The modern adventurer needs to be on their toes, because you never can tell when the next quest is going to present itself.
Whether it’s a good blade or a sturdy set of pliers you need, chances are your handy multitool will be up to the challenge. EDC Multitools (Every Day Carry) have the added benefit of being lighter and more compact than their bulkier predecessors while offering a surprising amount of features.
Finding a good multitool that can follow you into the wilderness? That’s another story. The best EDC multitools for survival are not only big on being small, but they’re loaded with innovative features that would make Bear Grylls drool.
We’re taking an depth look at the best models on the market, followed by a step by step guide to choosing the right EDC multitool for you.
- Tools 14
- Dimensions 5 x 3.5 x 1.8 inches
- Weight 7 ounces
- Material Stainless Steel
- Slim profile
- Light as a Feather
- Quite Affordable
- Accessories cannot be used while closed
- No locks on accessory tools
- Tools 21
- Dimensions 9.3 x 6.3 x 4.5 inches
- Weight 12.5 ounces
- Material Stainless Steel
- 21 Tools!
- Optional BitKit add-on
- Extremely sturdy
- Bulky & Heavy
- More expensive than its competitors
- Tools 12
- Dimensions 2.75 x 4 x 0.6 inches
- Weight 2.2 ounces
- Material Stainless Steel
- Very Affordable
- Light & Small
- Can bend under high stress
- Drivers & Keychain are in each other’s way
- Tools 15
- Dimensions 6.6 x 2.5 x 0.75 inches
- Weight 8 ounces
- Material Stainless Steel
- Lots of Features for the price
- Solid tool lock system
- Comes with the sheath
- No Scissors
- Plyers are not spring loaded
- Tools 13
- Dimensions 5.8 x 2.8 x 1.5 inches
- Weight 5.92 ounces
- Material Stainless Steel
- Great Ergonomics
- Good Scissors
- High Portability
- Blade could be sharper
- Flimsier than full-size models
- Tools 18
- Dimensions 5 x 3 x 2 inches
- Weight 4.2 ounces
- Material Stainless Steel
- More affordable than Leatherman
- Small (3.2”) & Light (4.2oz)
- Knife is SHARP
- Not as sturdy as Leatherman or Gerber
- Can’t handle torque very well
Best “All-Around” Multitool
Wearability. The slim design and built in belt clip make this one of the most comfortable multitools around.
Leatherman’s recent entry into the EDC market was met with some skepticism as to whether they would be able reproduce their signature durability and versatility in a medium that was both smaller and lighter than popular models like the SIGNAL or the CHARGE. The WINGMAN, while not nearly as small as some other EDC tools, proves that they can pull it off.
The WINGMAN has a slim profile that sits nicely against the hip. It’s not too tall, either, so driving in my truck I don’t have to feel it jabbing into my side as I do with some other, bigger tools. Even walking I can barely notice it. It’s light as a feather.
In terms of scissors, you simply cannot beat the WINGMAN in terms of sharpness, foldability, and ease of use. They are the same scissors that Leatherman has installed in the SURGE model which is significantly more expensive.
The drawbacks? Firstly, almost all of the tools are inaccessible while it’s closed. There are also no blade locks on any of the tools, which is a pretty handy feature when you’re dealing with sharp objects (there is a lock on the knife). Overall, these feel like the tradeoffs you’re going to have to make when you’re getting such a good deal (~$50).
Best “Workhorse” Multitool
All the features! The SURGE is absolutely loaded with tools.
This one is an absolute powerhouse of an EDC. The Leatherman SURGE is one of the biggest models they make, and has 21 different tools to show for it. No doubt this is the highlight of this model. This thing has got everything you can think of, along with a few that you probably cant. You also have the option of throwing in the additional BitKit, which expands the arsenal even further (if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit in the way of size and weight, that is).
Knife quality is certainly there with the SURGE. Leatherman has once again produced a knife that is both easily accessible and firmly locking. This stuff is important out there, whether we’re talking about a week in the San Juans or week on a construction site.
- Leatherman says that they have optimized this model to be operated with one hand. It doesn’t seem like they’re far off the mark, but some of the tools can be a bit stubborn in their early days of use. (It takes forever to break in a Leatherman, so you might as well get started right away).
Biggest drawback: this thing is simply a beast, so it does take up a lot of room and sits heavy at the hip. That’s exactly what you should expect from a tool that is offering so many features in addition to a heavy duty construction that is as yet unmatched in the whole industry.
Best “Bang For Your Buck” Multitool
20 Bucks? At that price, my whole family is getting one for their birthday this year.
The DIME represents blade & tool manufacturer Gerber’s desire to corner the market on sleek, high performance multitools that won’t break the bank. The DIME is selling online for ~$20, making it hands down the most affordable one out of the bunch.
There are ten tools here, mostly the standard. The spring loaded pliers is a nice touch for a model on this end of the price spectrum, and frankly a bit unexpected. The scissors are sharp and seem to be engineered well, though they are probably too small to get any real cutting work done. I find that I’m using the package opener / box cutter more than any other tool on this thing.
For the price, you’re not going to get anything as well made as Gerber. On the same token, you’re not going to get yourself a tank, either. The DIME is no workhorse. It’s made to be thin and light, so the pliers are prone to bending after extended use and there will probably be some light paint chipping in within the first year of use.
Also, I can’t figure out why they’d put the screwdrivers right next to the keyring. That can make it a little difficult to access the tools when it’s hooked to a lanyard or keychain.
Best “One Handed” Multitool
This is one of the best tools on the market for one-handed use. It’s a piece of cake to get it open and shut even when you’ve got a tall glass of iced tea in the other hand.
A step up from its little brother, the MP600 is both stronger and more versatile than the DIME, offering sturdier construction and a few extra tools without a significant rise in price. The MP600 are light enough to handle everyday carry but butch enough to take care of business out on the trail.
Out of the box these things can be a little sticky in terms of operation. A bit of machine oil usually does the trick, but as is the case with this class of EDC multitool, sometimes it just takes a few months to break it in. One thing that benefits from this sturdiness is the tool lock system, which really feels like it can be trusted to hold up to some real stress.
It is unclear why Gerber decided to leave scissors out of the mix for the MP600, they would perhaps be the only thing needed for a really complete set of tools. I might also suggest the implementation of spring loaded plyers. For a multitool of its size, it can be a bit tiring to use.
Order the MP600 in silver, not black. The black version has a coating that can leak onto your hands, and although it washes right off, can be a bit of a bother
Best Scissors on a Multitool
The scissors on the MP400 are so well designed that they have become my primary use for this tool!
The MP400 is a great little tool by Gerber, a solid effort to replicate the great features and ease of use of their full size catalog while cutting off a bit of weight and size. In terms of how this thing feels both in your hand and on your hip, it’s like a dream. Seriously one of the smallest and lightest multitools that still has enough features to make it a worthwhile EDC and not just a glove-compartment backup like some small models.
Scissors are well designed and bigger than you might expect, making it one of the best features on the whole tool. Grip is fantastic. The MP400 just floats in your hand, making it a pleasure to work with in a number of different situations.
The primary knife blade leaves something to be desired in terms of sharpness. You will only be able to sharpen this edge to a certain point, but for more everyday purposes it certainly gets the job done. I can’t see why Gerber decided to put the fingernail catch on the inside of the blade as opposed to the outside. That makes it a bit harder to open, especially with one hand.
Noticed some slight bending when putting the Phillips head to a stubborn screw. I’m not particularly surprised considering the relatively shortened girth of some of the extra components. The MP400 is a compact model designed to be more on-the-go than get-r-done, though it certainly contains elements of both.
Best Knife Blade on a Multitool
SOG POWERPINT Multitool
Seeing as how SOG got their start in making great knives, it comes of no
surprise that their line of multitools offers some of the sharpest, most sturdy blades that you can find. What is a surprise is that they manage to do it with a real understanding that it takes more than just a knife to make a great multitool.
The POWERPINT is the both the smallest and the lightest tool on SOG’s repertoire, coming in as less than half the weight of their flagship POWERLOCK model, with the same amount of tools. That’s pretty impressive.
SOG seems to be modeling themselves after Leatherman in this design, and that’s no bad thing. The tool placement is intuitive and smoothly functioning. The grip is familiar and comfortable, though the POWERPINT is a bit too stiff for effective one hand operation.
What I didn’t like: the POWERPINT simply is not engineered to handle a significant amount of torque. If you’ve got a stubborn bolt, rusted screw, or something similar, there is the risk that you will cause some bending or even breaking. There is an interchangeable bit system available for this model, however, the torque problem renders it a bit obsolete.
SOG knows their knives, and the POWERPINT is evidence of that. The blade is sharper than any other multitool in its class.
What Makes a Great EDC Multitool?
It’s right there in the name. EDC stands for every day carry, a term that has come into fashion for all sorts of items, from pens to watches to pocket knives. In general, EDC items are:
- Lightweight, because who wants to carry more than they have to?
- Functional, because if you didn’t need it every day, you wouldn’t be carrying it!
- Stylish, because like it or not, EDCs can count as fashion accessories, indoors or out.
Multitools are no exception. The new class of EDC multitools offer innovative features that are specially designed to offer all the major functions of a traditional multitool while cutting down on both weight and size. As any long distance hiker will tell you, every ounce counts.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a multitool:
You can tell a lot about a multitool by what kind of knife it’s packing. But it comes down to more than just how sharp it is.
The hardness of steel variety will determine how long it will retain its sharpness before needing a trip through the sharpener.
Hardness & Flexibility
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t necessarily want the hardest, most rigid blade that you can get. While strength is certainly important, having a little bit of flex in your knife allows you to apply more significant amounts of force without causing it to snap. Similarly, if the metal is too weak and flexes too much, then there is likelihood that you might bend it beyond repair.
The type of metal used for the blade can be found in the manufacturer’s specifications listed on the product page.
The 400 Series metals (420HC, for instance) is a great EDC steel because it offers great sharpness and edge retention without being overly expensive.
The CR metals (5Cr15MOV, for example) is a steel that’s made in China and a pretty good stand-in for the 400 Series when you get right down to it. Within the CR series there is a varying level of hardnesses offered, so it is entirely possible to find a good CR steel that is comparable to the American made varieties.
It’s okay to not worry too much about what kind of metal your blade is made out of. Many of the varieties we tested were comparable in terms of both sharpness and edge retention with only marginal differences in durability.
Functions & Features
What’s our favorite thing about multitools? The TOYS! Multitools on the market today offer more features and functions than ever before, with the added benefit of years of research, development, & execution continuing to improve their performance.
Standard on most multitools: Plyers, Knife, Saw Blade, Screwdriver, Can Opener, Scissors
Premium Functions: Interchangeable bits & wire cutters, Diamond File, Jewelry Driver, Awl
Comfort & Style
EDC is all about comfort and style, and multitool manufacturers have been paying attention. The new class of EDC multitools are smaller than ever before and in many cases, lighter as well. As any good EDCer is well aware, the more comfortable a tool is, the more likely that you will be able to have it on hands at all times (like when you need it).
Belt clips are becoming more popular in the multitool world. For years, Leatherman users could either utilize the belt-looped carrying case that is common with such tools, or simple stick the tool in their pocket and let it bang around with the keys and phone. A good belt clip allows easy access pocket storage without the annoying hip bulge.
Carrying Cases always need to be considered. If you’re the kind of person that likes to have your multitool holstered right there at your hip, then you need to make sure there is a solid carrying case with a belt loop in it. This paired with a solid enclosure mechanism (like the Leatherman CHARGE’s heavy-duty metal snap button) should ensure that your trusty tool won’t ever leave your side.
A Keychain or Carabiner is a useful feature for these smaller models, as they are often connected to a string or lanyard to prevent them from becoming lost, or dropping them down in between the seat cushions of your truck. Not all multitools have this feature, so double check if it’s the kind of thing you are interested in.
Alternative belt buckle by SOG: Be sure to have your multitool within reach when needed.
Best EDC Multitool Brands
Multitool powerhouse Leatherman is known for their ability to create versatile tools that are as sturdy as they are intuitive. Their products vary incredibly in terms of size, features, and cost, but there are two things that link all their products together, strong pliers and a sharp knife. The rest, as they say, is just icing on the cake.
No, we ain’t talking baby food. For gear and knife manufacturer Gerber, it all started in 1939 when a handmade batch of cutlery was gifted to the family of Joseph R. Gerber, the company’s founder. It turned into one of the biggest knife and outdoor gear companies in the world. Today, Gerber is often seen as a more affordable alternative to Leatherman, however, recent innovations and additions to the product line have brought Gerber into close competition with their more established rivals.
SOG Specialty Knives Inc. is a United States manufacturer of knives, multitools, and a range of other outdoor equipment including packs and camp lighting. It all began when a young designer decided to reconstruct a unique bowie knife used by a secret special forces group, MACV-SOG, in Vietnam. One reproduction turned into a whole host, and before long the company was out of the gates with a line of knives and multitools that rival those of their more experienced and longstanding competitors.
The multitools we looked at today represent a small percentage of all of the tools that are on the market. Finding the best EDC multitool for survival, whether it’s a three day trek through the jungle or simply surviving the jungle of everyday life, is all about comparing the functions you are looking for to the performance of the product.
For us it doesn’t get any better than the Leatherman SURGE. That’s because our team has a lot going on, projects, car repairs, the occasional wire repair. We like having everything right there at our fingertips, and the extra weight and size is totally worth it.
Folks looking for an item with a little less bulk would do well to take another look at the Gerber MP400. In terms of sheer portability, there isn’t another multitool out there that can hold its own without losing a bunch of features.
Frequently Asked Questions
The advent of EDC multitools over the last few decades has been bolstered by generation after generation of adventurers and hard workers just trying to do what they do, but better. Sure, you could carry around everything in your toolbox. Let’s go down the list. Pliers. Wire cutters. Screwdriver. Scraper. Can opener. Saw. Diamond plate file. Scissors. The list goes on, but you can see how things are going to get heavy real quick.
EDC Multitools are designed to cram as many different tools into the palm of your hand as it humanly possible, like a Swiss army knife on steroids. This lightweight, compact portability allows EDC’s to go in places where many tools cant, specifically, in your pocket.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a Sunday house project or a three week float trip down the canyon. Having the right tool on hand when you need it is not only incredibly convenient and time saving, but it could also mean the difference between failure and success in heat-of-the-moment survival scenarios.
This depends by brand. Leatherman offers a 25 year limited warranty on all their products, and I can say from experience that working with their team is a breeze. They fix ‘em right up and will have it back to you in no time.
Gerber offers a full lifetime warranty in the US (25 years outside the US). Of all the brands we looked at here, this is the most comprehensive warranty that’s offered, but be smart about it. They’re not going to fix something that you broke because you were using your tool in a way that you shouldn’t have been.
SOG also offers a limited warranty, meaning you’re covered for any manufacturing defects for the lifetime of the product.
When in doubt, go with stainless steel. It’s strong and durable without being too rigid. In a knife this is particularly important so you don’t accidentally snap your blade.
As far as specific steel varieties go, there is not going to be a whole lot of variance in quality when it comes to the EDC class of multitools. Because of their smaller size and lower retail price, EDCs all use pretty much the same grade of steel.
Some consumers may be interested in checking where the steel is from, in which case your options are usually either the US or China, with some components coming from Canada as well. Because of how complicated these tools can be, there are few options on the market that are 100% made in the USA.
While there are a number of great EDC multitool manufacturers out there, no two seem as evenly matched as Leatherman and Gerber. The two brands have spent years competing for the same space on your belt on in your pack, and the result has been two collections of high-quality tools with features that just keep getting better and better.
For a long time it was thought that Gerber was just a more affordable alternative to Leatherman, and this was not necessarily untrue. Today Gerber releases a number of tools that are comparable to Leatherman both in terms of quality and price.
So what’s the difference between these two? For the most part, it just comes down to personal preference. Our advice to you is to spend more time selecting based on the features that you want, not the name that’s imprinted on the side of the thing.