This article was originally published in Issue 1 of our magazine.

The truth is that dedicated tools are much better than “jack of all trades, master of none” options. A full-sized version of a screwdriver or a saw will yield better results than miniature versions in just about any job you encounter. But, if space is at a minimum, such as in an emergency backpack or a car's glove compartment, dedicated tools are often impractical and, in most cases, impossible to store due to their large size or heft. In those situations, the necessity of having scaled-down tools quickly becomes apparent.

When pocket-sized tools are bundled together into a single unit, they are most often referred to as multitools. Do-it-all multitools may sound nice, but are they too good to be true? Sure, a 4-inch-long saw will take you some time to saw through a tree branch, but it sure beats not having a saw at all. When you need a tool, having your choice of a few smaller ones is much better than not having any. These pint-sized dynamos may not be the masters of their trades, but they certainly can help you get the job done when you're in a pinch and could possibly be a lifesaver.

Multitools are offered in a large variety of styles, boasting myriad features. With all the different multitools on the market, it can be overwhelming choosing one that fits your needs.

First, you need to think about size and weight. Multitools come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they vary according to design and number of functions. How much space do you have for it, and how much weight are you willing to carry? Sure, they may be relatively small, but opting for the largest one that includes the kitchen sink may not be the best fit for you. There's a saying that “ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain.” There's a lot of truth to that idiom, especially when you are considering this tool for an emergency pack that is already burdened with other supplies that you might have to hump for extended distances.

Next, you want to evaluate and anticipate what your needs are. Some mutlitools are designed with special purposes in mind, such as those made for electricians or sport fishermen, or ones that have been created for use on certain firearms. If you're not planning to do extended work as an electrician, an angler, or an armorer, then you can pass on those models.

multi-tool-lock

Another consideration is the tool's ease of use, safety features, build quality, and material. Some have internal tool locks that keep features such as knife blades and saws fixed, so they don't close on your fingers. Some may feature the use of differing grades of steel, aluminum, polymers, and even titanium. The best way to figure how a multitool feels to you is to actually handle it in person. If possible, go to a local store and cycle through the tools to see how they feel in your hands. Each manufacturer has a different safety mechanism, so trying those out to feel which type you are comfortable with is something to think about, as well.

Let's take a look at the most common features offered on multitools to see which functions make the most sense for your needs.

Primary Tools

Pliers

pliers

Pliers are prominently featured on most multitools. They are great for gripping, bending, and compressing small objects or materials. Pliers come in different shapes, such as flat nose and needle nose. Needle-nose pliers give the user the advantage of a more precise gripping area for small objects. Many pliers found on multitools also include various-sized crimpers, wire strippers, and cutters.

Knife

knife


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Knives found on multitools can be either plain-edged, serrated, or a combination of both. A plain-edged knife is excellent for making what are called push cuts, while serrated blades are prime for slicing cuts. A push cut is where you push the blade through what you're cutting like when you skin an apple. A slicing cut is just that, a pull toward you, creating a slicing motion like that of slicing a tomato. Plain blades tend to dull quicker than serrated blades, but are initially sharper. Serrated blades are great to cut tougher objects like rope. Because what you are cutting, and not the type of blade itself, dictates the best use of a blade, it is best to have both types in your tool, if possible.

Screwdriver

screwdriver-2

Flathead screwdrivers are found on virtually all multitools in different sizes, and their uses are obvious. Although flathead drivers can also be used on Phillips head screws, it's recommended that you use a Phillips screwdriver when possible. Some multitools are equipped with dedicated Phillips drivers.

Saw

saw

You're not going to feel like you should have a saw until you really need it, and if you don't have one, you'll be bummed. Whether you are gathering wood for fire, building shelter, or need to cut thick webbing and rope, there is always something that you can use a saw for.

Can Opener

canopener-2

Nothing would be more frustrating than having a can of food and not being able to open it. Make sure that you choose a multitool that is equipped with one. Most can openers double as bottle openers, too. If you've never opened a can with one of these tools before, we do recommend trying it just so that you are familiar with the operation.

Accessory Tools

accessory-1

This is where selecting a multitool is all about your needs and preferences. Manufacturers pack these things full of tools, such as scissors, files, hex-bit drivers, rulers, and even awls. Take a look at the more specialized tools and consider their usefulness when making your choice.

Choosing a Multitool That Works For You

  • CRKT CRKT Tool

    Make & Model - CRKT CRKT Tool
    Lenth Open - 6.375 in
    Length Closed - 4 in
    Weight - 5.1 oz
    Sheath Type - Ballistic Nylon
    MSRP - $54.99
    URL - http://www.crkt.com
    Features - Utility blade
    Sawtooth blade
    Multi-fit box wrench
    Wire stripper
    Button/spring opening Phillips/flathead screwdrivers with additional driver bits
    Bottle opener


    The CRKT Tool is a great little multi-tool that has both a utility blade as well as a sawtooth blade and even a bottle opener!

  • CRKT Zilla-Tool

    Make & Model - CRKT Zilla-Tool
    Lenth Open - 9.625 in
    Length Closed - 6.5 in
    Weight - 7.4 oz
    Sheath Type - Nylon
    MSRP - $49.99
    URL - http://www.crkt.com
    Features - Spring-loaded pliers
    Wire cutter
    Wire stripper
    Hex-bit driver with flathead and Phillips driver bits


    The CRKT Zilla-Tool is  a large multi-tool that comes with a nylon sheath and has spring-loaded pliers, wire cutters, and wire strippers.

  • Gerber Evo Tool

    Make & Model - Gerber Evo Tool
    Lenth Open - 6.125 in
    Length Closed - 3.94 in
    Weight - 10.25 oz
    Sheath Type - Ballistic Nylon
    MSRP - $49
    URL - http://www.gerbergear.com
    Features - Needle-nose pliers
    Pincher-style wire cutter
    Saw blade
    Cross-point driver
    Fine-edge blade
    Scissors
    Small flathead driver
    Medium flathead driver
    Bottle opener
    Can opener
    Serrated knife
    Lanyard


    The Gerber Evo Tool is a great multi-tool that comes with pliers, cutters, drivers, and openers, as well as a lanyard for your carrying convenience.

  • Gerber Multi-Plier 600 Basic

    Make & Model - Gerber Multi-Plier 600 Basic
    Lenth Open - 6 in
    Length Closed - 4.9 in
    Weight - 9 oz
    Sheath Type - Ballistic Nylon
    MSRP - $65
    URL - http://www.gerbergear.com
    Features - Blunt-nose pliers
    Wire cutter
    Wire crimper
    Fine-edge knife
    Serrated knife
    Cross-point screwdriver
    Small flathead screwdrivers
    Medium flathead screwdrivers
    Large flathead screwdrivers
    Lanyard ring
    Can opener
    Bottle opener
    File ruler


    The Gerber Multi-Plier 600 Basic is a multi-tool with plenty of features, including blunt-nosed pliers, wire cutters and crimpers, and many different types of screwdrivers.

  • Leatherman Rebar

    Make & Model - Leatherman Rebar
    Length Open - 6.25 in
    Length Clsoed - 4 in
    Weight - 6.7 oz
    Sheath Type - Ballistic Nylon
    MSRP - $49.85
    URL - http://www.leatherman.com
    Features - Needle-nose pliers
    Regular pliers
    154CM replaceable wire cutters
    154CM replaceable hard-wire cutters
    Electrical crimper
    420HC knife
    420HC serrated knife
    Wood/metal file
    Saw
    Small screwdriver
    Large screwdriver
    Phillips screwdriver
    Awl with thread loop
    Ruler (8 in / 20 cm)
    Bottle opener
    Can opener
    Wire stripper


    The Leatherman Rebar is a great little multi-tool that comes with multiple pliera, screwdrivers, and knives, as well as wire cutters and crimpers.

  • Leatherman Super Tool 300

    Make & Model - Leatherman Super Tool 300
    Length Open - 7 in
    Length Clsoed - 4.5 in
    Weight - 9.6 oz
    Sheath Type - Ballistic Nylon
    MSRP - $69.99
    URL - http://www.leatherman.com
    Features - Needle-nose pliers
    Regular pliers
    154CM removable wire cutters
    154CM removable hard-wire cutters
    Stranded-wire cutters
    Electrical crimper
    420HC knife
    420HC serrated knife
    Wood/metal file
    Saw
    Large screwdriver
    Medium screwdriver
    Small screwdriver
    Phillips screwdriver
    Awl with thread loop
    Ruler (9 in / 22 cm)
    Bottle opener
    Can opener
    Wire stripper


    The Leatherman Super Tool 300 has a large screw driver, a medium screw driver, and a small screw driver, all in this one multi-tool, plus some other pretty cool features!

  • SOG PowerAssist

    Make & Model - SOG PowerAssist
    Length Open - 7 in
    Length Clsoed - 4.6 in
    Weight - 9.6 oz
    Sheath Type -Ballistic Nylon
    MSRP - $119.25
    URL - http://www.sogknives.com
    Features - Needle-nose pliers
    Straight-edge blade
    Serrated blade
    Wire crimper
    V-cutter
    Hard-wire cutter
    Large screwdriver
    Medium screwdriver
    Small screwdriver
    Phillips screwdriver
    Ruler
    Can opener
    Bottle opener
    Three-sided file
    Bolt grip channel


    Check out the SOG PowerAssist multi-tool, equip with needle-nose pliers, a straight edge blade, a serrated, blade, hard-wire cutter, and much more.

  • SOG PowerLock

    Make & Model - SOG PowerLock
    Length Open - 7 in
    Length Clsoed - 4.6 in
    Weight - 9.6 oz
    Sheath Type - Nylon
    MSRP - $114
    URL - http://www.sogknives.com
    Features - Needle-nose pliers
    Half serrated blade
    Scissors
    Wood saw
    Hard-wire cutter
    Large screwdriver
    Medium screwdriver
    Small screwdriver
    Phillips screwdriver
    1⁄4-inch drive
    Ruler
    Can opener
    Bottle opener
    Three-sided file
    Bolt grip channel
    Blasting cap crimper


    Take a look at the SOG PowerLock that is only 4.6 inches when closed but packs a powerful punch with it's multiple screwdrivers, as well as scissors, a blade, and more.


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Disclosure: These links are affiliate links. Caribou Media Group earns a commission from qualifying purchases. Thank you!

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