We’ve got two major expectations for a good multi-tool: it needs to be bomb-proof, and it needs to be functional. While there are few options out there that satisfy the latter, there’s even fewer that satisfy the former.
In this article, our goal is to help you sift through all the junk and guide you along as you search for a great multi-tool that’ll last you for decades. We’ll do our best to cover a variety of different sizes and price ranges, and we’ll dish out some of the top-reviewed picks for each one.
Quick Look: Top Multi-tool
Last update on 2023-02-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Summaries: Top picks for the best multi-tool
If a full-size multi-tool is what you’ve got in mind, and you don’t mind spending decent money on the absolute best one out there, the Leatherman Wave is hands-down the best thing you’ll find.
Its 17 tools will get you through quite literally just about any situation you could ever find yourself in, and its build quality and durability is second to none.
If you’re looking for something smaller that you can toss in your pocket and forget that it’s there (or for something a little bit less expensive), the Leatherman Micra is your top choice. It weighs 1.8 ounces, and each of its 10 tools are functional, practical, and rock-solid.
(All Leatherman multi-tools are made in the USA and constructed with the same high quality stainless steel - you can expect any one of them to last well-beyond their 25-year warranty period if they’re taken care of properly).
For something mid-range (in between a micro and a full-size tool), you won’t find anything better than the Leatherman Wingman. (Noticing the pattern here?)
It’s small and light enough to fit comfortably in your pocket, but it’s beefed up enough in size and weight from the Micra to allow you to take care of some more heavy-duty tasks.
Lastly, if budget is your primary concern, the Gerber Suspension Multi Plier is the best thing we’ve found yet for a full-size multi-tool at a relatively low price. It’s not really up to snuff quality-wise with Leatherman, but it’s a really solid tool that’s a great alternative for those of you not quite ready (or willing) to spend top dollar.
Leatherman Wave - 17-tool Stainless Steel Multi-Tool w/ Sheath
Last update on 2022-12-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Wave is Leatherman’s most popular and best-selling model, and is hands-down the full-size multi-tool that all others in the industry are measured by. Swiss Army Knife, Gerber, Hoffman - none really compare in terms of quality and functionality.
It’s a bigger tool, measuring about 1” x 1” x 4” (closed) and it’s pretty heavy (8.5 oz), but it’s still easily stashable in your pants or jacket pocket (although not as subtly as the tiny little Micra).
It’s packed to the brim with 17 tools, each of which are fully functional and very well thought-out design/location wise. (Unlike the Swiss Army Knife where the little scissors and tweezers are notoriously useless). Everything on this tool is brilliantly engineered and highly functional.
A lot of users’ favorite feature of the Wave is that the knife blades, saw, and file can all be opened without opening up the pliers. A convenient, intelligent design that enhances performance of the primary tools like the knife blade and screwdrivers.
Also, when the original design was revamped back in 2004, they added a locking mechanism to each blade and each separate tool, allowing for enhanced performance and an added measure of safety.
For decades now the Wave has been the undisputed kingpin of full-size EDC multi-tools.
Things we liked
Everything. There’s not a tool on the Wave that we feel is unnecessary or impractical
One-hand operable - every tool/blade on the Wave is designed to be able to open/close with one hand
Comes with a quality sheath (leather or nylon for same price)
Tons of bit options with Leatherman bit kits like this
Things we didn’t like
If there’s one negative to the Wave, it’s weight. A lot of people like to carry it on their belt if they’re using it as an EDC
Last update on 2022-05-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Leatherman Micra is far and away the best alternative to a full-size multi-tool if you’re looking for a smaller EDC, or for something far less expensive than the Wave.
With a weight of 1.8-ounces and just 2.5” long closed, it really is the ultimate in terms of ‘un-cumbersome’ everyday carry.
Also, it’s got a dedicated clip on it for keyring attachment, and we know plenty of people who hang it right there along with their car or boat keys.
Unlike larger Leatherman models which are based around a pair of pliers, the central tool on the Micra is a set of spring-loaded scissors. They won’t cut through industrial perforated cardboard, but they’re plenty functional and they’re a heck of a lot better (in our opinion) than the scissors on the classic Swiss Army Knife.
(If you want to get super deep into the Leatherman vs. Swiss Army Knife debate, check out our in-depth article here).
The Micra also comes with a good pair of tweezers, a 1.6” knife blade, three screwdrivers, a file, a bottle opener, and a 4.7” ruler on the outside frame.
In addition of course to its tiny size and practical/comfortable EDC potential, our favorite feature of the Micra is its price. A lot of people still consider it expensive for something so small, but it makes for an excellent gift option and is an affordable means to get in on the Leatherman quality without having to splurge for a full-size tool.
Things we liked
Size/compactness… what else is there to say?
Key ring attachment
Scissors are perfect for nipping fishing line/tying on new hooks/lures
Several color options
Things we didn’t like
So small you might forget it’s there!
Tweezers could probably use some improvement… but we’re not complaining
Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Wingman is the intermediate option in size and price between the Micra and the Wave. At 3.8” long (closed) and 7 oz, though, it’s still fairly big - a lot closer in size to the latter than it is to the former.
The tool - just like its smaller and larger cousins - is a perfect EDC option, and that 1.5 oz weight decrease compared to the Wave is actually really noticeable. Still, though, most people that use it as an everyday carry prefer to wear it on their belt.
It’s got nearly all the same tools that the Wave has, except for a saw blade and the bit driver. (If you really like having the saw option, the Leatherman Rebar is another good choice that’s similarly priced as the Wingman).
The pliers on the bigger and more expensive Wave are suppose to be more powerful than these ones (and we’re sure they are), but we have a tough time imagining a circumstance where the Wave pliers would be able to take care of something that the Wingman ones couldn’t.
Lastly, just like the Wave, one of the favorite user features of this multi-tool is the fact that you can access the blade without opening up the pliers, which is a really good feature for those who plan on primarily using the tool as a knife.
Things we liked
Price! Substantially less expensive than the Wave, with mostly all the same tools and features
A little less weight than the the full-size Wave
Plier performance equals that of much more expensive models
Things we didn’t like
No bit driver options (aside from screwdriver tools)
Doesn’t come with a sheath or belt holster
Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier: Best ‘cheap’ Multi-tool
Last update on 2022-08-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
If you’re really in the market for a full-size multi-tool but aren’t yet ready to drop the cash on a Leatherman, the Gerber Suspension multi-plier is the next best thing.
It’s almost the same price as the tiny little Leatherman Micra, but it has all the same tools and functionality of the full-size Wave, with a lifetime warranty to boot.
Why the massive difference in price, then?
The major disparities lie in materials and construction: Leatherman products are engineered and constructed to a much higher quality, and the stainless steel will last decades longer (especially if they’re used in tough conditions… like saltwater fishing).
That being said, the Gerber Suspension multi-tool is really a great option and a heck of a value for the price. The unique plier/hinge design is (according to Gerber) based off of Portland, Oregon’s suspension bridges, and supposedly gives maximum squeeze power to the pliers. Marketing gimmick? You can be the judge of that.
We will say though that the pliers work great, and are actually more comfortable because of the curved-handle design than those on the Leatherman.
In addition to the pliers, the Gerber has 15 tools including a bit driver (no bits included), two knife blades (straight and serrated), a saw, an awl, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, and all the standard goodies like a bottle opener, scissors, and a wire cutter/stripper.
Some users have said that the locking mechanism can be pretty hard to engage/disengage, but once a tool is locked in place, it really does add an extra element of performance and safety, as you don’t have to worry about it crashing down unexpectedly.
Things we liked
Price, price, and price. Like we said, for the money you’re hard-pressed to find a better quality, full-size multi-tool
Comfortable curved design of the plier handles puts a lot less strain on your hands when you’re really squeezing
Comes with a nylon ballistic sheath
Things we didn’t like
Weight/bulk. These things are pretty heavy - a little over 9 oz, to be exact
Tools and lock spring can be a bit tough to open/engage
What to look for in a good multi-tool
It’s kind of ironic to consider the idea of what specifically to look for in a good multi-tool; if you could pinpoint only a few specific things that a multi-tool is good for, it probably wouldn’t be a good multi-tool. The whole point of them is to be able to do a little bit of everything.
Like we said earlier though, one of the key things you want to look for is durability. We used the term ‘bomb-proof’ before, and that’s probably not as much of an exaggeration as you might think.
If a multi-tool is built to last, then by straight default the tools will perform better. (We’ve used plenty of junky ones where with the slightest amount of force, the tool starts to slip out of place or loosen at the hinge).
MANDATORY multi-tool features
No matter which tool you decide on, here’s a list of a few things you definitely want to consider before you pull the trigger on anything.
We agree with Tim Leatherman (Leatherman founder) that the single most useful tool out there is a quality pair of pliers. Unless you’re going with something tiny like the Micra, make sure your multi-tool has a good set.
Naturally, this goes without saying. Any self-respectable multi-tool out there is only as good as the quality of knife it has. Probably second only to the pliers, each tool we mentioned above we chose because of the effectiveness of the knife blade.
Even if it doesn’t have a dedicated punch or awl, you should be able to use either the screwdriver or can opener on any quality multi-tool as one. Prying, pricking, jabbing - the short-shaft punch/awl is there for all those random things where a knife blade is just too flexible to be effective.
Lastly, to help you visualize what a quality multi-tool should look like and do, here’s a good video of the Leatherman Wave in action.
Like most product round-ups, it’s difficult to choose a clear winner as we usually try and include tools with a range of different sizes, uses, and applications.
That being said, if we had to go with just one, single, solitary tool to recommend, it’d be the Leatherman Wingman.
It’s a full-size EDC with all of the above-mentioned necessities like a great set of pliers and a good knife, yet it’s lighter and substantially less expensive than the Leatherman Wave. Also, in terms of construction quality and durability, it’s worlds away compared to the cheaper Gerber Suspension.
Lastly, it’s a Leatherman so you can rest assured knowing that you’re getting the absolute best-of-the-best, and if you do manage to find a way to break it, the rock-solid warranty/guarantee is always there to back you up.