The Best Multitools

We test multitools against a series of everyday types of tasks to see how they hold up to the title of “pocket toolbox.”

Multitools generally fall into “plier tool” and “plierless” categories. From there it’s worth considering the onboard tool assortment and overall construction to which serve best as light-duty or heavy-duty.

Though the segment seems a little stale right now – in terms of innovation – don’t discount what a good multitool can do for you. A multitool can make a world of difference out on an adventure, or even in your day-to-day life like while sitting in a restaurant only to notice the high chair your little girl is sitting in is loose.

Victorinox invented the original form of the “multitool” in the 1890s when they introduced their Swiss Army knife, a folding knife that had an assortment of other tools built into a compact frame that allowed you to take on multiple tasks. But what we all associate with “multitool” these days is what Tim Leatherman invented in the early 1980s: a pocket tool with pliers that allowed us to perform all sorts of tasks from fixing stuff around the house, to adjusting our cars on the side of the road, and repairing a busted tent in a rainstorm.

Both the Swiss Army Knife and Multitool have seen considerable development and growth in the time since they were invented, and many competitors have jumped on the trend to make like-minded tools bigger and better ever since. Gerber tools made military life easier for American soldiers for years when one was given to them as part of the gear they received upon enlistment. Their claim to fame – and the feature that helped them scoop up market share in the 1990s – was their single-hand deployment pliers which could be opened up with the flick of the wrist.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Leatherman Charge TTi
97
Best in Class
2017
Overall Construction 9
Needlenose Pliers & ... 9
Knife Blades 10
Saw 10
Locking 10
Value 9

Rounded handles make using the pliers or wire-cutters easy on the hands

All tools lock in place

S30V stainless steel knife blade

Titanium handles scales increase overall durability

Small bit driver bits wear quickly

Unless you use the sheath, you probably won’t carry the “Bit Kit” along for your adventures

MSRP
$160.00
BEST DEAL
$169.85
Multitasker Series 3
97
Construction & Mater... 9
Durability 9
Design / Ease of Use 10
Edge Retention 10
Value 9

CNC Machined D2 Needle-nose Pliers

Magnetic Bit Driver + Bits

Full-sized knife blade

Pocket Clip

It’s a purpose-built tool so really suitable only for gun owners

She's a wee heavy

MSRP
$180.00
BEST DEAL
$139.95
SOG Powerlock S60
94
Overall Construction 9
Needlenose Pliers & ... 9
Knife Blades 9
Saw 9
Locking 8
Value 10

“Compound Leverage” needle nose pliers

1/4" Drive

Can be taken apart, reorganized or repaired with ease

Scissors that can cut through 12ga wire—Wow!

Handle covers pop off pretty easily

MSRP
$114.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Leatherman OHT
94
Overall Construction 8
Needlenose Pliers & ... 9
Knife Blades 10
Saw 8
Locking 9
Value 10

Multiple spring-action tools

Handle scales depict which tool is in a particular location

Replaceable Wire Cutters

Strap Cutter

Super Durable Black Oxide Coating on tools

Made In USA

Tool to body clearance is short, makes working in tight places difficult

No scissors

Learning curve to plier deployment

Pliers can destroy the inside of your pocket

MSRP
$120.00
BEST DEAL
$79.85
Leatherman Surge
93
Construction & Mater... 9
Durability 8
Design / Ease of Use 7
Edge Retention 9
Value 10

Bomber Needlenose Pliers

Large scissors

Replaceable Wire Cutters

Large Knife Blades

She’s a wee heavy

Lock on internal tools prone to accidental disenagement

MSRP
$109.00
BEST DEAL
$94.99
Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier
91
Construction & Mater... 7
Durability 8
Design / Ease of Use 8
Edge Retention 9
Value 9

Contoured handles for improved grip and usability

Internal tools can be accessed without opening pliers

Spring loaded needlenose pliers

Built to last

Compact size

Knife and saw blades are a bit undersized

Spring loaded needlenose pliers stopped being springy after torsion testing

Internal tools flex a little when locked

Sheath is a bit flimsy

MSRP
$49.32
BEST DEAL
$35.95
Kilimanjaro Gear Rappel II 910067
91
Overall Construction 8
Needlenose Pliers & ... 8
Knife Blades 6
Saw 9
Locking 10

Spring-loaded pliers/wire cutters

Ergonomic design

Full-sized drop point knife blade

Highly visible handle scales

On-board tools are hard to deploy

Tools do not lock (the knife does)

Wire cutters cannot be replaced

Heavy

MSRP
$39.99
BEST DEAL
N/A
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit
90
Overall Construction 8
Needlenose Pliers & ... 10
Knife Blades 8
Saw 10
Locking 6
Value 8

Contoured handles

The amount of tools for the size

Over-built locking mechanism

The minimal distance between the soft and hard wire cutters

Accessing tools with shorter fingernails can be difficult

Lack of a dedicated plain knife blade

MSRP
$116.00
BEST DEAL
$104.80
Leatherman Signal
90
Overall Construction 8
Needlenose Pliers & ... 7
Knife Blades 8
Saw 7

Overall design and build

Tool can be locked closed

Multiple carry options

Diamond-Coated knife sharpener

Hammer

Ferro Rod doesn’t throw a large spark

Whistle is tricky to use

Parts easy to lose

Cannot be closed when using internal tools

MSRP
$120.00
BEST DEAL
$99.85
Gerber Bullrush
87
Overall Construction 8
Needlenose Pliers & ... 8
Knife Blades 5
Saw 8
Locking 9
Value 9

Sheepsfoot combo-edge blade w/thumb stud opener

Spring-loaded needle nose pliers

G10 Scales

Blade required sharpening out of the box (could be a fluke)

Blade required sharpening after standard testing

MSRP
$69.00
BEST DEAL
$88.84
Kilimanjaro Gear Magnus 910056
86
Overall Construction 9
Needlenose Pliers & ... 7
Knife Blades 5
Saw 8
Locking 7

A true “full-sized” tool

4” combo edge knife blade

Grip handles on pliers

Innovative large saw and file combo

This is not a pocket tool

Difficult to operate pliers with one hand

Wire cutter is blunt

MSRP
$39.99
BEST DEAL
N/A
Gerber Diesel Multi-Plier
84
Overall Construction 7
Needlenose Pliers & ... 7
Knife Blades 6
Saw 8
Locking 6

Adjustable, single hand operation

Good size to weight ratio

Assortment of on-board Tools

Tool pictures on handles

Pliers are not spring loaded

Some on-board tools are hard to access

Tip of pliers sticks out of body

MSRP
$84.00
BEST DEAL
$56.79
Gerber Fit Light Tool
83
Overall Construction 6
Needlenose Pliers & ... 5
Knife Blades 9
Saw 7
Locking 6

25 lumen LED flashlight shines down on the three large locking tools

Aluminum casing keeps the tool sleek, but rugged

Long arm on small flathead and phillips head screwdrivers

Knife blade is razor sharp

Limited to light duty

The weld on the bit driver makes this tool for light duty jobs

Being discontinued by Gerber

MSRP
$41.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Gerber MP 600 Basic
79
Construction & Mater... 7
Durability 6
Design / Ease of Use 5
Edge Retention 9
Value 2

The tool array covers all basic needs, without un-necessary filler tools

Durable

One-handed opening needlenose pliers

Lightweight

Designed to work hard, not look pretty

Black-oxide coating comes off on your hands and pocket

Pliers require fine-tuning to open properly

Tools cannot be accessed unless you open the pliers

Tool lock is susceptible to clogging

MSRP
$72.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Leatherman Charge TTi

After a weekend of hardcore playtime, I am convinced the Charge TTi is worth every penny. I threw everything I had at it and it didn’t flinch. Be warned, if you’re looking for a multi-tool for a random around-the-house job or quick camping trip, this is not the right tool for you. But, if you’re like me and you need a hardcore multi-tool that you can count on daily, all while treating it horribly, this is the best one out there. (A personal aside: after 3 years with the Leatherman Wave, the Charge TTi will now take its place in my left hip pocket).

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How to Select the Best Multitool for You

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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.

Glovebox Tool

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.

Backpack Carry

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.

Belt Carry

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.

Pocket Carry

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.

Construction

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?

Ergonomics

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.

Cost

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.