Power tools can really improve the progress of your cabin project. Unfortunately, in the backcountry they also provide some logistical issues. Standard power tools that require a power outlet will need to be accompanied by a generator. That also means fuel. Now you’ve increased your expenses, your loads to the property, and have to listen to that awful drone of the generator engine while you work. Wasn’t your cabin supposed to be a peaceful place to escape?

Portable tools with battery packs are a great alternative. They’re quite, and depending on how much use and how many batteries you have on hand, a generator may not need to be on site. If so, it may only need to be run for an hour or two each day.

When shopping for portable power tools, keep a few things in mind. First, talking to a professional builder is always a good idea. They’ll probably have a handle on what tools work hard and last long. Second, no matter what brand you decide to purchase, investigate the different models and power supplies. Portable tools come in 12, 18 and 28 volt systems. With regard to the batteries, manufacturers are now producing affordable portables that take advantage of lithium ion batteries. These batteries last longer, which is crucial in your remote location, and weigh less too so you have less load to bear when traveling to your jobsite. Third, look for tool kits that come with just about everything you need at a discounted cost. In fact, regarding discounts, buy your tools at the right time of year when sales are abundant. A month or so before Fathers Day is usually a good time to buy. Keep an eye out for sales and rebate offers.

For my own cabin project, I secured a portable tool kit from Milwaukee, a trusted name in electric tool manufacturing. Milwaukee is considered as one of the better producers of professional grade, tough tools that won’t crap out when you need them most. Since they cost a bit more, you’ll want to remain particularly keen on good deals.

At the time of my purchase, about a month before Fathers Day, M18 series four-tool kits were being sold for $499 online and at retailers such as Home Depot. These kits usually cost hundreds more. Now, that’s still not cheap, but I know these tools will get use for years to come. The kit included two 18v extra capacity lithium ion batteries, charger, drill/driver, sawzall, circular saw, flashlight and canvas case. The company I ordered from online, CPO, was also offering a free impact wrench with the kit and a mail-in rebate for $50 back which was promptly credited to my card after about three weeks from mailing the rebate in. To sweeten the deal even more, Milwaukee was offering a separate rebate for another free tool or battery of my choice up to a value of $199. I chose the portable grinder.

After shipping costs and receiving $50 back, my total came to $525, and I’ve never been quite so happy with a purchase. So far, the batteries of the M18 series tools have lasted long enough that I can charge them during trips back to my car. An inexpensive power inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter/outlet allows me to charge the batteries from my car while grabbing a bite to eat or running errands. The same can be done on some four wheelers with similar outlets while still remaining at your property. Or, use a generator. The 18v lithium ions will charge in roughly an hour, so you don’t have to listen to it for long or use up that much fuel.

In the months to come, expect a full Milwaukee Portable Tool review.