Once you decide if you need pliers or not, multitools are actually quite easy to pick. Our testing is to see if they’re durable and reliable, and find most are. The real issue is finding out which onboard tools you need. Some companies fill them up with extra screw drivers, while others give you an external bit driver – the trade-off being extra tools you may never use either way. But that’s half the fun of getting into a multitool; figuring out what you can and can’t use it for.
1. What Will You Be Using the Multitool For?
This is a bit of a trick question as half the fun of owning and carrying a multitool is seeing if it can complete a spontaneous task that you happen upon: tightening a screw, disconnecting a car battery. But in all reality, you have to look at it as if you really need pliers or not, and from there you can start to trim the fat off of the collection of tools out there.
Do I Need Pliers?
Having pliers on a multitool is what makes it a true multitool, in my mind. However, it can lead you down a rabbit hole of tasks. For example, do you do any house wiring? Because almost all multitool pliers come with wirestrippers. What are you really going to use those pliers for? A sliver? Pulling a nail out of a piece of wood. I bring these things up, because pliered multitools are bulky, plain and simple.
Do I Need All of These Onboard Tools?
Leatherman does a great job of addressing tool selection by making a variety of multitools that are similar in form, but eliminate or add a tool here and there. Though they don’t currently categorize their tools for “mechanic,” “electrician,” or “weekend warrior,” their lineup certainly addresses those people indirectly. But for those brands withouth as many categories, don’t worry, we have you covered.
2. Is This Going to Be a Tool You Carry Every Day?
The fun of having a multitool is always having it with you because they are usually used in the most spontaneous of situations – like pulling splinters out of your hand in the breakroom at work. That said, you may be able to add on a few extra perks in terms of what tools are available depending on how you plan on carrying it. This is probably the best way to determine how much you’re willing to spend on a tool as well.
Though a lot of people carry multitools on them, day to day, others stash them in the glove box of their car. This option allows you to pick out something big and bulky that may have way too many tools on it for everyday carry, but makes it the best glovebox or backpack tool. In this case, you’ll always go with a pliered multitool.
If you’re picking up a multitool to throw in your backpack and use it when the chance arises, then it’s almost like picking out a tool for your glovebox. However, because your backpack tool may be used in more outdoor settings where you may not have the option of a full toolbox, you want to pay more attention to the onboard tool assortment as well as the overall size. These too will almost always be pliered.
Carrying a multitool on your belt is probably the best way to carry one as it’s easy to retrieve when you need it and you can have those few extra tools, or even in a separate bit case that fits in the sheath, without having to worry about bulk.
Here’s where the multitool game gets very interesting. As I said, multitools are bulky and a lot of them come with tools you may never use. If you go with a light duty tool, it’ll slip into your pocket unnoticed, but might not be able to perform hearty tasks. If you go with a plierless tool, which could also slip into your pocket and be forgotten until needed, you may be in a jam if the situation arises where you need pliers.
3. Okay, But Can I Really Rely on it For Those Hardcore Tasks?
At some point in the decision process, you need to ask yourself when was the last time you removed a rusted bolt or actually did any mechanical work, because those are the two tasks which would require you to upgrade to a bigger, bulkier tool. So, part of my job is to make sure they can do these types of tasks for those of you who want a tool up for the job.
Most multitools are press fit, or screwed together with specialty bolts. In both cases, this renders the tool unrepairable, especially out in the field. So, if you’re forced into a tool that’s been factory set and factory fixed, the question is whether it will stand up to your abuse? It’ll have to, won’t it?
The saying the “devil is in the details” may just have been coined over someone cutting their hand or pinching their skin on a multitool that doesn’t have rolled edges on its handles. The handles are where the onboard tools are generally stored. In some tools, you need to open the handles, as if you were going to use the pliers, to access them. In others, the onboard tools are on the outside. In these cases, under duress, you can cause some serious pain to your paws if the edges haven’t been rolled. Ask anyone who owns the original Leatherman PST.
The bigger and badder the tool, the more money it’s going to cost you. I’ve personally tried them all, from cheap knock offs to the cream of the crop, and in most cases the more expensive tools are the ones that will not only get the job done, but will last the longest. However, that’s not always the case. I carry the least expensive Leatherman in their lineup and I love it the most, for me.
4. Have You Considered a kKnife and Multitool?
Over the last few years, multitool manufacturers have jumped on the knife blade train in an attempt to make their multitools more appealing. In these cases, they’ve upgraded the knife blade steel or even the wire cutter steel in an attempt to stave off corrosion, premature blade dulling, and generally charge a few dollars more. But do you need an upgraded knife blade on your multitool, or a separate knife all together?
If You Want One Tool to Rule Them All
This could be a major deciding factor. A knife on a multitool will never perform as well as a knife on its own, but you may not need it to. So this is where you would spend the extra money to make sure the knife blade was up to snuff.
If You Plan on Carrying a Knife and Tool
This is the category I fall into and because I carry both a knife and multitool and thus rarely use the knife blade on my multitool. As someone who relies on a knife for many different things, throughout his day, I find that a pocket knife or belt knife is just easier to use over and over again.
5. Can it be Cleaned Easily?
This may seem like a silly thing to bring up, but just like the tools in your toolbox, your multitool needs to be cleaned so it can function properly. This is especially critical for the tools riding around in your pocket all day, where lint and grit can creep into the crevasses and, worst case scenario, block the locking mechanism on one of the tools from locking properly. Don’t believe me? I’ll show you the scar where my brother’s thumb was split in half.