If I had a nickel every time my wife said, “Chris, you saved us because you had your Swiss Army knife just when we needed it,” I’d have 5 cents to my name. She may roll her eyes at my hobby, but I think having a multi-tool in your pocket as a parent is essential. I was able to fix our light switch without having to run to the basement, dig through a toolbox, and triumphantly reappear to save the day. My multi-tool can’t solve every problem, but I can easily cut open packages, unscrew the battery compartment on kids toys, and remove loose threads. In essence, I am Batman and my tool belt is a $20 Swiss Army knife.
This is going to be a little bit different of a post than the past few. One thing Jason and I wanted to do was provide honest assessments of gear that we use on a regular basis. Our hope is that this will save you time and energy if you’re on the fence about a particular product. At the same time, we feel there are some general recommends that we thought might be helpful. Here we are not necessarily saying one product is better than another, but instead showing options that are out there and what we deem are essential features that you should look for.
Starting off, if you don’t know what a multi-tool is, it’s any item that serves multiple purposes and is usually pocketable. It does not serve as a replacement for a dedicated tool, but in a pinch, it can really help out. There are many popular brands out there including Victorinox (Swiss army knives), Leatherman, Gerber, SOG, and the list goes on. The prices for these tools can vary quite a bit in addition to the number and types of features, size, and weight. I’m going to help breakdown what I think are ideal things you want to look for in a multi-tool.
Screwdriver – I think every multi-tool absolutely needs both a Philips and a flathead screwdriver. Whether 2 separate dedicated drivers or a single tapered one that will work on both, this is essential to household tasks.
Scissors – I cannot tell you how many times my kids have suddenly been overtaken with the extreme urge to have all the tags removed from the inside of their pajamas or clothes. Easy work for a small pair of scissors considering life itself will end if that tag is not removed in 1 second flat.
Bottle opener – whether you want to crack open a cold boi with the bros or you want to drink some fancy Topo Chico or seltzer water, you gotta rock a bottle opener on your multi-tool
Knife – I’d say this is not mandatory, but then again I carry a separate knife with me at all times. The one advantage of having a knife-less multi-tool is the ability to take it on an airplane or into a stadium that does not allow knives. If you do not carry a main knife, I think you absolutely need one on your multi-tool.
Pliers – I’ll be honest. I do not have a pair of pliers on my multi-tools. I’m a Swiss Army knife fanboy, and most versions do not feature a pair of pliers. With that being said, I have found many times where I wish I had pliers and has made me re-think what I need to get in my next multi-tool.
Tweezers – another essential. Kids and adults alike get splinters and a small pair of tweezers comes in handy no matter where you are.
I’m a minimalist at heart. I do not like having too much in my pockets and do not want to weigh down my keys with too much gear. For me, the ideal multi-tool fits in the 5th pocket of some jeans or in a small zippered pouch. Can a tool this size do everything you throw at it? Absolutely not. Will you be fine anyway? Yes. This is one of the things that has held me off from buying a larger Leatherman (although Jason will advocate for the Leatherman Rebar as the ultimate multi-tool all day and night).
This closely follows with size. I do not want something heavy weighing down my pockets. Especially as summer approaches, I want to keep it as light and simple as possible. That means I’m looking for a tool that is 4 ounces or less.
Some multi-tools can get quite expensive. I think the ideal range is something in the $25-$50 range. With that range, you can get many different 58mm/84mm/91mm Swiss Army knives (Rambler, Classic, Cadet, Hiker, etc), a Leatherman Micra or Squirt, or the Gerber Gear Dime or Armbar. There are some other options such as the Leatherman Skeletool or SOG PowerPint if you spend just a little bit more. Similarly, you can find all sorts of cheaper options on Amazon, but I find those are often not even worth the money you spend on them. Classic you get what you pay for.
Did I cover everything? Absolutely not. There are all sorts of other types of multi-tools out there. Miniature pry-tools with wrenches and hex drivers built in. Utility blade tools that allow you to swap out your cutting blade when it starts to dull. I probably have a whole different post that I could use to focus on those types of tools and I probably will at some point.
What are your thoughts? Do you have an essential multi-tool feature that I missed? Would you rather a full Leatherman over a smaller multi-tool just so that you can tackle bigger jobs? Leave a comment and let us know!