May 7, 2010

Tanos Systainer - Review

systainer_1.jpgIf you know Festool, you probably know the Tanos Systainer. They're the funky gray boxes that the uber-expensive tools are stored in. The Systainer isn't easily available on its own, but now the guys at Tool Nut have become only the third distributor in the western hemisphere to offer these little boxes. We got in a conversation with them one day and they offered to send a sample on for us to review and we happily agreed. We then checked their very slick website ( and almost had a heart attack when we realized that a $75 tool box was about to show up on the doorstep.

In reality, we should be the last people on earth to review this product. We're beyond cheap when it comes to tool storage. We have a few 5-gallon buckets loaded with hand tools out in the shop and we even keep a few tools nicely stored in coffee cans (no joke, we're pathetic). So what do we think about a $75 tool case? We naturally think it's pretty insane. But once we wrapped our head around the Systainer system we realized that it's so insane that it just might make perfect sense...

systainer_4.jpgThe Systainers are a collection of different sized containers that are all compatible with one another. The smaller ones fit into the larger ones, the medium ones click onto the big ones, and so on. It's like Duplo for middle-aged men. They can easily stack and the latches give a hard connection from one box to the next. The whole thing is very smart. There are also a number of 'inserts' and foam pads available for the different boxes. Some specifically for certain tools and others that are more generic.

So we got our Systainer, which came with a Fein MultiMaster molded insert and we immediately filled it up with non-Fein junk and tossed it in the back of the truck where it bounced around for a few weeks. While its a nice box, it's really not made for what we put it through. The walls of the molded insert don't connect up with the underside of the lid, so when it's treated like a hacky-sack things can migrate from compartment to compartment, and because of it's rectangular shape and the handle being on the top, it takes up an unusual piece of back seat real estate, particularly when stacked next to other standard tool cases.

systainer_3.jpgBut we realized that we were making the mistake of treating it just like any other $5 Home Depot tool box. We were thinking too small, which is easy to do if you only have one of these things. If you have two or more, now you're starting to get somewhere and you can really start reaping the benefits of these boxes. The Systainer is all about modularity so having a single case is like having one mitten. We've actually seen this theory in action a few years ago when a flooring guy pulled a hand cart out of his van and rolled about 1/2 dozen Systainers into the job. The whole thing took like nine seconds an he had all of his tool ready to go.

We contacted Tool Nut and asked them who they thought could benefit from the Systainer systems and they sent back an enthusiastic email with the following:

It's used in Europe to transport organs (insulated accessory). Used in military for efficient and simple transportation. Used by Emergency response teams in Europe for quick and easy choice in an emergency situation by color coding the latches or Systainer themselves as well as linking together specific Systainers that might be color coded and include their rescue dive gear, etc. Used for packaging and transportation - they make 100% efficient use of a pallet in shipping. Imagine investing in Systainers for your packaging and transportation. In Europe they are not even palletized in most scenarios, just used as a shipping container and then RETURNED to the shipper. You buy your shipping material once. Imagine the return on investment and savings?

So there are definitely times, places, and situations where the Systainer is the tool box to go with. If you're just looking for a place to stash your RotoZip so it doesn't get dusty, stick with the el cheapo cases, but if you're motoring around in a Ford Transit, this system is going to save you a lot of hassle.

At Systainerworld. Like we said, the website is very nice, so even if you're only half interested, it's worth checking out.

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at May 7, 2010 5:00 AM
Recent Comments

great review of a cool product. I'm still rocking the pegboard & stackon at home, and 5 gallon pals, parachute sacks and jobbags for transport. The closest thing I have to a sustainer is a stanley (possibly workforce) plastic case with dividers, works alright. Right now I have other more pressing needs where cash is diverted too, but one of these days, I will make the investment, I've seen too many cool things folks do with these.

Posted by: Kevin at May 12, 2010 8:15 PM
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