What Are the Best Multitools?

Durable, versatile, and just plain cool

Feb 11, 2015
Outside Magazine
multi-tools leatherman sog gerber crkt victorinox gear outside

No point investing in a multi-tool that's going to break in the field. Choose wisely.    Photo: Darin McQuoid


From fixing a ski binding and adjusting a bike to sharpening a machete and opening a beer, the multitool is the most versatile piece of outdoor equipment I own. But plenty of cheap options exist that are little more than a few scraps of metal screwed together. When it comes to multitools, it pays to get one that won’t break in the field.

I enlisted my number one tester, Darin McQuoid, who’s also a Dagger-sponsored kayaker and pro photographer, to run five popular multitools through the wringer. Here’s how they stacked up, ranked from worst to best:

#5. Gerber Diesel ($84)

  Photo: Darin McQuoid

Weight: 8.6 ounces
Good to Know: Made in the United States; comes with a lifetime warranty.

While McQuoid said the Gerber Diesel is well made with its stainless-steel construction, one major design flaw frustrated him: The needlenose pliers need to be open before you can access any of the other tools. “So, open the pliers, open the tool, stow pliers, use tool. Ugh,” he wrote.

McQuoid also thought the knife blades and the saw were too short for daily use. But once he got over those issues, he appreciated how the tools lock into the handle and how easy they are to release. The knife blades, one serrated and one standard, were great for opening packages and cutting off labels.

#4. SOG Paratool ($94)

  Photo: Darin McQuoid

Weight: 6 ounces
Good to Know
: Made in the United States; comes with a lifetime warranty.

The SOG Paratool is the lightest, smallest tool on this list and comes with some cool design features, including two 6.4-inch blades, one of which is serrated. Users can adjust the angle of the tool’s pliers, which is nice when working in small spaces. But McQuoid found the pliers difficult to maneuver at an angle, and he struggled to grasp things tightly with them.

Another flaw: The Paratool’s individual components don’t lock into the handle, meaning they can slide out or pinch your hand unexpectedly. The can opener proved to be the most difficult to use of the bunch, bending the can and making it tough to open the lid.

#3. CKRT Zillatool ($50)

  Photo: Darin McQuoid

Weight: 7.8 ounces
Good to Know: Made in China, comes with a lifetime warranty.

The CKRT Zillatool is the largest and least expensive multitool on this list. While it has the fewest tools, McQuoid noted that “what it does do, it does right.” He loved the pliers and the beer opener (integrated into the pliers’ handle). “Even though the pliers head is small, these are the easiest to get a firm grip with because of the handle design,” McQuoid wrote.

The knife and pliers proved the easiest to use, and they’re spring-loaded, which means the head opens on its own. While hefty, the tool felt solid, and the half-serrated, half-standard knife was one of burliest McQuoid tested.

#2. Victorinox SwissTool RS ($128)

  Photo: Darin McQuoid

Weight: 10.2 ounces
Good to Know: Made in Switzerland; comes with a lifetime warranty.

If the CKRT (above) is the Toyota of multitools, then the Victorinox is the BMW. This SwissTool RS exudes a high-quality feel, thanks to its stainless-steel construction. You can use all the tools without opening the pliers, and while it’s heavy, it feels high-quality and capable.

McQuoid appreciated that the knife and saw are almost an inch longer than those on the Gerber. “I do like the separate knives, and the serrated edge is perfect for rope work,” he wrote. The wire cutters were also the best he tested. The only drawbacks: the relatively high price and lack of a file.

#1. Leatherman Wave ($100)

  Photo: Darin McQuoid

Weight: 8.6 ounces
Good to Know
: Made in the United States; comes with a 25-year warranty.

Of all the multitools on our list, this is the one McQuoid would buy. “One classic knife to rule them all—seriously, this is a reminder that Leatherman got the design right,” he wrote.

McQuoid loved that he could access the highest-use tools—the saw, file, and standard and serrated knife blades—without opening the handle. He also appreciated that the tools locked in place and that the knife (which you can open one-handed) and saw were among the longest he tested.

Filed To: Multi-Tools, Camping, Gear

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