Best Backpacking Multi-Tools: Be Prepared on Your Journey
Here are some great multi-tool options for backpacking
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PUBLISHED ON December 5, 2019
A multi-tool is a must-have item for every backpacker. It helps you open food cans and bottles, cut firewood, and can be used for self-defense. Its use doesn’t end there; you can take it home for light plumbing, gardening, and mechanic tasks in your garage. The best ones give you a wide range of functionality while adding minimal weight to your backpack. Here are some of the best options that you could consider.
- Best OverallVictorinox Swiss Army Multi-ToolSummarySummary
A 15-piece survival tool with durable stainless steel construction that’s perfect for backpacking, woodwork, and home applications.ProsPros
Sleek enough to fit in a pocket. It comes with a convenient leather pouch. Features a cutting blade and wood saw that can cut through anything. Available in multiple color options. Toothpick, corkscrew, scissors, can opener, and keyring included.ConsCons
The tools don’t lock in place when pulled out. The leather pouch has a weak clip. The plastic handle scratches easily.
- Best ValueGerber Dime Multi-ToolSummarySummary
A 10-function multi-tool kit with a bottle opener, fine-edge blade, scissors, screwdriver, pliers, tweezers, and a file.ProsPros
Inexpensive. Durable stainless steel construction. Sleek and compact profile. Chrome-plated for rust resistance. Lightweight and easy to carry around. All the tools are easily accessible. It can be fixed on a keychain. Safe for use.ConsCons
The pliers are small. The scissors and wire cutters aren’t very sharp. The black paint wears off easily.
- Honorable MentionLEATHERMAN Charge Plus Multi-ToolSummarySummary
A highly functional, 19-piece multi-tool with a can opener, bottle opener, serrated knives, screwdriver, wire stripper pliers, scissors, and a file.ProsPros
Made of durable high carbon stainless steel. It offers a comfortable grip and is equipped with easily replaceable parts. Features a secure tool lock. Allows for one-hand operation. The black handle looks great. Compact and practical for backpacking.ConsCons
The pliers aren’t spring-loaded. It doesn’t allow for single-handed blade access. Expensive.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Backpacking Multi-tools
- Pack lighter. Carrying different tools for your backpacking adventure can weigh you down. It’s better to carry one compact gadget that has everything you need.
- They’re versatile. Multi-tools can be used in indoor and outdoor applications. You can find creative uses for the tools that will help you with your outdoor adventures.
- They’re convenient. Multi-tools are typically compact, lightweight, and portable. You can carry one in your pocket all day to use at any moment.
- They’re easy to use. Using a multi-tool is pretty straightforward. You just have to pull out the tool you need and push it back in once you are done.
- Be ready for anything. A multi-tool can be a lifesaver if you find yourself stranded with no bottle opener or in need of a critical backpack zipper repair.
- Remove a splinter. If you get a splinter when collecting firewood, you don’t have to hurt yourself trying to pull it out with your teeth. You can use a knife or tweezers to get it out.
- Prepare food. You can use the tool for hunting small game, descaling fish or chopping food into tiny pieces.
Types of Backpacking Multi-tools
The pocket knife is one of the oldest and most common types of multi-tools. The most dominant tool is the knife, and typically includes other useful tools like a bottle opener, screwdriver, corkscrew, nail cutter, and a file. A pocket knife is compact, ultralight, and has foldable tools that tuck away in the handle.
A one-piece multi-tool has no moving parts and is stored in its full-size position. It can be a hammer or a single piece of metal with a corkscrew on one end, and a blade or screwdriver on the other. Some may have three tools fitted on one handle. It could also be in the shape of a credit card with blades and a bottle opener shaped into each corner.
Specialty multi-tools are equipped with a variety of tools that only suit a specific job function. For instance, you may have an engineer’s multi-tool that only has wrenches and screwdrivers. You can also have a camping or backpacking multi-tool that only has survival tools.
Custom multi-tools come with replaceable tools. They allow you to change out the tools with new functions or to rearrange the order as you please. You can turn a 15-in-one multi-tool to a 10-in-one multi-tool with larger tools.
Victorinox is widely known for manufacturing Swiss Army knives, cutlery, travel gear, fragrances, and Luxury watches. The company was founded in 1884 by Kar Elsener and is currently headquartered in Ibach, Switzerland. Some of its best-rated multi-tools are the Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, Victorinox Swiss Army Spirit Multi-Tool, and Victorinox Swiss Army CS Plus Multi-Tool.
Gerber is an international manufacturer of multi-tools, consumer knives, and a variety of cutting tools. The company was founded in 1938 and is currently headquartered in Tigard, Oregon. It’s a subsidiary company of Fiskars Brands Inc. If you would like to try out some high-quality Gerber products, check out the Gerber Dime Multi-Tool, Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier, and Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Multi-Tool.
Leatherman is one of the leading manufacturers of multi-tools and knives. The company was founded by Tim Leatherman in 1983 and is currently based in Portland Oreg. Some of its best multi-tools for backpacking and camping are the LEATHERMAN Charge Plus Multi-Tool, LEATHERMAN Super Tool, and LEATHERMAN Rebar Multi-Tool.
SOG Specialty Knives & Tools (SOG)
SOG is a Washington-based company that was founded in 1986 by Spencer Frazer. The company gained fame for its SOG knife in the Vietnam era. Currently, the company designs everyday Carry (EDC) tools and multi-tools for outdoor and tactical usage. One of its best-selling multi-tools is the SOG EDC Multi-Tool.
Backpacking Multi-tools Pricing
- Under $50: You will be sacrificing a lot of functionality with the products within this price range. However, that doesn’t mean that you will be compromising on the functions you need for backpacking. Most have basic survival tools that will help you get by, but they may not have the sharpest blades.
- Over $50: If you are paying for a product within this price range, you are guaranteed to have access to more functions that will be helpful for more than just backpacking. High-end multi-tools are versatile and can also be used for random repairs. Most are made of durable, rust-resistant steel, which can last you a lifetime with proper care.
Functionality refers to the different uses that can be derived from each tool in the set. For instance, a tool with two blades and a screwdriver offers two functions, since the blades offer the same function. Note; the more functions a multi-tool has the bulkier and heavier it’s going to be.
Stainless steel or aluminum are the best tools for making a multi-tool. They do not get blunt easily even when tackling the toughest outdoor jobs. The tools should be chrome-plated or polished to protect against rust and corrosion.
You don’t want a multi-tool that’s heavy or bulky. Most of the large ones come with pouches that are typically clipped on your belt. Such a model, for instance, would be an inconvenience if you don’t wear a belt when backpacking. Prioritize a lighter and compact option that can fit in your pocket as long as it has most of the functions that can help you in your trip.
- Tool Access: You need to be comfortable accessing the individual tools. The butterfly design is the most user-friendly design since it spreads out the tools on both sides of the gadget for easy access.
- Locking Mechanism: To safely and conveniently use the tools, especially the blade, the unit should feature a good locking mechanism. It prevents the knife from pivoting every time you try to cut something.
- Carrying Options: Small and compact multi-tools typically come with a keychain or lanyard ring as a carrying option. Bulkier multi-tools come with carrying pouches that can be hooked on your belt.
Best Backpacking Multi-tools Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool
The Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool is a high-quality, 15-piece pocket knife that’s made of durable stainless steel. The pieces are polished for a sleek, corrosion-resistant finish. It comes with a flathead screwdriver, scissors, wood saw, knife, serrated blades, corkscrew, can opener, bottle opener, tweezers, wire stripper, toothpick, and key ring. All the tools are tucked away in an ABS plastic handle, and the unit comes with a compact leather pouch for storing the gear.
The multi-tool can fit comfortably in your pants pocket. Alternatively, you can hang the pouch on your belt. Besides backpacking, it’s also suitable for fishing, hiking, and light engineering jobs. It will come in handy if you would wish to descale a fish, open a can of food, or uncork a bottle of wine.
However, most of the tools don’t lock in place, and that can make it a bit challenging to use the knife. The plastic handle scratches easily, and it may start to look old after only a few months. Moreover, the leather pouch it comes with has a weak clip, which makes it easy to lose the tool when you bend over.
Best Value: Gerber Dime Multi-Tool
The Gerber Dime Multi-Tool is a sturdy and compact keychain multi-tool with stainless steel construction. It has 10 tools, including a fine edge blade, scissors, bottle opener, crosshead driver, wire cutter, tweezers, medium flat driver, file, and needle-nose spring-loaded pliers. The tool is only 4.25 inches long when open and 2.25 inches when closed.
When all the tools are folded in and opened in a butterfly design, it looks like typical pliers. The butterfly opening allows you to easily pull out all the tools at the same time. What’s more, it has a key chain ring, and you can attach your keys to the tool. When you fold it down to a compact profile, only the bottle opener and the keychain remain exposed.
However, the downside of the tool is that the scissors and wire cutters aren’t very sharp. They may not be of much use for cutting thick roots or plant stems. Also, the stylish black paint wears off easily, and it may start to look old and worn down after a few months.
Honorable Mention: LEATHERMAN Charge Plus Multi-Tool
The LEATHERMAN Charge Plus Multi-Tool is a convenient 19-piece multi-tool that can be opened with just one hand. It features a variety of tools including replaceable wire cutters, a variety of pliers, serrated knives, screwdrivers, cutting hook, wire stripper, can opener, bottle opener, and files. All the tools are made from durable stainless steel and lock in place once opened.
The manufacturer provides a user’s guide to help you maximize each function. The tool comes with a lanyard ring and a pocket clip so that it can always be within reach when you need it. You also get a set of screwdriver bits of different shapes and a woven pouch for storing the gadget.
The main drawback of the Leatherman multi-tool is that the pliers and wire cutters aren’t spring-loaded. That can make it a bit tiresome to do repetitive jobs. It is also heavier and more expensive than most multi-tools since it offers several functions. Moreover, it’s not that easy to pull out the blade with just one hand.
- Avoid buying multi-tools with too many functions. It may be convenient having all the tools at your disposal, but it takes a long time to get the right tool for the job. Also, it can be heavy.
- Practice using the multi-tool before you go on a trip. Take each tool out and see how sturdy it is and how well you can take each one out in advance of an emergency.
- Remember to sharpen your blades before you head out for a trip. Carry a sharpening stone or a whetstone as a backup in case your knives go dull.
- Lubricate the tool release mechanism to prevent rust and friction that can cause the tools to get stuck inside the handle.
- Wipe your multi-tool clean with a dry cloth after use, and store it in a cool and dry place to prevent rust.
Q: Is it possible to replace the tools in a multi-tool?
A: There aren’t many models that can allow you to replace swap such as screwdriver with a blade. The entire mechanism may become flimsy. You can, however, replace the same tool. For instance, you can switch out an old, rusty knife with a new one.
Q: What essentials should a backpacking multi-tool have?
A: Basic survival tools like a knife, serrated saw, bottle, and can opener are particularly useful. If you are a frequent backpacker, consider the nature of the trail, and look for a multi-tool with functions that can help you navigate it with ease.
Q: Can I rearrange the tools in a multi-tool?
A: It’s not uncommon to rearrange the tools if you want them in a different order. Just be careful not to damage the tool holding and locking mechanism when you take it out and put the tools back together. However, there are some models that can be hard to rearrange since the tools are of different sizes and only fit in the original slot.
Our top pick is the Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool. It has a robust design, offers a wide range of functions, and is quite easy to use.
For a more budget-friendly survival multi-tool, consider the Gerber Dime Multi-Tool.