Three best multitools

Bob Beacham

Going big isn't always best. A compact multitool is light and slips easily into a bag or pocket. Some are even wearable, fitting around your wrist like a bracelet.

The right multitool is a great camping companion or an invaluable addition to your tackle box or a great device for fixing your bike on the road. It's such a flexible tool that it literally has thousands of potential uses. There are also many to choose from -- and that can make it difficult to pick the right model.

We've put together this multitool buying guide to give you all the information you need to find the perfect one for you. We've also included a few of our favorites to show the range of options and prices.

Considerations when choosing multitools

Some multitools have 20 or more components, which makes them extremely versatile. However, they can also be bulky, and some of them probably include several gadgets you'll never use. The right balance is a tool that does what you need and fits how you're going to carry it. With the enormous variety available, that shouldn't be a problem.

Full-size: These multitools offer the most options, but one can weigh over a pound and be up to ten inches long. Not a problem if you're going to carry it in a toolbox or the trunk of your car, but not what you want in a rucksack.

Pocket: These popular multitools are ideal for many people. Relatively compact and weighing only a few ounces, pocket multitools can still have a dozen or more components.

Keychain: These multitools offer a more restricted feature set, which means you need to focus on the tools you really need. However, like the name suggests, these are very portable. Ultra-slim credit card multitools also fall into this category.

Specialist: There are multitools designed for particular hobbies or occupations. For cyclists, there are compact flat bars with all manner of cutouts. And there are other multitools specifically for cable repair and electrical work. A wearable model consists of a range of sockets, hex keys, and drivers.

Multitool features

There are hundreds of different components available -- far too many to list here -- and what you choose will be very much a matter of personal choice. That said, how the multitool is put together and the additional features are important.

Joints: Joints can be sprung, pinned, or geared. Sprung joints are common and convenient. Geared joints offer a smooth action with a positive interlock that transmits a lot of strength. Both might have indents on the exterior that indicate that parts are replaceable. Simple pinned joints are the budget option.

Material: Stainless steel, particularly high carbon (HC) stainless steel, is the optimum material for a multitool. It's very hard, doesn't corrode, and the blades stay sharp longer. Black oxide is a popular finish, but check that it's still stainless steel underneath and not an inferior material.

Sheath: Leather is attractive and durable, but if you're going to use your tool in a damp environment, nylon (particularly tactical grade) might be a better choice.

Locks: Some accessories, particularly blades, can be locked in position temporarily to prevent them from accidentally closing on your fingers.

Handles: If you're going to be using your multitool a lot, you might want to consider rubberized handles, which improve your grip and are kinder to your hands.

Convenience: On full-size and pocket multitools, a lanyard or belt hook is a useful addition.

Multitool prices: Size, number of accessories, and construction quality will determine the price, which ranges anywhere from $10 to $150. What's important is to concentrate on the components that are most useful to you and not be tempted by fancy additions that have limited real-world value.


Q. Can I change or replace the accessories on my multitool?

A. You can't usually change one accessory for a different one because multitools are designed as an interlinked set. With high-quality multitools, you might be able to replace worn parts, but you'll need to return the tool to the manufacturer to have this done.

Q. Can I carry my multitool onto aircraft?

A. In the U.S., there are some multitools that comply with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines, but many do not. Other countries have different rules. Anything with a cutting blade almost certainly won't be allowed. Putting your multitool in your checked luggage is safest. If you're only taking a carry on, you'll need to verify the specific tool with the manufacturer or airline.

Multitools we recommend

Best of the best: Leatherman Rebar 

Our take: The tool that started it all -- the original Leatherman -- now updated.

What we like: Based on the versatile Pocket Survival Tool (PST), but lighter and more compact. High carbon stainless steel provides unbeatable quality, great strength, and smooth action.

What we dislike: Very little. A few people find the handles uncomfortable.

Best bang for your buck: Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Multi-Tool 

Our take: A very stylish and practical survival-focused tool used by the famous adventurer.

What we like: Superb build quality at a very competitive price. Component set has everything you need for the great outdoors. Survival guide included!

What we dislike: Poor pouch. A bit on the heavy side.

Choice 3: Swiss+Tech Micro Pocket Multitool 

Our take: Proof that sometimes great things do come in small packages.

What we like: Nineteen tools -- most of them of real, practical use -- in a tool the size of a key ring. Robust, stainless steel construction.

What we dislike: No cutting device. Simple pin fixings likely to loosen over time.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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