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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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