Five Best Multi-Tools

If you carry around a multi-tool in your bag or pocket for quick fixes, you're in good company. This week we're taking a look at some of the best available — the ones that pack useful tools, are still portable, and offer great value. Here are five of the best, based on your nominations. Photo by Mark Tighe.

Special Note

The Hive Five is based on reader nominations on the Lifehacker US site. This week, the votes were overwhelmingly for the same brand: Leatherman. In fact, Leatherman multi-tool models weren't just the top five, they were the top six, and if we extended out, they'd take 11 of the top 20 slots. So here's what we're going to do: We'll highlight the five most popular Leatherman models, and include a sixth category here for some of the other models that fell short.

Leatherman Wave

The Wave is probably Leatherman's most popular tool. It packs 17 different tools in one body, including multiple screw bits (Phillips #1-2 and Screwdriver 3/16", Phillips Eyeglass Screwdriver and Flat Tip). It hasa stainless steel body, and every one of the Wave's 14 tools can lock in place firmly for comfortable use. Among its myriad tools are a knife, a serrated knife, a pair of pliers, a saw, scissors, a bottle opener, a can opener, a wire stripper, and many more. It's large enough to be used comfortably with one hand, but small enough to be portable.

Leatherman Skeletool/Skeletool CX

The Skeletool and Skeletool CX are smaller, lighter Leatherman multi-tools that feature fewer specific tools, but are lighter, more portable, and small enough to go on a keychain or keep in your pocket. The Skeletool and the CX both sport seven tools, including both needlenose and standard pliers, two sets of wire cutters, a knife, a screwdriver with a single bit, and a combination carabiner clip and bottle opener. The CX features the same tools, but the blade uses a slightly different type of steel and is completely smooth, while the handle features a black carbon fibre insert.

Leatherman Squirt ES4/PS4

If you want a-tool that is small enough to go into your pocket without you noticing it at all, the Leatherman Squirt is incredibly tiny, but still packs a decent number of tools. The Squirt comes in two flavours, the ES4 and the PS4. The ES4 is a slightly larger, 13-tool model that features spring-action needlenose pliers, wire strippers, and wire cutters. You also get a knife, a pair of scissors, a screwdriver, a file and a bottle opener. It's seriously tiny, only about 7cm when closed, and it sports a ring so you can keep it with the rest of your keys. The ES4 brings the number of tools down to nine by removing the multi-gauge wire strippers. Otherwise, they're the same, and available in multiple colours.

Leatherman Charge TTi

The Leatherman Charge TTi is one of Leatherman's full-sized tools, so it's definitely more suited to a bag rather than a pocket. The Charge TTi features 19 tools, including a wood and metal file, a diamond-coated file, needlenose and standard pliers, two different types of wire cutters, a knife and another serrated knife, a saw, a cutting hook, a bottle opener, a can opener, and eight different screwdriver bits (Phillips #1-2, Screwdriver 3/16", Screwdriver 1/8" and Torx #15, Hex 5/32" and 9/64", Hex 1/8" and 7/64", Hex 3/32" and 5/64", Hex 1/6" and .050", Square Drive #1 and #2, and Eyeglass Screwdriver). The body is stainless steel, features a lanyard ring and a quick-release ring, and all of the tools and blades lock for one-handed use. It's a seriously powerful tool.

Leatherman Micra

The Micra is one of Leatherman's smallest multi-tools, but it still manages to pack in 10 different tools in a tiny package. It's under 7cm closed, available in different colours, and packs Leatherman's best spring-action scissors available. Beyond that, the Micra also includes a lot of personal care tools, such asa nail file, nail clippers, tweezers, a knife, three screwdrivers, a ruler, and a bottle opener.

Alternatives: Swiss+Tech Multi-tools, Victorinox SwissTool/CyberTool, SOG PowerAssist/PowerLock, Gerber Diesel

Since the top five was absolutely dominated by Leatherman models, we wanted to devote some space to some of the other great multi-tools available, such as the various multi-tools by Swiss+Tech, like the 19-in-1 Micro-Max, the 6-in-1 Utili-Key and the 8-in-1 Utili-Key. All of its models are small enough to go on your keyring.

We also wanted to mention Victorinox's SwissTool and CyberTool, which many of you nominated because of Victorinox's reputation for well-crafted products. Both the CyberTool and SwissTool are product lines, so you can pick the multi-tool that has the number of individual tools and the form factor that you're looking for. The SwissTool is generally regarded as a more all-purpose, multi-purpose tool, while the CyberTool has features that are aimed at someone who'll need to do repairs on PCs and other tech.

Another tool that scored a number of mentions was the SOG PowerAssist, a good-looking multi-tool that makes extending the blades and one-handed operation super-easy. Start to open any of the tools and the device takes over, extending them for you and locking them in place for safe operation. The PowerAssist is a full-sized tool with well over a dozen different tools on board, including a three sized file, a screwdriver, two different blades, a V-cutter, wire crimper, and many more. It comes in different finishes and metal types so you can pick one that works for you.

Finally, we should mention the Gerber Diesel, an affordable and flexible multi-tool that's from the manufacturers of our much-loved Gerber Shard. The Diesel packs needlenose and standard pliers, a wire cutter, a partially serrated blade, screwdrivers, a can opener, bottle opener, and more, all in a slim package that slides into a pocket or easily into a bag. It's worth a look.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Tell us, and tell us why, in the comments


Comments

    If you carry around a multi-tool in your bag or pocket for quick fixes, you’re in good company.

    Might want to mention the legalities of doing so

    EDIT: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/soa1988189/s11c.html

    Last edited 10/06/13 2:13 pm

      There are no legalities. They're not illegal to own or carry in any way.

      There are, however, stupid places to take a multitool, like a pub on a Friday night.

      If common sense prevails, then the nanny state will have to reason to ban yet another valuable tool.

        I wasn't aware of any legalities either, I carry one with me every day to work! Super useful.

        They're not illegal to own or carry in any way.

        http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/soa1988189/s11c.html

          If you read that through, the carrying of a multitool is NOT illegal. I carry mine each and every day. I've even spoken to my local Police and they told me "If I use common sense, there's no issue". Taking it to a pub is stupid - there's no reason to have it there at all, unless you work there and are using the bottle opener, and you're in uniform.

          Having it in my pocket at the supermarket is not, since under that law

          "(2) Without limitation, it is a reasonable excuse for the purposes of this section for a person to have custody of a knife, if:
          (ii) the preparation or consumption of food or drink,"

          I could be using it to slice up the apple I just bought.

          @smithy_dll - In the Herald Sun article there was no mention of multitools at all. It is irrelevant to this discussion. The whirlpool conversation mirrors more or less what I was told by my local police. Don't be an idiot, and there's no problem.

          As far as I'm concerned - Anyone stupid enough to carry a knife for 'self defence' if a moron and deserves to be stabbed.

            I could be using it to slice up the apple I just bought.

            So you carry around an apple all the time?

              Do you ask stupid questions all the time? How did asking that progress the discussion?

                He's right, though - you'd need to either be cutting the apple at the time, or be able to prove that you were on your way to cut an apple when you were picked up (or on your way directly home from an apple-cutting excursion) - the burden of proof is on the carrier.

                That the police told you that doesn't really matter at all - considering what they will do to nick you for any reason if they want to pick you up, the only responsible basis for judgement is the law itself, which is pretty clear. In short, it's illegal to carry around a knife 'just in case' you might need it.

                  "I used it to peel an apple I've just finished eating."
                  There you go, problem solved.

                  Great. Show me the exact place the apple skin is, sliced by a knife and we're done!

                  Ah - So you figure you could get away with it ... on a peel?

                mvyrmnd, your questions are actually less productive than henry's. If you genuinely couldn't work it out, the purpose of the previous question was to highlight that one would need to carry an apple every time they carried a knife. However I imagine you were probably just being rude to make yourself feel better about something. Hope it worked.

                Incidentally, a NSW detective once gave my mum that exact advice - carry an apple and you can get away with carrying a knife.

                Last edited 12/06/13 4:39 pm

        As someone who has been fined for carrying a multitool before, in my pocket while walking down the footpath of a street in an industrial area, I can assure you they are absolutely illegal to carry unless you are either carrying out a valid activity that reasonably requires it, or are directly on the way to or from such an activity without diversion. The fine I got was $550 at the time, so nothing to shrug at either. Police will use whatever discretion they want, but the law is fairly clear.

        i wasnt aware common sense existed anymore...

      Turns out it's a legal grey area. The advice seems to be responsible.
      http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/1624595
      http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/special-features/dont-gasp-these-knives-were-found-in-the-cbd-and-they-can-kill/story-fn5da6zx-1225853817089

    This just made me dig out my old Leatherman P4 that I've had since I was 10. I might give it a sharpen and get back to using it now. :)

    As an AV tech, it is pretty mandatory to carry a multitool, but I have only owned a cheap leatherman which was a gift. I was really hoping for a comparison between brands, not a product list from the most overpriced and underwealming ones available.
    I have found the gerber superior in both pricing and warranty, and I would use it everyday - just never loan a multitool to anyone - they rarely come back

    I've had Leathermans break on a couple of occasions (though they do have a lifetime guarantee, so I should get round to getting them replaced). The Gerber Multiplier I've had for about 20 years is far more robust and, when I bought it, was far more comfortable to use than any Leatherman and I believe that may be what lead to Leatherman changing their design so that you could squeeze the plier without the tool digging uncomfortably into your hand. The SwissTech keyring things are also pretty good, I was given a few of them as a gift a few years back and there's usually one on my keyring.

    I have a sog powerassist. I'm surprised more people don't use them. I have been able to cut through some stuff that I didn't think would be possible because of the "compound leverage", which is basically gears on the pliers.

    where do I buy one??
    my wife is in the US right NOW!
    cheaper to bring back here???

      Bunnings now sell them and also many LockSmith stores

    I carry a cable stripping knife around a fair bit, i use it at work and usually forget it's in my pocket. No-one has ever said anything about it and damn they are sharp little buggers.

    You can't beat Gerber for quality and durability. The top 5 is probably only made up of Leatherman as that's the most common brand that people associate with multi-tools. A bit like asking someone what's the best mobile phone and they say Iphone...cos it's popular, not necessarily the best.

    I carry one every workday, in schools. Gasp! It is completely legitimate to carry one, as long as you don't look like a lout, don't openly use it in any questionable way and just use some common sense. It won't bother most police officers if their initial judgement of you is that you are a regular law abiding citizen.

    Seems strange that some people are debating about the legality of carrying a knife. The legislation talks about needing a reasonable excuse and self-defense is not a reasonable excuse. There are only some situations that are reasonable (as per the legislation). However, if you are caught with a knife, and the officer doesn't believe your reason, then they are able to charge you. The burden of proof is on you to convince the officer. Of course, if the matter goes to court the judge may agree with you, but I would prefer to avoid taking matters that far in the first place. I agree with what some people are quoting from local police - "don't be an idiot and you'll be ok" - not because it's not illegal to carry it, but because if you're not being an idiot, there's no reason for the police to check if you're carrying a knife.

    does no one remember the poor girl who got charged with possession of a concealed weapon referring to her work branded coles group limited box cutter ON HER WAY HOME from work?

      That and the fact that she was probably young and walking in a high crime rate area where assaults with a cheap box cutter by teenage girl gangs .Rather than use an expensive leatherman multitool that could pay for mobile phone credit.

      Box cutters are common in assaults than you think yet they sell them as a liner lock knife in places like super cheap auto etc .

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