If there’s one tool that you should always have with you, it’s a tool that is actually 20 tools in one. Multi-tools have graduated from an unknown contender in the world of tools to a coveted place in the world of “everyday carry,” or EDC. But with so many options on the market these days, which one do you pick? We’ve rounded up a few of the best multi-tools from well-known manufacturers, plus two you may have never heard of.
Now 34 years old, Portland-based Leatherman is a fixture in the industry and has been making high-quality tools of all shapes and sizes. Some of the brand’s multi-tools have pliers, some have knives, and some even have hammers.
The latest creation is the Signal, which is built for the outdoors, specifically hiking, camping, and survival. The 19 separate tools on board include the standard pliers, blade, saw, bottle opener, and a couple of box wrenches, but unique to the Signal are the removable tools. A shaped diamond-coated blade sharpener slides out to help maintain the straight and serrated blades on the go. An emergency whistle pops out from inside should you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. If you can’t make it back and have to spend the night, pull out the fire-starting ferro rod for sparks. Building a shelter? Use the hammer end to bash in those tent pegs.
There are always trade-offs with multi-tools. You get many tools in one, but those tools are often smaller and harder to access. The Gerber Center-Drive aims to get rid of specialized screwdriver bits and awkward two-handed operation. The 3.2-inch driver with full-size bits folds out with one hand, aligning along the center of the tool instead of out to the side, which increases torque and rotation. The driver is also magnetic so you don’t lose anything.
Spring-loaded needle nose pliers slide out with a quick flick on the rail system, getting rid of the need to unfold with two hands. The 3.25-inch straight blade is also easily accessible with one hand. You’ll also find a pry bar with a nail puller, bottle opener, awl, file and serrated blade.
Sometimes, having more tools is better. Thanks to 21 tools and a 12-bit hex bit kiton, you’ll be able to do almost anything with the SOG PowerAccess Deluxe. Fold open the stainless steel tool to get access to needle nose pliers, a gripper, and wire cutters. With SOG’s compound leverage gear system, you get twice the cutting and gripping power.
Of course, there’s also a saw, serrated blade, can opener, awl chisel, and ruler on the side. Each component locks when fully extended. Hidden in the center joint is a protractor, so there’s no excuss for being off on your angles. A nylon sheath holds the Deluxe and all the bits.
For a more utilitarian, EDC product, you need a Lever Gear Toolcard Pro. The tiny multi-tool fits right in your wallet — or you could use an optional, removable money clip and replace your wallet completely. Forty tools are included on the Toolcard Pro, from screwdrivers to pry bars to cord cutters to a protractor. It’s TSA-compliant so you can take it with you on the plane and fix all your problems while traveling. Well … maybe not all your problems.
From the wallet-sized Toolcard Pro we go to the heavy duty, 3.2-pound Combar Pro. Construction is a mixture of titanium, stainless steel, and aircraft-grade aluminum.
The standard version of the Combar has an empty magazine inside the handle to store whatever you need; the pro version has a knife with a 4.5-inch stainless steel blade and saw with a 9-inch replaceable blade. Both options include fold-out pick, spade, and axe. Every component is developed according to U.S. military specifications.
The Combar Pro is available for pre-order on Kickstarter after surpassing the fundraising goal by over 400 percent; delivery is slated for December 2018.
Article originally published September 22, 2016. Last updated June 21, 2018.