Best Multi-Tools Reviewed
Camping, hiking, climbing, fishing, and hunting are only a few outdoor activities where you will most definitely find yourself needing a pair of pliers, a pocket knife, or other small tools. You could fill out your pockets, pouches and packs with all of those tools, which you might need, or you could just carry the necessities in one manageable package, a multi tool.
We all know them well. In fact many people put one brand in front of the rest, calling multi tools, in general, by the name of that brand. Leatherman. But there are so many other great brands who produce really great and practical models as well. There are actually so many, that it can be hard to decide which one to buy.
We went through the quality brands out there and widdled down our own list of what we found to be the best options available, which will meet the general needs of outdoor sports and lifestyle.
Leatherman tends to stay on top of the market when it comes to EDC tools. The wave is their most popular model. When I was a kid, the Swiss Army Knife was the coolest, most popular gadget as far as pocket knives and tools were concerned. Years later, along came Leatherman. The Wave is such a useful tool that is a popular pick by builders, campers, military, even those who want a reliable yet compact tool to keep in their vehicle for emergency use. For our purpose, we will be concentrating on the practical application to camping and other outdoor sports and activities.
17 tools in a compact design
Available with a MOLLE case, for more versatile carrying
25 year manufacturers warranty
Solid Leatherman durability
A bit heavy
The Wave boasts 17 different tools. it includes three different screwdrivers, needle nose pliers, regular pliers, a saw, two different wire cutters, plain edge knife, serrated knife, scissors, ruler, can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, and even a diamond coated file. I hope I didn’t miss one…
The design seems to be thought out pretty well, allowing easy and practical use with tools the are easy to access, yet do not get in the way. Although the Wave is a bit heavy, that is really just a down side, if at all, of being constructed of quality materials. The 420HC stainless steel construction will hold up under continuous long term use. I personally still use an older Leatherman model that I picked up more than ten years ago, one which I have put through utter hell. Yet, despite not being as pretty as it was when I first got it, it still work perfectly.
The tools built into this model are all really practical for every day use. For camping and hiking, the wave is an excellent choice. In fact, both knife blades are longer than the blades on other popular tools such as Gerber’s Multi Plier 600 as well as some options from SOG.
I think the brand itself is known by many as a solid built tool. Although not the Wave model, I picked up a higher end Letherman many years ago, exposed it to some serious abuse while in the military, and still I use the exact same one to this day. In my opinion, That says quite a bit to the quality.
SOG Power Assist
The compound leverage technology allows more force to be applied with the pliers with less effort
16 practical tools
Some tools, like the blasting cap crimper, aren’t so useful to most people
SOG tends to produce a lot of products that seem to be more geared toward military or law enforcement. However, many of those products are very useful for most activities involving the great outdoors as well. The major feature that steals the show for SOG’s Power Assist is the design and function of the tool’s pliers. Instead of a simple opposing hinge, the pliers operate with a linkage which allows more pressure to be applied without as much effort, thus increasing the grip ability of the tool.
The Power Assist also contains other useful tools such as a serrated blade, straight edge blade, hard wire cutter, wire crimper, v cutter, ruler, bolt grip channel, bottle opener, can opener, 3 sided file, small, medium and large flat head screwdrivers, phillips screwdriver, needle nose pliers and a crimper for blasting caps (which most won’t find very useful).
The overall design is really similar to any other multi tool. However, this one has a feature built into its design that many others aren’t built with. SOG’s Power Assist has pliers which utilize compound leverage. This means that the pliers operate with the function of multiple pivot points to allow the user to apply more force, while not requiring more effort to be exerted. If you’ve ever tried to use a pair of pliers on a frozen bolt, and just couldn’t get a solid enough grip to get the job done.
The design among most multi tools doesn’t differ too much, but the tools and function of the Power Assist certainly does. SOG is known for heavier duty knives and tools, so we didn’t really expect this one to be very lightweight.
This tool is really practical for most applications, but especially for outdoor use. As this one was clearly designed for military use, the functionality and arrangement of the attached tools seems to be set up quite well. One thing that we are noticing, is that we’re seeing more models produced with more than one option of attached knife blade. When you have the choice of either a serrated blade or plain edge blade, the options of usability increase.
Well, SOG has a product line which is known for being built on the heavy duty side. From their bowie knives to their smaller utility knives, many are quite bulky and heavier weight pieces. The SOG Power Assist is no exception to that approach. It seems that this model will last through plenty of use, and possibly some abuse.
Leatherman Charge TTI
Available with durable titanium handle
Available with additional bit set
Contains just about every necessary practical tool
When folded up, the Charge TTI doesn’t appear to have very much going on inside, but don’t be fooled. The overall performance really holds up to the Leatherman name. While I was not able to narrow down one specific feature which stands out with this tool, I would say the entire package is the feature. A lower profile model that is capable of tasks which the bulkier models tend to focus on more.
This one has a really clean overall design. The beauty of this model, for many, is the the lack of “unnecessary tools that you might find in some models which boast enormous collections of attributes, some of which you will never use in basic applications. The titanium handle adds even more value to this model, as it does lighten the overall weight and adds strength to the construction materials. While the outward appearance is rather streamlined, this one is extremely capable.
Though the Charge doesn’t really boast a super special attribute, you will find that the included tools are all of high quality design as well as totally practical in use. The typical choice of both serrated and plain edge knife blades, a fairly aggressive saw, scissors, small drive bit and a file. Additionally, The Leatherman Charge is available with a great set of bits, which greatly increase the overall practicality of this set
Come on, it’s a Leatherman! Seriously though, the simplicity of the design doesn’t offer those extra gadgets that may break or get lost easier than the overall tool. The case is made of durable cordura, and the accessory bits are carried in a rubbery plastic sort of holster.
And, the handled has some increased durability due to its titanium construction. In all the build of this one really is quite solid, and seems to hold up very well under consistent repetitive use, especially when used for outdoor activities.
Safe.T.Plus system locks tools in place, to prevent accidental closing
Beefy, bulky construction stands up to heavy use
Easy single handed operation
Not as heavy as it looks
Large, bulky design
Higher priced for some
Some of the functionality operates similar to Gerber’s more basic model, their Multi-Plier 600, although the Diesel is a clear winner when it comes to capability. The brand’s big feature is the Saf.T.Plus system, which locks each of the tools firmly into place when open and in use. Nothing ruins your day, quite like a pocket knife blade closing on your finger while you’re trying to get your camp set up. In all, the Diesel offers 14 tools plus the release button for the jaw, contained in one sturdy unit. The list includes needle nose pliers, standard pliers portion partially serrated knife blade, coarse & fine file, saw blade, small, medium and large flat head screwdrivers, scissors, wire cutter, and of course we can’t forget the can and bottle openers.
Even Gerber acknowledges that this is one of the biggest and bulkiest models on the market. There is something to be said for a tool that has the weight and feel to let you know it can actually be used for its intended purpose. The small complaint that I have about the design is the fact that the tip of the pliers stay partially exposed, which isn’t always super great when you carry it in your pocket. The overall design style is boxy with exposed controls and no stylish curves. That statement isn’t meant to be a negative. The Diesel is one of those things that seems to be built to perform rather than show off, which is good if you don’t care about having something flashy.
The location of the Safe.T.Plus locking sliders is something that take some getting used to, in order to avoid disengaging the safety lock during use.
Practical needs is exactly what this one seems to be designed for. It is perfect for a quick access, go to solution for many of the small tasks you will find yourself with when camping, backpacking, hunting, as well as other activities that take you to the great outdoors. I actually like that fact that this model only has one knife blade, hat has the option of both a serrated or plain edge. It leaves only one blade to look for in the dark.
If anyone has ever owned a Gerber, you will most likely know what I am referring to when I talk about the “rattle”. Many of their models tend to work slightly loose after a short while of use, giving that rattle and even wider spread parts when folded. For most, that is one of those things which becomes tolerated, simply tightening everything up once in a while, since the overall function is great. With the newer versions, that issue seems to have been remedied with tighter construction. That also means you can say goodbye to the handle pinch that would happen sometimes.
This one has a pretty bulky build and sturdy construction, which allows it to be used in some really undesirable conditions, without issue.
Factors to consider when finding a muli-tool to fit your needs
These are all really cool, especially if you are a gear nut like we are. But, you may not need all of the features or extras that some of these models offer, meaning that spending money on something you will never need seems like a waste. Then again there are those who will regularly use all of those cool little extras. To get the most bang for you buck, it is a good idea to list in your head the different scenarios you might find yourself in, where a multi tool would be useful. Then break it down from there.
By environment, I am really referring to the type conditions your outdoor tools are normally used in. If you spend most of your time in the wet or cold climates, you may want to think about what material a particular model is constructed of. Perhaps look for something with a coating or finish that is resistant to the elements.
Another point to consider, regarding environment, would be whether the product you choose is usable when wearing gloves, during the colder periods.
This one may seem like we are being picky, until you are up high, holding on with one hand and trying to access a specific tool with the other. At that point, you will quickly realize whether you chose correctly or not. Don’t wait until that time. Many shops will let you take a close look and try the products out at the counter. That is enough to get a feel of whether or not that particular on is easy to operate one handed if needed.
Most brands offer extra accessories which go along with certain models. There are even some models which really require those little extras, which are often sold separately, to get the most use out of them. If you find that you need a lot of different bits and driver heads, and don’t mind carrying them around with you, than a product like that would probably suit you well.
On the other hand, if what you really need and most often require, is a model that is designed around simplicity and general function, the going for a product which requires all of those extra bells and whistle may not be an ideal choice for you.
Size & Weight
These to factors really go together for gear like this. One will usually go with the other, with regards to multi-tools. It does seem to be true that the heavier duty the construction is, the easier is will sometimes be to tackle the more difficult tasks. If the heavier tasks aren’t really a concern for you, then you would probably be best suited with a more simple, lightweight option such as the Swisstool Spirit X from Victorinox. Where as , if you tend to tackle the harder stuff, the Leatherman Wave or the Gerber Diesel would be a more appropriate choice for you.
This is obviously a big factor. You wouldn’t want to spend close to, or even well over, $100 on something that is just going to fail or even break shortly after you start using it. The picks we have listed in the review all have great track records as far as their durability is concerned. In fact, that point alone would be show stopper for a particular product. It could have every gadget that one could think up, but without exceptional durability, the tool would be utterly useless to most of us, especially if we would need to rely on that product while out in the middle of nowhere.
We hope this was helpful, and even made choosing a great product just a little bit easier for you. There are so many different brands and models to go and choose from, however the options that we chose to list here are really among the top rated and most popular ones with regards to overall function, usability, durability and quality in their whole design.
Check back occasionally, as we may update this particular buying guide when a specific product shows up on the market which surpasses the choices we have picked for this current list. In the interest of always striving to share honest and accurate information on the gear that many of us rely on, we will often revisit our buying guides, like this one, in order to make sure the listed and reviewed products are still truly the top rated and most reliable picks available.