We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
The multitool is a brilliant invention. Instead of a loose collection of tools rattling around in your pocket, backpack or toolbox, you can carry an invaluable selection in one compact and convenient package.
Of course, that’s after you’ve purchased your multitool. The difficulty come when you start looking at which multitool is best. There are different sizes, different grips, different materials, knives, scissors, screwdrivers, files, rulers – to say there are plenty of choices is an understatement!
Here at BestReviews we thrive on these kinds of challenges, and we love finding you the perfect product. We're independent, so when we make a recommendation you can trust what we say to be unbiased. The products we test have been bought with our own money; we don't accept manufacturer’s samples. Then those products go through their paces in our own, purpose-built labs, and out in the real world.
After extensive research, we selected the five multitools featured. Each offers particular benefits that answer a specific set of demands.
To explain the rationale behind those decisions we've compiled the full multitool review below.
The most important factor when shopping for a multitool is deciding exactly what you want from it.
The original “multi-purpose” tool has become a whole range of devices, and some have become highly specific. There are models aimed at fisherman or hunters, electricians or cable-workers, snowboarders and skiers, hikers and campers, surfers, motor mechanics, cyclists – the list sometimes seems endless.
Even if you don't fall into one of those descriptions, it's important to look at the things you want most, and the things you can leave out. You might think you want a “general-purpose” or “all-around” model, but those descriptions don't actually help much. It might seem a great idea to have 20-plus different gadgets, but maybe it's not so attractive when you discover that multitool will be seven inches long and weigh ten pounds.
Do you really need to get stones out of horses hooves? Are you actually going to use that toothpick when your multitool has been in the bottom of your rucksack for a week?
Let's break the options down into more detail.
Identifying your most frequent tool needs is the first step in determining the type of multitool best suited to you.
There are three basic sizes of multitool: keychain, pocket and full-size.
These, as the name suggests, are the most compact. They can be under two inches long and weigh just a couple of ounces, yet will normally contain between six and ten tools. This makes them very useful for many light tasks. They are ideal for purses as well.
Nervous about working with sharp blades? Choose a multitool with locking mechanisms. The individual tools won’t be able to close on your fingers unexpectedly.
These are actually a little difficult to define. Usually about three to four inches long, they can weigh anywhere from a couple of ounces to half a pound, and have from six to twenty different tools. It's by far the widest category because of the variety of options and easy portability. However, larger ones might be more suited to a bag or rucksack than your pocket.
These are the heavyweights of the multitool world. Although clever engineering means some are no longer than pocket versions, the biggest can be six inches or longer and weigh a pound. The main benefit is the number of tools you get. Fifteen or more is common, with close to thirty available from some manufacturers. These are designed for the toolbox, for hanging on a work belt, or keeping in the trunk of your car.
Consider where you intend to keep your multitool. Will you carry it in your pocket daily, leave it in the trunk of your car or a toolbox, or take it with you in your hiking pack?
When thinking about portability you should also consider:
Does the multitool have the option to attach a lanyard?
Does it come with a good, tough case? Nylon, though not always considered a “quality” product, is light, hard-wearing and won't rot if it gets wet.
Does the multitool, or its case, have a belt loop or other work-related fixing?
Whether your priority is an affordable solution or sophisticated convenience, there’s most likely a multitool available that won’t break the bank.
If size and weight aren't a problem you can have just about anything you want, but if you don't need all the bells and whistles, keeping it as compact as possible has several advantages.
If you're hiking, every ounce saved makes your pack lighter.
If you're biking, a multitool designed for cyclists avoids unnecessary weight.
If it's going in your keychain or in your purse, do you really need a chisel? A wood file? A crimper for detonation caps? (Yep, you can have one if you want it!)
Humor aside, the important point is that multitools offer a huge amount of choice.
If you take time to study what's available you can have the size, weight and composition of tools that suits your needs just about perfectly.
Sure, you can buy a multitool with a crimper for blast caps, but how often will you really need that function?
Most of us don't treat our multitools with kid gloves, but we still expect high performance from them. Materials and construction make a big difference to durability. Here are some things to look for:
All good multitools are constructed mainly from stainless steel. It doesn't corrode and it's very hard. Cheap multitools can made from a variety of alloys and many claim to offer high durability. Our advice, however, is only to buy stainless.
If razor-sharp edges on your multitool blades are important to you, look for Vanadium Carbide steel (S30V or S35VN). You'll probably pay a premium, but it's one of the best materials in the world for cutting instruments.
We recommend only buying multitools made from stainless steel. Other materials will be susceptible to rust.
These three materials are sometimes used for handle scales (the outside grips).
Rubber offers a softer, more secure feel than the usual steel handles, and it's warmer – though not everyone likes rubber handles when working in damp conditions.
Carbon fiber and titanium are light, strong and are molded to give better grip. There's also a fashion element here: they look quite stylish compared to your average tool!
Not all multitools come in the traditional pincer-handle form. “Tactical” models look like ballpoint pens and include tools such as flashlights, seatbelt cutters, and glass breakers.
The mechanism inside tools such as pliers, grips, and wire cutters, is normally a simple hinge or lever. A few of the best multitools offer gears or compound leverage instead. These multiply the force applied by your hands. So much so that one maker claims their geared multitool can cut through coins.
This is another feature of the better multitools. Tools will lock in their in-use position. It makes them easier to work with and it's safer: there's no risk of a sharp blade closing up on your fingers.
A gear drive multitool increases the leverage on pincer-type tools to provide significantly more force than you typically get from bare hands.
Most low-cost multitools have tools that are hinged. They pivot on a hinge pin to open or close, and this pin can loosen over time. With this kind of tool you usually need both hands to open things up or close them.
Higher quality multitools have a spring action that makes opening individual pieces a one-handed task.
It also means closing is much more certain; it’s easy to tell when a tool is properly seated in the handle.
Some handyman multitools even include a small hammer head and a variety of removable screwdriver bits.
This convenient feature means many of the tools can be opened out and used while the main body of the multitool remains closed.
A manufacturer's confidence in their product is often reflected in their warranty. When it comes to multitools, makers of the best models provide warranties ranging from 25 years to life!
There are so many choices when looking for a multitool, it's hard to pin down what you should expect to pay.
You can find cheap keychain multitools for light, occasional use for as little as $10. Top brand versions can be $30 or more.
Likewise, you can find decent pocket multitools endorsed by celebrity survival experts between $40 and $60, though those from the most recognizable companies will probably cost twice that.
Even the most expensive, function-specific multitools are seldom more than $150.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.