PLC Training - What should be in my PLC programming laptop backpack? - Tools, PC, programming cables

snapshot-42-burned.pngDeciding what tools you need to carry with you daily to work on equipment can have a huge impact on your work performance.  I'm going to share with you the items I carry every day, things I've tried in the past that may or may not work for you, and what factors you should consider when making your tool selections.  

I've seen people with their Klein Tradesman Pro Organizer, CLC Custom leathercraft, or other durable tool backpack but that isn't the setup I use.  Once fully loaded with tools these can easily weigh 50 pounds.  Many of my job sites require lots of walking and that much weight...well it weighs you down.  I'm there to work, not get a workout.  So how can you lighten your load?  Start by making a list of tools that you used everyday.  Not tools that are nice to carry, but those that you end up holding in your hand.  You are likely to find that you only need 5 to 10 of those 50 tools that you have in your pack.  Here are the tools I carry with me everyday.  We'll go through them in detail below.

$30 Backpack for Laptops up to 17-inches

This is a surprisingly comfortable and rugged backpack that is well suited for industrial use.  It doesn't have heavy fully molded sides that some of "work" backpacks have but mine has seen its fair share of abuse over the last 3 years and has no rips or tears.  

Starting weight makes this one a clear winner if you are going to be carrying it most of the day.  It weighs a little less than 2 pounds compared to your typical electricians backpack at 7 pounds.

Also, as you'll learn from the rest of the items below, I carry this backpack everywhere, not just on the job site.  It has to function as my PLC programming backpack, my electricians backpack, my mobile office, my personal on the weekend backpack, and every other situation that arises.

It has a variety of pockets that can be used for tools, my mobile office, and personal items.  If you are a light packer then you can manage to have your tools, clothes, and toiletries for an overnight job and not have to check a bag when you get on the airplane.

All the items below easily fit into it.


$550 Laptop for PLC Programming

This is the one item on the list that may or may not be what I'm carrying.  Laptop models change often so this is what I would purchase today if I had to get a replacement laptop.

In this video I go into the details on the criteria you should use to select a laptop for PLC programming.


$30 Insulated Screwdriver Set Interchangeable Blades 7 Piece

This is by far the favorite tool set I carry.  It is insulated for 1000 volt though I mostly use it on powered down circuits.  It includes 6 interchangeable blades, 4 Slotted - 3/32”, 9/64”, 5/32”, 7/32” and 2 Phillips - PH1 and PH2.

Also the wire strippers, sharpie, and razor blade knife shown below fit in the storage pouch so the bulk of the tools I use every day can be carried in one hand.


 $14 Wire strippers - Multi-Tool Wire Stripper/Crimper/Cutter

 This is a very versatile set of wire strippers that will do the bulk of your power and control wiring needs.  It strips and cuts 10-22 AWG.  


$14 Folding Pocket Razor Blade Utility Knife

A great everyday pocket knife.


$6 Tape Measure

I keep a small tape measure for doing quick measurements of parts I need to make.  Just a small lightweight one that will take care of 90% of my needs but not weigh me down.


$1 Sharpie Twin Tip Permanent Markers, Fine and Ultra Fine, Black

This is a great Sharpie with a fine tip on one end for marking cuts and an ultra fine tip on the other for writing.  I don't even carry an ink pen.


$12 USB to Ethernet adapter

As I say in this video, I don't worry about my laptop having an Ethernet port, I use a USB to Ethernet adapter.



$180 Allen Bradley Programming Kit

I mostly program Allen Bradley PLCs so I carry this kit with me all the time.  It includes USB versions of a 1747-CP3 for the SLC 500, Controllogix, and Compactlogix, a 1747-UIC for DH-485 connections to the SLC 500, a 1761-CBL-PM02 for the Micrologix 1000, Micrologix 1100, Micrologix 1200, Micrologix 1400, and Micrologix 1500, and a 2711-NC13 for the Panelview.


$30 USB to Serial Adapter

This is a very compatible USB to serial adapter that will work with 99% of your USB cables.  Most notably it doesn't work with the 1747-PIC.


$6 USB Type-B to USB-A 2.0 Male Cable

This is a very standard USB cable used in industrial applications.


$6 USB Type-C to USB-A 2.0 Male Cable

I mainly use this cable to charge my cell phone but let's face it, if my phone goes dead then I might as well go home for the day.


$120 Analog Simulator for generating 4-20mA and 0-10VDC signals

The Analog signal generator can simulate most popular analog signals including:

  • 4-20mA current loop and 0-22mA current loop 2 wire loop powered instrument
  • 4-20mA current source and 0-22mA current source 3 and 4 wire analog transmitter
  • Voltage Source 0-10VDC, -10 to +10V, 0-5V, 2-5V, -5 to +5V

$130 IP Explorer for reading IP addresses and assigning IP addresses via DHCP and BOOTP

It replaces your computer based BOOTP/DHCP Server and will quickly assign any IP address to any industrial BOOTP or DHCP enabled control device, like Programmable Controller, PLC communication modules, smart switches and I/O adapters.


$244 Seek Thermal Compact Thermal Imaging Camera

This thermal imaging camera connects to the charging port of your phone, using it as a display.  It is great for finding loose wires and contacts going bad since they build more heat than the surrounding surface. 


$38 First Aid Kit

This should be in everyone tool backpack.  We do our best to be safe but minor cuts happen.


These tools will serve you well.  What's in your tool bag?  Let us know your favorite item,  Next, let's talk about what I carry in my vehicle every day in the  PLC Training - What tools should you have in your vehicle for PLC programming and working on industrial equipment lesson.


Next Steps


Go to the PLC Training Getting Started Lesson series to select your next lesson.  There are also many other Lesson Series on PLC Programming and Industrial Automation.