Multitools are a common part of many peoples’ EDC, but choosing the best multitool is not an easy task. When you consider how many poorly-made gadgets there are on the market, it’s understandable that a lot of folks end up with a subpar multitool.
Today I want to compare three of the most popular multitools: the Leatherman Wave, the SOG Powerlock, and the Gerber Center Drive.
I’m not going to get into my personal feelings about multitools in general—if you’ve been reading my reviews on this site for a while, you know my feelings are decidedly mixed—but simply offer what advice I can. If you’re going to carry a multitool, it should be a good one, and these three models from three of the biggest names in the game are all solid choices.
The Leatherman Wave has a substantial tool assortment, including three screwdrivers and separate straight and serrated knife blades, along with a diamond-coated file, saw, scissors and bottle/can opener. It feels sturdy and solid, despite being the lightest of the three multitools in this comparison.
Deployment is a bit convoluted, depending on what you want to access. Some tools deploy from the inside of the handles, some from the outside. Some are accessible while the tool is closed, some are not. Other than the pliers, every tool locks into place, which is definitely a plus.
- Weight: 8.5 oz
- Closed length: 4 in
- Blade length: 2.9 in
- Blade steel: 420HC stainless
- Sheath material: Nylon
- Tool count: 18
Leatherman Wave What Works – The Knife Blade
The blades are standout features of the Leatherman Wave. Dedicated standard and serrated knives mean you can choose whichever one you want, depending on the situation. Both blades are made of decent 420HC stainless steel, which is corrosion resistant and fairly easy to sharpen.
I’m also a fan of the driver assortment on the Wave, particularly the inclusion of the small bit driver, which is the teeny-tiny size one might use for fixing one’s glasses. A lot of the other features, including the saw, file, spring-loaded scissors and pliers, are pretty standard (though the inclusion of replaceable wire cutters within the pliers is a nice touch).
Leatherman Wave What Doesn’t – Deployment
Overall, deployment could be a little easier. Leatherman advertises the Wave as having “one-handed operable features,” which is technically true, but only of a few of the tools (blades included). You’re definitely not going to be opening up the pliers with one hand. Not a huge issue, but something you should know going in.
Offering a set of tools comparable to the Wave but at a lower price point, the SOG Powerlock nevertheless feels a bit more specialized. One gets the impression that it was designed for folks like electricians who truly use their multitools for work. It’s a little bulkier than the Wave and a little heavier, and has some unique tools (awl, wire crimper, “blasting cap crimper”).
The knife blade leaves a bit to be desired, but the pliers are actually quite good. The pliers must be open to access the other tools, all of which deploy from the outsides of the handles when in the open position. The handles also have “wings” that cover the tools, a feature that has its pros and cons.
- Weight: 9.6 oz
- Closed length: 4.6 in
- Blade length: 2.6 in
- Blade steel: 420 stainless
- Sheath material: Nylon
- Tool count: 18
SOG Powerlock What Works – The Pliers
First and foremost, the SOG Powerlock has excellent pliers, which can actually be deployed one-handed, and which offer impressive grip thanks to SOG’s Compound Leverage system. The wings that cover up the tools inside each handle also make it so you can really apply pressure without feeling like the metal is cutting into your palms.
You have to open the wings to get at the other tools, which is a little tedious, but ultimately a worthwhile trade-off. Each tool in the handles locks in place, which is great for safety. Wire cutters are integrated into the pliers, and like the pliers, they’re impressively powerful.
SOG Powerlock What Doesn’t – The Blade
The knife blade on the SOG is a swing and a miss. It’s the smallest blade of the three multitools in this comparison, and it’s made of lower grade steel. It’s also a combination flat/serrated blade which, for me, has less utility that a simple straight edge, and certainly less than the two separate blades on the Leatherman Wave.
Gerber Center Drive
A few things stand out about the Gerber Center Drive in this comparison. It’s the largest and heaviest of the three multitools (also the most expensive) but also has the slimmest assortment of tools. If that sounds like a criticism, not so fast. Sometimes less is more.
The Gerber Center Drive also has a unique pliers design, with jaws that slide upward out of the handle rather than being deployed by unfolding the handles like a typical multitool. Gerber has also gone all-in on the screwdriver feature (hence the name “Drive”) with a 3.2-inch center-axis driver and a set of magnetic flathead and phillips bits.
- Weight: 9.5 oz
- Closed length: 4.7 in
- Blade length: 3.25 in
- Blade steel: 420HC stainless
- Sheath material: Nylon
- Tool count: 12
Gerber What Works – Screwdriver
There’s honestly a lot to like about the Gerber Center Drive. Having a screwdriver that actually works like a normal screwdriver is pretty great, and the fact that the Center Drive is compatible with standard driver bits is a huge advantage. And ultimately, having relatively fewer tools overall doesn’t take away from this miultitool’s usefulness.
Similar to the Leatherman Wave, the Gerber Center Drive also has dedicated flat and serrated knives, one on each handle. They’re made of the same 420HC stainless steel, and the straight-edge blade is also a little bit longer than the Leatherman’s. The pliers offer one-handed deployment with the push of a thumb, and they’re spring-loaded, which is a nice touch.
Gerber What Doesn’t – Pliers
The design of the pliers is a novel feature, but the operation is a little clunky. All of the other tools can only be accessed when the pliers are open, and they open from the outside, which creates a lot of harsh metal edges that are rough on your hands when gripping the pliers tightly. The Center Drive also has a pry bar/nail puller, which is more exciting in theory than in practice.
Ultimately, choosing the ideal multitool depends on your needs. These three tools from Leatherman, SOG and Gerber each have certain features that make them stand out, so let’s see how some of the most important features measure up in a head-to-head comparison.
Best Knife – Gerber Center Drive
The Gerber Center Drive has what I consider to be the best blade out of these three multitools. It’s a solid 3.25-inch blade—the longest of the three, and well above average for multitools in general—and has a fine, slightly curved cutting edge. Ultimately, the Leatherman comes in a close second in this category, with the SOG trailing behind.
Best Pliers – SOG Powerlock
This is a tough one, but I have to hand it to the SOG Powerlock. Thanks to the compound leverage, the SOG has exceptionally strong grip, and the winged handles allow you to squeeze as hard as you need to without any metal parts biting into your palms. The Leatherman and Gerber pliers are adequate, but neither as powerful or as comfortable to use as the SOG.
Best Screwdriver – Gerber CenterDrive
Well, this one is no contest. Not only does the Center Drive have the best screwdriver out of these three, but Gerber’s Drive series of multitools have some of the best drivers I’ve ever seen in multitools across the board. They’re designed so you can actually grip them effectively and use them like real screwdrivers, and replaceable bits are icing on the cake.
Best Saw – Leatherman Wave
I haven’t really talked about saws much, but the Leatherman Wave and SOG Powerlock each have one (the Gerber Center Drive does not). I’d say the Leatherman’s is ever-so-slightly better, but it’s not a blowout. Honestly, multitool saws are almost never good, and I’m tempted to award this category to Gerber simply for choosing not to include one.
Best Scissors – SOG
Scissors are another feature that tends to fall flat in most multitools. Much like the saw, you’ll find scissors on the Leatherman and the SOG, but not the Gerber. I actually like the SOG’s scissors a little better, and I also like that you can opt to choose a version of the Powerlock that has a V-cut tool instead of scissors, which is better still.
Choosing the Best Multitool
Well, we’re coming to the end. If you still haven’t decided which one of these multitools is for you, that’s understandable. Ultimately, none of them are perfect, but they each have some compelling features. Here are some of my final thoughts on these three models:
Get the Leatherman If… You Want A Classic
- READY FOR ANYTHING: A fresh upgrade to our most popular multitool; Now includes premium replaceable wire cutters for tackling jobs tough, big and small for years to come
- INSTANT TOOLKIT: Packs a quiver of 18 tools, including pliers, replaceable wire cutters, wire stripper, knives, saw, spring-action scissors, ruler, can & bottle openers, files and screwdrivers
- 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: You only need one hand to open and use the compact Wave Plus, even the ones that aren’t accessible from the outside
- CUT WITH CONFIDENCE: This pocket-sized classic features all-locking blades that you can trust around the home, outdoors or on the job site
You like the classics. Leatherman is the OG multitool, and the Wave is essentially an improved descendent of the original Leatherman. Also consider it if the knife blade is one of the most important features for you (I know I liked the Gerber’s blade better, but it was close) or if you’re looking for a tool that feels like more of a generalist than a specialist.
Get the SOG If… If Your’re On A Budget
- Multi-tool power lock features 18 tools to help you surmount any challenge ahead of you
- Includes gripper, hard wire cutter, wire crimper, blasting cap crimper, double-toothed wood saw, partially serrated blade, 3-sided file, and more
- Generates greater handle travel for the pliers with compound leverage technology, giving you a stronger grip
- Rapid, single-handed assisted opening for multiple frequently used everyday knife blades and tools
- Made from rugged 420 stainless steel that holds an edge and withstands all your work; Dimensions (L x W x H): 7 x 2.30 x 0.73 inches
You need a specialized, hard-working multitool. SOG multitools tend to be favored by military personnel and folks who work manual labor jobs. And there’s a good reason for that; they’re tough, dependable tools. Also get the SOG if you’re on a budget. It’s the most affordable of these three tools by a significant margin, and it punches above its price range when it comes to durability.
Get the Gerber If… Want A Good Screwdriver
- Closed length: 4.7 inch
- Open length: 6.6 inch
- Weight: 9.5 ounce
- One-thumb opening System
- Fabric sheath included
You like quality over quantity. With a pared-down selection of tools, there’s less here to get in the way. Another good reason to get the Gerber Center Drive is its excellent screwdriver and knife blade. And while I would never recommend a multitool on aesthetics alone, the Center Drive is an artfully designed gadget, so let’s give it points for style too.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.