small crates take up a 1x1x1 space, costs 1 wood, and can store 8 objects. they can stack as well. chests take up (iirc) 2x2x1 space, cost 1 leather and either 1 or 2 wood, and can store 16 objects. I don’t believe they stack, but they might? I haven’t really played with them yet. large crates take up a 2x2x2 space (8 cubes), cost 2 wood, and store 32 objects. they can stack, just like small crates.
for efficiency’s sake, small crates are your best bet, as 8 small crates in a 2x2x2 pattern can store 64 objects, and I know you can stack at the very least 3 crates high and still be accessable to hearthlings, allowing at least 24 objects on any given x-y tile. that’s 24 times more efficient than a stockpile, which can only hold 1 object and must be “placed” on the ground.
that said, if you’re playing with a bunch of small crates, it’s best to set them as permanent storage. the good thing about crates is that you can move them, with everything inside. small crates have a higher efficiency than large crates, but have a smaller flat max, and you will need to carry 4x the number of crates you would when moving crates with small crates as you would with large crates. also, each small crate costs 1 wood, 4 crates gives the same storage as a large crate, but costs 4 wood as opposed to large crates, which cost 2. also, crafting time - since crafting time is based solely on the hearthling’s ability, and not on the object, 1 small crate and 1 large crate take just as long to craft as each other. when crafting in bulk, you can craft more storage with large crates than with small crates, albeit with a deficit in space efficiency. also, each and every small crate is a separate stockpile. you will need to modify each and every filter manually, just as you would a normal stockpile. with a 20x20 stockpile you can store 400 items with only messing with the filter 1 time. the same storage in large crates, you’ll need to mess with settings 13 times, using up 52 tiles in space (2x26, 4x13, no space required between them). the same storage in small crates, assuming you don’t stack them on top of one another, would require you to mess with 50 filters, and take up 50 tiles of space with 1x50 and 2x25, but more space for any other configuration due to needing to be accessable on at least one side (you can only set up crates 2 wide, any more and the middle crate/s can’t be reached by hearthlings. 1 crate wide if you set it up against a wall). naturally you would want to stack them, only taking up 17 tiles of space.
tl;dr for space efficiency, small crates are the most efficient, at 8 blocks per block, and can stack at least 3 times, providing 24 blocks per tile (I haven’t tested higher stacks). resource, time, carrying, and managing/filter-wise, though, large crates are easier to deal with. regardless of which you prefer, crates are far, far superior to stockpiles. you will find yourself quickly switching from stockpiles to crates.
well, though I say that, stockpiles aren’t useless - crates need to be placed, and placing has a higher priority than anything except harvesting for workers (and maybe even harvesting). stockpiles can be created and destroyed instantly anywhere there is air on top of a solid surface. and it takes no resources or time to craft. you’ll still use stockpiles for anywhere that’s not right next to your carpenter’s shop or that doesn’t need immediate or permanent stock. hell, I use a stockpile for my carpenter’s shop because it lets me see at a glance what I have available to use, and I don’t have to go digging through crates or my town inventory to see how much I have of what.