How to Buy a Multi Tool

“Multi-tools are everywhere.

They offer a head-swimming array of functions, and are available in an equally wide quality range. I’ve been known to criticize multi-tools on occasion, but there are some great ones out there as well as plenty of bona fide duds. 

And they’ve been around for a long time! Ever since Tim Leatherman—yes, that’s his real name—dropped the O.G. Leatherman Pocket Survival Tool in 1983, they’ve become omnipresent. But Multi-tools really date back to 1891, when Karl Elsener invented what would come to be known as the Swiss Army Knife. These days, finding the best multi-tool, the right multi-tool, isn’t always easy.

Here’s what you need to know, and what you should look for, if you’re wondering how to buy a multi-tool.

Size & Carry

One of the first considerations to mull over is what size multi-tool you want. Another is how you’d like to carry it, and as you might have guessed, these two factors are closely related. 

Ultimately, you’re not going to want to carry a giant multi-tool in your pocket, and you probably don’t want to toss a teeny-tiny one in a backpack, because it will just get lost. The types and number of functions also influence the size of the multi-tool you should get, but we’ll get into that a little further down the line.

For now, we can break most multi-tools down into three basic size categories: 

Keychain Multi-Tools

So yeah, pretty self-explanatory. Keychain multi-tools are small enough that they can be carried on your keychain, or similarly attached to the zipper pull of your backpack. The general perception of these pint-sized multi-tools is that they lack the utility of larger models. And while it may be true that they have fewer and smaller tools than some larger multi-tools, they often turn out to be some of the most frequently-used, in part because they’re so easy to carry that they’re always with you. 

Pocket Multi-Tools

Pocket multi-tools are middle-of-the-road options, and probably the most popular category of multi-tools. They offer a nice compromise between utility and portability, and the best ones give you a wide range of functions while still being compact enough to comfortably carry in your pocket. 

Belt Multi-Tools

These are the big daddies. Belt multi-tools are larger, more heavy-duty, and often come with a wider range of tools than any of the smaller multi-tools. Some of these might technically be small enough that you could carry one in a roomy pocket, but in general they’re so heavy that you wouldn’t really want to. They typically come with some type of hip holster or sheath that makes them easier to tote around.

Identify Your Needs

Here’s another important question to ask yourself: why do you want a multi-tool? Or, to put it another way, what are the tasks that you really need your multi-tool to accomplish? It might be a good idea to jot down a quick list of your “needs” and “wants” before you start adding things to your shopping cart. 

You might need a particular set of functions to match your profession, especially if you’re an electrician, a carpenter, a plumber, a mechanic, or anyone else who works with their hands a lot. On the other hand, you may already have all the dedicated tools you need for your actual job, and just want a jack-of-all-trades multi-tool. 

Think about your hobbies too. They make multi-tools for cyclists, multi-tools for fishermen, and multi-tools that are aimed toward just about every niche market there is. These are great options if you need something that is finely tuned to a specific purpose, but remember that their features may or may not really be all that different from some of the more generalized multi-tools you could buy.

 

Sale
Berkley Fishing Multi-Tool, Red
  • Spring-loaded for easy one-handed use
  • Corrosion-resistant stainless steel construction
  • Includes needle-nose pliers, crimper, wire cutter, hook file with v-groove, jig-eye cleaner, crank bait tuner, 2-inch ruler, scissors, fish scaler, and Phillips/flat head screwdriver
  • Corrosion resistant stainless steel
    Spring loaded pliers handle for easy one hand use
    Needlenose pliers, crimper, wire cutters, hook file with v-groove, jig-eye cleaner, crankbait tuner, 2 in ruler, scissors, fish scaler, phillips head screwdriver,

Quality Vs. Quantity

I’ll make this as simple as I can: when faced with a choice between quality and quantity, choose quality. In the context of buying a multi-tool, that means don’t be wooed by tools that promise a multitude of functions.

“I’d rather have a multi-tool that does three or four things well than one that does 100 things badly.”

Multi-Tool Vs. Real Tools

I’m a strong believer in using the right tool for the right job whenever possible. For me, that means that if I have the option to reach for something other than a multi-tool, I probably will. My typical EDC includes a folding knife and a set of pocket-size Knipex Pliers, which eliminates the need for two of the most common multi-tool features. Of course, you have your own specific needs, and it doesn’t really matter what’s in my pocket.

My point is, don’t worry too much about finding a multi-tool that has absolutely everything, especially if you already have access to a particular tool.

If, for example, you need a specific size hex wrench for making bike repairs, it might make more sense to simply carry that size wrench in addition to your multi-tool rather than looking for a multi-tool that includes hex wrenches. 

Pliers Or No Pliers?

The Leatherman is the original pliers-based multi-tool, and the majority of the multi-tools you’ll see today are based around the folding pliers design. A firm dividing line can be drawn between multi-tools that include pliers, and those that don’t. 

So, do you want a multi-tool with pliers? Unless you’re somebody like me who already carries around a pair of pliers, the answer is probably “yes.” Having a set of pliers integrated into your multi-tool can be incredibly handy, especially considering that most multi-tool pliers also include a wire-cutting tool. 

When you buy a multi-tool with pliers, consider the type of pliers you want. Needle-nosed pliers are handy for grasping small items in tight spaces, but broader pliers often give you a stronger grip. Think about the configuration of the multi-tool as well. Pliers-based multi-tools in which the other tools open up from the inside of the handles are often more comfortable than those that open from the outside. 

And of course, if you don’t want pliers, you have plenty of options without them. The classic Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is an iconic example of a great multi-tool that gives you plenty of functionality sans pliers. Gerber has also gotten into the no-pliers game with their Armbar Drive Multi-Tool

Blade Or No Blade?

Not all multi-tools have a knife blade, but most of them do. It’s probably the most common multi-tool feature, but also one of the most redundant because so many people already carry a folding pocket knife. Most dedicated pocket knives are also better than the blades that come on an average multi-tool. 

Basically you have three choices when it comes to blades on multi-tools: 

  1. Get a multitool without a blade.
  2. Get a multi-tool with a crappy blade. 
  3. Get a multi-tool with a good blade. 

I’ll tell you right now, option 2 is the most common. Far too many multi-tools have blades that are too small, too hard to access, made of low-quality steel, and just generally aren’t great. And look, if you carry a good pocket knife and are okay with a multi-tool that has a cheap “beater blade” that’s a perfectly valid choice. But I’m going to advocate for choosing either option 1 or option 3 instead. 

There are plenty of good reasons to get a multi-tool without a blade. If you already carry a knife, going bladeless allows you to shed some weight and focus on the tools you really need. Plus, many blade-free multi-tools are TSA-approved, so you can even fly with them. You know, in case somebody asks you to fix the plane. 

If you do want a blade on your multi-tool, make it a good one. At the very least, pick a blade of a usable length and that isn’t made of total bottom-of-the-barrel steel. If you can’t find out what kind of steel a particular blade is made of, chances are it’s not good. 

Most Leatherman multi-tools have 420HC stainless steel blades, which are at the very least corrosion-resistant and easy to sharpen. True premium steel blades are hard to come by on multi-tools, but the Leatherman Charge+ TTi is one that has a blade made of S30V, which is really good stuff.

Avoid BS

In recent years, multi-tool manufacturers have been getting more creative with the ways they integrate stranger and stranger features into their multi-tools. Sometimes too creative. All I can say is, avoid BS. It’s often pretty easy to spot. If a multi-tool has a flashlight on it, walk away. If it looks like this, run.

The Top Leatherman On Amazon Right Now:

Bestseller No. 1
LEATHERMAN, Wave+, 18-in-1 Full-Size, Versatile Multi-tool for DIY, Home, Garden, Outdoors or Everyday Carry (EDC), Black
  • A Leatherman for Everyone: For the last 40 years, Leatherman has been empowering millions to conquer the expected & unexpected, transforming everyday challenges into triumphant moments
  • Engineered to Withstand: From our Portland, Oregon factory and backed by our 25-year warranty, our multi-tools are built to last a lifetime, embodying the innovation & perseverance of our founder, Tim Leatherman
  • Our Best-Selling All-Rounder: From household fixes & DIY pursuits to gardening and exploring the outdoors, Wave+ helps you do it all; Weighing just 8.5 ounces, this pocket-sized tool is perfect for everyday carry
  • A DIY Must-Have: This multi-tool empowers you to DIY like a pro; Includes tools like a saw, easy-to-use spring-action scissors, a ruler & more to help you conquer any DIY project, big or small
  • Ready for Anything: A fresh upgrade to our most popular multitool; Now includes premium replaceable wire cutters, so you can keep using this professional-grade multi-tool for years to come
Bestseller No. 2
LEATHERMAN, FREE P4 Multitool with Magnetic Locking, One Size Hand Accessible Tools and Premium Nylon Sheath and Pocket Clip, Made in the USA
  • Premium Multi-Tool Experience: Introducing the P-Series, our most advanced multipurpose plier experience to date; A brand-new platform, magnetic closing and outside-accessible tools
  • Effortless Access: The Premium Nylon Sheath keeps your multi-tool within reach; Crafted for durability and quick access, ensuring your tools are protected and ready for immediate use
  • Enhanced Portability: The removable pocket clip and premium nylon sheath allows for choices in carry options; Securely attach the P4 to your pocket or belt, making it accessible and easy to retrieve
  • Innovative Magnetic System: The P4 features a revolutionary magnetic locking system; Reduces friction and provides haptic feedback; Smooth, quick access to tools, ensuring reliability and ease of use for all your tasks
  • Leatherman Legacy: With a 25-year warranty, Leatherman products promise unmatched quality and durability; Proudly made in the USA, we support your adventures and projects with innovative, reliable multi-tools
Bestseller No. 3
LEATHERMAN, Wingman Multitool with Spring-Action Pliers and Scissors, Stainless Steel with Nylon Sheath
  • ONE OF OUR BEST: A classic, designed and assembled with premium materials; The Wingman is your go-to tool for projects around the house, on the job or at the campsite
  • 14 TOOLS IN 1: Equipped with 14 tools to handle almost anything: knife, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, a wire stripper, scissors, a package opener, bottle and can openers, a file and a ruler
  • OUR GUARANTEE: We’re proud to stand behind every product that leaves our factory in Portland, Oregon; That’s why we offer our 25-year warranty, so you can be confident your Leatherman lasts a lifetime
  • ONE-HAND OPENING: Open all the tools with one hand, even the ones that aren’t accessible from the outside; And with a locking blade, you can cut with confidence
  • ALWAYS ON HAND: With its compact size, lightweight design and removable pocket clip, your Wingman is always within reach and ready to work
Bestseller No. 4
LEATHERMAN, Skeletool CX, 7-in-1 Lightweight, Minimalist Multi-Tool for Everyday Carry (EDC), Home, Garden & Outdoors, Paradise Blue
  • A Leatherman for Everyone: For the last 40 years, Leatherman has been empowering millions to conquer the expected and unexpected, transforming everyday challenges into triumphant moments
  • Engineered to Withstand: From our Portland, Oregon factory and backed by our 25-year warranty, our multi-tools are built to last a lifetime, embodying the innovation and perseverance of our founder, Tim Leatherman
  • Best of Both Worlds: A great pick for anyone new to multi-tools, the Skeletool CX is a pocketknife with extra capabilities; Includes a sharp straight-edged blade, pliers, bit driver, wire cutters and a bottle opener
  • Everyday Companion: Weighing just 5 ounces, this slim and ultra-portable tool is perfect for everyday carry; A lightweight day-tripper, the Skeletool CX is easy to bring with you on camping and hiking adventures
  • Designed for the Outdoors: Rugged, light and perfectly functional for the outdoor minimalist; The Skeletool CX provides the core essentials, whether you’re opening a beverage or cutting paracord to reinforce your tent
Bestseller No. 5
LEATHERMAN, Rebar Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters and Saw, Coyote Tan with Nylon Sheath
  • An icon updated: Inspired by Tim Leatherman’s original PST, the Rebar features all-locking tools, 100% stainless steel construction and removable wire/hard-wire cutters
  • 17 tools in 1: The Rebar’s bounty of tools include knives, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, an electrical crimper, a wire stripper, bottle and can openers, a file, a saw, an awl and a ruler
  • Our guarantee: We’re proud to stand behind every product that leaves our factory in Portland, Oregon; That’s why we offer our 25-year warranty, so you can be confident your Leatherman lasts a lifetime
  • Stronger design: The Rebar pliers have been optimized for strength and feature replaceable wire/hard-wire cutters—a first for a 4-inch tool from Leatherman
  • Always on hand: Compact, lightweight and made for just about any job around the house or job site, your Rebar is always within reach and ready to go
SaleBestseller No. 6
LEATHERMAN, Signal, 19-in-1 Multi-tool for Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Fishing, Survival, Durable & Lightweight EDC, Made in the USA, Topographical Print
  • A Leatherman for Everyone: For the last 40 years, Leatherman has been empowering millions to conquer the expected and unexpected, transforming everyday challenges into triumphant moments; Proudly made in the USA
  • Engineered to Withstand: From our Portland, Oregon factory and backed by our 25-year warranty, our multi-tools are built to last a lifetime, embodying the innovation and perseverance of our founder, Tim Leatherman
  • Outdoor Champion: The ultimate outdoor tool, Signal is designed for camping, hiking, fishing and more; A compact and portable EDC, Signal provides convenience and preparedness for the everyday
  • Your Adventure Buddy: Designed to help you thrive in the outdoors; Includes a built-in fire starter; Anchor your tent stakes with the hammer, crimp fish hooks with the pliers or use the safety whistle to signal for help
  • Toolbox Simplified: Combines 19 tools, including pliers, wire cutters, knife, saw, hammer, can opener and more into a compact 4.5-inch size that weighs a mere 7.5 ounces to fit in your pocket or backpack
SaleBestseller No. 7
LEATHERMAN, Surge, 21-in-1 Heavy-Duty Multi-tool for Work, Home, Garden, DIY & Auto, Stainless Steel with Premium Nylon Sheath
  • A Leatherman for Everyone: For the last 40 years, Leatherman has been empowering millions to conquer the expected and unexpected, transforming everyday challenges into triumphant moments
  • Engineered to Withstand: From our Portland, Oregon factory and backed by our 25-year warranty, our multi-tools are built to last a lifetime, embodying the innovation and perseverance of our founder, Tim Leatherman
  • Powerful Workhorse: Built to handle tough jobs, the Surge is one of our biggest multi-tools featuring our largest pliers and longest blades; Crafted to meet the needs of electricians, mechanics, plumbers, construction workers and other professionals
  • King of Multitasking: From household fixes and DIY pursuits to crafting and gardening, Surge is your trusty companion for everyday tasks and professional projects, alike
  • Interchangeable Saw Blade/File: The saw is great for bigger tasks like cutting branches to clear out your yard; For precision jobs such as smoothing edges or trimming wood down to the right measurement, swap out the saw for the file
Bestseller No. 8
LEATHERMAN, Bond Multitool, Stainless Steel EDC Tool with 420HC Blade and Nylon Sheath
  • Tackle everyday problems with a lightweight multitool inspired by the original Leatherman; 14 essential tools in one easy-to-carry and compact design
  • Includes pliers, a durable 420HC non-locking blade, wire strippers, a set of standard screwdrivers and more; A great choice for first-time tool buyers or as backup to your standard gear
  • We’re proud to stand behind every product that leaves our factory in Portland, Oregon; That’s why we offer our 25-year warranty, so you can be confident your Leatherman lasts a lifetime
  • Ergonomic, contoured handles give you a comfortable grip as you work; Made from stainless steel and weighing a mere 6.21 oz, the tool feels at home in the palm of your hand
  • Keep your tool attached with our pocket clip (sold separately) or use the ring to string it onto your lanyard to help keep it close; Nylon sheath included
Bestseller No. 9
LEATHERMAN, Rev Pocket Size Multitool with Package Opener and Screwdrivers, Stainless Steel
  • A TOOL BOX IN YOUR POCKET: A small but versatile and high-functional multitool with the essentials and more; Put it to the test under the hood, at the campground or around the house
  • 14 TOOLS IN 1: Needlenose and regular pliers, hard and regular wire cutters, wire stripper, knife, package opener, wood/metal file, can and bottle openers, ruler, Phillips screwdrivers and more
  • OUR GUARANTEE: We’re proud to stand behind every product that leaves our factory in Portland, Oregon; That’s why we offer our 25-year warranty, so you can be confident your Leatherman lasts a lifetime
  • ONE-HAND ACCESS: With the Rev’s outside-accessible tools, you can get the job done quickly and effortlessly; With all-locking blades, you can cut with confidence
  • ALWAYS ready: With its compact size, lightweight design and removable pocket clip, your Rev is within reach and ready to work
Bestseller No. 10
LEATHERMAN, Skeletool, 7-in-1 Lightweight, Minimalist Multi-tool for Everyday Carry (EDC), Home, Garden & Outdoors, Black/Tan
  • A Leatherman for Everyone: For the last 40 years, Leatherman has been empowering millions to conquer the expected and unexpected, transforming everyday challenges into triumphant moments
  • Engineered to Withstand: From our Portland, Oregon factory and backed by our 25-year warranty, our multi-tools are built to last a lifetime, embodying the innovation and perseverance of our founder, Tim Leatherman
  • Best of Both Worlds: A great pick for anyone new to multi-tools, the Skeletool is a pocketknife with extra capabilities; Includes a sharp blade, pliers, bit driver, wire cutters and a bottle opener
  • Everyday Companion: Weighing just 5 ounces, this slim and ultra-portable tool is perfect for everyday carry; A lightweight day-tripper, the Skeletool is easy to bring with you on camping and hiking adventures
  • For Home & Garden: From opening a beverage can with the bottle opener to tightening a loose screw or cutting open a bag of mulch in your garden, this multi-tool comes in handy in multiple ways every single day