The Scoop on Buckets: Let’s Detail the Different Bucket Options for Your Skid Steer and Compact Track Loader

Ignite bucket

In a world with an overwhelming number of attachments, the tried-and-true bucket may get lost in the mix. While buckets may seem like the most common, ordinary attachment for a skid steer or compact track loader, they’re definitely not a one-size-fits-all-job type of tool. Your projects have their own requirements, so it only makes sense for there to be different styles of buckets to meet those needs. So which bucket goes with which project? Well, let’s figure that out.

“A few key things to look at when deciding to purchase a new or different bucket for your skid steer or compact track loader are understanding the application, the working conditions and the materials being handled,” says Ben McGann, Caterpillar Building Construction Products industry sales representative. “There’s a big difference between pioneering out hard packed clay soil vs. transporting loose backfill gravel or working with a paving crew picking up the remaining spoils of pavement. Specialized buckets or sizes may be vastly different between size and even cost.”

General purpose buckets are perhaps the most commonly used bucket on skid steers and compact track loaders (CTLs). These buckets are ideal for general contractors and homeowners performing a wide range of lighter-duty work. Ranging in widths from 60 to 86 in., general purpose buckets are a great option for anyone looking to move material around a jobsite, as well as digging, loading, leveling and grading.

“At Caterpillar, the most popular bucket is the general purpose bucket which matches well with one of our most popular CTLs, the 259D3,” says McGann. “As the name implies, it’s good for all applications. However, when looking regional or even globally you’ll see different trends with customers choosing multipurpose [also called 4-in-1] buckets for their vast diversity of applications.”

Caterpillar CTL with bucket

Coming in a close second in popularity would be a low-profile bucket. This type of bucket is constructed with a longer bottom and is a popular choice among landscapers and homeowners. Available in widths from 56 to 80 in., this particular style of bucket offers operators excellent visibility and works well in leveling and grading applications.

“Low-profile buckets are built with solid reinforcement and are becoming much more popular because they have a low back to offer much better visibility of your cutting edge,” says Darin Gronwold, senior product specialist at Ignite Attachments. “They also have an extended bottom, so you don’t lose capacity but you also add reach. These are a great option for dirt work and other multi-use options.”

Heavy-duty buckets lend a tough hand in tackling harsh jobs. These robust buckets are built to handle extreme jobs and are usually used in construction and industrial applications. Heavy-duty buckets excel when paired with larger, higher horsepower machines that work in aggressive, tougher terrain.

“Heavy-duty buckets, like Cat’s Industrial Performance buckets, are great for rough conditions,” says McGann. “These buckets allow an operator to penetrate the ground. With a thicker base and side plates, they can hold up to applications that require a stronger bucket. The heavy-duty or industrial purpose bucket is available in 68-, 74-, 80-, 86- or 92-in. widths.”

If you need an even stronger bucket, Gronwold notes that Ignite Attachments’ severe-duty bucket is the company’s best “bang-for-your-buck” bucket thanks to its price and toughness.

“These buckets are very heavily reinforced with an extra wrap, added strength and rigidity with a waffle plate on the bottom, along with added capacity,” he adds. “These can be used on a variety of skid steers and compact track loaders — from low to high horsepower.”

Snow and light material buckets are great for handling large, low-density materials such as snow, hay and mulch. These high-capacity buckets are available in larger widths (72 to 108 in.) and are designed with a high back and high sides to retain an abundance of materials.

A grapple bucket is the perfect attachment for operators who need to grab hold of materials such as scrap, debris or even downed trees and move them around the jobsite. This bucket is typically offered in 68- or 74-in. widths and is the perfect solution for disaster cleanup, recycling plants and other environments that need to move large and odd shaped materials.

John Deere SS with bucket

“Grapple buckets are used by operators who need to move larger boulders and rocks or materials that would typically fall out of your bucket — like firewood, brush, limbs and debris. Materials you need to clamp so they don’t fall out of the bucket,” says Gronwold. “Some grapple buckets have two grapples that work independently so they can handle uneven loads. Grapple buckets with one grapple offer a less expensive option. It really just depends on what you’re doing with it.”

A combination bucket goes by a few names and is ideal for many different applications. Also known as a multipurpose bucket or 4-in-1 bucket, the combination bucket boasts hydraulic cylinders to open the bottom of the bucket and can be used to pinch, grapple or back drag materials.

“This bucket opens in the middle to allow you to use it as a grapple to relocate material,” says McGann. “It also can be used to dump material in situations where an operator is in tight areas and does not have enough clearance to tilt the bucket down. The multipurpose bucket is available in 62, 68, 74, 80 or 86 in.”

John Deere offers four multipurpose buckets for skid steers and CTLs — the MP66B, MP72B, MP78B and MP84B — to help increase efficiency and capacity on the jobsite.

“Capable of bulldozing, scraping, loading, metering and clamping material, the John Deere multipurpose buckets are ideal for a wide variety of applications, and the rugged torque tube equalizes load forces when clamping,” says Doug Laufenberg, manager of sales and marketing for CCE and attachments at John Deere. “To further increase durability and performance, buckets are predrilled to accommodate optional bolt-on replaceable cutting edges, toothbars, side cutters and spill guards.”

Rock buckets offer the perfect solution for construction and landscaping contractors handling rocks and debris. This style of bucket allows operators to sift through rock or other materials quickly and effectively. Rock bucket widths typically range from 74 to 94 in.

“Rock buckets are designed to sift out debris and rock, while allowing the dirt to stay behind,” says Gronwold. “They’re perfect if you want to pick up rocks but don’t want to lose any dirt from the area. Farmers love them. They can just buzz around their field, pick up the rocks, go stack them in a pile and they don’t lose any of their topsoil or dirt.”

Side discharge buckets allow skid steer and CTL operators to pick up material and discharge it out of either side of the bucket — allowing for easy spreading and distribution. This type of bucket lends a huge hand in applications such as roadside work and livestock jobs. McGann adds that Cat’s side discharge bucket is offered in either 74- or 86-in. widths.

Kioti CTL with bucket

High dump buckets give operators extra reach when needed. These are especially popular when loading feeders for livestock applications or dumping into the back of a truck. Kioti’s high dump bucket features tall sides and adds an additional 3 ft of dumping height.

“The Kioti high dump bucket can handle a lot of different material, like gravel, rocks, dirt and poultry litter to name a few,” says Keith Huff, attachment and implement manager for Kioti Tractor. “Dumping into truck beds, dump trucks, tractor AG trailers, tractor dump trailers and many other high sided trailers is what differentiates the high dump bucket from regular dirt buckets.”

Pam Kleineke is managing editor of Compact Equipment.