I’m not sure if there’s some universal practical joke being played on me when it comes to shop vacuums. It seems like whenever I use one, the little plastic wheels won’t roll over a cord or drywall scrap, or the hose disconnects, or its accessories won't fit neatly back into place, or ...

Ridgid, however, seems to have solved my problem with what I consider the near perfectly designed ProPack Vac.

It's shaped like a box (20 inches long, 13 inches tall, 12 inches wide). All the tentacles and little pieces and parts store either on-board or inside it. It all closes up neatly and stores sensibly in the shop or truck. And for the $80 it cost, it has more than paid for itself in saved frustration.

In Use

Wet. I bought the ProPack because I was building a deck (see a top-tool rundown from DeckExpo here) and the 3-foot-deep footing holes were full of rainwater. I decided a wet-dry vac would solve my immediate problem and, unlike a pump, be of use to me later.
At a 4.5-gallon capacity, this wet/dry vac (more wet-dry vacs here) is definitely small for big-spill clean-up, and it doesn't have a squeegee-type head as I’ve seen with some other tank-style vacs. Still, it hogged out at least 100 gallons of water with nary a burp.

Dry. I put it to work again on an interior remodel, setting dual flush headers to open up a kitchen-living room (check out this innovative kitchen-opening technique in JLC). While the unit balked at chunks of drywall, it got the dust just fine—I mostly used the small brush attachment for this—and it stowed in a corner when not in use. The amount of time I didn’t spend wrestling with it was money in my pocket. Most of this was isolated vac work, like managing small piles and messes, often from my hands and knees. The vac's short hose, which stretches to 5 feet and recoils to 3 feet, was perfect for working around all the nooks and crannies of exposed framing, the stairwell, and the stuff of an occupied home.

Next, I used the vac prepping for a Schluter System Ditra Heat Duo and tile-floor project in a basement renovation where a more typical stand-up-and-vac process was in order. The short hose and small wand head made that kind of work a little less efficient than with larger units, but not having the other problems larger units pose balanced it out.

With a 5-hp rating, it had plenty of power for most tasks I threw at it.

The filter is the typical pleated-paper kind and it clogs up just as quickly as any other. It fits to the motor housing with a gasket on the filter body, which is an improvement over a wing nut.

Storage. One of my favorite aspects of the ProPack is when it’s not in use. Just like any other box or bag I have, it stores completely and neatly without stuff dangling out of it. And it fits perfectly in my service body truck.

This article originally appeared in Tools of the Trade.