Three Keys to Finding Your Next Multitool

A top-quality multitool can save the day when tackling odd jobs far from civilization.

Gerber Multitool
Multitools are ideal for whenever you need to make quick fixes without your toolbox.Gerber

A good multitool can help you solve many problems in a variety of situations. For the outdoorsman or woman, in fact, a multitool is nearly a must. With so many different types available in a wide range of sizes and innumerable specialized blades, you should be able to find the perfect knife for you with a little research. The key to choosing the right one is knowing how big a multitool is best for you, and how you plan to use it.

Size

Gerber Dime Mini Multitool
At only 4.25 inches long when opened, this small multitool can handle many tasks while being easier to carry than a larger model.Gerber

The size of a multitool is important for a couple of different reasons. First, is how much space you have for it to carry around. Even though most models are relatively small, a large one might not fit into your pocket with the other things you normally carry. Of course, if you plan to carry it in a belt sheath, you can go with a larger model. But you still have to consider how much weight you are willing to carry. A multitool that is so heavy in your pocket that it is a nuisance might also pull your belt down just enough to not be comfortable for constant carry. In truth, size is a tradeoff with multi-tools. To make the best choice, decide what is the largest you can comfortably carry with you that you won’t be tempted to leave at home. Then, find one that size or smaller that has the features and tools you really want or might need during your outdoor activities.

Usage

Leatherman Wave Plus Multitool
This general-purpose multitool has tools ranging from pliers and wire cutters to small scissors and a saw.Leatherman

Once you’ve determined the size of the multitool you need, next you’ll need to figure out how you plan to use it. If you plan to carry it instead of a selection of screwdrivers, you’ll want several screwdriver blades—both flat and Phillips—in at least a couple of different sizes. Most devices also have pliers, and if you’re going to use yours for more intricate work, a pair with more of a needle nose will serve you best. A good wire cutter blade is also important, and for those who do much electrical work, a wire stripper is a welcome addition. For even more versatility, a driver for interchangeable bits is another good feature to have in a multitool. Regardless of your usage, scissors are always a plus, and you’ll likely use them way more than you think you will.

Blade or No Blade

Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier
This multitool has three cutting blades—a straight knife blade, a serrated knife blade and a saw for cutting small limbs and other objects.Gerber

Most multitools have at least a cutting blade or two, and for many uses that’s expected—even needed. However, some people prefer their multitools to not have a blade for a number of good reasons. Since the blades are typically of fairly low quality compared to a real knife blade, many aren’t much good at cutting. Additionally, the way you have to grip many of them renders them pretty much unusable for cutting anything substantial, and some are even dangerous because of the way they are made to be gripped. Also, while some multitools without blades are allowed in sports arenas and government buildings that restrict knives, those with blades are always excluded anywhere knives are banned. This can leave you without any tools to address a problem when one might be needed. The same goes for municipalities or other government entities that restrict the carry of knives but allow multitools without knife blades.