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Despite its modest appearance, DeWalt’s ToughSystem tool case is more aptly described as a portable “tool bunker” than a mere tool box. An impenetrable tool bunker, one that’s impervious to earthly destructive forces. Okay, so maybe it is just a toolbox and I’m getting a little carried away, but the Tough System tool cases are still among the most rugged I have ever seen.

This review will focus on the large case, shown above, which can hold an ample assortment of hand tools, power tools, and supplies within its 21″ L x 13″ W x 12″ H walls. If you’re interested in a smaller form-factor, be sure to check out my separate review of DeWalt’s small ToughSystem case on my website. A taller and slightly wider extra large case is also available.

To start off, these tool cases are built with 4mm-thick structural foam walls, making them far more durable and sturdier than ordinary plastic tool boxes. They are designed to endure rough construction environments and job sites, so they pretty much have to be tough. In an attempt to see just how tough this toolbox is, I threw everything I had at it, literally in some cases. A framing hammer left a small mark, a dumbbell bounced right off, and I swear that the box chortled as I introduced it to my 3 lb drilling hammer. This was a real eye-opener – I’m going to need a sledge hammer.

I am not a contractor, tradesman, or professional tool user, but I sometimes travel with tools and delicate equipment. Toolbox durability and strength is important to me, and I also highly value ergonomics and user-friendly features. Fully loaded (as you’ll see down the page), these boxes can get quite heavy.

This particular size is rated for 88 lbs, and I’ve loaded it to at least 60-65lbs comfortably. I can’t handle this weight without breaking a sweat, but the tool box sure can.

The large cases have a comfortable handle on top, and also spring-action handles at both ends. The side-handles may not be quite as comfortable to grip as the top handle, but they’re still greatly appreciated when lugging around a fully-loaded box.

The cases are designed to stack neatly and securely atop each other, and can be physically coupled together using yellow latches built into opposite sides of the lid. Connecting multiple boxes together is optional, and so I typically opt to stack a few cases with the yellow latches folded in and unused.

What good is a tough toolbox without strong latches? Each case sports two oversized metal latches which seem to be weather/rust resistant. If I had to grade the tool boxes, this is where I would take off a few points. The latches are wonderfully designed for jobsite use, and can be easily toggled with gloved hands, but closing them is not exactly effortless and requires a little leverage. Maybe I just need to strengthen my grip.

Speaking of weather-resistance, check out that water seal! The case is rated to IP65 standards, meaning that it is completely dust-proof and can withstand water jets. A relief valve is built into the lid in case a pressure differential makes the lid difficult to open.

I can definitely see myself using these cases to transport non-tool-related equipment in the future, and they might even make great weather-proof outdoor project enclosures.

Photographing an empty case proved to be problematic, so here’s what they look like fully loaded. Here you can also see the decent tool trays that are included with each large case.

In terms of power tools, these cases can hold drills, impact drivers, jig saws, reciprocating saws, and other like-sized tools without issue. Circular saws may be a bit too bulky to fit, but can be easily accommodated by the extra-large cases.

The tool case is lockable via two padlock holes, as shown in the first photo, but there’s also a rear-mounted metal bracket that locks the case to DeWalt’s cart carrier.

Conclusion

What would make this toolbox even better? An optional “pick-n-pluck foam” drop-in insert would definitely increase its versatility. DeWalt’s large Tough System case is a great all-around tool box. It’s very well-built, comfortably sized, and at about $60 it’s a bargain for what it offers.

Stuart Deutsch is a tool enthusiast, critic, and collector, and writes his passion at ToolGuyd.

Stuart Deutsch

When I am not testing and reviewing new tools, I am working on robotics, electronics, woodworking, and other types of projects.

I am also interested in microscopy, the physical sciences, and new technologies.

I write more about tools and workshop topics over at ToolGuyd.com.


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Comments

  1. mpechner says:

    Nice toolbox.

    Has anyone found a good toolbox with sealing canterleaving (SP?) trays?
    Small parts in the trays and tools below. Now worries about the toolbox tipping and everything going everywhere.

    1. Hank says:

      When I was in the Army we had Kennedy brand tool boxes whose cantilevered drawers, when closed, were tightly seated and spill proof. Of course, when opened and extended, all bets are off… They were similar to these: http://www.amazon.com/Kennedy-22-Cantilever-Tool-Box/dp/B0000WU6G6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329265925&sr=8-1

  2. [...] case (DS150/DWST08201) ($50 via Amazon). If you’re interested in the large case, check out my review over at Make. There’s also an extra-large case that is taller and wider than the large case, and comes [...]

  3. Hank says:

    Stuart, any idea if these are ATA rated as air transportable luggage?

    1. I am doubtful that the cases would be ATA rated given the current design. With a little tweaking they might pass, but as-is they’re most suitable for ground transportation.

      And as luggage, the ergonomics would be way off. Something like the Pelican 1510 (carry-on-sized) would be a better choice for this type of usage.

  4. Joe says:

    Would love to see a “problematic” photo of the empty box.

  5. Collin says:

    Anybody have any 1st hand experience comparing this to Pelican cases? The Dewalt tool box looks very similar to something like a Pelican 1510 at 2x the price, at least on the internet. Are they as waterproof?

    1. In terms of being waterproof, the Dewalt cases are rated to IP65 and the Pelican 1510 IP67. What this means is that the Dewalt cases can endure water jets from any direction without harmful effects. And the Pelican’s rating means that it can be submerged up to 1-meter for 30-minutes without issue.

      This does not necessarily mean that the Dewalt cases cannot handle more rigorous conditions. Remember, these cases are designed for jobsite use. It is probable that they were only tested up to IP65 standards, which is still quite respectable. It is also possible that the seal can hold up against powerful water jets and complete submersion. But if these conditions are anticipated, a Pelican case would be a safer option.

      I have a Pelican 1510, so if you’d like the two brands’ cases compared in other ways, let me know.

  6. If you don’t have much, you may want a plastic hand held tool box or even a larger metal hand held box. If you have have a lot of equipment, you may want a large box or cabinet.

  7. Eric Ho says:

    May I know the interior size as I’m planning to buy the “pick-n-pluck foam” for it? Thanks.

  8. dugg says:

    For those of you who are interested primarily in the “HIGHLY WATER RESISTANT” & “PRESSURE SEALED” qualities….IT FAILED, MISERABLY!!

    There’s a product defect that occurred during the molding process, and poor design QA “quality assurance”. The raised lip on my “LARGE” box has a profound “dip” in it. It’s on both sides of the lower half, and it’s found directly above the side handles. If you run your thumb across them, you’ll feel the dip. It’s even more dramatic when you sight down the length of the raised edge, from front to rear…on both left, and right side of the box. When the lid is closed, the lip, at that low point, will not compress the yellow plastic gasket in the upper lid.

    How did I test it? I took a piece of writing paper, about an 1″ in width, and a few inches long, and placed it across the raised lip seal on the lower half of the box, directly above the side handles, so that part of the paper is hanging out, and the remainder, hanging inside…………. closed the lid, and secured the metal clasps. Pulled the paper out, with absolutely no effort/no resistance, which proves that the raised lip was NOT contacting the upper yellow seal. Perform that same routine anywhere else on the box, and you cannot remove the paper without giving it a good hard pull……meaning that the seal is doing it’s job.

    So much being water resistant, and pressure sealed. Shame on DeWalt!! Other than those two highly touted qualities…… it’s still a good tote box. Just don’t expect to keep the contents dry in wet conditions. Of course, now it’s a bit hard to swallow the price, since it’s now in a different class.