It would be ideal if you could tote around a chest full of tools with you everywhere you go, so that you’d always have the right tool for the right job at all times. The cold, hard reality is that hauling around a metric ton of tools with you every second of the day just isn’t feasible. So what options does one have to stay prepared when an unexpected need arises?
Multi-tools are (for the most part) self- contained units that are packed full of pocket-sized tools that can be deployed at a moment’s notice. As you already well know, proper tool selection is crucial when tackling any job. Selecting the right multitool for your purposes is no different. When shopping for the right multi-tool, it’s good to focus on what you’d potentially need to use it for first.
Multi-tools have gone a long way since they were first introduced. Back then, they were little more than beefed-up pocketknives.
Today, multi-tools are built to cater to many different genres of use. You’ll most commonly find general-use multi-tools that feature popular tools, such as pliers, knives, nut and screwdrivers. Diving a bit deeper, you’ll also find more specialized multi-tools dedicated to everything from electrician’s work, fishing, gardening, crafts, firearms and even a model made specifically for bomb disposal.
Having a multi-tool (or two) packed in your daypack, and in your glove box, can really save the day. Whether you’re using it to help replace a broken part or to extract a painful splinter, having the right multi-tool on hand gives you infinitely more capability than if you find yourself without one.
Let’s take a look at 10 multi-tools that could help us out when we’re off the beaten path. Some of these are more traditional in shape, form and function, while others are a bit more unique. Perhaps you’ll find your next multi-tool in this guide.
HIGHLIGHTS Made with nature in mind, the Zebra wood-handled Pocket Harvester includes tools for an outdoor lifestyle, including a wood saw and shearing tool that can be used to gather twigs and small branches for fire starting. It also has tools that are suitable for plant pruning, and other food and water-scavenging uses.
WEIGHT 10.9 ounces
CLOSED LENGTH 4.6 inches
TREAD’S TAKE If you need gardening-style shears, and size is not a consideration, you’ll want to take a good look at the Pocket Harvester. It is bulky but sturdy, and comes with a nylon carry pouch.
HIGHLIGHTS Designed for the ease of one-handed deployment and operation, the Bivy multi-tool really shines when your other hand is already in use. Designed by Hans Florine, a world-record-holding speed climber and expert rigger, he outﬁtted the Bivy with a six-inch combination blade, spring-assisted pliers, Phillips and ﬂ at screwdrivers, and a marlinspike.
WEIGHT 7.7 ounces
CLOSED LENGTH 4.12 inches
TREAD’S TAKE If you ﬁ nd yourself needing to access a muti-tool while holding something in your other hand, or if you happen to be one-handed, you’ll want to look into the well-built Bivy. It does take some getting used to however.
HIGHLIGHTS Nineteen tools, including general-use tools, such as needle-nose pliers, wire cutters, a hammer, box wrenches; it also has more specialized tools, like a shaped diamond-coated sharpener for keeping your straight and serrated blade sharp, ﬁre-starting ferro rod, and an emergency whistle. Includes nylon sheath.
WEIGHT 7.5 ounces
CLOSED LENGTH 4.5 inches
TREAD’S TAKE The Signal is built solidly, and its tools are easy to open and use. It has all the essentials along with emergency survival tools, which make it nice to have when traveling into the backwoods.
HIGHLIGHTS The Reactor’s strength is its powerful Compound Leverage geared pliers, and hardcased, black-coated stainless-steel assisted opening blade. The blade can be locked in place for safety. It also contains a total of 10 tools, including a magnetic quarter-inch hex-bit driver, needle-nose pliers, bolt and nut gripper, wire crimper, and more.
WEIGHT 3.8 ounces
CLOSED LENGTH 3.8 inches
TREAD’S TAKE The Reactor is simple to use and its ﬁt and ﬁnish are top notch. We ﬁnd the “short” handle to be on the small side, but it still gives adequate leverage to get most jobs done.
HIGHLIGHTS The aptly named Multi-tool is your basic general-use multi-tool that includes essential tools, like a knife, screwdrivers, pliers, a saw, ﬁle, and more. It has an aluminum frame to keep it lightweight, and a locking mechanism that ensures the tool in use stays in the open position until the job is completed. It includes a nylon carrying pouch.
WEIGHT 8.7 ounces
CLOSED LENGTH 4.1 inches
TREAD’S TAKE This is your standard issue, no-frills multi-tool with a very affordable price. Its knife and saw are not all that sharp but should work if you’re in a pinch.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the May-June 2017 print issue of Tread Magazine.