Are you looking to replace your old multi-tool or are you a multi-tool newbie curious about your options? The marketplace has come a long way since Tim Leatherman invented the first multi-tool in his garage back in 1983. The number of choices and types we now have to choose from is almost staggering. Well, we’ve gone through the many different options of multi-tools out there to present what we think are the best in each category.
I’ve carried a variety of multi-tools over the years and it seems like I have one stashed in just about every place I will need one – my truck, my toolbox, my backpack, my keychain, and yes, sometimes my pocket. Each has a slightly different purpose, and because of that, each is a different type. There are basically three types of multi-tools: knife based, pliers based, and one-piece tools, and these types fall into four basic categories heavy duty, full-size, pocket-size, and keychain.
By far my favorite multi-tool on the market, the Leatherman Skeletool CX is a pocket-sized tool that checks all of the right boxes and is perfect for everyday carry. It’s lightweight and can easily slip in and out of your pocket with the included pocket clip. Best of all, you only need one hand to open and use all of the tools, even the ones that aren’t accessible from the outside. The Skeletool CX features a large bit driver, a 154CM steel knife, carabiner that does double duty as a bottle opener, needle nose pliers, regular pliers, hard-wire cutters, and wire cutters. All with Leatherman’s 25-year warranty.
We also recommend picking up Leatherman’s set of their proprietary bits to fit the included bit driver; you can get them separately or as a bundle with the Skeletool CX, a nylon sheath, and a bit drive extender.
If you are looking for something with a partial serrated blade, the Leatherman Skeletool has the same great design of the Skeletool CX and is a tad bit cheaper; the only downside is lower quality blade steel.
If you are looking for a traditional multi-tool, you can’t go wrong with the Leatherman Charge+ TTI. The Charge+ TTI is an upgraded version of the original Charge that was introduced back in 2007, and combines higher quality steel, titanium handles, and some of the most requested features. Need a tool? The Charge+ TTI probably has it. Check out this laundry list: needle nose pliers, regular pliers, premium replaceable wire cutters, premium replaceable hard-wire cutters, electrical crimper, wire stripper, S30V steel knife, 420HC steel serrated knife, saw, spring-action scissors, cutting hook, ruler (8 in|19 cm), can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, diamond-coated file, large bit driver, small bit driver, and medium screwdriver.
Fairly new to the market having just been released in the last couple of years, the Leatherman Free P4 is an all-new design for Leatherman. No more two-handed fumbling to open a knife or any of the other tools – all of the included tools are accessible with the handles closed and can easily be opened with one hand. My only complaint is that even though the P4 includes a flat driver and a Phillips head driver, it doesn’t include the more useful bit driver. That being said, ease of use wins out.
With a closed length of 2.75 inches, the pint-sized Gerber Dime is small enough to fit on your keychain, but still has 10 useful tools. The best part in my opinion? The bottle open can be used even when the tool is closed.
Compact and airline safe, the Gerber Shard packs a lot of punch for such a small package. The stainless-steel Shard includes a small and medium flat driver, Phillips head driver, wire stripper, pry bar, bottle opener, and lanyard hole, and has a titanium nitride coating to protect against corrosion. I’m partial to the Shard with the black finish, but it also comes in silver.