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There are a million and one reasons to carry a multi-tool, and also a million and one multi-tools on the market today. However, if you're someone who finds themself needing a tool on hand at all times (like while camping, biking, or out in the wilderness), then having the right multi-tool is incredibly important. There are a lot of aspects that can separate one of these devices from one another, but in general, the best multi-tool needs to be greater than the sum of its parts. As the popularity of these everyday carry items continues to grow, it's more important than ever to sift out poorly made models so you can acquire a quality tool for the jobs you need to accomplish.
What makes a quality multi-tool?
For many of us who use multi-tools on a regular basis, the best ones are most likely to come from one of the big three: Leatherman, Gerber, and Victorinox (better known as the makers of Swiss Army Knives). Those three brands have a truly impressive amount of market share because their products are (usually) worth their weight in gold. We say "usually," because even among these companies, there are few that are little better than scrap metal. Fortunately, these three aren't the only options on the market, and companies like SOG and RoverTac also offer comparable multi-tools at a great price.
Now, we know what we said about your multi-tool needing to be a well-rounded device, but for this collection, we've organized and evaluated the items in question by specific potential uses. When it comes to it, some are going to have better pocket knives, while others might be more suited for driving or plying. Along the way, we consider the functionality, material, design, and item capacity of each multi-tool in question. The results turned up this following list, each one ready to serve you for whatever you need it for.
1. Best Overall Multi-Tool
- Closed length: 4 in, Open length: 6.25 in.
- 17 tools
- Leatherman's 25-year warranty
Hailing from a factory in Portland, Oregon, Leatherman products have been American-made for 37 years and counting. What started as a project to make a pliers-based multi-tool has ended up with a reputation for some of the best multi-tools out there. What we love the most about this one is the easy-to-deploy, one-hand accessibility it offers for the pieces within (including wire cutters and strippers, electric crimpers, and more). The straight knife, serrated knife, saw, and file are each conveniently stashed on the outside of the stainless steel body. At 8.5 oz., the Wave Plus is light enough not to feel wieldy, too.
2. The Best Budget Option
- Dimensions: 6.3 x 5.1 x 1 in.
- 14 tools
- 100% satisfaction warranty
My dad is going to give me so much trouble if he reads this, but I have to be honest: the guy is a professional at losing multi-tools. To be fair, if I was climbing in and out of tractors as much as he is, I would probably have had more than a few fall from my pocket too. The loss of a multi-tool, even a quality one, hurts a lot less when you didn't dump big bucks into it. With that in mind, this 14-in-1 from RoverTac tool is perfect for someone who needs a durable device at a budget price. The material is black oxidized stainless steel, rust-proof, and comes along with a heavy nylon pouch to give your own loss-prone loved ones a fighting chance to keep an eye on their tool. The pocket multi-tool is fit with an integrated locking mechanism that keeps your knife, saw, or Philips screwdriver in place and safe to use.
4. The Best Full-Sized Multi-Tool
- Closed length: 4.25 in.
- 21 tools
- 8.6 oz. stainless steel body
While the price of this multi-tool is far from "free," the FREE P4 from Leatherman will definitely allow you to feel unrestricted from the cumbersome weight of a toolbox. This pocket-sized unit — outfitted with a 2.75 in. blade, an awl, a ruler, and four screwdrivers — is one of those tools that has everything you thought you needed, and some things you didn't know you wanted. There's a bottle and a can opener, serrated and straight-edge blades, and even a wood saw. It carries all the sturdiness of Leatherman's legacy without feeling like an out-of-touch model; a simple press of the thumb opens and closes the tool, and magnetic architecture keeps each piece locked in place.
5. The Best Mini Multi-Tool
- Dimensions 2.75 x 4 x 0.6 in.
- 12-in-1 tool
- 0.14 lbs.
Gerber's first entry in our collection is small but mighty. If you're the kind of person who likes to be prepared but doesn't always need to have a full-sized multi-tool on hand, you can rest easy knowing that this model delivers all you need in a pint-sized package. The butterfly design opens to reveal a double set of filers, a small flat-head screwdriver, scissors, and a plain blade, among other pieces. If you're looking for a piece to add to your tacklebox, camping kit, or center console, consider this mini Gerber.
6. The Multi-Tool With The Best Pocket-Knife
- Closed length: 4 in.
- 9 tools
- 2.6 in. blade
The Skeletool may look like a bare-bones multi-tool, but there is more than meets then meets the eye with this one — especially if you are looking for a model where the focus is on the knife blade. Some competitors might have longer blades, but we'd bet that there isn't a multi-tool out there that has a stronger and more durable knife than this. The stainless steel blade is heat-treated, set into a tungsten-coated handle, and secured with a placement lock that requires manual relief to fold away. This ensures it stays in place and doesn't end up cutting the user. Weighing 5 oz. and made with a flat design that stores a few other instruments, the Skeletool CX is a pocket knife in a multi-tool's body.
7. The Multi-Tool With The Best Slip-Joint Pliers
- Overall length: 7.86 in., Closed length: 4.65 in.
- 12 tools
- 47% reduction in handspan
If you're not shopping for a multi-tool because of the knife, then we'd wager a guess you're looking for one that puts emphasis on the pliers. The trickiest thing about prioritizing that part of a multi-tool is narrowing down whether you want a needle-nose or slip-joint option. For the latter, we're offering up the Gerber Dual-Force. The success of these comes down to a two-position slip-lock and an absolutely impressive set of teeth that are strong and wide enough to budge problems that even your favorite set of pliers get stuck on. The blunt nose is secured by an intuitively designed handspan and layered construction, which doubles your grip power and strength over similarly marketed competitors. Not to be outdone, Gerber has also included a set of regular and small fastener pliers in this kit as well.
8. The Multi-Tool With The Best Needle-Nose Pliers
- Dimensions: 4.6 x 1.63 x 0.75 in.
- 18 tools
- Government Services Administration approved for military use
When you need something that is as sharp and on point as a Marine in dress blues, we suggest turning to the SOG Powerlock tool. Despite having a full, 18-implement range, the needle-nose pliers are why we gravitate towards this multi-tool. They reach a clean, narrow end and a tight pinch that is backed by SOG's patented compound leverage design, the result of which gives you two times the power of a normal set of needle-nose pliers. The only downside we've found so far is that the additional tools can be a bit difficult to access as they fold away under the handle covers on the arm of the tool. Fortunately, those shields are removable and make up an overall minor consideration for a majorly powerful multi-tool.
9. The Multi-Tool With The Best Screwdriver
- Closed length: 4.7 in., Opened length: 6.6 in.
- 14 tools
- Full-sized tools
Files are important to have, a ruler is also a nice consideration, and while every multi-tool should have a bottle/can opener, there is one thing a multi-tool needs beyond a blade and pliers. Screwdrivers can be the most frustrating part of these implements: sometimes the driver head doesn't have a utilitarian fit, and sometimes the overall length of it is just too short to be any good. That is not the case with the Gerber Center-Drive. The focal point of this design is the center-axis driver, which opens in a way that aligns like an independent screwdriver. Both the Philips and flat head bits have magnetic ends that won't release any pesky dropped screws, and while it's nice to have additions like a pry bar and rotatable carbide wire cutters, we're most stoked that this multi-tool has the torque of a true driver.
10. The Best Multi-Tool For Biking
- Dimensions: 8.9 x 4.4 cm.
- 19 tools
- Handles all common road- and trailside fixes
Multi-tools aren't just for those of us who are working in the fields or the workshop, meaning this category can mean different things to different people. For cyclists, a multi-tool doesn't need to have pliers or a knife. No, it needs to have 8- and 10-mm. open wrenches. It needs to have 2 through 8 mm. hex wrenches, multiple sizes of spoke wrenches, a Torx T25 for disc brakes, and a lightweight chain breaker as well. Your cycling multi-tool needs to have everything that the crankbrothers M19 includes. Actually, your cycling multi-tool should just be the crankbrothers M19.
11. The Best Multi-Tool For Emergencies
- Closed length: 5 in.
- 6 key emergency tools
- 5.8 oz. weight
There are some situations where a multi-tool is a lifesaver. And then there are some when a multi-tool is literally a life saver. Leatherman's Raptor Shears are the latter. While they certainly aren't the right tool for everyone, they are the ideal instrument for an emergency car or camping kit. The 5 in., stainless steel folding medical shears are paired with a strap cutter, a ring cutter, an oxygen tank wrench, a carbide glass breaker, and a 5 cm. ruler. The design is completely collapsible, and can be carried a few ways; it comes with a molded polymer holster, has a stainless pocket hook, and is set with a lanyard hook as well — because every second of access to your multi-tool matters in emergency survival situations.
READ MORE: The Best Outdoor Gifts Under $25
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