Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Multi-tool of 2021

We put the best multi-tools from brands like Leatherman, Gerber, Victorinox and more through a gauntlet of real-world tests
We assess every tool on each product with a battery of tests for month...
Photo: Jenna Ammerman
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday November 3, 2021
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Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

We have tested multi-tools for 7 years, totaling 33 unique models in our hands. For our 2021 review, we assess 21 of the best models bought and deployed to our team of veteran testers. We use each tool for months while tackling tasks around the house, workplace, and backcountry, from bike repairs to light fixture installation to removing fish hooks. We assess each model for its functions, construction, ergonomics, and portability. Our team boasts decades of combined handy-person experience and unmatched attention to detail. We test each product for at least a few months. In some cases, we have products that have been actively tested for 6 plus years. We are thorough and organize our findings for your decision-making.

Related: Best Pocket Knife of 2021

Top 21 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 21
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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award   
Price $169.95 at REI
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$129.95 at REI
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$99.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at Amazon$80 List
$78.94 at Amazon
Overall Score
82
72
74
64
67
Star Rating
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Pros Titanium handle, S30V steel blade, modular portability, full functionsLarge, excellent construction, full-size functions, customizableComprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry optionsBeefy and large, great pliers leverage and blades, assisted opening and externally accessedMany functions, innovative adapters, strong pliers squeeze,
Cons Heavy, expensive, squashed bit driverHeavy and large; limited portability. Proprietary bit driverProprietary bit driver, no pocket clip includedHeavy to carry, accessing non-blade tools is time consumingVulnerable parts of handle, small knife blade, no scissors
Bottom Line This exceptional product is equipped with almost every imaginable tool, organized and optimized for compact functionA large, heavy tool that does all you might need but is hard to carry aroundA full-function tool from a great manufacturer at a reasonable priceA no-holds-barred pliers-based tool for the hard user; it is so rugged and large that only the most committed users will justify the bulk and massA highly featured tool with innovative inclusions and a few redundancies
Rating Categories Leatherman Charge+ TTi Leatherman Surge Leatherman Wave+ SOG PowerAssist SOG PowerAccess Deluxe
Functions (40%) Sort Icon
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Construction Quality (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Ergonomics (20%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Portability (15%)
6.0
1
5.0
5.0
6.0
Specs Leatherman Charge+ TTi Leatherman Surge Leatherman Wave+ SOG PowerAssist SOG PowerAccess Deluxe
Number of functions 19 + bits 19 + bits 18 + bits 16 21 + bits
Weight (ounces) 8.8 oz 12.2 oz, 14.3 oz with case 8.5 oz, 9.5 oz with case 9.3 oz 8.6 oz, 13.0 oz with case and bits
Locking tools? All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers
Pliers type Needlenose with wire cutters, crimper Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper Needlenose Needle nose, regular
Tools accessible without deploying pliers Blades, saw, file Blades, saw, file Blades, saw, file Straight blade and serrated blade All
Blades and type 1 serrated gut hook type, 1 straight drop point 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 fully serrated, 1 straight edge 1 straight, 1 serrated
Scissors Yes Yes Yes No No
Number of screwdrivers 1 integrated. Many bits included, with more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 4 included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 5 included/integrated. More available aftermarket for proprietary driver 4 14 included. Infinitely more available as aftermarket bits
File? Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file Yes Yes
Saw? Metal and wood Yes Yes No Wood, metal
Openers Can and bottle Can and bottle Can and bottle Bottle and can Can, bottle
Other important features Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper Ruler, awl, wire stripper Ruler "V-notch" cord and webbing cutter One-handed blade. Protractor. 1/4 drive, square socket driver.
Sheath included? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Other carry options Pocket clip, key ring Pocket Pocket Pocket, lanyard hole Pocket
Closed dimensions (Length by thickness, in inches) 4 x 0.8 4.5 x 0.8 4 x 0.7 4.6 x 0.8 4.5 x 0.6
Open length (pliers, in inches) 6.2 in 7.1in 6.3 in 7 in 6.6 in
Open overall length (primary blade deployed, in inches) 7 in 7.6 in 6.9 in 7.5 in 7.1 in
Length of primary blade effective edge (inches) 2.8 in 3.1 in 2.8in 2.7 in 2.5 in


Best Overall


Leatherman Charge+ TTi


82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Functions 9
  • Construction Quality 9
  • Ergonomics 7
  • Portability 6
Number of functions: 19 + bits | Weight: 8.8 oz
Sophisticated materials and construction
Great suite of features
Thought-out layout
Longevity
Weight
Price

The Leatherman Charge+ TTi is a dense piece of versatile equipment with a magical mix of attributes packed into its functional design. This tool is made from impressive materials and has proven to have the best blades in our test. The materials are chosen for maximum function, durability, and to increase the "bling" factor.  There are at least four types of steel (including top-shelf blade steel) plus titanium and diamond components. At about half a pound, the Charge is average in weight for a full-size tool. It's equipped to be carried many ways. Leatherman's low-profile bit driver and the included bits nearly double the overall number of functions.

On the flip side, the Charge+ TTi is very expensive. It costs more than any other product we evaluated. Additionally, we wish that Leatherman included a full-size 1/4" bit driver instead of their proprietary "squashed" interpretation. They could cut out the generic flat screwdriver/"pry bar" and use the extra space for the larger bit driver. As it is, you must use either an adapter/extender or Leatherman's proprietary bits. Even better would be a bit driver whose geometry centers the driver relative to the handle. Build the pliers to lock and include the above modifications, and we'd have our dream multi-tool. The Charge TTi is a top-of-the-line product despite our very minor gripes. We heartily recommend Leatherman's flagship tool that pulls no punches for anyone needing the best model for frequent use.

Read review: Leatherman Charge+ TTi

Best Overall for Everyday Carry


Leatherman Skeletool CX


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Functions 5
  • Construction Quality 9
  • Ergonomics 10
  • Portability 8
Number of functions: 5 + bits | Weight: 5.0 oz
Pocket clip carry
Low profile transport
Full size tools
Limited selection of features
Proprietary bit driver

If the Charge+ TTi gracefully crams as much function into a reasonably sized tool, the Leatherman Skeletool CX is its antithesis. The Skeletool aims for maximum utility from less individual tools, making it more comfortable to carry. This tool only has a fraction of the Charge's features, but it is much less noticeable in your pocket for every day carry. Further, the features included with the Skeletool are arguably more usable and cleaner. Both being from Leatherman, though, they share common high-quality materials and build. This tool is great for daily use or as a backcountry tool.

If you're seeking all the tools possible, you'll be let down with this stripped-down modal. Our biggest complaint is with the bit driver. With the Skeletool, even more than with other models, Leatherman could have easily included a standard 1/4" bit driver. Still, we have tested this model for over three years, and it has slowly grown on us. Thus, the Skeletool is our top recommendation for a portable, daily multi-tool to leave clipped on your pocket.

Read review: Leatherman Skeletool CX

Best Bang for the Buck


Leatherman Wave+


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Functions 8
  • Construction Quality 8
  • Ergonomics 7
  • Portability 5
Number of functions: 17 | Weight: 8.5 oz
Feature-laden
Quality construction
Limited stock carry options
Compromised materials

The Leatherman Wave+ brings heaps of value to the Leatherman line-up. Leatherman takes over 90% of what makes the Charge so impressive and sells it for 60% of the cost. What you get are the Wave+ and an excellent value. The Leatherman Wingman is even less expensive, by a significant margin, but has fewer features and is made with lesser materials. For a full-featured tool, the Wave is the bargain shopper's choice.

Compared to the Charge, the Wave+ has less sophisticated blade and frame materials. It also does not come with many accessory bits or with the pocket clip or lanyard loop that Leatherman includes with the Charge. Aftermarket bits and pocket clips are available for the Wave+, but adding these will significantly close the price gap between it and the Charge. Featuring the same general layout, tool selection, and dimensions, the Wave and Charge are the same other than materials and included accessories. If the referenced compromises are acceptable to you, save some dollars and choose the Wave+.

Read review: Leatherman Wave+

Best on a Tighter Budget


Leatherman Wingman


53
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Functions 4
  • Construction Quality 4
  • Ergonomics 8
  • Portability 7
Number of functions: 10 | Weight: 6.8 oz
Low price
Solid quality
Excellent tool selection
Hybrid blade is difficult to sharpen
Blade is also short
No accessory bit driver

The Leatherman Wingman brings the manufacturer's long pedigree, quality craftsmanship, and an excellent selection of functions to a very affordable product. The Wingman includes features virtually none of the other models do. The package opener is quirky but invaluable, the return spring in the pliers reduces hand strain and increases efficiency in certain types of extended use, and the integrated pocket clip keeps the device handy for those that wish to carry it this way.

At this price point, however, there are some compromises. The lone blade features a hybrid straight/serrated edge made of mid-grade steel, which will require regular sharpening. The straight portion is easily reconditioned, but sharpening serrations requires special techniques. Further, that blade is significantly shorter than it needs to be. There is almost a half inch of extra space in the handle that Leatherman does not use for the blade. Overall, you get far more than you pay for with the Leatherman Wingman. If you use a multi-tool for basic tasks but are prone to losing it, the Wingman won't hurt quite as much to replace.

Read review: Leatherman Wingman

Best Screwdriver


Gerber Center-Drive Plus


61
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Functions 7
  • Construction Quality 5
  • Ergonomics 7
  • Portability 4
Number of functions: 16 + bits | Weight: 9.9 oz
Extended, centered bit driver
One-handed plier deployment
One-handed, large main blade
Several tools require deploying pliers to access
Rattly construction
Main blade is partially serrated

The Gerber Center Drive Plus displaces its non-Plus predecessor for this specialized award. The Plus takes all we liked about the original Center Drive and adds scissors and a larger blade, which we deem significant and worthy upgrades. The Center Drive screwdriver configuration has a long extension and a handle ready for more torque. This award-winning Gerber centers the bit along the handle's long axis, vastly improving ergonomics and making it feel like a true, single-purpose screwdriver. The 12 bits that come with this model fit inside the included leather sheath along with the tool.

If your multi-tool use includes a lot of driving screws, choose the Center Drive Plus. It is the best tool we know of for that purpose. Otherwise, it's more average as a general multi-tool. The rattly construction holds up well but doesn't instill high confidence. The pliers are more prone to pinching than more sophisticated options, and accessing tools other than the blade, pliers, and bit driver requires multiple steps.

Read review: Gerber Center Drive Plus

Best Pliers


Leatherman Crunch


56
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Functions 5
  • Construction Quality 8
  • Ergonomics 5
  • Portability 4
Number of functions: 8 | Weight: 6.8 oz
Locking pliers
Relatively compact
High quality
Limited features
Must deploy pliers to get to other tools

When testing these tools, we consider what appeals to people on the fringes of the group of devoted consumers. Most multi-tools are purchased for "everyday carry" for use on tasks that come up in day-to-day life where versatility and portability are paramount. Blue-collar users require that each function is very efficient, and they can justify fewer features. For those users, the Leatherman Crunch is a clear choice. A definite improvement over the other non-locking pliers in our review, the locking ones of the Crunch are this product's undisputed highlight.

The trade-off is the selection and readiness of other attributes, such as easy blade access and more driver and tool options. The Crunch has about half the number of overall features as the Charge+ and requires a few steps to activate the blade. There is an integrated bit driver, but to use it will require the time-consuming removal of the locking mechanism screw. However, if you use your multi-tool as pliers in a mechanical or construction-oriented fashion, the Crunch is a great choice. Its locking pliers are nearly as useful as stand-alone versions.

Read review: Leatherman Crunch

Best Keychain Tool


Gerber Dime


47
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Functions 3
  • Construction Quality 6
  • Ergonomics 3
  • Portability 9
Number of functions: 9 | Weight: 2.3 oz
Small
Sturdy
Always-ready bottle opener
Short blade
All included functions are tiny

The Gerber Dime virtually disappears on all but the most minimalist keychains and is smaller than your typical modern car key "fob." A few essential and useful tools are packed into this dense nugget. We are confident that you will find a use for one or more of these functions nearly every day. Having it as handy as your keys will mean that you have it and will use it.

We describe it as a keychain tool, but it could also be considered a keychain bottle opener that does other things. The bottle opener protrusion is always available and might be all you need to justify a Dime purchase. It is the ready bottle opener that sets the Dime apart from other tiny tools. Other options have similar feature sets but don't have the bottle opener so handy. You won't turn large bolts or do extensive whittling with the Dime, but for light-duty house and travel tasks, it is just right.

Read review: Gerber Dime

Notable for Outdoor Survival


Leatherman Signal


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Functions 7
  • Construction Quality 8
  • Ergonomics 7
  • Portability 7
Number of functions: 17 | Weight: 7.6 oz
Fire starter
Blade sharpener
Whistle
Solid tool otherwise
No scissors
"Squashed" bit driver

The Leatherman Signal earns mention here for its truly unique set of functions. This is the most specialized tool we review here. Its feature set is, initially, familiar. It has a blade, a saw, and some openers and drivers. On top of those "normal" things, it has a hammer surface, fire starter striker, signal whistle, and blade sharpener. To do this the Signal includes two parts that can be removed from the body/arms of the pliers. It is sold with a belt sheath and also includes the option of pocket clip or carabiner carry.

We wish the main blade were not serrated. Yes, a serrated edge cuts a few things a little better than a straight edge. But that serrated edge suffers or completely fails to cut other things, especially when it is dulled. Once dull, a serrated edge is more difficult to sharpen. The included sharpener on the Signal could be used to resurface an entirely straight-edged blade. The inclusion of a serrated portion on the blade seems like a marketing move more than a practical one. The Signal is unique and functional. It isn't too huge or too clumsy to use. With it, Leatherman comes another step closer to abandoning their proprietary bit driver interface. They built in the expected "squashed" bit driver, but they also included a standard 1/4 inch drive bit holder. We like this. The standard bit holder isn't oriented in an ideal fashion, but it is better than nothing. For survivalists looking for a multi-tool designed with bushcraft in mind, while also functional around the home, the Signal is a great piece of gear to add to the kit.

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
82
$170
Editors' Choice Award
The sky-high standard by which other multi tools are compared
75
$80
Editors' Choice Award
Clever and clean, with only a few tools, all of which are executed well for everyday carry
74
$100
Best Buy Award
All you should need, with proven pedigree, at a forgiving price
73
$140
Typical feature set packaged in a fundamentally different hinged package
73
$120
For outdoor adventures and wilderness survival considerations, we don't know of a better tool than the Leatherman Signal
72
$130
This tool pulls no punches: it optimizes for function at the cost of portability
67
$80
Lots of features; some of them are truly innovative while others are curiously redundant (drivers) and others are curiously small (blade)
64
$75
As a tool for a professional working with his or her hands, this tool is excellent
63
$105
This is a slick product with European flair and a useful, standard suite of features
62
$90
A solid tool with an interchangeable blade that really sets it apart from all the competitors
61
$130
Top Pick Award
This is a top of the line multi-tool, with a full feature-set, robust collection of accessories and a bomber storage sheath
56
$110
The pliers are great and the secondary tools are useful but limited
53
$25
Despite its somewhat in-between size, this model is well-made and reasonably equipped
53
$60
Best Buy Award
A compact budget tool with excellent construction and a reasonable set of features for daily use
50
$70
As a functional, ratcheting screw bit driver, this tool excels - A niche multi-tool
47
$25
Top Pick Award
For daily carry and occasional use, this tiny and mighty tool is just the ticket
46
$45
A basic, affordable multi-tool for simple tasks and light repairs. It is small for unobtrusive portability
43
$40
A small, keychain-ready piece of equipment you can keep with you all the time for everyday tasks
38
$19
A keychain-ready multi tool, uniquely outfitted with a regular blade and a serrated one
37
$41
This is a good value and well built, with almost all the functions we look for in a multi-tool
36
$25
Purpose-built locking pliers with blade and screwdriver bit, this product has limited appeal

Vehicle issues are stressful enough, especially in remote areas...
Vehicle issues are stressful enough, especially in remote areas. Stack the odds in your favor when any sort of mechanical breakdown is likely and consequential by carrying a multi-tool and just the most rudimentary mechanical knowledge.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Why You Should Trust Us


Homeowner, camper renovator, Airbnb Superhost (with a 5-star cleanliness rating), world traveler, clever fix-it guy, and IFMGA Mountain Guide Jediah Porter coordinates our multi-tool review. We employed him initially for his mountain experience, but his "side hustles" qualify him for this category. Since we've known him, Jed has dabbled in (or, dived into) vacation rental management, completely renovating a "Four Wheel Camper", bicycle building, kitchen installation, apartment renovation, and roadside Korean car repair. He uses a multi-tool almost every day, much to his own chagrin. He'd much rather be out skiing huge peaks and slicing cheddar for charcuterie back in the tent. We're happy to have grown with Jed.

With each multi-tool, Jed solicits the input and opinion of other guides, professional contractors, hunters, motorcyclists, fishing enthusiasts, and tradespeople. Recently, Jed enlisted the advice of foodie, hunter, welder, and all-around handy guru Ryan Weidenbach, who happens to be his cousin. Ryan is trained as a welder and manages a campground, a catering business, lakeside resort, and rental properties.

As we do with all GearLab reviews, we started by scouring the market and looking back at the list of dozens of tools we have assessed over the years. We purchase the best, and each tool gets weeks (at least. Or months or years) of day-to-day use that feature a battery of exercises. With each blade, we cut things such as tomatoes, rope, and wood. We turn screws and bolts, cut and bend wire clothes hangers. We use the other functions in their intended situations and press them to be used in an improvised fashion. As with all the testing we do, the most informative results are those gleaned in "real world" use. Recent remote car repairs, for example, highlighted some genuine observations of multi-tool functionality.

Related: How We Tested Multi-tool Knives

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Analysis and Test Results


The "multi-tool" market is immense. Any single product that combines more than one tool is a "multi-tool." We confine our investigations to those products that feature pliers, a blade, and at least one screwdriver. We further refine our focus on tools that are targeted to either daily all-around use or outdoor pursuits. We have a long list of day-to-day multi-tools and a couple built for hunting and survival in our test suite. We score each model across the same rubric to assess them equally and share our findings below.

Related: Buying Advice for Multi-tool Knives


Value


Value in multi-tools is a function of the purchase price and how it relates to functions, materials, construction, and ergonomics. We find that the materials and construction are the primary compromises. A multi-tool inherently has multiple tools. Whether cheap or expensive, your multi-tool will do various things. Similarly, multi-tools naturally compromise on ergonomics. A stand-alone screwdriver will be better than one built into the handle of a pair of pliers regardless of how much you pay. The upgrade in price will get you a longer-lasting design, flashier materials, and tighter tolerances. Ergonomics don't increase appreciably with higher prices.

We give out awards for specific applications and niche uses. There is the everyday carry, incredible value of the Leatherman Wingman, which provides enough functionality to satisfy the majority of small tool needs in your day-to-day life. The relatively affordable Leatherman Wave+ provides almost the same performance as the top-ranked Charge+ TTi at a significantly lower price. Similarly, you can find lower-budget versions of the award-winning Leatherman Skeletool CX.

One-handed, externally accessed blades are the only way to go on a...
One-handed, externally accessed blades are the only way to go on a high-end multi-tool now. Even budget options like the Wave+ are including this excellent feature.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Functions


In assessing a product's functions, we count the components, compare those to what most consumers find most useful, and evaluate each feature's size and utility. Besides the sheer number of tools built into a given product, the design and usability of each count for a lot. A product that has ten well-designed parts is more valuable than one with 20 mediocre functions crammed in.


Particular functions are especially critical in day-to-day use. Most valuable are a nice blade, tight-and-pointy pliers with wire cutters, scissors, and integrated bit drivers. The only tools in our test that have the features on this list in high quality are the Leatherman Surge, Leatherman Charge+ TTi, Gerber Center Drive Plus, and Leatherman Wave. Additionally, there are those out there who will surely appreciate the innovative package opener on the Leatherman Wingman and the Gerber Dime.

All the parts of the Leatherman Charge+ TTi.
All the parts of the Leatherman Charge+ TTi.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Note that each company counts its functions and features differently. For instance, it is claimed that the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X has 26 tools. The SOG PowerAssist has claimed 16 features. The Spirit has scissors, and the SOG does not, but otherwise, the actual feature set is very similar. Victorinox merely counts its features more generously.  With its Suspension device, Gerber provides adequate feature sets at a low price. The SOG Baton Q4 has a relatively small set of features. The Leatherman Skeletool, Gerber Center Drive, and Gerber Crucial also have relatively few features, but they are ergonomically optimized.

The SOG Baton flips the script on typical multi-tool format.
The SOG Baton flips the script on typical multi-tool format.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Among the most feature-deprived products we tested are products built around locking pliers, but each of those tools is fully functioning, and the pliers lead the entire field. The Leatherman Crunch and Irwin 5WR Vise-Grips include locking pliers. The Crunch has a few more options than the Irwin, but the Irwin is a little larger, and its blade is accessible from the outside (although we still don't love the blade location when deployed). Out of the two, we like the Crunch better.

At first glance, the Crunch and SOG Baton Q4 products seem to have similar feature sets, although the tools function significantly differently. The pliers on the Crunch are way better than those of the Baton, while the Baton bit driver is way better than that on the Crunch. Better still is the bit driver of the Gerber Center Drive Plus, which has the best screwdriver function of all.

Leatherman Wave+ with all functions deployed for your view.
Leatherman Wave+ with all functions deployed for your view.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

With the smallest products in our test, the feature set is remarkably similar. The Gerber Dime has a package opener, while the Leatherman Squirt PS4 has a file. Besides that, they are virtually the same. However, the Gerber Dime edges ahead with a bottle opener that is more readily accessible than that on the Leatherman.

These four functions are accessible from the outside of the closed...
These four functions are accessible from the outside of the closed Wave+ pliers
Photo: Jediah Porter

Leatherman recently added a line of multi-tools they call "Free." Hinges in the "Free" line pivot smoothly with virtually no resistance. Instead of friction (as on most other products), magnets and springs hold the hinges in place. Of these, we reviewed the top-of-the-line "Free" product. The Leatherman Free P4 is a helpful tool, but its function selection lags behind the manufacturer's other class-leading tools. Notably, the Free P4 does not have a bit driver. If and when the Free series expands to include a bit driver (even better would be a standard 1/4" bit driver and an included extension that centers the bit with the tool handle) and somehow figures out how to integrate locking pliers, we'll have our ideal tool. For now, the Free P4 is an interesting development — but before it holds our attention, it will need a few more functions.

Let us look more closely at the feature set of the Leatherman Skeletool CX. This is a full-sized minimalist tool, meaning that each function of the Skeletool is likely as large as you need it to be, and each is almost perfectly optimized for function. Our initial hesitations are related to the bit driver. We keep repeating this, but we wish that Leatherman tools included a standard 1/4" bit driver instead of their proprietary configuration.

The Havalon tool is pretty simple but requires some accessories...
The Havalon tool is pretty simple but requires some accessories. Notably, the readily changed blade configuration requires carrying extra blades, a tool to make the change, and cases for all the parts.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The only model in our entire review that features a user-replaceable main blade is the Havalon Evolve. Havalon's proprietary scalpel-style blade interchange is unique and welcome to specific applications. The interchangeable blade is thin, which allows it to be exceptionally sharp but also flexible and flimsy. We wish the Havalon also included a more traditional blade on the Evolve for more substantial use. Aside from the blade, the Havalon Evolve feature set and layout are pretty similar to the Skeletool CX.

Yes, this is the very start of a campfire. All that was required was...
Yes, this is the very start of a campfire. All that was required was dry grass and the parts of the Leatherman Signal. It didn't even require any special skill or patience.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The SOG PowerAccess Deluxe is SOG's most feature-rich multi-tool, but it still comes up short compared to other options. Notably, it doesn't have scissors. It does have a clever (if redundant) suite of the screw, bit, and socket driving options. The feature-set of the Leatherman Signal also deserves mention. The Signal is optimized for outdoor and survival use. It has numerous attributes that appear on no other tools in our test. There is a signal whistle, fire starter, hammer surface, and blade sharpener.

We shouldn&#039;t be surprised when a multi-tool includes a multi-surface...
We shouldn't be surprised when a multi-tool includes a multi-surface blade (serrated and straight). We wish these blades were all straight, but we must be in the minority in this desire.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Construction Quality


The quality of manufacturing varied in the products we tested. Hinges and locking mechanisms reveal the attention paid to detail. Sturdy materials, tight manufacturing tolerances, and intelligent construction stand out in a tool the end-user could handle every day for years. High-quality construction stood out virtually right away in our testing and only increased in value as time and usage wore on. The Charge TTi, Skeletool CX, SOG  PowerAssist, Wave+, Surge, Free P4, Signal, and Victorinox Swisstool have excellent "out of the box" construction quality feels. Our evaluation of their construction quality was initially subjective. Does it "feel" sturdy and confidence-inspiring?  It inevitably followed that some aspects of the tool's mechanical function would act finicky when this almost-aesthetic assessment came up short for a given contender.


The Squirt PS4, Gerber Vise, SOG Micro ToolClip, and the Gerber Dime are small and don't have construction quite as rugged as the others. To miniaturize tools like these, manufacturers must downsize all the individual components, generally resulting in a weakened structure. Of these smaller tools, the SOG and Gerber Dime are the most robust. A bit too big in this niche for the liking of our testers, the SOG is just large enough that it doesn't readily hang well on most keychains.

Leatherman brand tools, especially their higher-end versions, are...
Leatherman brand tools, especially their higher-end versions, are works of art in many ways. The construction quality of this Free P4 is near immaculate, making it a joy to use.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Plier hinges are the most vulnerable to poor construction quality. Virtually all of our tested products held up very well in this respect. In terms of the "smoothness" of construction, we appreciated the Swiss precision of the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit XC.

We recommend you don&#039;t work on the regulator of your backyard...
We recommend you don't work on the regulator of your backyard propane tank. But if you must, do so with a handy and effective multi-tool, chosen with our advice.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The Leatherman Crunch is rugged and built for serious use. Because of the design criteria of the locking pliers, the hinges have more play in them. The blades and drivers of the Crunch are reliable and adequate, though a little small. Similarly, we can say many of the same things about the Irwin 5WR Vise Grips. The Irwin is essentially a standard pair of locking pliers with a blade and bit driver attached. Locking pliers will always have more play than non-locking, and the locking mechanism takes up space that compromises multi-tool features.
Budget choice Leatherman Wingman. One of the corners-cutting...
Budget choice Leatherman Wingman. One of the corners-cutting measures they take is to equip it with a blade smaller than would fit. Here you can see the end of the blade and the extra room they leave "on the table".
Photo: Jediah Porter

The Gerber Suspension, SOG Baton Q4, SOG PowerAccess Deluxe, and Gerber Center Drive Plus are nothing special in terms of construction quality. The Gerber Suspension is a little more tightly assembled, but the pliers flex, and the components are small and get dinged up in use. The slide-to-deploy pliers of the Center Drive require loose tolerances resulting in rattly construction that seems to hold up but doesn't inspire confidence. Similarly, an early tester version of the Center Drive's main blade came to us with a bead of unpolished metal burrs along the very edge. It cut adequately, but that bead indicates sloppy manufacturing. A subsequent tested version (the updated "Plus" version) had all the edges better finished than the original we tested.

The Gerber Center Drive is innovative but a little rough. Literally...
The Gerber Center Drive is innovative but a little rough. Literally. The machine-finished edge had a visible line of burrs at initial purchase. This is easily remedied with home sharpening, but shouldn't be necessary.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Ergonomics


The ergonomic quality of a multi-tool is a function of handle shape's comfort, plus accessibility and utility of the various features. Excellent ergonomics stand out right away, and quality becomes more apparent with use.


All of the models we tested are a set of pliers with other parts built into the handle except for the SOG Baton Q4. In its "stowed" form, the Baton is elongated like a screwdriver. In each tested product, the pliers fold into the handles. However, some multi-tools do this more elegantly than others. For the pliers (and wire cutters) to be most functional, the handle's exposed parts must be rounded and smooth. All of our tested products meet this test, with the Charge+ TTi and SwissTool being the most smooth-handled products. The plier handles on the Leatherman Free P4 are almost entirely smooth. Interrupting the sleek lines is a pair of peculiar and sharp protrusions. The Gerber Center Drive Plus is pretty smooth but has more plier pinch potential than others on the market. Other and older models on the market aren't as comfortable. For instance, the Leatherman Crunch has just a little bit of rounding to protect the user's hands from the sharp plier handles. Leatherman's Skeletool CX has smooth plier handles, but the handles are a little thinner than ideal. The full-size, fully rounded external profile of the Irwin 5WR is nearly as easy on the hands as dedicated Vise-Grips.

This image shows the proprietary Leatherman bit driver. It works...
This image shows the proprietary Leatherman bit driver. It works, but makes some compromises over the standard 1/4" format.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Regarding the roundness of plier handles, the SOG PowerAssist is remarkably similar to the Crunch. The closer the pliers handles come to one another, the more likely you are to pinch your hand while using them. The Gerber Suspension is best in this respect, with the Victorinox not too far off. Both of these have handles that curve away from one another, leaving plenty of room. Though otherwise very intelligently designed, the  Center Drive Plus and SOG PowerAssist have a fair amount of most pinch potential. The Leatherman Charge, Wave, and Surge all have moderate pinch potential.

Each of the functions is compromised by the fact they are bolted to other components. We gave high marks to devices with the most commonly used functions accessible with minimal folding and unfolding moves.

Though small, the Wave+ scissors are handy, tight, and will cut...
Though small, the Wave+ scissors are handy, tight, and will cut anything the knife blade isn't suitable for.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Notably, the main blades of the following tools are accessible with one thumb and without deploying any other tools: Leatherman Wave+, Skeletool, Charge+ TTi, Wingman, Signal, and Free P4; the Gerber Suspension, Crucial, and Center Drive Plus; the SOG PowerAccess Deluxe and PowerAssist; and the Havalon Evolve.

This is the Irwin 5WR Vise-Grip. As new, the blade faced the wrong...
This is the Irwin 5WR Vise-Grip. As new, the blade faced the wrong way. We took some time and initiative to modify this product and have come up with a much better, more usable, configuration with no conceivable drawbacks.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The Irwin 5WR is also set up for one-handed blade deployment. Interestingly, the Irwin comes from the factory configured such that the blade is not that useful. The pliers, as factory configured, interfere with the blade. In about 15 minutes, with a couple of Allen wrenches and a Dremel tool, our test team was able to modify the blade of the Irwin to be much more useable, with no noticeable compromises.

One-handed opening for the blade is a great trend. A blade that deploys with one hand is vital to scoring high in the ergonomic department. Special mention must be given to the innovative ergonomic features of the SOG PowerAssist.  The two blades deploy from the "outside" of the stowed pliers, and each has assisted opening that we see nowhere else in our multi-tool review. The pliers include a mechanical advantage gearing system that significantly increases the holding power. The SOG PowerAccess Deluxe has the same advantaged pliers, but the knife blade is hard to open with one hand, features no assist, and is much smaller than that on the PowerAssist.

This photo shows the geometry of the Gerber Center Drive bit driver...
This photo shows the geometry of the Gerber Center Drive bit driver. It is a subtle thing, but that it aligns with the center of the handle really makes it easier to use.
Photo: Jediah Porter

To get to the blades and drivers of the Crunch, one must deploy the pliers, open the piece you need, and then close the pliers. The smaller products in our test make inherent ergonomics compromises. It is in ergonomics that one "pays the price" for the portability of the Gerber Dime and Leatherman Squirt PS4. Each of these tools' features is much smaller and less useful than its dedicated counterpart.

For real handiwork, there is nothing like locking pliers. The Irwin...
For real handiwork, there is nothing like locking pliers. The Irwin Vise Grip is locking pliers with a knife blade and bit driver integrated.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The bottle opener of the Gerber Dime is the one exception. As an extension of the handle, this can be used without deploying any of the other attributes. Compromising very little on ergonomics, the Leatherman Skeletool is a relatively compact, "full-sized" product. The limited suite of tools on the Skeletool is entirely convenient to use. The ergonomics of the Gerber Crucial and Havalon Evolve are pretty similar to those of the Skeletool.

Leatherman's largest multi-tool is the ultra-sized Leatherman Surge. The size passes a critical threshold, and some of the tools are harder to use than those on a smaller tool, notably the knife blades. The closed handle is bulkier than an average to large hand can securely grasp under a heavy load or for extended periods.

The Leatherman Surge is heavy duty and user-serviceable for extended...
The Leatherman Surge is heavy duty and user-serviceable for extended electrical work.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Portability


A tool is only as useful as it is available. We liked ones that offered a variety of carrying methods. The Leatherman Charge+ TTi, although one of the larger competitors, can be carried with a pocket clip, attached to a lanyard or keychain, and stowed in the included rugged belt pouch. With aftermarket additions, the Leatherman Surge and the Leatherman Wave+ can be configured to carry the same way.


The Havalon Evolve is a little bigger than the Skeletool or Crucial. Furthermore, the interchangeable blades and blade changing tool take up space. Havalon ships the Evolve with a zip-closed carry case that holds the tool, extra blades, and blade-changing tool. The whole package is bulkier than most, while the pocket-clipped Evolve alone is sized somewhere between the Skeletool and Charge.

Having a diminutive-yet-tough design, the Gerber Dime virtually disappears on a keychain. The Leatherman Squirt PS4 is even smaller than the Dime. Our lead test editor carries a Squirt PS4 in his "go everywhere" emergency/first aid kit. The Gerber Vise is slightly larger than these other two, while the SOG Micro Tool Clip is another step up from the keychain-sized products.

One of the saws of the Leatherman Surge, in action on a plumbing...
One of the saws of the Leatherman Surge, in action on a plumbing project.
Photo: Rosie De Lise

Out of the tools that include full-size features, the Leatherman Skeletool CX is the most portable. It accomplishes this by adding fewer features and offering virtually all of the most common carry options. The Skeletool has just a few features, but each is nearly full size. The external profile of the closed Skeletool is smooth; there is an integrated carabiner-style clip and a smart pocket clip. Similar portability is available with the Gerber Crucial.

We love pocket clipped multi tools. Havalon came screaming out of...
We love pocket clipped multi tools. Havalon came screaming out of the gates with their first product, nailing many of the performance and usability attributes we like best.
Photo: Jediah Porter

All the products tested except for the Vise, Micro ToolClip, Squirt, Crucial, Wingman, and Dime came with sheaths. The Skeletool and Irwin 5WR can be purchased with or without a sheath. Of those that are sheath-equipped, only the SOG Baton Q4 cannot be threaded onto a pants belt. The Charge TTi, Crucial, Baton, Wingman, Signal, Havalon, SOG MicroFree P4 and Skeletool come stock with a clip that can be clipped to the edge of one's front pants pocket. The Wave+ and Surge can be equipped with an aftermarket pocket clip. The Squirt PS4 and Dime disappear on a keychain, while the Suspension and Charge TTi (among others) have keyring/lanyard holes. The Leatherman Crunch is best carried in the included sheath or loose in your pocket. Models like the SOG PowerAssist and the Surge are large and are therefore only really feasible to carry them on-person in their sheaths.

Some of the &quot;keychain&quot; sized multi-tools we tested. On the left...
Some of the "keychain" sized multi-tools we tested. On the left, Leatherman Squirt PS4. On the right, the Gerber Dime.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Conclusion


There's a broad and ever-expanding landscape of multi-tool options out there. From the outside, it might be hard to spot some of the important differences between these tools, and we hope that through our review you can better discern which will be the best to serve your needs. We work hard to stay on top of the market and get our hands on the best as often as we can. We conduct thorough examinations and sort our findings to deliver you the best possible information. What we present here is intended to help you quickly and effectively make the wisest purchase for your purposes, and we hope that it helps narrow down your choices.

Jediah Porter

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