The Best Multi-Tools for Any Task

The Swiss Army knife has lodged itself so firmly into Americana that it has become a metaphor for versatility. You’ve said it at one time or another: “the Swiss Army knife of blank,” whatever blank is, meaning it’s capable of handling a variety of situations. On its own, no tool in this little gadget is as good as its full-size version—whether it’s the corkscrew or the screwdriver—but that’s not the point. It’s all about convenience. Why wouldn’t you want to carry a whole toolbox in your pocket? 

It was the first multi-tool with global popularity. Then Leatherman showed up with a folding pair of pliers to give Switzerland a run for its money. Now, there are multi-tools in all kinds of shapes and sizes from a staggering number of companies. But how many of them are actually well made? I spent months testing several models to find out, putting them to work by assembling picture frames, slicing open packages, opening beer and wine bottles, and cutting apples. These are the ones that did their tasks exceptionally well.

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  • Photograph: Leatherman

    Best Overall

    Leatherman Wave Plus

    Leatherman has become shorthand for “multi-tool” for a good reason. The company’s build quality is fantastic. Tools can be flipped out and retracted forcefully but smoothly, and the finishing on each mini-tool is excellent. Leatherman has many options to choose from, but the Wave Plus is easily my favorite. 

    It has two stainless-steel knives, one with a straight edge and the other serrated. The latter is good for cutting fibrous material such as rope. The 420HC steel employed has a high carbon content, so the edge won’t stay sharp for long, but it’s easy to sharpen ’em up again. There are a dizzying 16 other tools, from a wood-and-metal file, a diamond-coated file, a saw, and Phillips screwdriver bits to scissors, an 8-inch ruler, a wire stripper, as well as a bottle and can opener.

    Once upon a time, Leatherman’s Charge series were its best multi-tools. Nowadays, the Wave Plus offers practically the same package at a lower price. It also includes a 25-year warranty, and the company will repair or replace parts if you ship your multi-tool to its facility in Portland, Oregon. There are countless stories of customers receiving whole replacement flip-out tools and blades for their decades-old multi-tools.

  • Photograph: Victorinox

    Best Pocketknife

    Victorinox Deluxe Tinker

    Not everyone wants the weight and bulk of a multi-tool that revolves around a pair of pliers. That’s where Victorinox’s Swiss Army knife comes in. It’s wonderfully built, and the finish on all the tools, from end to end, is unmatched. There’s also something deeply nostalgic about holding the traditional red plastic handle in your hand.

    Those little fold-out pliers that seem, at first glance, useless? I shouldn’t have scoffed. I ended up liking them a lot. They obviously aren’t meant for big jobs that require full-size pliers, but they work very well for tasks that need precision. There are 17 mini-tools here, but Victorinox combines the same tools into different model names. If you want more, fewer, or different tools than what’s in the Deluxe Tinker here, your options are vast. The company also offers a lifetime warranty, so you’ll always be able to send your gadget in for a repair, though it’s easy enough to replace the common bits yourself.

  • Photograph: Victorinox

    Best Tiny Tool

    Victorinox Mini Champ

    There are 18 tools on this little fella, although Victorinox fudges a bit on the count as all manufacturers do. Counting inches and centimeters on the same ruler as two different tools? Really? Anyway, all the tools cut, file, and screw as well as the ones on the full-size Swiss Army knives, and the quality is just as superb. This one’s just smaller overall—around the size of my pinky. It has a retractable blue-ink pen too, which is neat for those of us who never carry a pen around.

Source: The Best Multi-Tools for Any Task

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