What Are the Most Essential Outdoor Tools?

Seven pieces of gear no adventurer should live without

Jun 1, 2016
Outside Magazine
What Are the Most Essential Outdoor Tools?

Must, have.    Photo: Jakob Schiller


If you like to play outside, you’ll need a certain set of tools. Some are there to save your gear, and others are there to save your butt. This list could certainly be longer, but we put together some of our favorites. Which ones did we miss?

Leatherman Wave ($90, pictured above)

The design of this tool hasn’t changed in more than a decade, and for good reason: it just works. Seventeen key gadgets, including three blades (420 HC knife, 420 HC serrated knife, and saw), fit into a holder the size of a small candy bar and help you do everything from cut kindling to fix your ski bindings.

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Husky SAE/Metric Folding Hex Key 17-Piece Set ($10)

Click to enlarge.   Photo: Husky

Lots of outdoor toys (bikes, motorcycles, kayaks) require Allen wrenches, so you should have one in your garage and your pack at all times. This one is affordable and comes with the most common sizes, and the tools are long enough to give you plenty of leverage.

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Buck Knives Compadre Froe ($160)

Click to enlarge.   Photo: Buck Knives

Some people will disagree with my choice, favoring a hatchet. Here’s my reasoning: I chose this tool instead because it has a longer, slightly curved 9.5-inch blade, making it better for clearing brush, but it still whips right through kindling. I also appreciate the perfectly tuned 23.2-ounce swing weight that exerts plenty of force without leaving my arms totally destroyed. This thing lives in my camp box.

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Gorilla Tape ($9)

Click to enlarge.   Photo: Gorilla

I use this instead of duct tape because it’s slightly stronger and has better adhesive. A huge roll lives in my garage, but I also wrap a section around my hiking and ski poles, kayak paddles, and lighter so I always have some when I need it.

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Zip Ties ($7 for 100)

Click to enlarge.   Photo: Generic

You’d be surprised how many uses you can find for a zip tie. They can act as zipper pulls, create extra tie-down points on your pack, keep gear organized, and so on. Plus, they’re cheap and weigh next to nothing. Never leave the house without them.

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Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl ($14)

Click to enlarge.   Photo: Speedy Stitcher

Yes, a needle and dental floss will do the job if something tears, but I prefer this burlier device because it’s easy to use, especially on more durable gear like shoes and tents.

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UCO Stormproof Match Kit ($8)

Click to enlarge.   Photo: UCO Gear

Gas station lighters are cheaper, and I always carry several in my pack. But I also take this kit when I’m in the backcountry because it provides six minutes of reliable flame even if it’s been totally soaked.

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