My very first pair of tool bags were a set of leather Occidentals. My dad bought all the guys on the crew good leather bags. I had them repaired and re-riveted by a local cobbler, but finally they died.

In 2002, I ordered a set of Diamondback tool bags (this was back when Jim Skelton was still alive, and his wife made the bags and took the phone calls). I liked the idea of more pockets and lighter weight because my leather bags would fill with water in the rain. I wore the Diamondbacks for a few years until they wore out.

I sold them and bought a new set of Diamondbacks but went with a larger size, which I didn't like. So I tried a newer (at the time) model of Occidentals. I wore out a pair of the 9515 Adjust-To-Fit and bought another pair. Two other guys on my crew bought them as well.

A couple of years ago, I reviewed the Diamondback Raptor and found it to be very well made. While I had no complaints, I preferred the pouch layout in my Occi’s and switched back. Two months ago, Diamondback (with new owners) reached out and asked me to review its Denali rig.

What’s So Special? Under new ownership, Diamondback has continued with Jim Skelton's original goal, namely to create a functional and long-lasting rig. The bags are made from “triple-layer, sandwich type construction" with Dupont Cordura and Dabond 2000 60-pound test thread, and Diamondback claims they will outlast anything on the market. I’ve seen some pictures on Instagram of some extremely beat-up bags that were still going strong.

The Denali rig I spec’d has a 4-inch black belt, Elias Pouch (black) on my right, Wrangell Pouch (black) on my left, and the hammer sleeve ($30). In addition, the company asked me to try out the flat bar sleeve ($30), and the Deluxe Suspenders ($110) for a grand total of $545 before tax and shipping. Diamondbacks are handmade in the USA.

Likes/Dislikes. On the previous Diamondback rigs I've owned (three sets total), I had the 6-inch belt, but I don’t really care for the extra 2 inches in height. When I squat down, the entire rig slides up off my waist. The idea that a taller belt acts like a weight belt doesn’t hold water with me. Those belts are designed to help lifters lift heavy weights, not wear tool bags. The 4-inch belt is perfect, and I highly recommend that belt if you buy into Diamondbacks. The Cobra belt buckle is small and stays out of the way when I wear the bags over pants with a belt.

A great feature of these bags is how they attach to the belt with hook and loop. This means they can be removed and attached to a belt on your harness if you must wear one. I can’t do that with my Occi’s.

The pouches are nearly identical to one another but the right hand pouch (Elias) has a hook and loop cover that works perfectly for my phone or as a place to keep bits. The entire rig is lightweight but has been designed with a ton of pockets and slots.

Both pouches have hammer loops up high on the rear side. This used to be my preferred location for my hammer, but while using the Martinez hammer, I found I kept getting spanked by it. I now use the hammer holster, which attaches to the side of the pouch and puts the hammer at an angle so it's easy to access without it flopping around. The hammer holster is an accessory that's unique to Diamondback; I’ve come to love this innovation. The hammer loops are still useful; they're perfect for holding other tools like a J roller, which we use to roll flashing tape.

Down lower on the pouches are slots to hold things like nail pullers. The left side loop for nail pullers is too small for my nail puller. I carry a medium-sized and it will slip down through the loop as the day goes on.

This setup is comfortable to use and very well made. Since I had the original Diamondbacks 15 years ago, I especially appreciate that now, two owners later, the bags are similar but have a greater variety of options. Jim’s original intent on durability is being preserved.

Here is what I don’t like about this setup: There are too many pockets and sleeves. I’m only speaking as a framer, sider, and concrete former, but I try and go as light as possible with what I carry every day. All the pockets for me just become unnecessary and cause the pouches to feel cramped. This isn’t the end of the world because I don’t believe in carrying a lot of loose fasteners at one time, anyway. We use nail guns for 99% of everything we nail. I carry a small handful of 8d and 16d sinkers, and because I primarily use a coil framing gun, I don’t generally carry sticks of nails. If I did use a stick framer, I’d buy the Tail Pouch to hold them.

Regarding the suspenders: I think they are well-designed and easy to set up and attach. For me, though, they're unnecessary. I don't normally wear suspenders with my belt rigs because I don’t believe in loading my spine vertically. Instead, I prefer to carry the weight of the bags on my hips like backpackers do. If you swear by suspenders, you will love these; they do their job but aren’t annoying or chafing.

Bottom Line. As I stated in my previous review, “I frame five days per week and would rather buy a top-quality tool belt and keep it 'forever.'” So I have no problem spending a decent amount of money on a belt like this because it is going to hold up. That said, I would minimize the add-on accessories and stick with only what you need. The hammer holster seems to me like a “must-have” option because it keeps the hammer from banging against my leg, knee, or backside like other locations do on bags I’ve worn.

Standard size in black with a 4-inch belt and hammer holster, this rig will cost $370, but is well worth the money. It is important to be comfortable and have what you need when you wear bags 40 to 50 hours per week. Just know going in that the pockets are a little too small if you need to carry a lot of fasteners.

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