Best Multi-Tool Knives Reviewed and Tested
Multi tool knives are used indoors and outdoors for a variety of tasks, even ones that are high level. That means a quality multi-tool can be used by hobbyists and professionals in the most efficient way possible. To make the most of a buying decision, users have looked for key criteria in their search for the best multi-tool knife. There are a lot of products to choose from, and each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses. From sets that are good for light loads to those that excel with heavy, there is something for everyone. Specific tools that are included will make the most difference, since some are easier to live without than others.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Gerber Suspension
- Open Frame
- Leatherman Wingman
- Good Price
- Swiss+Tech ST44444
- Small Design
Gerber and Leatherman dominate the list, with the former being a company that is known for their incredible outdoor catalogue. Gerber is the brand that many consumers trust the most, and they continue to deliver no matter how high the expectations get. Their unique look is unmistakable, and the quality is unmatched. Leatherman is a little less known, at least when you look outside of the multi-tool market. They pack a lot of tool into a small package, serving as a great alternative to Gerber’s products. Consumers end up with a good deal when choosing Leatherman, and will get consistency across all of their tools.
Maintenance and Cleaning Tips
There are a lot of cleaning tips for knives that also apply to multi-tool knives. But mechanics need to be taken into account when cleaning them, and the many moving parts need attention. Besides a cleaning kit you can purchase from the store, there are also some home solutions that come in handy. Non-chlorinated brake cleaner is a good solution to go by when you don’t want to buy a cleaning kit. It is readily available in most homes, and can get a considerable amount of gunk off of your multi-tool. Built up dirt can permanently damage the inner workings of the product, even if it is high grade. Simple wipe downs takes only a few minutes and can prolong the life of the multi-tool.
10 Best Multi-Tool Knives
1. Gerber Suspension
Best Locking System
Safety is a concern when dealing with multiple sharp items in one tool. The Saf.T.Plus system by Gerber is built to ensure that customers get the best locking system possible without limiting the included tools.
12 in one tools
Ballistic nylon sheath included
The best product on the list still maintains a low price, putting it in an elite category. Plenty of value can be found in any Gerber flagship model, especially one at a lower price than the competitors.
It’s always good to be able to get the best product in the industry at a non-inflated price. That’s only one of the things that helps the popularity of this Gerber model, with quality being the other.
Open frame stainless steel handle
Limited lifetime warranty
Some tools are difficult to extract
2. Leatherman - Wingman
No Price Gouging
The sheath and non-sheath versions are around the same price, giving customers an option without killing their wallet. And even with this being the best Leatherman product on the list, it is still priced well.
14 tools in one
420HC combo knife
Lack of shiny looks aside, this is a great value at the mid-price point. The only comparable option with this many features will lead consumers to the Gerber side.
It’s hard to pass up Leatherman quality along with their solid 25 year warranty. The Wingman is a reliable multi-tool knife that will be by your side for years.
One handed operation
Stainless Steel is dull looking
3. Swiss+Tech ST44444
Buyers will get great value for their money with the lowest priced product on the list. It also ranks as one of the lowest in the entire industry, and all without lowering the quality of what’s in the box.
Available in a pack of one or two
Has regular packing or gift tin
The gift tin option is a great value, even if you plan on keeping it for yourself. It is not that much more than the regular packaging and includes a nicer look.
To get the most out of a portable multi-tool, it has to be able to go with you without any restrictions. The ST66676 accomplishes this and more, and is a fine choice for any user.
Small enough to attach to a keychain
Limited lifetime warranty
Not strong enough for heavy duty tasks
4. Gerber Dime
Best Looking On The List
Not only do the variety of colors help it to stand out, the great look of the product shines when put side by side with the competition. Available colors are black, green, purple, red and silver.
12 tools in one
Amazingly, the price of this top tier product is low, so the value is incredible. Buyers won’t get a much better deal than this when looking for a multi-tool knife.
Gerber can do no wrong, and continues to dominate in multiple markets. The added depth of multiple colors is an attractive buying option for any new customer.
Only 2.2 ounces
Cap lifter can’t be removed
5. Leatherman - Skeletool
Four Different Styles
Choice is something that has been lacking in the style department, at least in the top tier multi-tool knife category. Leatherman offers the Skeletool in Columbia Blue, Moss Green, Stainless Steel and Stainless Steel with Nylon Sheath.
One handed operation
This is the first mid-priced product on the list, but one that still retains its great value. The 25 year warranty is more than enough for any customer to get their money’s worth out of the product.
Buyers will have no troubles making this their product of choice when they need a quick tool. With plenty of styles and a fair price, it is a nice top five choice.
Some tools can be accessed while the tool is folded
25 year guarantee
Only 7 tools
6. Victorinox Swiss Army Rambler
Made in Switzerland, and is a great looking product whether it is closed or open. Multiple color
schemes would have really bumped the value of the Army Rambler, but even in its current form it is beautiful to look at.
Other products on the list have more tools, yet the refined 10 option Army Rambler is still a good value. The low cost and good looks are backed by a lifetime guarantee from the company.
With a Victorinox product in your pocket, you are good to go for any daily task. This is almost a top five product, and is worth the purchase if you need something small.
Only weights 1.058 ounces
Red ABS scales
Only comes in one color
7. Stanley 84-519K
A lot of times customers will talk about tools and how they feel in your hands. The 84-519k is a good example of what those professionals mean, right down to its locking mechanism and the smoothness of the construction.
12 in 1
Anyone familiar with the Stanley brand will appreciate the low price and added value of buying from a trusted company. They are in direct competition with names like Gerber, and do an admirable job with their products.
For a top five product at a steal of a price, this multi-tool really does the trick. Some advanced features are missing, but it still holds its own against the other options.
Solid steel construction
Nylon holster included
Blades don’t lock in place
8. Hoffman Richter HR-100
One Of The Best Pliers On The List
The spring loaded needle nose pliers have a nice grip to them, even on tougher tasks. Depending on the size of your main pliers, these could serve as an adequate replacement.
440 Stainless Steel construction
All tools lock in place
Even with the weak knife blade, this is still a good value since it is low priced. The remaining 12 tools in the package more than make up for the quality of the knife.
Under different circumstances, this model would have been closer to the top of the list. It still performs well, with a great warranty attached to the purchase.
1000D nylon case with belt loop
Weakest knife blade on the list
9. SHINE HAI
14 In 1
There are fourteen total tools in one foldable design, and it’s ordered in a way that makes sense. Some of the better tools are the pliers, wire cutters, the mini and large slotted screwdriver and the straight edge knife.
420 Stainless Steel
Lifetime product warranty
At a low price, the included sheath gives this product an added value. It’s a good buy when you want all of the tools for the job in one design.
There are plenty of tools in this package from the start that can handle whatever job you throw at it. The warranty is a nice touch and adds a layer of comfort for any potential consumer.
Nylon sheath included
Good locking mechanism
Warranty doesn’t cover sheaths
10. Tacklife MPY07
Strong Out Of The Box
Durability is the key with this product, as it is slightly stronger than the other competing products outside of the top five. This added strength helps it last longer on jobs that require more force than normal.
Stainless Steel construction
Like all of the products on the list, this one lands on the low price point. Buyers will get a good value due to the stronger build of the MPY07.
When using a multi-tool knife outdoors, the wear and tear can shorten the life of the product. With this model, that extra usage won’t be as big of a factor.
24 month warranty
Organization of tools could be better
Criteria For Evaluation
Multi-tool knives have a lot of responsibilities out of the box, and will often be misused-even by professionals. We made durability a top priority with our testing, but didn’t discount the importance of colors, size, weight and many other options. The amount of tools in the package also led to a very interesting choices being put on the list. When looking at what consumers and professionals want in a multi-tool knife, there really isn’t much difference between the two groups. This made it easier for us to make final choices in the top five, and eventually round out the list as a whole.
Durability was the first thing we looked at, but made it separate from the warranty. We did this since the convenience of a warranty doesn’t make it okay to have a glass cannon product. Companies like Gerber, Leatherman and Stanley were not excluded from this check, and some of their other products didn’t make the list because of this. The durability criteria mostly affected smaller brands and generic brands that had not yet established themselves.
Their products were full of complaints about durability, usually with tools that used complex actions. And a lot of these durability concerns weren’t associated with misuse, so it was a real red flag. Buyers can be confident that the products in the top ten passed this deep durability test and are ready for any task you have.
Warranties is where we looked next, and for the most part all of the products had great traction in this area. The few that offered simple 1-2 years warranties were left off in favor of the more established warranty programs. With all of the possible breakage with tools, having an iron clad warranty is a must. We also favored warranties that allowed the use of self-coating with their product-up to a certain extent. So longevity and relaxed modification rules were favored when we factored in a products warranty coverage. Looking at the overall durability of the tools is one thing, and didn’t cover the knife.
Since the knife is the star of the show with the multi-tool knife, we gave that a separate category. Knife durability is important to the overall package when purchasing a multi-tool knife. We looked at how it held up to pressure, cutting and how well it took to being sharpened. Some fared better than others, while the cheaper options couldn’t make it past the cutting stage. We had some heavy favorites that moved up the list due to their knife durability, and maintained that spot throughout the rest of the testing.
Resistance is the fourth thing we tested for, and was associated with how the tools in the set handled force. It’s frustrating to use the screwdriver on a multi-tool while constantly fighting with the mechanics as it tries to fold back in place. Tools needed to have at least above average resistance in order to earn a place on the list. No one wants to fight with their tools, and in some cases this can lead to an accident. We were the harshest on knives since they could be used for multiple tasks at once. When going through all of the tools available, it shouldn’t take multiple tries to get a specific tool.
Ease of Use
Organization and ease of use was a criteria that we went over multiple times. Even the best multi-tools on the list had troubles with this criteria, but it led to some revelations with some products. Leatherman almost took the top spot because of this, and it shows just how close the race was to #1. Some products didn’t make the cut and were removed based on how hard they were to get open. And products that were billed as one handed received harsher penalties if they didn’t live up to expectations. Feeling natural in your hands is something that not a lot of products can get right. This is hard to do when stuffing multiple tools into one model, and can get even harder when maximizing durability is a concern. Yet we managed to find multi-tool knives with the best ergonomics, even with pressure applied. Only a few were able to meet or exceed the type of grip customers would expect from a hunting knife. It was these outstanding products that made a great impression and earned a higher spot on the list.
The Best Brands
Branding is something that can’t be ignored when comparing top products, and in this category Gerber dominated. We look at branding the same as we look at notoriety. They are the most active in the industry, therefore have the most to offer with innovation. Branding also helped Stanley and Victorinox, two great alternative options on the list. They both made a positive impact for their work in the industry, and each provided a unique take on the modern multi-tool knife. Some other inclusions made the list based on past and present reviews in top magazines where their flagship models were on display.
And this is where the marketing comes into play, and was a key criteria to determine the effectiveness of the brand. Marketing only affected the smaller brands, and it helped to determine whether we could trust their particular product. With so many choices available in the multi-tool knife market, it would be unfair to go by top brands only while ignoring the smaller and less established ones. Marketability helped to balance out the list after we checked Brand criteria, and in the end we got a very varied top ten as a result of this criteria. Regrettably, not a lot of products fit into this criteria. It would probably be a good 6 out of the entire 10 that really tried to impress with style. Some didn’t even offer style options at all, opting simply to release their product as stainless steel. Rather than penalize products for lacking style, we awarded any that took the bold step of adding color or distinct style patterns to their products. While the benefit of styling is purely cosmetic, it adds a more pleasing aesthetic any of the multi-tool knives that implement it. The Victorinox model is a great example of style done right, and they placed highly on the list because of it.
Quality of Accessories
For the models on the list that came with cases or sheaths, we rated the quality of these accessories. Accessories should be held to the same standard as the product they are protecting. This was a difficult criteria to measure, and became more difficult since the warranties were different for the included accessories. We found the best way to go about this was to take away points for low quality accessories. If the included bundle didn’t live up to expectations, then at most it would lose a spot or two on the list.
Price is a complicated criteria of its own since many of the products on the list are in the low price category. A couple are in the mid-range category, but none high. When evaluation cost/value we looked at all of the previous criteria mentioned and then assessed an overall value to the product. If the value was met then it remained on the list. When the value wasn’t met, we removed the product in favor of lower priced competing models. This is why some big names may not appear on the list even though their products are well known through the industry.
Number of Tools
The last thing we rated wasn’t the most important, but was still a worthy criteria; number of tools. Quantity doesn’t always equal quality, but when looking at the overall features of a multi-tool knife, it’s always nice to have those extras. Products were given a single point for the amount of tools they had in one package. It was a simple numbering scheme that worked out well, but didn’t impact the top three products. It did shape the tail end of the list, and helped us out when we had similar products that we couldn’t make a final decision on.
Why Is Gerber Considered A Top Brand?
Gerber has their own set of flagship multi-tools made by their Gerber Legendary Blades Company. Among the notoriety for the quality of the materials, Gerber is known for their industry leading knives. So when their sub company started specializing in multi-tool knives, they opened up a brand new dimension in the company’s product line. Like all big brands of their size, customer support and warranties have a lot more clout than the competition. A little bit of research usually leads customers to Gerber and their products. So beyond a few other notable companies, consumers will be well taken care of by going with the Gerber brand.
What is The Most Important Tool?
Buyers that are specifically looking for multi-tool knives will of course favor a strong knife. This isn’t always the case, as some users prefer a multitude of different knives in one set rather than a single strong knife. Serrated blades are popular for outdoor use, and specific styles may dictate even further interest in a particular multi-tool. But the knife is the most important tool in a multi-tool knife product. If that one blade is below par, then the rest of the package isn’t worth the asking price. There are no exceptions to this rule, and it is one of the main reasons why companies like Gerber and Leatherman are so highly regarded.
Are Multi-tools Easy To Repair?
Users with some technical prowess take their multi-tool knives apart completely when cleaning them. This is of course against the warranty, and leads directly into actual repairs. With multi-tool knives, the warranty can be a true lifesaver. Small cleanings here and there can prolong the life of the product, but there is no accounting for parts wearing out or sudden damage. Consumers are advised to use their warranty rather than try a repair at home- unless they are out of warranty. In this case, repairing multi-tools can be a breeze, or a complete nightmare. The more tools there are on a single product, the higher the difficulty will be when doing a repair on your own.
Is It Recommended To Only Use Store Bought Cleaning Kits?
In some cases a company may recommend store bought cleaning kits for interested consumers. Most of these kits are made with chemicals that work well with the materials used for the multi-tool knife. There are advantages to using these kits, like having everything you need to clean in one package. These kits are also tested well, even if they aren’t guaranteed. When the kits fail to clean your multi-tool knife, there are proven home remedies that can do the trick. Often these are harsher chemicals, but more often than not they get the job done. At the very least, home made cleaning solutions offer an alternative when the approved method fails to do the trick.
Do Multi-tools Break Easily?
Durability is a concern with any tool that has moving parts. Since multi-tool knives are rated for low/medium tasks, the amount of force it takes to break them will be high. That doesn’t mean it won’t give under minor pressure due to wear, but consumers should be informed that using a regular tool in place of any of the ones in multi-tools will allow more give. Even the most well made multi-tool will be a step down from a single tool, at least where durability is a criteria. To keep things simple, use a dedicated tool for high performance tasks and use a multi-tool for anything underneath. Most tasks that are considered important can be handled with a multi-tool knife of good quality.
How Well Do They Function With Heavy Tasks?
It was mentioned earlier that high performance tasks are better suited to dedicated tools rather than multi-tools. When the only option available is a multi-tool, then durability is a massive concern for any consumer. This is where the grade of the materials used to create the product will matter. Higher grade multi-tools will handle high performance stress better, even if they aren’t meant for heavy tasks. For the occasional use when no other option is available, multi-tool knives are a good choice to get the job done- Just make sure they are not the primary option 100% of the time.
Are They Waterproof?
Not all multi-tools are waterproof, although that would be beneficial for most consumers. If you plan on using it outdoors a lot, then having some water resistance is a must. Anything can happen, and the last thing you want is your brand new product rusting a day after getting it. Advanced rust is nothing new when dealing with cheap materials, but is also a probability when high grade materials are exposed to the elements for too long. Minor resistance can stop and sometimes completely slow down the effects of rust. It’s recommended to either have a strong warranty or water resistance to get the most value out of a multi-tool knife purchase.
How Do They Hold Up Over The Years?
Multiple factors come into play with the durability of a multi-tool knife. The coating is one, and is something that Gerber has done well. A good coating will slow down the aging of the tools being used, and can even save them from permanent damage through heavy use. General usage is the main thing that will decide the life of the product. Buyers that use it daily will notice wear and tear gradually slow down the mechanics of all multi-tool knives. This can bother things like the opening and closing of the product to the sharpness of the knife. Consumers should check their warranties often to see what is covered and for how long.
Is A Multi-tool Knife Better Than Regular Hunting Knives?
No, and a good way to test this out is to compare a top grade Gerber hunting knife to a top grade Gerber multi-tool knife. The difference in features is staggering, and puts multi-tool knives in their place. You can apply more force with a hunting knife, and can even carve through bone. Beyond regular knife duties, there is not a lot you can do, even with all in ones. Some specialized knives have a compass, ignition pack and rope all in the butt of the handle. This still puts them below the functionality of a multi-tool knife, which can easily have over 100 uses when you factor in all the tools. Think of the multi-tool knife as the jack of all trades but master of none.
What Does Coating Do?
Coating protects against corrosion and rust, one of the biggest dangers to the health of a metal object. Gerber, in particular, is famous for their black coating, which also serves as a way to block light. Buyers that are hunting can use it tactically without worrying about giving away their position to nearby prey. Even if a multi-tool doesn’t come with coating, there are plenty of ways for a buyer to apply their own coating to the product. This is a common thing, and is useful if you purchase a multi-tool from a manufacturer that doesn’t provide coating. Some warranties are a little relaxed on the application of self-coating, so make sure to check which manufacturers allow it. There are no cons to having coating, and it can only improve the durability of the product.
Why Are The Prices So Low?
The low prices of multi-tools may turn away potential buyers that view them as cheap. Low priced doesn’t always mean cheap, and that goes for more than multi-tools. The big reason why multi-tools are available for low prices has to do with their usefulness in heavy tasks. This is still something that they don’t excel at, and that applies to even the top rated products on any list. Workloads will vary, and for the most part a dedicated tool will last much longer than a multi-tool knife when used daily. Even the thickness of a dedicated tool shows a different type of craftsmanship, one that is geared towards taking punishment. Besides their extra durability, there is not a lot different from dedicated tools and multi-tools.
Are Starter Kits Worth It?
Multi-tool starter kits come with a carrying case and a couple of other accessories, usually related to cleaning the product. Because of the portable nature of the tools, having a carrying case isn’t entirely necessary. It’s good for storage purposes, yet beyond that it is unnecessary to consider starter kits a deal maker for purchasing multi-tools. It’s still a nice to have option if the price remains consistent with products that don’t offer starter kits.
How To Make The Best Decision
Portability is going to be the top thing, even if it seems trivial with the already small sizes. Most multi-tools are built for portability, but not all excel at it. One product may be thicker than the next, making it uncomfortable to carry around in your pocket. Another product may need two hands to use rather than one hand. Single handed operation makes a huge difference between a buy and a pass depending on the intended use. And with some multi-tools now offering carrying cases, the amount of interesting products available is even bigger. Customers should also look at the strength of the main tool they will be using. If you specifically want to use the Philips on a multi-tool knife, then it can’t be a low quality add on. Always choose a multi-tool knife that has the best of the best with the tools you’ll use the most.