If you often encounter the unexpected, like to be prepared for any situation, or fancy yourself a real-life MacGyver—the type of person that waltzes in to save the day, with your tool kit in miniature at the ready—then chances are you carry a multitool. These implements have come a long way from the Swiss Army knife you dreamed of as a child. Today there are dozens, from a slew of manufacturers, some with more than 20 tools/functions. We called in a batch to see how well they work. Take a look below at some things to consider when buying your next one, then scroll down to see the results of our test.
The Best Multitools
- Best Overall: Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X
- Best Serrated Blade: Gerber Truss
- Best Mid-Size Multitool: SOG PowerLitre
- Best Driver: Gerber Center-Drive
- Best Saw Blade: Leatherman Wave+
- Best Pocket Knife Multitool: Gerber Armbar Drive
- Best Value: RoverTac 12-in-1 Multitool
- Best Pliers: SOG Powerlock
- Easiest Tool Access: Leatherman Free P2
- Best Key Chain Multitool: Swiss+Tech Key Ring
- Widest Plier Jaws: Gerber Dual-Force
What You Need to Know
Multitools are designed to fill in when carrying a full tool box isn’t practical—and they can definitely get you out of a jam. However, not all multitools are created equal, and even among the best, some of the individual tools may not work as well as you’d hope. When brands try to pack greater functionality into a limited amount of space, compromises must be made. This might mean there’s room for only one screwdriver, or that it isn’t positioned for optimal use. When buying, prioritize which tools are most important to you and select a model where those are well designed and function appropriately.
How We Tested
During testing, we performed tasks to utilize every tool or every function of each tool on each model. How well they did earned them a score on a scale of one to five, and then we calculated the average of all scores to determine how that model stacks up against a mythical ideal multitool. Note that, in their descriptions, manufacturers often count different capabilities of a specific tool individually to arrive at a higher number of “tools.” For example, pliers may be counted three or four times if they can function as needle-nose pliers, regular pliers, wire cutters, and/or wire strippers. In our scoring, we counted these as one, since the functions are often performed by one regular, full-size tool.
In our test, we cut rope, twine, lamp wire, 14-gauge indoor branch circuit wire, maple saplings and branches, paper, and plastic—we also stripped the wire we cut and crimped electrical connectors. With the pliers, we gripped, squeezed, twisted, and turned various bits of hardware. We carved white pine boards and maple branches. We opened bottles, cans, and shipping packaging. We disassembled and reassembled an old British carburetor, an electrical junction box, and a standard three-prong outlet. Finally, we filed wood, metal, and even our own fingernails. No tool was left untouched.
After all that was said and done, we averaged the recorded scores, noted our impressions, and made our final judgements. Below, you’ll find the best multitools available, some surprising values, and maybe a cautionary tale.
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X Multitool
Fresh out of the box, the SwissTool Spirit X impressed us with its fit and finish. The tools are packed into the frame very closely, like scientific instrumentation. All the tools—save one—deploy from the outside of the frame. You need to open the SwissTool only to use the pliers, which eliminates wasted time fiddling with opening and closing it repeatedly if Victorinox had placed the 22 tools/functions on the inside. For the record, the company claims 24, but one is a coupling for a corkscrew that doesn’t come included with this model, and the other is a point to connect a lanyard. We’re not faulting Victorinox for this, though, because the tool is still great without counting those.
While the needle-nose pliers with wire cutters, scissors, standard screw drivers (in three sizes), and the can opener were good, it was the other tools that really impressed us. This is the first multi we’ve tested that has a metal saw. The teeth run along the edge of the file, so we didn’t expect much, but it cut through mild steel hardware surprisingly well. And the file itself did a nice job cleaning up the edges when we were done. The Phillips screwdriver shank flares out at the end, so that all four points on the head are the same size, making for very solid engagement. The wire stripper and scraper both work effectively. Although we usually resort to using wire cutters as strippers, this open-sided notch, when used as a stripper, is sharp enough to quickly spin around a wire and pull back the insulation. The Spirit X’s bottle opener is made from wider stainless steel stock, which keeps it flatter on a bottle cap, helps it engage more securely, and makes it less likely that the tip cuts into the cap. The combination reamer-punch efficiently opens up holes in wood, leather, and soft metals, and is capable of drilling holes through 3/4-inch pine board.
One last thing to note, the Spirit X is plus or minus one ounce lighter than several other multi-tools with similar spec lists.
BEST SERRATED BLADE
Gerber Truss Multitool
The Gerber Truss is a burly multitool, thicker and wider than many others. Because of that, this isn’t a tool to slip in a pocket; we appreciated the nylon sheath for carrying it on a belt or a pack strap. It was initially a little tight too before we broke it in. But we didn’t mind—it’s preferable to a tool that’s too loose. Security comes from the very strong magnets that keep the Truss closed, which is useful if you prefer to hang it on a lanyard through the dedicated hole on one end. And we liked the two-sided lock release and quickly became adept at pulling it down with our thumb and index fingers.
As with several other models here, all of the tools—except the pliers—are accessible from the outside of the tool frame, which we always appreciate. In use, the handles open, snap securely into place, and make for a very sturdy-feeling pliers with spring-loaded jaws that open easily on their own. In testing, we liked how the grip facilitated manipulating wires as we were making electrical connections. The Truss has an anvil-style wire cutter, rather than a bypass, so the cutting surfaces meet at the point when the pliers close. This forces the wire apart, rather than shearing through it, which doesn’t cut as cleanly but is stronger and works better on hard wire. The three sizes of flat screwdrivers worked well, covering the range of screws we encountered while taking apart the carburetor. We noticed the one Phillips driver had crisp edges that engaged well in screws both smaller and larger than it was intended for. Both the serrated knife blade and the saw were very sharp, and between the two easily cut the string, twine, rope, saplings, and wood. The can and bottle openers both performed well, and with the scissors—despite their small size—we were able to cut out intricate shapes from paper and light cardboard.
BEST MID-SIZE MULTI TOOL
SOG PowerLitre Multitool
This Powerlitre exhibited a buttery-smooth action that was so pleasing, we could barely stop playing with it. Its main pivot is a geared compound leverage mechanism that opens in perfect symmetry. This makes it easy to use the hex driver, inserting the bit between the two pivots just before they close completely. Squeezing the tool frame closed, a latch on the opening end maintains pressure on the jaws holding the bit securely in place—which works amazingly well, although you do need to supply your own hex bits.
SOG calls this a mini multitool, and the Powerlitre is about two thirds to three quarters the size of most tools of this type. It’s one of the few pliers-based tools we can tolerate carrying in a pocket. A large clip on the body keeps it secure at the lip, so you won’t be fishing for it deep in there. The narrow pliers worked very well in testing, and we found the ridged surfaces of the jaws gripped things firmly. The bypass wire cutters did a great job cutting and stripping 14-gauge copper wires, and the crimper on the opposite side of the pivot—although small—was effective.
One side of the frame features five tools, including a narrow knife blade, a hook cutter, a flat jewelry-sized screwdriver, an awl, and a cork-screw. All of these performed better than average, and though we like the tiny screwdriver, it wasn’t quite small enough for some eyeglass screws. The opposing frame includes scissors, a bottle opener, a small Phillips screwdriver, a can opener, and the latch that holds the tool frame closed. These all worked as expected, although we had trouble at times engaging the outer lip on certain cans with the can opener.
Gerber Center-Drive Multitool
Gerber set out to solve two main issues with multitool screwdrivers: being too short to reach into tight spaces, and the off-center driver making turning screws a bit harder. The Center-Drive was the company’s answer.
It has a 3-inch hex bit driver, which, when folded out, aligns with the center of the tool, making spinning the tool easier and preventing the frame from banging into the side of whatever you’re working on with every revolution. If you have to screw or drive fasteners often, you’ll love this feature. While there’s a bit holder in the tool, the sheath has a separate pouch to hold extra bits. The other unusual feature is the slide-out pliers, with replaceable three-sided blades for the wire cutter. We did notice a little play in the pliers and sliding mechanism—we had to knock it a little for that—but the pliers, cutters, and wire stripper did work well enough. Both plain and serrated knife blades were quite sharp and capable of carving and cutting into wood and branches. The bottle opener was effective, although it did cut into the cap a little due to its slim width.
Other than the plain knife and driver, the other tools require sliding open the pliers and pulling them out from between the handles, which is awkward at times. The included sheath facilitates slipping the Center-Drive over a belt or through a backpack strap.
BEST SAW BLADE
Leatherman Wave+ Multitool
The Wave+ is a capable tool with 18 functions. One of the best is the needle-nose pliers, which tapers to a fairly fine point to get a grip in tight spaces. It also features replaceable edges on the wire cutters and has smooth, rounded edges on the handles. The cutters are effective on fine telephone wire or 12-gauge copper wire, as well as harder steel bailing wire.
If cutting through wood is important to you, the saw blade is up to the task. As for maple branches and scrap 2 x 3-inch lumber, it hewed cleanly through both. The cutting edge is wider than the trailing edge of the blade, so as the blade slices into something the sides don’t drag on the sides of the kerf. The plain and serrated knife blades were quite sharp—there wasn’t a task they couldn’t handle. While the standard file was adequate, we found the diamond-coated one specifically worked very well for fine jobs, like smoothing burrs on metal edges.
The Wave+ has two screwdrivers, one large and one small. The bits on both are reversible, with standard and Phillips tips on opposite ends. The smaller bits are perfect for emergency eyeglass repair; the larger will work for many average screws. We found the scissors worked well, although they were a little finicky when opening or putting them away—they need to be opened completely to store, rather than closed. Overall, the Wave+ is a competent multitool when it comes to all manner of cutting, grabbing, and screw driving.
BEST POCKET KNIFE MULTITOOL
Gerber Armbar Drive Multitool
When companies don’t try to cram a ton of tools or functions into one multi, there’s more room for what they do include, and the quality often goes up as a result. This is the case with Gerber’s Armbar Drive.
We have to admit to becoming quite fond of it, with its svelte minimalist frame featuring three main tools. As a pocket knife-based multitool, it features a full 3-inch, locking plain blade. Although it isn’t the sharpest right out of the box, it was keen enough to cut cleanly through, paper, plastic, rope, twine, and steak, and was adequate for some whittling. The side opposite the blade features a hex bit driver and scissors. The driver features a reversible bit in a magnetic holder—we love this because you get legit flat and Phillips screwdrivers that just plain work, no compromises. The scissors are a bit larger than those found on other models, and were easy to control cutting out intricate shapes from paper to medium cardboard. Between the scissors and the driver is a sharp, narrow awl. We were able to use this to drill holes in wood and plastic, but it works well, as intended, to poke holes through leather and canvas.
Rounding out the Armbar’s eight functions are a nice bottle opener that pivots of the end of the tool frame, a pry bar using the bottle opener flipped over, and a hammer using the wide base of the bottle opener. In the traditional sense, the hammer isn’t what you’d expect, but it provides a solid flat bit of metal for striking things. And who among us hasn’t hit something using a tool as a makeshift hammer?
RoverTac 12-in-1 Multitool
Rovertac’s 12-in-1 initially caught our eye because users on Amazon rated it 4.5 stars, and we wanted to test some less expensive options. While it might be a little bulky and heavy, we have to admit it’s a decent value. We don’t expect it to hold up to heavy use, but in a “save your butt” kind of capacity, most of the tools functioned acceptably. The long-nosed pliers worked reasonably well, as did the wire stripper, and we rated the wire cutter four out of five. The can and bottle openers worked OK, as did the various screwdrivers. RoverTac claims the tool includes a saw blade, but it’s more like a serrated knife, which worked—just not great. The plain knife blade was sharper than it looked and easily cut through rope and twine. The RoverTac multi-tool comes with a sewn nylon sheath to attach to your belt.
SOG Powerlock Multitool
The SOG Powerlock features a clean, smooth design with rounded edges and tool frame covers. We were able to open it with one hand and found it very comfortable to hold. The 18 tools to choose from include five for fasteners: three sizes of flat screwdrivers, one Phillips screw driver, and a 1/4-inch square drive to accept sockets (not included). The 1/4-inch driver can be oriented 90 degrees from the tool body for more leverage, but the frame cover has to be popped off to use it this way.
The Powerlock has true needle-nose pliers machined down to a nice point, the jaws of which meet very tightly and accurately, making it easy to grip small things. The wire cutter and stripper also work very well, earning a 4.75 overall for the pliers. Most of the other tools performed up to snuff, with the bottle opener, can opener, awl, scissors, and ruler all scoring four. The partially serrated knife was very sharp and cut through several materials easily. The saw blade was a surprise—its aggressive teeth made quick work of maple tree branches. We liked the simple-to-operate locking system, although fishing the tools out from under the frame cover was occasionally awkward. The Powerlock comes with a sewn nylon sheath that can clip on your belt while you’re wearing it, as opposed to being strung on your belt as you put it on.
EASIEST TOOL ACCESS
Leatherman Free P2 Multitool
The Free P2 is built with tight tolerances, evident in its smooth opening and closing action. You can open it with one hand, and it makes a gratifying click as the handle locks in place. A nice feature of the P2 is tool accessibility; all of the implements are accessible without opening the pliers. In fact, the only reason to open the tool is to use the pliers. We rated the pliers—with their tight pivot, strong grip, and replaceable wire-cutting blades—4.5 out of 5. The wire stripper, included on the medium screwdriver, only really worked on wire of a specific size. However, the notch for hard wire worked well up to 12 gauge.
A typical gripe of ours with can openers is that a wide tool frame can interfere with the can. But on the P2, the opener is the last tool on the row, so it’s perfectly positioned for clearance. The scissors cut well and were easy to manipulate while snipping intricate shapes, while the combination plain/serrated knife blade was extremely sharp. Three flat screwdrivers were adequate, with the largest being made of thicker material to resist twisting. The Phillips screwdriver is good on a wide range of sizes, and its flat stock folds into the tool frame smoothly. Finally, magnets ensure the frame stays closed when you want it to.
BEST KEY CHAIN MULTITOOL
Swiss+Tech Key Ring Multitool
Swiss+Tech’s diminutive multitool boasts 18 functions—the brand claims 19 tools, but one is an extension of the ruler, so we only counted it once. That’s still a large number of functions for a tool intended to hang on a keychain. If you’re in the market for a small multitool, don’t let the relatively low score of 3.5 scare you away. While it couldn’t perform as well as some of the full-size multis given its size, it’s a sacrifice for the sake of portability. We chose to include this tool because of the number of very positive reviews it has received from consumers that purchased it. As a keychain tool that you’ll have with you just about all the time, it does come in quite handy, even when it isn’t an optimal tool for the job.
On to the tool functions, the pliers have several features baked in. At the front, there are two hex shapes within the jaws for 1/4 and 7/16 hex head hardware, both of which work acceptably as long as the hardware isn’t excessively tight. We realized that the 1/4-inch hex could also be used to turn quarter inch hex bits, opening up several other types of fasteners the tool could be used for. At the back of the pliers is a small wire cutter and stripper—our 14-gauge copper wire was a bit big for the cutter, but we managed to get through it and strip the insulation off. The wing-like handles that swing out feature three each of number 0, 1, and 2 flat and Philips screwdrivers. In addition, there’s a tiny threaded screw-hole starter, great for making a little hole in wood that helps you with the hardest part of running a screw into wood. The last features are the standard and metric rulers. Alas, these don’t have any values on the tick-marks, so you’ll have to be familiar with taking measurements for them to be useful.
WIDEST PLIER JAWS
Gerber Dual-Force Multitool
With its wide frame and large plier jaws, the Dual-Force is a beast of a multitool. You can open the pliers and slip the pivot to spread the dual-position jaws extra wide to grab large fasteners or objects. The jaws feature three separate gripping areas: two for large or small round objects and one for gripping flat things. We appreciated the versatility in these new pliers, they hold well in a variety of situations.
One of our favorite things about the Dual-Force is that all the other tools are accessible when the pliers are closed, making it easier and faster to use. The Dual-Force also features Gerber’s Center Drive axis bit holder with two Phillips and one plain screwdriver bits. We regard these among the most useful multi-tool screw drivers available, although they are sometimes difficult to use in tight spaces.
The Dual-Force is rounded out with a large knife, a saw blade, and a three-sided file. These are all similar in form and function to those found on other Gerber multitools. The knife blade is reasonably sharp right out of the box, and we easily cut through thick rope with it. We used the saw blade to cut both green and dried-out sticks and branches with relative ease. We were able to use the file on both wood and metal, although it was more suited for the metal. Finally, the Dual-Force comes with a nylon sheath—good because we found it a bit too large to drop in a pocket.
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