A tool belt. Such a fundamental item for professionals and DIYers alike to have on hand…but it sounds like such a cliché, doesn’t it? The truth is, purchasing a quality tool belt is a rite of passage. It takes you from amateur weekend warriors to dedicated DIY enthusiasts…it helps you evolve from disorganized carpenter or electrician to an expert in your field. Not to mention it makes your life a heck of a lot easier!
Because a tool belt is such an important item, the market is absolutely saturated with them—and believe me, they are not made equal. So, in this article, I’ll provide you with some basic information concerning tool belts and get you acquainted with some of the very best the market has to offer.
Why Do You Need a Tool Belt?
Really, the question here is: “Why do you need a tool belt when you already have a perfectly good toolbox?”
And this is a valid question.
If you’re like many DIYers, contractors, and other manual laborers, you likely have a sturdy toolbox you carry all of your essentials in. This is great for occasional use or basic tasks, but a toolbox lacks many of the critical elements a tool belt provides:
While many toolboxes do provide different compartments (and even levels) in which to store different types of tools, they still lack the overall utility that a belt provides. It can be difficult to sift through an entire toolbox looking for just the right tool, no matter how well-organized it is. Not to mention how easy it is to just throw tools back in after use and forget to clean up afterward…
On the other hand, once you learn how to properly organize your tool belt, you’ll find that everything is not only in its place but also much easier to find at a moment’s notice. Tool belts are also designed to make it more difficult to put a tool in the wrong place—all the other pockets are full, right? And that leads us to our next point.
A tool belt allows you to grab any of your essential tools in the blink of an eye. You’ll spend far less time playing the back-and-forth game, poring over your toolbox in dimly lit areas, and cursing your existence because you just-can’t-find-it-gosh-darn-it!
But assuming you’ve loaded your belt with everything you’ll need for the job at hand, grabbing the right tool is as simple as…well, grabbing the right tool. Do you know how much time you’ll save by equipping yourself with one of these bad boys? (Hint: Probably more than you think.)
In addition to granting you lightning-fast tool-grabbing powers, a tool belt is just an overall convenient item to own. Instead of lugging around a tool box the size of the Iron Giant or getting your 10,000 steps in walking to and from your truck all day, you just fasten a belt around your waist. This means fewer blisters on your hands and feet, fewer chances to misplace the carrier of your tools, and really just fewer frustrations in general.
Okay, you may be wondering how “critical” sophistication is. I’ll be honest: It depends on how you look at it.
While some may consider this a nicety or something superfluous altogether, there are plenty of people who appreciate the sense of preparedness and utility a tool belt provides. Sophistication often conjures up images of one who has it all together and knows what they’re doing—two qualities that adorning yourself with a tool belt can lend you. And who doesn’t prefer working with someone who appears both competent and confident?
Is Leather the Best Material for it?
Tool belts can be made using a number of materials. Some of the more common ones include leather, faux leather, bonded leather, polyester, nylon, and canvas. It’s important to keep in mind that not all materials are equal in quality or cost—as a rule of thumb, tool belts made of higher-quality materials will be more expensive.
Of the different materials, leather is by far the best type for tool belt construction. To give you an idea of what to expect when using a leather product, here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons:
- Sturdy and durable
- Fantastic overall build quality
- Tear- and puncture-resistant
- Softens with time
- Fairly flexible
- More attractive
- Ideal for professionals
- More expensive
- Leather belts with “fixed” design can be uncomfortable
- Not all leather belts are equal (full grain is best)
Leather vs. Faux Leather
As mentioned, there are several types of material used to make tool belts. While leather is considered the best, it does have a strong competitor: faux leather. Two factors that make faux leather an appealing option are its lower price and vegan construction.
You can find two varieties of faux leather: PU (polyurethane) faux leather and PVC (polyvinylchloride) faux leather. Both types use inexpensive base materials such as cotton or nylon, and then process the materials to look and feel more like real leather. PVC faux leather is processed using special chemicals that give it a softer and more flexible feel.
While there are a few redeeming qualities in faux leather, it does differ from real leather in many key areas. Here is a side-by-side comparison for you:
|Real Leather||Faux Leather|
|…is more expensive.||…is less expensive.|
|…is made using the hide of an animal (typically bovine).||…is made using other natural or synthetic materials, or a combination of both.|
|…features imperfections from the bovine hide, which gives it a unique but imperfect appearance.||…features a manufactured “leather” pattern that is uniform.|
|…can be purchased in a limited number of colors and/or finishes.||…can be purchased in a wide variety of colors and finishes.|
|…ages well, becoming softer and better to use over the years.||…will degrade with time.|
|…boasts incredible durability and longevity when taken care of.||…is less durable and more likely to tear, rip, or develop unattractive cracks.|
|…tends to absorb liquid, increasing the likelihood of stains.||…does not normally absorb liquid, and is often treated to prevent absorption.|
|…requires much more TLC than faux leather does.||…requires hardly any TLC.|
|…has greater cleaning and maintenance needs than faux leather does.||…is super-simple to clean and maintain.|
As you can see, real leather and faux leather do have their differences. While we highly recommend you opt for true leather, the decision is up to you and faux leather does have its redeeming qualities. Decide which features and characteristics are most important to you and purchase a tool belt that checks all your boxes!
Other Features to Look for in a Good Tool Belt
Believe it or not, there is a lot under the hood when it comes to your average tool belt. Browsing online or traipsing through your local hardware store, you’re going to come across endless types, sizes, and designs. It’s easy to become overwhelmed but knowing what to look for right away can make the decision-making process much smoother for you.
There are four basic types of tool belts, categorized by how they’re worn. The type that’s best for you will depend on which style you find most comfortable and convenient.
Okay, suspenders might sound a little dorky…but trust us when we say that they’re extremely convenient when you have lots of tools with you. As the name suggests, this type of belt is worn in a similar fashion to suspenders; the belt part goes around your waist, while the suspenders part distributes the weight of the tools more evenly. If you have back problems or aren’t used to carrying so many heavy tools at once, this variety is perfect for you!
This type of tool belt, worn around the waist, is the most popular variety. Its simple design and ease of customization make it an attractive option for the vast majority of workers. However, the drawback is that they keep all of the weight around your waist which can result in back or hip problems.
Hip tool belts are pretty hip nowadays (pun completely intended). They rest along the waist, while the tool pockets and pouches lie against your hip. This type is pretty non-invasive as far as tool belts go, weighs less than its counterparts, and has one of the most convenient tool belt designs overall.
The apron variety of tool belts have a slightly different fit and their storage compartments differ as well. People tend to agree that apron tool belts make it more convenient to reach for a tool when needed, and they’re also lighter in weight and not as bulky or overstated as other belts.
Any time you purchase an item, you need to ask yourself what you’ll be using it for. You probably don’t need a ginormous executive desk for occasional computer gaming or a $3000 cooking set if you order takeout most of the time.
Likewise, the tool belt you purchase should be designed for the type of work you do. You can find tool belts dedicated to holding tools for electricians, carpenters, construction workers, or casual DIYers. Each type is specially designed to hold the tools associated with that trade and to be comfortable for workers in that field. Make sure the one you opt for is ideal for your intended use!
I know, I know. Waist size is a delicate topic to broach right after holiday season…during a pandemic. But it’s important to be aware of your current (or usual) waist size before purchasing your tool belt. While most of them are designed to fit all or most waist sizes, you may have to look for an atypical size if you happen to be a little larger or smaller than the average Joe or Joanne. If possible, try on the belt to see if it fits comfortably or read user reviews to see how others like its fit. In case you aren’t quite sure of your size, you can also find belts with an adjustable waist.
This time we’re talking about the belt’s weight, not yours. The most important thing when it comes to this factor is how comfortable you feel wearing it, both with and without tools. Depending on the material of the belt you choose, it might be quite heavy even when empty (which is the case with higher-quality materials like leather) or light as a feather (as is the case with polyester, for example). While considering the item’s weight, remember to tack on the weight of your tools before deciding whether to purchase it or not!
Pouches & Pockets
Two major considerations here are the size of the pouches/pockets and how many there are. Generally speaking, the more tools you need to have on hand, the larger and more numerous the pouches and pockets should be. The majority of tool belts feature two pouches and any number of pockets. Keep in mind that more tool storage can also mean greater discomfort and a less efficient working experience (as the different pockets and tools are more likely to get in the way of your task). Aim for the size and number that will suit your tool-carrying and jobsite needs best.
Check Out These Great Leather Tool Belts
Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s peruse our top leather tool belt picks. We’ve intentionally chosen products with a range of features and at different price points, so you can find just what you’re looking for.
Featuring an adjustable Velcro strap and lightweight construction, this might just be the most comfortable leather tool belt you’ll find. Its comfortable fit is complemented by a durable double layer design, high-quality stitching, and easy-to-access tool holders—not to mention its gorgeous suede leather material, which is soft to the touch and strong enough to hold your most valued tools. Best of all, you can snatch this quality belt for quite an affordable price!
If this belt could be summed up in one word, it would be “functionality.” From just looking at it, you can tell it means business. With 11 pockets, 2 hammer holders, and top-notch stitching to hold it all together, you’ll never have to wonder if all your tools will fit! And did I mention it’s a good-looking fellow, too? Oil-tanned suede leather combined with a sleek belt design lends it a subtle but powerful appearance. In other words, you’ll feel confident walking into any job with this belt ‘round your waist.
Boulder gets it: No single tool belt can serve the needs of every worker. You can see this wisdom reflected in all of its products, but this electrician tool belt really stands out. As the name suggests, this belt is specially designed for use by electricians, who notoriously require having several tools at the ready. And boy, does it deliver!
Its “large” size has 25 pockets and 11 slots—more than enough for the average electrician to carry their most important gear with them to every job. You’ll appreciate its closed-cell foam for increased comfort, and you can rest easy knowing that this product is waterproofed. No more sweat stains or damaged leather after a rainstorm. In addition, the belt’s low-profile design makes the product easy and comfortable to wear at all times. You can purchase this product in one of four sizes (small-extra large) and in one of three colors (black, green, or blue).
There’s a lot to love about this contractor-grade custom suede leather work apron from CLC. It features a subtle but attractive design, 12 nicely sized pockets, 2 loops for hammer storage, and an adjustable waist band that’s two inches wide to ensure a comfortable fit for just about anyone. This belt is ideal for the serious contractor who’s looking to expand their current tool set or use their current tools more efficiently. It looks, feels, and functions like a dream—and all this at a steal of a price!
This top grain leather tool belt from Style N Craft may look unassuming at first glance, but it’s loaded with storage space and boasts a high-quality construction that’s sure to last for years to come. Its 17 pockets allocated among its 2 pockets leave nothing to be desired as far as storage goes, and its contrast stitching ensures product longevity no matter how many tools you load them with or how heavy they are. But incredible functionality is only half of the story: this tool belt is also one of the most attractive you’ll lay eyes, with its dark tan finish and top-notch leather construction. And with a belt that’s three inches wide and easy to adjust, it also promises a world of comfort to accompany your biggest jobs.
Are you an avid DIYer in search of a tool belt to make your projects go a little smoother? Do you want the look and feel of top-grade leather, but don’t have the money set aside for top grain? Then this Weekend Warrior Apron with Polyweb Belt from Task Tools is exactly what you need. Made from split leather, this tool apron provides the durability needed to hold an array of your most valued tools for extended periods. Its 5 pockets and 2 hammer holders provide ample storage space for smaller-scale projects and its belt is made of polymer for increased comfort. Basically, this apron has everything the modern-day DIYer could want (except maybe cupholders).
I mentioned this tool earlier but wanted to come back and look at its “small” model. It boasts many of the same features its big brother does, but has even more pockets (30) and slots (13). It’s also designed for those with a smaller build, fitting waists ranging from 28” to 32”—no more stopping every couple of minutes to pull the belt back up. For plenty of space and a size that actually fits, you can’t find a much better product or brand.
Are you looking to customize your current tool belt? Then consider this leather tool pouch from Graintex. It has 10 pockets of varying sizes, 2 hammer holders, and features a double-stitched and riveted construction to ensure durability and longevity. It also comes with a slot that you can feed your belt through, up to 2 ¾” wide. When you tack on its simple yet winsome design and oil-tanned coloration, it’s a hard purchase to turn down!
This apron-style tool belt from superstar brand Estwing is just so well-designed. From the full grain/split leather blend of its construction to its clean, low-profile appearance, it’s clear that this product was designed with the budget-conscious professional in mind. Its 7 pockets, single hammer holder, and 2 storage loops provide ample space in which to carry your most important tools—and then some! This apron was built to last, too. A strong stitching job and rivets in all the right places mean that this guy is gonna be around a while!
Okay, before you look at the price… You have to understand that it’s one mean, hefty, weather-resistant, multi-material son of a gun. It’s not a tool storage solution: it’s a work of art. This suspender-style tool belt is crafted of top grain leather and poly fiber, has no pesky joints due to its unique single-body design, and has several super-spacious pockets to store numerous tools. And don’t worry about over-stocking your belt and hurting your back—the suspender design distributes the weight more evenly, so you can carry your load around with ease. Dead On Tools has really made a dead-on product this time around. See for yourself.
By now, you should have a clearer picture in your mind of what kind of tool belt you’re in the market for. The options can be overwhelming, but we hope our buying guide and product picks have set you in the right direction. The most important thing is that you don’t settle: find the tool belt that best meets your needs and intended use, and go for it! Nothing can take away from a project more than having the wrong items on hand.