Tools and Gear
Truck Essentials: Never Leave Home Without These
What’s in your truck?
We wanted to know how much and what kind of stuff pro contractors and people in the trades crammed into the cabs of their trucks—so we asked them. Even though we talked to pros from all sorts of different trades, we were amazed at how similar their lists were. We came up with a list of over 60 items, and that didn’t even include tools of the trades like saws, drills, and hammers. We organized the items into the following categories: Emergency, Tire Repair, First Aid, Working Smarter, Keeping Clean, Safety, Workwear, Towing, Hauling, and Tools. Check out the next pages for the complete list of the most common items our pros swore they wouldn’t leave home without. We’ve added links to our favorite brands.
Let’s face it, nobody is exempt from Murphy’s Law: if it can wrong, it will go wrong. And when a tool or piece of equipment does inevitably fail, break, or just shut down, you better be prepared. The items in this category are all about getting it going if possible, moving it if it’s not, and staying safe while you’re at it. Survival gear like food, blankets, and rope were not popular among the pros we talked to, but carrying a lighter was (even with the non-smokers). A tire plug kit is a category in and of itself, and we dive a little deeper into that on the next page. Compact inflators were not all that popular because they are fairly new to market, but the guys who did carry them absolutely loved them.
A lot of screws and nails go into building and remodeling a house. And where you find a lot of screws and nails, you’re going to find a lot of flat tires. A complete tire plug kit will pay for itself the first time you use it. And yes, we know the “tire experts” say that you’re not supposed to plug a tire from the outside, and we agree that plugging a tire on the sidewall is not a good idea, and usually doesn’t work. But we also know that most of truck owners have plugged at least a few holes over the years. We talked with one pro who was confident that he’s plugged a minimum of fifty tires (his and others) without any failures, safety issues, or negative effects on the overall life of the tires.
Get yourself an inexpensive first aid kit. The one pictured cost about $16 at Target. Add in some additional high-quality Band-Aids and a bottle of ibuprofen, aspirin, or the painkiller of your choice. Also be sure to include a bottle of eye drops to wash out any unwelcome shards from your eyes, and add a good quality pair of tweezers to pull those nasty slivers out of your skin. Lip balm is a must, but always buy the tube instead of the stick. A stick of lip balm can turn into a gooey mess on a 95-degree day.
Keeping a flashlight on hand is a no-brainer. But a flashlight with a built-in laser pointer is even handier. Lasers can be used to point out areas that need attention that are high up or hiding in the dark. They also work great for entertaining/tormenting the homeowner’s cat. And when it’s dark and you still need to use both your hands, a good headlamp can’t be beat. Lithium batteries are a great choice for powering small lights because they have a shelf life of up to 20-years. If only our trucks lasted that long! Speaking of trucks, some newer trucks come with AC outlets built right in. If yours doesn’t and you often find yourself on powerless jobsites, get yourself a small inverter. That way you always have a way to charge up the batteries that run your cordless tools.
Let’s face it: construction work is often a filthy job. It’s like they say, “Dirty hands—clean money.” But just because you get dirty doesn’t mean you have go home looking (and smelling) like an animal. A comb, some wipes, and a little deodorant will go a long way to produce a presentable person. Most of the pros we talked to always keep mints or gum in their truck to prevent offending a customer or boss with bad breath. And for a lot of pros, their truck also functions as an office, break room, and repair shop. Having a garbage can or bag was a popular way to prevent pigsty conditions.
Safety isn’t just about making sure you’ll be able to work tomorrow. It’s also about making sure your body isn’t negatively affected after years of labor. Keep your long-term health in mind and always have spare earplugs, safety glasses and dust masks on hand. You may not think much of it now, but your future self will thank you.
The types of extra workwear carried by those we surveyed really depended on the trade, but there were some common threads. Extra and different kinds of gloves are important because there is no one pair of gloves that are ideal for every work conditions. Thin, tight-fitting gloves work best for handling small hardware or wires, while thick sturdy gloves are more suited for rough construction or demolition. Dry socks are a much-coveted cargo, and cheap, disposable ponchos seemed to be more popular than heavy raincoats. Sunglasses are an obvious stowage, but the pros we talked to also recommended including an old pair of prescription eyeglasses that can get scratched and splattered with paint.
Most trucks will haul a trailer eventually. Having all three of the most common size ball mounts (7/8-in., 2-in., 2-5/16-in.) is a good idea. Always make sure that your truck, receiver, and ball mount are rated to haul the trailer in question. Also, keep an adapter on hand that converts a 7-way RV to a 4-way flat, or the other way around.
When we asked what pros use to keep their stuff strapped down, four tie-downs and about a half-a-dozen bungees seemed to be the order of the day. Also, most trucks possessed a red flag of some sort. The one pictured here has a built-in bungee, which is a nice feature. We were surprised to see that stretch-film was not just used by many to hold stuff together for hauling. It was also used to wrangle together many of the items we mentioned in this story like tow straps, jumper cables, and tie-downs. Both tool bags and toolboxes were a common way to store hauling gear.
The types of tools in a truck varied quite a bit depending on the trade, which isn’t surprising. But it wasn’t uncommon for these truck owners to carry a totally separate set of tools that stayed in the cab at all times. Pictured above are some of the most common tools.