Just by reading this, you’re showing that you’re likely all about organized and efficient daily preparation. Most dedicated preppers and EDCers will take a certain pride in getting the greatest amount of performance out of the smallest and most efficient possible package. Many of us also pride ourselves on being the person who can, under almost any circumstance, immediately find a creative fix for any problem.
When it comes to packing a lot of usability into a single unit, the only thing that comes close to a prepper’s ingenuity is a well thought out multitool. An appropriate multitool can offer a solution that will make quick work of unexpected jobs, solve minor problems, or get you out of a tight jam with minimal hassle.
With all the cool multitools on the market, making the final selection can be tough. Whether you’re looking for the best pocket tool for your EDC kit, the best multitool for backpacking, or the best survival multitool, we’ll help you make the right choice. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to deciding the right one (or three!) for you. Read on to find your ideal tool for every job!
Types of Multitools
Multitools can be had in any number of configurations. If there’s a need, there’s a multitool to fit. Multitools can be simple one-piece affairs or complex 20-tool behemoths. Between these extremes are tools to fit every need or desire. Let’s look over a few of the basic styles:
These are the full sized multitool style popularized by Leatherman, Gerber, and countless other brands. When someone says “multitool,” this is what first comes to mind for most folks. They’re designed like a pair of collapsible pliers with tools that fold out of each handle. When not in use, the handles both swivel up butterfly-style and nestle together around the plier head.
These multitools typically offer the largest number of and most stoutly built tools, and invariably include those handy pliers or large scissors. The folding handles will often also provide some sort of locking function for tools so as to prevent accidental closures. Generally these multitools are a little big and bulky to be carried in a pocket, so they’ll come with a cloth, leather, or Kydex multitool pouch for belt carry.
We recommend: The Leatherman 830850 Skeletool CX Multitool
Just because you carry a big tool doesn’t mean you have to look like one; a belt mounted multitool pouch isn’t for everyone. Following the pattern of the classic Swiss Army Knife, pocket multitools can offer as many tools as a folding multitool, but are generally much less bulky and don’t require special carrying considerations. The flip side of this is that most of the tools don’t lock in the open position, and there’s rarely anything more than a perfunctory scissor or plier option.
We recommend: The Victorinox Swiss Army SwissChamp Pocket Knife
Designed to be ultra-small and easy to carry, keychain multitools are typically found as super compact versions of the folding or pocket multitool styles. The Victorinox Classic or Gerber Vise would be excellent examples. These small multitool options usually trade having a large variety of tools for easy portability.
We recommend: The Gerber 31-001134 Dime Micro Tool
These are the smallest, least complex, and most lightweight multitools out there. They’re really nothing more than a small piece of steel or titanium that has been shaped and scalloped to provide several commonly used tools in a super simple, durable form. One-piece multitools generally provide a bit of leverage for prying, a flathead screwdriver, and a bottle opener. Popular offerings include the Atwood Prybaby, the Gerber Shard and the Leatherman Brewzer.
We recommend: The Leatherman Brewzer
Inexpensive, easy to store, and packed with great functionality, these ultra-thin multitools have been gaining popularity as of late. These are not typically designed for regular use, instead offering a nice last-ditch option that will rarely be forgotten due to its ease of storage in something you’re rarely without: Your wallet.
Typically, these tools are equipped with a sharp edge that can pass for a blade, a number of low-profile wrenches, a bottle opener, and a ruler. The idea is thin functionality that can go wherever you do.
We recommend: 11-Function Stainless Steel Survival Pocket Tool
The lightweight “EAT’N Tool” from CRKT is particularly cool, designed as a lightweight spork equipped with a bottle opener, pry tool, and a few wrenches that do duty for stove maintenance.
When it comes to options, most multitools have plenty. Generally all multitools will offer a few basics, including a blade, can and bottle opener, and flathead screwdriver. From there, the options open up in every direction. The Victorinox brand pocket multitool is famous for its little bitty toothpick and tweezers. The full sized multitool style nearly always provides relatively large pliers or scissors. Many choices have an ever handy corkscrew for impressing the ladies on impromptu picnic trips.
Each multitool finds its own niche by offering different combinations of options. When searching for just the right one, keep your eyes open for multitools equipped with carabiners, pocket clips, replaceable tools, vise grips, magnetic drivers and bits, integrated smartphone stands (yes, seriously!), or clever weight-saving measures. Any of these items might be just the ticket in your search for the best survival multi tool.
In true prepper style, always be considering alternate uses for tools. A magnifying glass, for instance, can be used for starting fires, while magnetic screwdrivers could be used to construct a field-expedient compass. These uses might not come in handy every day, but when they do you’ll be extra thankful for them.
All this being said, don’t mislead yourself into thinking that there’s any one multitool that can truly do it all. Expect to carry one multitool for EDC, another one for camping, a day at the range, or to be left in your BOB. Still another may be the best survival multitool or the best multitool for backpacking or fishing with the family. Each has its place, and each can provide the right tools for certain settings.
Decision Making Factors
Buying the right multitool is a challenge. A lot is riding on the choice, and there are so many options available. When you’re browsing the myriad options intent on finding your ideal multitool, you’ll have lots to consider. Your decision making process for any multitool should take into account each multitool’s functionality, suitability, and ease of use.
First off, ensure the multitool you’re looking for has all the parts and tools you need. You’re aware that there are all kinds of cool multitools with onboard magnifying glasses, flashlights, and the like. The real question is whether these are necessary for your usage.
While it’s easy to over-tool, it’s not tough to under-do it either. It’s often tempting to go super simple, but make sure you still end up with enough tool to get your jobs done. Of course, the environment in which you’ll most be drawing upon your multitool’s functionality will go a long way toward impacting your choice. If you’re looking for a tool to carry and use every day at your retail job, something like the Victorinox Midnite Minichamp, with its integrated package opener and ballpoint pen, might be a good bet.
If your idea for a multitool is more about general preparedness with a focus on easy portability, then maybe a Leatherman Micro is the right choice. For cooking on the trail, the best multitool for backpacking should include utensils and openers. One way or the other, you might have more trouble finding a multitool that you can’t put to use than finding one you can!
All the features or tools in the world aren’t going to justify your multitool selection if the multitool doesn’t adequately fit your intended usage. Consider also how easy the multitool is to carry. For instance, if you never wear a belt you likely won’t find yourself sporting a multitool pouch.
Likewise, if you’ve got large blacksmith’s hands and are expecting to be performing lots of tough tasks at construction job sites, a keychain multitool probably isn’t your ideal option. While the best multitool for backpacking might include specially shaped pot-gripper pliers on a really lightweight multitool, it may be too specialized for good EDC. Perhaps a smaller pocket multitool or a multitool with a pocket clip would be better suited to everyday use.
To learn more about assessing your EDC needs, CLICK HERE.
Ease of Use
Make sure your multitool is easy to put to work. Fumbling around to get your multitool out of your pocket or to open a commonly used tool is going to end up being really irritating in no time. As such, consider a multitool with a pocket clip.
If you think you’ll be using the bottle opener a lot, make sure that particular tool folds out quickly and easily, maybe even requiring the use of only one hand. When multitools are too difficult to use effectively, they aren’t serving their purpose. Make that tool earn its keep.
Common Mistakes When Buying a Multitool
As with any purchase, it’s easy to be led astray when searching for the right multitool. Oftentimes folks will order what was expected to be their ideal tool sight unseen. When it arrives, they’ll find that it’s overly complicated to use, too large or heavy to carry comfortably, suffers from poor construction and materials, or has a layout that’s difficult to use or just plain inconvenient.
To avoid this, get your hands on as many tools as possible before you purchase. Poke around at your local sporting goods and hardware stores, consult your friends, and even check out an online multitool forum or two.
When you get a chance to play around with some multitools, remember to carefully consider how you’ll be carrying your multitool, what features you expect to be using most often, and whether you’ll really need some of the fancy extras that may be offered. If trying a few multitools in person is not an option, at least make sure you purchase your multitool from a reputable dealer with a good return policy.
Sometimes buying and carrying cool multitools isn’t as fun as it sounds. Keep your head up and remember to consider the law and your bank account before committing.
When you’re purchasing or carrying a multitool, remember to think about where you’ll be traveling. Certain locales have pretty strict laws or statutes regarding knives, including restrictions on blade length, locking mechanisms, or carrying methods. In particular, know that TSA has reneged on their 2013 allowance of small blades on airplanes. As of early 2015, knives of any shape, size, or mechanism are not allowed on planes by TSA.
For folks that still want to be as prepared as possible, never fear: Industry is here! A number of savvy manufacturers have begun offering TSA-compliant multitools. Check out the Victorinox Jetsetter or Leatherman Style PS for bladeless multitool options.
If you’re looking for a cheap multitool, carefully weigh your pros and cons. While the “three-for-one” deals at the Lowe’s checkout counter are tempting, they rarely offer the quality of a proper multitool. If you’re just wanting an extra light-duty toy to use in non-crucial scenarios, then perhaps giving in to consumerism and getting that cheap multitool isn’t such a bad thing.
Your friends here at TBOBG certainly aren’t immune to such temptations, as can be evidenced by the assortment of multitools collecting in every gear box and junk drawer. If you’re going to be using your multitool for real EDC or in the woods or other hard-use scenarios, though, you’re likely better off investing in higher quality tools.
Most well respected multitools are priced in the $40-100 range. This also usually includes a good warranty; Gerber offers a lifetime warranty, and Leatherman is well known for honoring its 25-year coverage. Your wallet might not thank you in the short run, but the performance and durability of a good multitool will well outweigh the short term cost.
That About Does It
You’re now as qualified as anyone to make the final decision regarding your new multitool purchase. Just keep in mind your prospective uses, consider the tool’s abilities and limitations, and enjoy the process. It’s tough to beat the feeling of carrying an entire toolbox on your person at all times, but let’s make sure they’re the right tools for the job.
Do you have a favorite multitool? Which features do you use most often? Have you encountered any drawbacks in quality or design? Let us know in the Comments section below, thanks!