is both the same size and weight as the standard ¼” set. That’s a huge difference. The next thing you’ll notice is that the ratchets themselves are longer. In fact, the ⅜” ratchet is longer than GearWrench’s standard ½” ratchet. The reason for this is simply that these sets, though lighter, are actually stronger than their standard counterparts, so GearWrench is comfortable giving you more leverage. You’ll also find that both sets have a broader range of sockets than usual. For those last two reasons, I was comfortable not getting a ½” pass-thru set, which I’ll discuss more below.
Advantages: lighter and more compact by a significant amount over standard socket sets; broader range of sockets; stronger ratchets; slightly thinner head/sockets for tight access. I also find it easier to pop the sockets on and off the ratchets.
Disadvantages: fewer accessories are available, like u-joints, spark plug sockets, and adapters; fewer storage options for sockets; sockets aren’t easily adaptable to impact drivers.
I think that the biggest disadvantage to overcome has to be the paucity of adapters and accessories. The accessory problem isn’t too difficult, because each set includes two extensions and an adapter to go to either standard ¼” or ⅜” sockets. The adapter will allow you to use standard accessories like u-joints and extensions. The problem though is that they don’t include an adapter to go back the other way. So if you use a standard u-joint, for example, you then have to use a standard socket, which defeats the whole reason you bought the set. What I discovered, however, is that GearWrench actually does make an adapter to go back the other way, but apparently they don’t realize it. The part comes in their big tap and die set, which uses the same “vortex” connector. Fortunately, you can buy the part separately:
With that adapter, you can now drive your pass-thru sockets with an impact wrench, or with a standard ⅜” driver. Which of course means that you can carry along a standard ⅜” driver and any accessories you want, and then use your pass-thru sockets on the end. If you need to make a “deep” socket out of them, then just use the smaller pass-thru extension with the socket. Problem solved.
Unfortunately, the same part doesn’t exist for the ¼” set. A standard 12mm socket will hold those sockets, however; so that’s a viable, if not ideal, workaround. So I bought a magnetic 12mm that I threw in the toolkit just in case. It doesn’t hold the sockets as well as I’d like, but it’s something:
The other disadvantage to overcome is storage. These sockets don’t fit my favorite storage method, which is socket rails, so you’re left either keeping them in the case they came in, or throwing them in a bag. The bag option is O.K., and most compact, but obviously you have to dig around for what you need, and GearWrench doesn’t make the most clearly marked sockets in the world. The case option gives the easiest access, and the cases are compact enough should you decide to go that route. The drawbacks to that though are that 1) the sockets fit loosely in the cases and make a lot of racket, 2) those cases aren’t really meant to take a lot of abuse so I don’t know how long they’d last, and 3) I’m certain to knock the case off the hood of the truck or something, sending everything flying who knows where.
Some internet sleuthing, however, led me to this:
This is designed for regular sockets, but it works fine for the pass-thru sets. It’s very well made, and the elastic loops are woven so they aren’t the kind that will be stretched out in a year. The only drawback I found is that the loops are bit tight for the wider pass-thru sockets, so it takes a little work to get them in. Also the labels don’t 100% correspond to my sockets, but that’s no big deal. It rolls up tight enough that I can store it behind the fold down rear seat of the truck.
O.K., so what about the ½” sockets then? Well, with the added strength and range of the ⅜” pass-thru set, I decided that I didn’t need a complete set of ½” sockets. Instead, I just put together a small bag of the ½” sockets that aren’t included in my ⅜” set, plus sockets for the lug nuts on both the truck and trailer. And instead of a standard ½” ratchet, I decided that I’d just carry my ½” torque wrench, since I only use it for the truck anyway. Despite its length, it fits well in the storage bin under the rear seat, in its case, so it’s not a problem to carry. With that and a ⅜” to ½” adapter, I feel like I’m set for any ½” ratchet needs.
I prefer the Precision Instruments torque wrenches because of their split beam design. Split beam wrenches don’t have to be reset to zero after each use and can handle the vibrations and general abuse of being kept in the truck full time.
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford RaptorJanuary 29, 2019 at 4:01 pm #159995
I don’t think that there’s much in the way of compact wrenches, at least nothing that’s not gimmicky, so probably the only question here is whether you need them at all. I happen to know that on my bed rack there are some bolts that I can only get to with an open ended wrench, so since I have the space I take them. I prefer the ratcheting type, since I’m typically using them in tight spaces where it’s a pain or impossible to reposition the open end. I really don’t know if one brand is better than another, but I like the Tekton wrenches because they have a 6-point ratcheting head rather than the standard 12-point. I’ve just never liked 12-point sockets or wrenches. I also like the flex-head wrenches, but the drawback there is that Tekton doesn’t make a version with both a flex-head and a reversible ratchet. Their roll up pouches are fairly compact and keep the sets rattle-free.
Returning to German tools, I keep an assortment of vice-grips and other pliers on board:
12″ Knipex Cobra Pliers – these are the bad boys of the toolkit. Mainly I have them in case I need to tighten the nut on the hitch ball, but they can adjust to almost any size, and grip like a german shepherd. These are self locking, so they don’t need any pressure to maintain a hold on the fastener, meaning you can use them with a pipe for extra leverage if you need. German, so pronounce the K.
7″ Knipex Pliers Wrench – these are neat wrenches that imo are a much better alternative to a standard adjustable wrench. I carry this particular pair since it’s a good size for loosening stuck water hose connections.
Knipex Mini Pliers – tiny versions of the two wrenches above. I keep these in the center console for small tasks.
6″ Knipex Needle Nose Pliers – just good general purpose pliers with a wire cutter and a number of different gripping surfaces.
Knipex Diagonal Cutters – for cutting heavier wires. I’m not sure if it wouldn’t be smarter to bring a set of small bolt cutters instead.
Knipex Crimping Pliers – a better version of the standard electrical stripping/crimping tool
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford RaptorJanuary 29, 2019 at 4:01 pm #159999
Since I’m carrying my impact driver, I thought a small work light that uses the same batteries would be useful to have.
I keep one small tool roll with some brushes, picks and other do-dads that might come in handy. Most of these you could pick up at Harbor Freight since they don’t need to be the highest quality:
- Craftsman Pick Set – just a small, cheap set that I had in the house. Any similar set would do.
- Craftsman Retaining Ring Pliers – these are cheaply made, but also very compact
- GearWrench Inspection Mirror
- GearWrench Telescoping Magnet – for retrieving all those bits
- Wire Brushes
In the center console of the truck, I have one of these dividers (they make them for all makes and models), which allows me to carry these tools in addition to the normal center console stuff:
- Fluke 107 Multimeter – I think this is the smallest multimeter they make. I really like it. The case I use is this one.
- The bit driver, bit set, the Plano box of ¼” bits, and mini pliers that I mentioned above.
- Raptor Shears – when we travel, this goes in my backpack along with the first aid kit.
- Folding Utility Knife with spare blades
- Pocket Knife – no idea what brand
- X-Acto Knife with spare blades
- An ancient Gerber Multi Tool, which I can’t remember using last. I’m not a big multi-tool guy, but I can see how they’d be useful.
- I also keep my headlamp and a flashlight in there.
I keep a set of work gloves stuffed in each driver side door, in hope that I’ll remember to wear them, and one set for my wife in the glove box. I also have a wad of heavy rubber gloves for dirty work stuffed in the rear storage tray.
In a box in the bed of the truck, I keep a rubber mallet, which is useful for knocking loose chocks.
In the trailer, I keep a PEX crimper for the few spots that might require one.
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford RaptorJanuary 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm #160002
I’m not a fan at all of tool boxes for inside the vehicle. They’re noisy, bulky, and your tools get scuffed up. If you’re keeping your tools in the back of the truck and don’t care if they get banged around, then go for it.
I have mixed feelings about tool rolls. On the one hand, they’re the classic way of storing tools for travel, they’re relatively compact, they keep your tools protected and quiet, and they keep everything organized and easy to find. But while great in theory, I’ve had a hard time finding tool rolls that work well in practice. Too few pockets, too many pockets, the pockets are too narrow to fit your tools, or too wide and your tools fall out, or they’re too short for that one wrench that you then can’t find a place for, etc. I have found that they’re great if they’re tailored for a specific tool kit, like the Tekton Wrench Sets above, and I do like the Socket Roll that I mentioned earlier. I do use this tool roll for my wrenches and this one for my misc. stuff. In both those cases, I bought the rolls so I’m determined to use them; but honestly, I’d rather use bags. But those leather rolls do smell great.
What I really like are tool bags. Specifically, I like having my tools divided into a number of small tool bags that I can grab individually rather than pull out a big, heavy bag with all my tools in it. I’ve had good luck with these bags from Blue Ridge Overland. They’re a little pricey, but they’re good quality; and most importantly, they just seem to be the right size and proportion. The vinyl front doesn’t really let you see anything inside, like they claim, but what it does do is provide a nice surface for some bright orange gorilla tape, which can be marked with a fat sharpie and is perfect for labeling the bags. I’ve found that these bags stuff well wherever I want them, and they’re flexible enough to wrap around the tools to keep them quiet and protected. I absolutely hate rattles in cars, and these bags keep me happy.
I also like these waterproof DAKA bags from Magpul. They’re more expensive than the Blue Ridge bags, but they’re definitely tougher. Plus they have a nice grippy surface, so I can see them being a good choice if you have to get out in the rain.
I’ve tried cheaper bags from Home Depot and places, but those always end up being a difficult size to fit things in, or they tear up and so I seem to keep buying the ones from Blue Ridge. This larger size version fits my impact wrench, work light, charger, and spare batteries perfectly.
As for how much space in the truck all of this takes up, well, judge for yourself:
About half of the tools go into the storage tray under the rear seat. The ones velcroed to the seat bottom hold tape, zip ties, electrical repair stuff, etc. (The red bags on the back seat are first aid kits, which get stuffed into backpacks when we travel, and the larger black bag is for trash.)
The remaining tools go behind the smaller, fold down seat back:
The center console is packed, but is organized well enough that it stays that way:
And even the glove box stays clean – the grey bag holds the key to my wheel locks and a few other things that the dealer might need to get to, and the red one holds a couple EpiPens and some other first aid things. Then some USB cables, window scraper, owners manual, and a pair of gloves:
So there you go – a (hopefully) complete tool kit that takes up next to nothing inside the truck.
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor
Attachments:January 29, 2019 at 7:10 pm #160043
Wow, what a gold mine of good info and tools.
Two tools that I use a lot are a small and larger curved jaw Vice Grips.
Thank you for documenting your great tool selection and providing the rationale behind your choices.
Tug: 2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Trailer Tow, FX-4, 4X4, Rear Locker
http://visitedstatesmap.com/maps/ARCACOIDKSKYNENVNCOKORTNTXUTVAWYmed/visitedstatesmap.phpJanuary 29, 2019 at 8:52 pm #160055
Thanks, I’m curious how you use those vice grips since I’ve never owned a pair like that – you’re talking about the larger C-clamp style ones, right?
One thing I forgot is that I also keep a set of drill bits along with a chuck that fits my impact driver. They’re in a bag that’s stuffed in the seat back pocket on the drivers side. I’ll edit my post to include them.
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford RaptorJanuary 30, 2019 at 11:25 am #160134
WOW! Great job.
I thought I had about what I needed, you have given me some additional ideas,
I try to balance between having everything I could possible need, and then understanding what I’m really gonna tackle on the road.
Vice grips – the handy dandy multi tool – I can fix/break/strip almost anything with a set of them.
I didn’t see where you referenced replacement parts/fluids/grease – I carry a few tubes of grease (no 2 Hi Temp Mystik JT6 ) , a dedicated grease gun, a wheel bearing kit (and appropriate tools) and replacement fuses. And some good ole WD40. I’m sure there is more I need, time will tell.
I try to keep it all in a simple canvas type carry case (an old Makita tool case), it goes in the back of the truck, in the big plastic carry all BOX under the camper top.
Cindy, Russell and "Harley dog" , " Our 4 legged Chessie early warning/protection system".
Home is our little farm near Winchester TN
2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax
"Die young - As late as possible"January 30, 2019 at 12:23 pm #160182
I was thinking of doing a separate topic about spares and stuff. But I carry much of what you do.
One thing I haven’t done yet (but need to), is to repack my wheel bearings. I suspect after tackling that the first time, I’ll add one or two more tools to the kit specifically for that task (maybe a hammer and larger screwdriver to knock out the inner bearing).
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford RaptorFebruary 7, 2019 at 9:14 pm #160830
The curved jaw Vice Grip is the one on top. I find it to be more useful than the straight ones.
They will hold on to just about anything while you do something else with it. I carry the 7″ and a small one (Not shown).
Tug: 2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Trailer Tow, FX-4, 4X4, Rear Locker
http://visitedstatesmap.com/maps/ARCACOIDKSKYNENVNCOKORTNTXUTVAWYmed/visitedstatesmap.phpFebruary 8, 2019 at 5:38 am #160841
Oh O.K. I thought you were taking about something like these – https://www.amazon.com/IRWIN-11-Inch-Regular-Locking-C-Clamp/dp/B016E0OS2K
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford RaptorFebruary 8, 2019 at 10:37 am #160845
I do have several of those “Vice Grip “C” Clamps”. They are useful for welding. But not needed for my Ollie Tool Box.
Tug: 2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Trailer Tow, FX-4, 4X4, Rear Locker
http://visitedstatesmap.com/maps/ARCACOIDKSKYNENVNCOKORTNTXUTVAWYmed/visitedstatesmap.phpFebruary 8, 2019 at 10:51 am #160848
I can see that. I need to learn how to weld – could be a useful skill to have.
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford RaptorFebruary 10, 2019 at 1:06 pm #160968
If anyone wants to pick up one of those GearWrench pass-thru socket sets, Amazon put them on sale today, cheaper than I’ve seen before.
Snowball • LE2 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor
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