Best Survival Multi Tool Reviews for 2021: Top 6 Picks Hands-On

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By Bryan Lynch •  19 min read

Truth be told, a multi-tool is not something that you have to have. Over the years I have had numerous conversations with people as to the validity of carrying a multi-tool. While I have run into people who downright don’t care for them or think they have no use, most people seem to like them and it fills a purpose for them. In case you are unfamiliar with what a multi-tool is, it is an item that houses several different tools in one frame in order to give the user as many options as possible.

Best survival multi tool reviews

For example, instead of just carrying a knife, the multi-tool will usually have a knife, pliers, saws, scissors, etc. Of course, the term multi-tool is quite general and some of them may not have any of the tools listed above. It all depends on what that particular multi-tool is geared towards.

Personally, I love multi-tools and have been carrying one for as long as I can remember. They come in handy in both urban and outdoor environments. For normal everyday carry they are incredibly convenient and for a survival situation they give you a large tool selection in a small package. But like any piece of gear it has its ups and downs.

When selecting the best survival multi tool there are several factors that must be taken into consideration before clicking ‘add to cart’. At a quick glance, here are our top picks:

MULTITOOLS DETAILS
  • Majority of the tools are common and popular.
  • Two knife blade options.
  • Built to last
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  • Very affordable.
  • Not overly packed with tools.
  • Lanyard hole is a nice touch for keeping organized
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  • Comes with a good amount of tools.
  • Built tough
  • Very user friendly.
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The Pros and Cons of Multi Tools

Pros

Cons

What To Look For In A Multi-Tool

Types

Multi-tools have come a long way and there many, many different kinds out there. There are ones that are small and fit on a keychain. For ultra-compact models there are credit card style multi-tools that easily fit inside of a wallet. There are shovels that remind me of transformers and can turn into spears or advertised as hacking through glaciers. Then there are multi-tools that are very specific in their use, such as ones made for the bicycle enthusiast.

The tools on these are really only for bicycle maintenance and repair (although if need be, with a little imagination I’m sure they could be used for other purposes) This article will primarily be focused on plier based multi-tools. These seem to be the most popular and the most useful for the majority of people.  

Quality

When people have asked me for gear recommendations in the past, I have often told them to ask themselves a few questions first. Like, what am I using it for or am I really going use this? For multi-tools this helps to determine a couple of things for the user. Having a high quality multi-tool makes sense for someone who works in field where tools are part of their everyday life.

Whereas, say, a librarian could get by without using one or at least one where the quality really doesn’t matter. You can purchase a cheap keyring multi-tool at your local gas station or spend hundreds of dollars for a big brand name one. What you are going to use it for determines the quality you need. About the only time I would suggest buying a high-quality tool that you are not going to use on a daily basis, is if that item is going into your pack as a survival tool. In that situation, you obviously want something you can depend on and not something that is going to break after a few uses.

Make it personal

There are so many different types of multi-tools nowadays that you really need to look at all of the tools that are included. Weed out the ones that have too many tools you won’t use. Personally, I don’t use the screwdriver function all that much. So, I tend to stay away from ones that have a lot of bits included. That is not to say those type of multi-tool are ineffective or of low quality. They just don’t fit my needs. Get what is best for you and your needs.

Sheath or no sheath?

I know a number of people who simply put their multi-tool in their pocket, glove box or day pack. Most come with a sheath and weather or not to use is a personal choice. In my opinion it is always best to use a sheath or carrying pouch. It provides general protection. And it protects all of the moving parts of a multi-tool from unwanted debris. I am a heavy user of multi-tools so carrying it in sheath on my belt has always been the logical choice for me.

Safety First, second and third

Most multi-tools today are built with locking mechanisms for the individual tools. So, when I extend the knife blade from the frame it will lock into place. This prevents the tool from moving when in use., making it more effective but also much safer to use. There have been a few plier based multi-tools I have used in the past that didn’t have locking mechanisms. Personally, I did not enjoy using them and I probably never will again. It is my recommendation that if you are looking at plier based multi-tools, purchase one with a locking mechanism.


Best Survival Multi Tool: My Top Picks

The following is a list of six highly rated multi-tools. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Best Survival Multi Tool Over $100Leatherman Wave Plus Review

LEATHERMAN, Wave Plus Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters,...

I have owned Leatherman products in the past including the original Wave model. I found them to be very user friendly, affordable and of high quality. It seems that my positive experience with Leatherman has carried over to this new model because it is highly rated on most sites.

Specifications

Tools

Pros

Cons

LEATHERMAN, Wave Plus Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters,...
  • READY FOR ANYTHING: A fresh upgrade to our most popular multitool; Now includes premium replaceable...
  • INSTANT TOOLKIT: Packs a quiver of 18 tools, including pliers, replaceable wire cutters, wire...

Last update on 2022-05-22 at 05:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Check out a mode detailed review of the Leatherman Wave Plus here.

2. Best Budget Survival Multi Tool – Gerber Suspension Multi plier Review

Gerber Gear 22-01471N Suspension Needle Nose Pliers Multitool Multi-Plier...

I carried this model around for quite some time and got a lot of use out of it. There was something that felt a bit uncomfortable about it. I not sure it was the shape of the frame or the fact that the pliers were spring loaded. Either way this model served me well and it is a good buy for someone’s first multi-tool.

Specifications

Tools

Pros

Cons

Sale
Gerber Gear 22-01471N Suspension Needle Nose Pliers Multitool Multi-Plier...
  • Gerber multitool features 12 integrated tools with a butterfly design for easy everyday carry
  • Lightweight, open frame makes multi tool great for carrying on tool belt or in your pocket

Last update on 2022-05-21 at 20:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. Runner Up – SOG PowerLock Review

SOG PowerLock Traveler Multi-Tool S61TR-CP - 16 Tools, Satin, Nylon Sheath,...

This was another model that I carried for an extended amount of time. While the weight of this model isn’t out of the norm for the average multi-tool, something about carrying a SOG feels heavy duty. This one I carried on me while working in the maintenance field, so it got used a lot every day. It stood up to the abuse I threw at it for a long time, until that one day. I was using the knife for a task that I shouldn’t have been using it for and the blade broke. But that was my fault and not the tool’s.

Here are some pictures of my personal SOG PowerLock:

Specifications

Tools

Pros

Cons

SOG PowerLock Traveler Multi-Tool S61TR-CP - 16 Tools, Satin, Nylon Sheath,...
  • Exclusive patented Compound Leverage generates twice the gripping power
  • Total components of 16 tools with a 4.60-inch closed length

Last update on 2022-05-21 at 20:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Best Knife-based Multitool – Victorinox Swiss Champ Review

Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, SwissChamp Pocket Knife

I would find it difficult seeing a list of survival multi-tools if a Swiss Army Knife is not on it. Victorinox has been making high quality multi-tools for over one hundred years and the “little” red knife is known by everyone. The Swiss Champ is one of their most popular models and it just so happens to be my favorite. It is the perfect size with a wide range of tool options. In my mind, Swiss Army Knifes are probably one of the best multi-tools to start kids off with.

Here are pictures of my personal Swiss Champ:

Specifications

Tools

Pros

Cons

Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, SwissChamp Pocket Knife
  • READY FOR WHATEVER, WHENEVER. Features (33) functions including: 2.45" blade, Phillips screwdriver,...
  • TRUSTED QUALITY. Made in Switzerland; Victorinox provides a lifetime guarantee against defects in...

Last update on 2022-05-22 at 05:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Great Drive Tool – Gerber Center-Drive Multi Tool Review

Gerber Gear 30-001194N Center-Drive Multitool with Bit Set, and Sheath,...

The Center Drive stands apart as it has a much longer arm for bits than most multi-tools. The design of the drive allows for better functionality and comfort when using the screwdriver. You can also expect a larger sized knife blade and spring-loaded pliers that can be opened with just one thumb.

Specifications

Tools

Pros

Cons

Gerber Gear 30-001194N Center-Drive Multitool with Bit Set, and Sheath,...
  • The Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool, includes a 12 piece standard bit set and Black sheath
  • The innovative 3.2” center-axis driver opens to align like a real screw driver, yielding maximum...

Last update on 2022-05-21 at 20:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

6. Our Choice – Leatherman Super tool 300 Review

LEATHERMAN, Super Tool 300 Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters...

Coming in at one pound, this model has been called a “beast” by many users. If pliers are your go to tool, the super tool has the strongest pliers by Leatherman.

Specifications

Tools

Pros

Cons

LEATHERMAN, Super Tool 300 Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters...
  • GET WORK DONE: Built with the strongest pliers we've ever produced, a handle made to be gripped with...
  • 19 TOOLS IN 1 HAND: The Super Tool 300 features knives, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, an...

Last update on 2022-05-21 at 20:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Check out more detailed review of the Leatherman Super Tool 300.


Honorable Mentions…

While not all multitools can make our list as the best, that does not mean they are bad to own. Here are a list of others that we reviewed:


Verdict.

As you begin or continue your journey into the world of choosing the best survival multi-tools, I hope that this article helped you in making an informed decision when purchasing this vastly used piece of gear. A wise purchase followed up with proper care will give you a tool that could be passed down to the next generation.

Our suggestion is the Leatherman Wave. From my personal experience with this model I can attest to Leatherman’s quality, affordability and user friendly tools. In my opinion you would be hard pressed to find a better plier based multi-tool that will last day in and day out. Here is how I would rate all of the tools listed I the article above. Please feel free to leave a comment below and remember to check in for more in depth product reviews. Stay prepared!


Top 13 Reasons To Carry A Multi-Tool for Survival

As with many types of gear, multi-tools certainly have their avid followers as well as those that downright do not care for them. I for one have always loved this piece of gear and encourage others to try them out.

To that end I wanted to put together a list of my 13 reasons for carrying a multitool.

1. Versatility

Let’s go ahead and get the most obvious reason out of the way. Having one tool that is really 5, 10, 15 tools in one is pretty darn versatile. Yes, it is true that the attachments are not as strong as full-size tools. However, that is not why I use a multi-tool. I use it because it is a jack of all trades for light to medium-duty tasks. I mean, how much more versatile can it get?

2. Convenience

Alright, here is another obvious one. But the convenience of multitools really cannot be beat. Working in the maintenance field for years I was not always near my main toolbox. When something needed to be cut, tightened, loosened, or grabbed this tool was invaluable for quick fixes.

In certain situations, this tool can be a lifesaver in creating a temporary fix. This can give extra time to limp the broken object along until it can be properly fixed.

3. Price and Quality

One opinion that I hear often is that multitools are expensive. While a named brand, a quality multitool can be pricey, some can still be cheaper than buying quality full-sized tools for the same loadout. Additionally, many name brand multi-tools have become more affordable over the years.

4. More Acceptable to Carry

Leatherman surge can carve wood
The Leatherman Surge

There are many places where I would normally not carry full sized tools because, well, it would just be weird. I would feel more comfortable pulling out a multitool in the middle of a restaurant than wearing a fully stocked tool belt to dinner.

I know that example may sound a bit silly but in my experience it holds true. I have been to many formal and informal events where a quick fix was needed. Luckily, I was able to pull out my handy dandy multi-tool and save the day. Whereas I probably would have been denied access to the premises if I tried walking in with a utility belt around my waist.

5. Gear Repair

I have known more than a few outdoors people who are adamant in that they only need a good fixed blade or pocketknife while out in nature. When I was younger, I too believed in this way of thinking.

Do not get me wrong, knives are extremely versatile, and they are probably one of my favorite items to use and talk about. And while knives can certainly be used for repairing gear, a multi-tool able to accomplish more.

A few examples include

Using the best tool available for gear repair will better protect the tool and the item being worked on.

6. Storage

Sometimes I desire the access to certain tools but simply do not have the storage for them. Whether that be on my person, at work, in a vehicle or at home. Everyone’s storage availability is different. What takes up less space, a multitool in a belt pouch or 15 full sized tools?

7. For Travel

Nowadays, about the only form of travel where it would be acceptable to carry full sized tools is in a personal vehicle. Many people tend to travel by plane, train, boat, or bus.

I have used some of these modes of transportation and never once did I pack full size screwdrivers, saws, pliers, knives awls, can openers, bottles openers, files, or rulers into my luggage.

Having a multitool during a trip or while on vacation is mighty handy when the rest of your tools are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

8. A Safer Option

Some individuals just do not feel comfortable using full sized tools. Comfort is everything in accurately and safely using a tool.

One opinion I have heard over and over about multi-tools is that the user likes how the tools lock into place. This makes them more comfortable knowing that they can handle the tool more securely. If it can be fixed with a multi-tool, it just may be a safer option for the user.  

9. Easy to care for

I am a huge advocate for taking care of tools. That includes using them correctly, cleaning them, maintaining them, and proper storage.   In this respect, a multi-tool is simpler to care of. As my dad used to say, “Take care of your tools and they will take care of you.”

10. Ideal for Emergency Preparedness

I cannot be prepared for everything all the time; it is just not possible. However, as it pertains to tools, carrying a multi-tool allows me to be as prepared as possible almost anywhere I go.

This is particularly true when I am busily living life away from my main source of tools. Going to work, picking up milk at the grocery store or hanging out with friends and family during a weekend camping trip.

I have always lived by the mindset of “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” Carrying a multi-tool on my belt gives me the opportunity to always be prepared, which offers me piece of mind.

11. Great Gear for Non-Tool People

This might seem counter intuitive, but I have met plenty of people that are just not into tools. Nor do they feel the need in having them stashed away in their vehicle or home because they “will never need them.”

Due to some of the reasons on this list, when I have offered a multi-tool as another option, individuals were more open to them. I think, primarily it had to do with its compact size.

You can almost forget about this tool when it is tucked away in a glove compartment, purse, backpack, or a kitchen drawer. This gives non-tool people the opportunity to help themselves during just in case scenarios.

12. A Great Companion to a Survival Knife

There are many ways in which survival knives are used that they probably shouldn’t be. When a knife is the only tool available and in survival situations, I can understand using a knife in this manner.

However, this risks the knife’s integrity and usability. Save your knife by adding a multitool to your loadout. A good multi-tool and knife create  what I would call the ultimate combination that can tackle any situation.  

13. Just For fun

Lastly, I find multi-tools enjoyable and almost fun to use. They are enjoyable because I do not always to stop what I am doing to walk out to the garage, or back to the truck to retrieve a tool.  

They are fun because I sometimes feel like a little kid. Looking around myself and wondering what I could take apart, fix, or modify with the assortment of tools on my belt.  Plus, they make for a good talking piece among friends, especially among those who enjoy one-upping one another.

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.