Top 6 Best Survival Multi Tool Reviews for 2020: Hands-On

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:

Last update on 2020-05-26 at 22:48 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Reviewed and written by Bryan Lynch, an avid and expert outdoor enthusiast

The Pros and Cons of Multi Tools

Pros

  • Convenient
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Offers many tool options
  • Generally speaking, good quality multi-tools are affordable
  • They are a “gateway” tool for younger individuals. There is so much that the tool can do, it helps to keep the person interested in learning certain skills
  • They conceal nicely in a pocket or a comfortable belt pouch

Cons

  • Not as much force or torque can be used since they are not as strong as a full-sized tool
  • If they are used heavily, certain tools will wear out faster than a full-sized tool would.
  • They can be uncomfortable or awkward to handle
  • Because the individual tools are smaller, if they are used improperly, they can be easier to break.
  • Many multi-tools now boast having larger knife blades in them. This is great when it comes to cutting tasks but because increased blade length, it may limit where you can carry the multi-tool. Be sure to check your local laws.

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,...

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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

  • 8.5 ounces
  • Stainless steel with a black oxide color
  • 4 inches long when closed

Tools

  • Needle nose pliers
  • Regular pliers
  • Replaceable wire cutters
  • Replaceable hard wire cutters
  • Wire stripper
  • Electrical crimper
  • Knife
  • Serrated knife
  • Saw
  • Spring action scissors
  • Ruler (8 in)
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Wood/metal file
  • Diamond-coated file
  • Large bit driver
  • Small bit driver
  • Medium screwdriver

Pros

  • The majority of the tools are common and popular
  • It has two knife blade options
  • Built tough

Cons

  • A little bit higher range in price.

Sale
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 2020-05-26 at 22:38 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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

Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier [22-01471]

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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

  • 10.2 ounces
  • Ballistic nylon sheath included

Tools

  • Spring loaded needle nose plier
  • Regular plier
  • Wire cutter
  • Tool lock
  • Knife
  • Large flathead
  • Cross driver
  • Saw
  • Can opener
  • Small flathead
  • Scissor serrated blade
  • Lanyard hole
  • Bottle opener

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Not overly packed with tools
  • The lanyard hole is a nice touch for keeping the item organized

Cons

  • Kind of a bare bones multi-tool
  • A little awkward to use
  • The tool locking mechanism can be tricky at times, when I was using gloves
  • The open style frame has holes in it. These holes can get caught on things and allow for more dirt and debris to get inside.

Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier [22-01471]
  • Suspension Multi-Plier multitool with 12 integrated components
  • Saf.T.Plus component locking system guarantees safety

Last update on 2020-05-26 at 22:38 / 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,...

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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

  • 7 inches long open, 4.6 inches long closed
  • Weight 9.6 oz
  • Stainless steel with a black oxide finish

Tools

  • Gripper
  • Pliers
  • Hard wire cutter
  • Wire crimper
  • Blasting cap crimper
  • Double toothed wood saw
  • Partially serrated blade
  • 3-sided file
  • Large screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • ¼ in drive
  • Awl
  • Can opener
  • Small screwdriver
  • Bottle opener
  • Medium screwdriver
  • Scissors
  • Rulers

Pros

  • Comes with a good amount of tools
  • Built tough
  • Very user friendly

Cons

  • There are few tools I don’t think most people would use

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 2020-05-26 at 22:48 / 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

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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

  • Height 1.3 inches
  • Length 3.6 inches
  • Weight 6.5 inches

Tools

  • Large blade
  • Small Blade
  • Corkscrew
  • Mini Screwdriver
  • Reamer, punch and sewing awl
  • Can opener
  • Screwdriver 3mm
  • Bottle Opener
  • Screwdriver 6mm
  • Wire stripper
  • Scissors
  • Pliers
  • Wire cutter
  • Wire crimping tool
  • Fish scaler
  • Hook disgorger
  • Ruler (cm)
  • Ruler (inches)
  • Wood saw
  • Nail file
  • Nail cleaner
  • Metal saw
  • Metal file
  • Magnifying glass
  • Phillips screwdriver ½
  • Screwdriver 2.5 mm
  • Chisel 4mm
  • Multipurpose hook
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Pressurized ballpoint pen
  • Pin, stainless steel
  • Key ring

Pros

  • User friendly especially for all age groups. 
  • Packs a lot of tools and uses into a compact package
  • Comes with a way to start a fire! (magnifying glass)
  • Has tools and functions that most plier based multi-tools don’t have

Cons

  • If you are looking for heavier duty pliers, this choice is not for you
  • Does not have a locking mechanism for the tools
  • Tools can be a bit hard to locate and some of them can be difficult to open

Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, SwissChamp Pocket Knife
  • The 3 1/2" SwissChamp packs an impressive punch
  • Despite its immense number of implements, the Swiss Champ still fits in your pocket

Last update on 2020-05-26 at 22:48 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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

Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool | Bit Set, Black Sheath [30-001194]

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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

  • 10.6 ounces
  • Closed length 4.7 inches, open length 6.6 inches
  • Comes with sheath and 12 piece bit set

Tools

  • One-thumb opening system
  • Spring loaded needle nose pliers
  • Wire cutters and strippers
  •  3.25” knife
  • Magnetic center axis bit driver
  • Pry bar with nail puller and bottle opener
  • Serrated blade
  • Awl and file
  • Magnetic flathead and phillips bits
  • Lanyard hole

Pros

  • If you are someone who uses the screwdriver function a lot on your multi-tool, this model is incredibly comfortable and effective.
  • One handed use for the pliers

Cons

  • I like one handed pliers but I have had an issue in the past with their longevity

Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool | Bit Set, Black Sheath [30-001194]
  • 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 2020-05-26 at 22:48 / 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...

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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

  • Weight one pound
  • Stainless steel
  • Comes with leather sheath

Tools

  • Serrated knife
  • Plain edge knife
  • Pliers
  •  Phillips screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Wire cutters
  • Electrical crimper
  • Wire stripper
  • Bottle opener
  • Can opener
  • File
  • Saw
  • Awl
  • Ruler

Pros

  • Replaceable wire cutters
  • Two knife blade options

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Large

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 2020-05-26 at 22:48 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


FAQS about Multitools

  • To the best of our knowledge, the first multi-tool ever discovered was around the Mediterranean over one thousand years ago. It included a knife, spoon, fork, pick and spatula.
  • In comparison, one of the top-rated multi-tool brands, Leatherman, has only been around a little over three decades. The company was established in 1983.

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!



Bryan Lynch
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. Recently, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. Read more of Bryan's articles.

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