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.
Our Top 3 Pick
- Leatherman Wave
- Contains 17 practical use tools
- SOG Power Assist
- Pliers use Compound Force Technology
- Leatherman Charge
- Available with additional bit set
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.
4 Best Multi-Tools
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 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.
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.
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 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 flathead 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 do. 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 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.
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.
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
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.
- Streamlined design
- Available with durable titanium handle
- Available with additional bit set
- Contains just about every necessary practical tool
- Quite expensive
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.
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.
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
Criteria for Evaluation
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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. Whereas, 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 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.