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 Wave
- Contains 17 practical use tools
- SOG Power Assist
- Pliers use Compound Force Technology
- Leatherman Charge
- Available with additional bit set
10 Best Multi-Tools
The Design: The design seems to be thought out pretty well, allowing easy and practical use with tools that are easy to access, yet do not get in the way. Although the Wave is a bit heavy, that is really just a downside, 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 works perfectly.
Practicality: The tools built into this model are all really practical for everyday 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.
Durability: I think the brand itself is known by many as a solidly built tool. Although not the Wave model, I picked up a higher end Leatherman 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 about the quality.
17 tools in a compact design
Solid Leatherman durability
Available with a MOLLE case, for more versatile carrying
25 year manufacturers warranty
A bit heavy
The Design: 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, then you’ll love these. The design among most multi-tools doesn't differ too much, but the tools and function of the Power Assist certainly do. SOG is known for heavier duty knives and tools, so we didn't really expect this one to be very lightweight.
Practicality: 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 seem 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.
Durability: 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.
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
Leatherman Charge TTI
The Design: 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.
Practicality: 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.
Durability: 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.
- Streamlined design
- Available with durable titanium handle
- Available with additional bit set
- Contains just about every necessary practical tool
- Quite expensive
The Design: 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 feels 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 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.
Practicality: Practical needs are 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.
Durability: 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.
- 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
The Design: The Leatherman Wingman is made to fit easily into your pocket, and folds down simply. You’ll be able to fold it down, keep it closed, and carry it along with you easily.
Practicality: For its price, the Leatherman Wingman brings you a very practical tool that provides you with a lot of tool options. You’ll get all the tools you need in one simple to use product.
Durability: Again, considering the fact this multi-tool is inexpensive, you’ll get a lot for what you invest into it. It’s durable and long-lasting, and you’ll be able to use it for many years.
Simple to use
Hybrid blade is short
Some of the tools aren’t as great as some other competitors’ options
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X
The Design: The different design features built into this product include a wire bender, wire stripper, wire cutter, cable cutters, and much more. All in all, the product can do much, and features about ten total tools in their overall design.
Practicality: This multi-tool comes designed with two rounded corners for additional comfort, and two that are not rounded. Still, the tool is comfortable to hold and easy-to-use.
Durability: You’ll get excellent strength in this quality product, which is built to last for years. The tool is so strong, you won’t have to worry about it losing its ability to function.
Can feel heavy
Doesn’t have external bit options
The Design: Made to be a small, keychain-sized multi-tool, you’ll get everything you really need packed into one great product. However, if you’re really looking for a multi-tool that has absolutely everything you could ever imagine, then you’ll want to consider purchasing one of the full-sized multi-tools on our list.
Practicality: This is a practical multi-tool if you are looking for something small and compact to use. However, just know you won’t get everything that you’d typically get with a heavier multi-tool.
Durability: Even for its small size, the Gerber Dime is quite durable, and will last for several years. The materials built into this product are all high-quality, and you’ll get a long-lasting, lightweight multi-tool.
Good bottle opener
Screwdriver is tiny
Leatherman Squirt PS4
The Design: Made to be compact and lightweight, the design of the Leatherman Squirt PS4 is excellent, bringing everything you need in a simple and small multi-tool. Made with quality steel and aluminum, this small multi-tool is still built to be very tough.
Practicality: Although the blade designed into this multi-tool is small, it still functions well and does the job. You get a sharp, durable blade, a bottle opener, a file, and screwdrivers.
Durability: The steel and aluminum design of this product makes it very durable. This multi-tool will give you years of use.
Might be too small for all uses
Doesn’t have as many features as larger multi-tools
Leatherman Skeletool CX
The Design: The design of the Skeletool is made to be lightweight and ergonomic. The main bad is large, well-organized, and accessible with a one-thumb swipe. The pliers are made of rounded carbon fiber. This makes for a comfortable tool.
Practicality: Leaderman did make a practical tool with this design, that should offer you a lot of good use and functionality. You’ll get most of what you need designed into this multi-tool.
- Multiple carry options
- effective tools
Gerber Center Drive
The Design: Made with a rounded design that is easy to hold, the way this product is manufactured makes it comfortable and simple to use. Plus, both blades of the suspension include thumb-catches, which make this tool easy and safe to operate.
Practicality: This is a very user-friendly tool with a simple design, and made with a lot of safety in mind. It’s also easy to carry along with you, and not too large to fit your pocket.
Durability: This Gerber multi-tool is manufactured with high-quality materials that make it quite durable. You’ll get years of use if you decide to purchase this tool.
The Criteria We Used To Find The Best Multi Tools
The multi tools we’ve listed 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 your 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. We’ll cover some of the important criteria points you’ll want to consider about your multi tool before you make your purchase. These points include the features of the multi tool, its design, practicality, and durability.
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’s heads, and don’t mind carrying them around with you, then 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 whistles may not be an ideal choice for you. Before you purchase your multi-tool, make sure you focus in on the features you really need, so you don’t spend too much money. Keep in mind that some multi-tools offer so many different features, you might wind up with a whole bunch of features you never use, which can cost you a lot more money. Some of these extra features is really something that is a matter of personal preference but make sure you stick to the things you know you are going to use.
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 tool is easy to operate one-handed if needed. Design is an important factor because it often influences what materials are placed into your multi-tool, how easy it is to use, and how comfortable it is for you. You want to make sure you purchase a multi-tool you feel comfortable using and carrying along with you, and one that’s durable enough to meet your needs.
When considering practicality, you need to think about the environment you’ll be using the product in. By environment, I am really referring to the typical 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 the environment, would be whether the product you choose is usable when wearing gloves, during the colder periods. You need to consider, as well, how practical the multi-tool will be to bring along with you and access whenever you need to use it. Make sure, as well, that you are comfortable with the handle and how it functions before you purchase it. Some multi-tool brands make tools that are more easy to hold than others to certain people.
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 a 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
Other Stuff To Think About
There are some other important factors you will want to consider as well before you purchase your multi-tool. We’ll cover that in a bit more detail below.
Size & Weight
These two 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 it 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. Whereas, if you tend to tackle the harder stuff, the Leatherman Wave or the Gerber Diesel would be a more appropriate choice for you.
Portability is one of those factors that can depend a lot on the person buying the multi-tool and is often up to personal preference. Really, you need to decide how lightweight you want your multi-tool to be, or if you want to purchase a larger multi-tool, then you’ll need to make sure it is easy to carry along with you. You’ll need to be able to access your multi-tool anytime you need it, so check on some of the carrying cases and other features that the different manufacturers offer. You should be able to make your decision from there. Some of these multi-tools come with belt sheaths, others come with easy to use clips, some can be put on a keychain, and still, others come with carrying cases. Whatever is easier for you to use should be your main focus when you purchase your multi-tool.
Q: What do I need to know about the portability of my multi-tool?
Portability is an important factor with any multi-tool. You need to be able to access it as soon as you need it when you are in the outdoors, and you’ll also need to know its size and how to carry it. If you purchase a smaller multi-tool and don’t carry it with you at all times, you might wind up having a hard time finding it. Large multi-tools usually need to be carried on a tool belt and can be heavier to carry and harder to bring along. Some multi-tools do allow you to carry them using some other methods, however. The Leatherman Charge TTI offers some of the easiest carrying options out there, The Leatherman Wave is a smaller multi-tool but is also quite easy to bring with you.
Q: How do I check the construction quality of my multi-tool?
One thing you do need to realize when you are trying to purchase a good multi-tool is how much the quality of manufacturing can vary from brand to brand. You need to take a close look at the hinges as well as the way the knife locks. You want to make sure those parts of the multi-tool work well, are reliable and made with high-quality products. You also want to make sure the multi-tool itself is easy to hold, and also easy to take along with you. The more high-quality the materials manufactured into your multi-tool, the more durable and reliable it will be. Make sure you take some time to look at the multi-tool, play around with it, and ensure that the important parts of the tool are made from high-quality materials.
Q: If I want a smaller multi-tool, what are my options?
On our list, we provided you with two choices in small multi-tools that also perform well. The one thing you do need to know about smaller multi-tools is that they are portable, but don’t offer as many features or as much functionality as larger multi-tools simply because they are built for size. They also typically aren’t as durable as their larger counterparts, but if portability and size is a major factor in your decision, then you’ll probably be better off with a smaller multi-tool. On our list, the Squirt PS4 and Gerber Dime are both pretty strong and lightweight multi-tools that function well when you are camping. They are still durable enough and work well with functionality, although they won’t offer you as much as some of the larger multi-tools on our list.
Q: What part of most multi-tools can damage the most easily?
To answer that question, know that you’ll always want to check out plier hinges each time you purchase a multi-tool. As far as the products we’ve provided on our list are concerned, we have provided you with many products that did well during testing and their plier hinges are durable. Regardless, though, anytime you purchase a multi-tool you’ll want to check the plier hinges. One way to test this out is to see how the hinges perform when you cut a wire coat hanger. The Leatherman Squirt PS4 does a good job performing with durability, and so do both the Victorinox and Leatherman Wave also on our list.
Q: What do I need to know about functionality when I purchase my multi-tool?
You’ll need to take a look at the different functions and features that are provided by each multi-tool brand on the market. Each one is different, and many multi-tools fit different genres of use. However, the better the parts are on a multi-tool, even if the multi-tool offers fewer features, the more valuable the multi-tool will be when you are out in the wilderness. Also, some multi-tools will come with more functions and features than what you’ll ever use, so you need to take a careful look at what you need, the design of the multi-tool, and how well the functions and features the multi-tool has that actually perform well.
Q: What are the most important features I’ll really need to have in my multi-tool?
The most important functions designed into any good multi-tool is a good blade, nice pliers with wire cutters, effective scissors, and a bit driver. These are probably the functions and features you’ll use most often with your multi-tool, and if you know what you are likely to use, you’ll be more likely to focus in on that when you purchase your multi-tool. Two multi-tools on our list, the Leatherman Charge and Leatherman Wave, both offer all of these features.