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Best Overall: Leatherman New Wave at B&H Photo Video
"Does everything the more expensive Victorinox, can do for a lower price point."
Most Tools: Victorinox SwissTool Spirit at Amazon
"Includes a whopping 27 different functions packed into a compact, ergonomic tool."
Best Budget: Leatherman Style CS Multitool at Amazon
"The essentials for getting the job done are here."
Best Designed: Gerber Center-Drive at Amazon
"Shines in ease of its use and well-designed tools."
Best for Hunting: Leatherman Pump at Amazon
"A tool you’ll always want to have with you on the field while hunting."
Best Mini: Leatherman Micra at Amazon
"Packs a lot into a miniature — three-inch — version of their well-loved products."
Best TSA-Compliant Multi-Tool: Leatherman Multi-Tool Style PS Box at Amazon
"You'll be fine for most needs and emergencies with this in your carry-on."
Best Modular: SOG Powerlock 2.0 at Amazon
"Lets you add and subtract components as needed."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Leatherman New Wave
Leatherman is still a common entry point into the world of multi-tools for those buying their first, but it really shines with the New Wave, which is quickly becoming a classic. The New Wave — a 2004 update on the brand’s classic Wave model — does everything the more expensive Victorinox, makers of the classic Swiss Army knife, can do for a lower price point. It’s not just looks, either: There are 17 different tools packed into its four-inch, 8.5-ounce case, making it easy for you to be prepared for pretty much anything with what you have in your pocket. Included, to start, are two pliers, wire cutters, a plain and a serrated knife, a wood/metal file, a diamond-coated file, a bottle opener, two screwdrivers and two double-ended bits. All of them are accessible from the outside, so you can open it easily with just one hand. The 100-percent stainless steel knife also has a strong 25-year warranty, so if the worst happens, it’s easily fixed. And we have to say: That oxide black finish sure is sleek — perfect for showing off.
Most Tools: Victorinox SwissTool Spirit
This takes Victorinox’s iconic Swiss Army knife and raises it one — or several — with a whopping 27 different functions packed into an extremely compact, ergonomic tool. There are four screwdrivers, four cutters, three openers, two saws, a combi-edge blade, scissors, a metal file, a wire stripper, a reamer, a wire bender, a corkscrew and a hook. All of the tools lock into place and have anti-clumping springs, and you can access the tools from the exterior without having to open the pliers, which is great for those who might be a bit accident-prone. It’s a little heavier than a lot of other models at 5.75 ounces — and that’s without its nylon or leather case — but it’s worth it: Victorinox quality won’t let you down. To prove it, it’s all but guaranteed that this purchase is a one-time affair, thanks to its lifetime warranty — unless, of course, you wind up gifting it to your nearest and dearest.
Best Budget: Leatherman Style CS Multitool
It might not have all the tools that fancier, more expensive multi-tools have, but the essentials for getting the job done are here. With six everyday tools packed into a case that’s just 2.9 inches long and 1.4 ounces, there’s plenty of parts you’ll reach for time and time again that make this little gadget worth it: tweezers, a knife blade, a nail file with a flat-head screwdriver end, a toothpick and well-designed scissors. Each tool is accessible from the outside of the case, so you don’t have to unfold a million components to get to what you need. Don’t think that the low price point means Leatherman is compromising on quality, either: It holds up after years of use. There’s also a key fob, so you can always it with you on the go. The downside is that, while it certainly packs a lot, it’s missing pliers, which some consider essential.
Best Designed: Gerber Center-Drive
Some multi-tools try to pack as much in as possible; others include less but make each component shine. This is the latter, and it shows in the ease of its use and well-designed tools. Gerber reportedly asked those who use multi-tools the most — contractors, outdoorsmen — what they needed in a multi-tool, and then smartly set off to make it. By getting rid of the fluffy, not-often-used extras other brands seek to set themselves apart with and keeping just 13 essentials, Gerber made sure that the implements used most often were the ones that were best-designed. Case in point: A big plain-edge blade, full-size pliers and a full-size screwdriver that angles inward and comes with replaceable magnetic bits. Now that you see what we’re talking about — and might just be ready to throw away your toolbox for this all-in-one — we’re sure you’ll be just as excited by the file and bottle opener attached to this workhorse.
Best for Hunting: Leatherman Pump
Built specifically for hunters, the Leatherman Pump takes all the good stuff you love about Leatherman and transforms it into a tool you’ll always want to have with you on the field while hunting: You can tweak your scope, customize your choke and after the hunt, break your firearm down — all with this one tool. It’s easy to bring with you at less than five inches long, and it’s just shy of three ounces so it won’t weigh you down when you’re scouting for a position. It comes equipped with a gut hook, a quarter-inch hex bit, two sizes of box wrenches, a choke tube wrench, a choke tool, a scope adjustment tool, an eight-millimeter box wrench and a replaceable firearm disassembly punch that works great for breaking down the shotgun at the end of the day.
Best Mini: Leatherman Micra
For a relatively tiny size — and price — Leatherman manages to pack a lot into the miniature — three-inch — version of their well-loved, standard-size products. The spring-action scissors it comes loaded with are particularly good, and there’s more, too: a knife, three screwdrivers (flat/Phillips, medium and extra-small), bottle opener, nail cleaner, tweezers, nail file and a ruler. It’s great for personal grooming on the go or just for having around in case something goes awry. It can hook onto your keys with its built-in key ring attachment, and it won’t weigh you down at just 1.8 ounces. Like all Leatherman products, it comes with a 25-year limited warranty should it crack under pressure — but knowing this brand and its reputation for quality, the chances of that are slim. The downside is that it doesn’t come with pliers, but when it comes to downsizing the capabilities of a standard Leatherman while retaining top quality, you can only do so much.
Best TSA-Compliant Multi-Tool: Leatherman Multi-Tool Style PS Box
Nothing’s worse than forgetting you have your multi-tool in your pocket before heading through the security line — and having to see that $100-plus essential go in the trash. The solution? Pack a TSA-compliant tool. No, you’re not going to get all the tools (or sharp edges) of your standard carry, but you’ll be fine for most needs and emergencies with this in your carry-on. The Leatherman Style PS is a scaled-down little brother of the line’s bigger tools, but it does jobs well enough with all the standard basics: scissors, a file, screwdrivers, tweezers and pliers. Because it’s compact, keep in mind that the engineering isn’t as robust as larger models: Joints in this little guy can get sticky with use. Just be warned that there’s a “travel” model of the Style PS and a regular one that has a blade — and that one definitely won’t pass muster going through the scanners.
Best Modular: SOG Powerlock 2.0
If you’re not quite sure what adventures you’ll get into, go for a modular multi-tool that lets you add and subtract components as needed. SOG’s Powerlock 2.0 comes with plenty to get you started — and get you out of pretty much any jam. Among the 18 included tools are two assisted-open blades, a wire cutter, a three-sided file, scissors, a crimper and a double-toothed saw. The included pliers are great, with narrow, precise tips that add versatility. If you work with explosives in the armed forces or as part of a demolition crew, SOG is the only company to apply compound leverage tech to explosive ordnance disposal. In translation, that means that you’ll have to use less pressure to crimp blasting caps and demotion cords — and that makes your job easier. If we’re talking superficially, the black oxide finish is pretty sleek, too. One thing to note: The knives do tend to lose their edge quickly, so some sharpening will be required from time to time.