“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Tools: when do you have too much?


Since we are in the process of moving aboard I have been working on paring down my tools to a manageable amount to keep on board.  Since we are going with a smaller boat I am starting to worry about how much of my weight budget I am giving to tools.

Let’s start with the hand tools.  The majority of these tools are in a mechanic’s backpack I purchased on eBay.  It’s a great soft case with lots of compartments that makes keeping the tools organized very easy.  It’s also handy to take when I am helping someone else work on a project.  Here is a link to the backpack since a couple people liked the idea.


Here is the inventory of tools I have in this pack:

Item Quantity
Box Wrenches – Metric Various Sizes Set 1
Box Wrenches – English Various Sizes Set 1
Adjustable Wrenches – Various Sizes 4
Channel Locks – Various Sizes 3
Ball Pin Hammer 1
Large Hack Saw 1
Small Hack Saw 1
Spare Blades for Hack Saws 6
Chisel 2
Large Flat Head Screw Driver 1
Large Phillips Screw Driver 1
Multiple Head Screw Drivers 3
Scrapers – Various Sizes 3
Brushes – Brass, SS, Nylon 3
Feeler Gauges 1
Nut Splitter 1
Electric Multimeter 2
Needle Nose Pliers 1
Lineman Pliers 1
Dike Pliers 1
Wire Stripers 1
Basic Crimpers 1
Ratcheting Die Crimpers 1
Utility Knife with Spare Blades 2
Tape Measure 2
Vice Grips 1
Needle Nose Vice Grips 1
Picks – Various Size & Shapes 8
Allen Wrench Sets – English & Metric 3
Small Bolt Cutters 1
Infrared Thermometer 1
Inspection Mirror 1
Impact-Driver Set 1
Oil Filter Wrench 2
Rubber Mallet 1
3M Cleaning Pads – Green & Red 10
Various size sand paper 5
Files – various size and shapes 4

The whole pack weighs about 50 pounds.  Maybe 60.

The next group is loose, larger tools that are wedged where ever I can find a convenient space to fit them.  Here is that list:

Item Quantity
Spanner Wrench 1
Pipe Wrench 2
Large Channel Locks 1
Large Crimper 0
Ratchet Set with Metric & English with extensions various sizes 2
Large Bolt Cutters 1
Clamps – Various Sizes 8
Shovel/Ax/Sledge Hammer Tool 1
Drill Pump 1
Tap & Die Set 1
Torch Set 1
Electrician’s Snake 20 feet 1
Loos Tension Gauge – Pro PT-2 & PT-3 2
Torque Wrench 1
3/8″ & 1/2″ Breaker Bars 2

FYI, if the item has a “0” next to it that is a tool I don’t currently have but plan to add before we cut the lines.

The last group of tools are power tools.  This is where I have cut the most items out of my inventory.  Obvious items like table saws, compound miter saws, routers, biscuit joiners, etc. have all gone.  Same with redundant tools like multiple drills, saws, etc.  So here is the list of power tools I plan to take with us:

Item Quantity
Corded Drill 1
Cordless Drill & Various Size Bits 1
Cordless Impact Gun 1
Dremel with Extension & Various Bits 1
Heat Gun 1
Orbital Sander 1
Angle Grinder 1
Small Soldering Iron Kit 0
Jig Saw 1
Wet/Dry Vacuum 1
Honda Generator – eu2000i Companion 0

OK, let’s here it.  Am I crazy and planning to bring too many tools that I will never use?

9 thoughts on “Tools: when do you have too much?

  1. I’ll be interested to read the comments, as we’ll also be cruising on a “smaller” Catalina … a 1987 30 footer. My husband is a contractor, so it will be hard for him to leave his tools behind! Love the backpack idea!

  2. I really like the tool backpack. I have a soft tool bag but have issues keeping it organized.

    Heat gun- I have a butane pen torch for heat shrinks. Can be refilled from a standard butane can. Small.

    Solder iron- I had one, a weller pistol grip that you could change the tip- ended up using it primarily to cut rope and the set screw failed so I can no longer change the tip. Have a second one now for electrical work. No tip changes.

    I have a real nice 750w dc to AC converter I use with my power tools. Clips right to the house battery. With an extension cord I can reach anyplace on the boat, run saws, drills, sanders, grinders, blower fans etc. I do not care for cordless appliances as they always seem to be dead when you need them. The only power tool I keep on the boat is my Milwaukee drill, the rest stay ashore except when required.

  3. The butane lighter is good for smaller heat shrinks but how would it work for large, like 00 gauge battery cables? Also, I use my heat gun to heat up hoses too. Either to get them off easier or put new ones on.

    I have a small inverter, 300w, and was going back and forth about getting a larger one or getting the Honda. I decided the Honda is more versatile and plan to go with that instead. As we are still at the dock for another 17 months I can just use shore power.

    I am with you on cordless tools generally. But last year I was working on my boat with a friend who is a contractor and he had some nice lithium battery tools. They worked really well and you wouldn’t believe the torque the little impact driver has. So I bought a set for myself and really like them. Well worth the $200 investment.

    I have been in a similar boat (sorry for the bad pun) as you with only keeping a small corded drill on the boat. But now that we are going to be houseless and soon storage unit-less I need to think about what tools I may need while out cruising. That’s what this list is supposed to be. The tools I take cruising.

    Thanks for the comment.


  4. The tool backpack is an interesting idea…until I read it was 50 or 60 pounds. Just before I moved aboard I bought 3 smaller tool bags and a small hard-sided plastic tool box. I’ve separated my tools into groups so I generally only need one or maybe two bags for any given task. For example, my small hard-sided box is my electrical stuff (multimeter, soldering iron and solder, crimpers, dykes, linesman pliers, a multi-head screwdriver, terminals, heat shrink, wire, dielectric grease, etc.). I have a few duplicate tools (like a multi-head screwdriver) in each bag. This system seems to work well for me thus far (but you know my experience level, so take it for what it is worth). What I haven’t figured out yet is a good way to store/carry power tools other than to toss them in a bucket with my tool bags if I need to cart them off a ways.

    I have one of those butane pencil torches that is supposed to work as a mini heat gun and soldering iron…I don’t recommend it (at least not the one I picked up at the local big-box store). It can handle very small heat shrink…slowly. Doesn’t produce enough heat before the butane runs out for most jobs I’ve had thus far. I just grab my regular soldering iron and/or heat gun.

    One of the tools I bought after moving aboard was one of the vibrating multi-tools (it cuts, it sands). I hope that it negates the need for a couple other tools…but we will see. Still trying to figure out “what else” I need on board, but your list sounds pretty good to me.


    • The 50-60 pounds on the backpack is when it’s loaded with tools. The tools are going to weigh that much no matter what but the smaller bags may be easier to handle. I just like the convenience of having them all in one place.

      I looked at those vibrating multi-tools. They seem good but I don’t know if it would offset the 3-4 tools I have now that do the same jobs: angle grinder; dremel; orbital sander, and; jig saw. If you could replace those three with one tool that would be the way to go.

  5. I think the torch would have no problem with larger shrinks, 00 and such. You just have to walk it about. I am still on my first charge after 10 to 15 shrinks. It uses the pressurized butane from the can that a butane stove uses, not liquid lighter fluid.


    I try not to heat my hoses, usually lubricate them with soap or hairspray to put on and cut them if they are to stiff to remove.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s