What is it?Many posts ago I talked about carrying a knife. In that post I mentioned multi-tools, something I always like to have around. In fact, I think if I counted I must own at least 8 or more of some form or another.
Why do it?With the invention of the folding multi-tool by Tim Leatherman in 1984 (yes, it is named after him, not for working on leather), the world of the Swiss Army knife was shaken up. Swiss Army knives still abound, the multi-tools now hold a lot of sway and provide options previously undreamt of. But picking the right tool can be a bit of a mystery. I tmay also be why I have so many!
ConsiderationsWhat matters in a multi-tool? It turns out, quite a bit.
Use: what do you want the multi-tool to do?
• Everyday needs – opening boxes, tightening screws and nuts, cutting paper, dealing with splinters, cutting your nails, opening bottles
• Camping – wood working and cutting, cord cutting, can opener, cooking (including grabbing hot pots), fixing gear, pounding stakes
• Occupation – wire cutting, crimping connectors, pliers, cutting hoses/rope/etc, filing. All things that are done by mechanics, linemen, IT workers, carpenters, electricians, etc
• Sports/recreation – bicycling, shooting, motorcycling, smithing, climbing, woodworking, etc
Carrying method: How do intend to tote it around?
• On a belt – most multi-tools have the option of a carrying pouch or a belt clip, but can get in way of a seatbelt. It can also give that "Batman utility belt" look
• In a pocket – inconspicuous, always there, but wears on pockets
• In a bag – either within its own pouch or on its own, not with you if you set the bag down
• On a clip – many have carabineer options, for loops, rings, and belt loops, but bounces around
Size/Color: how big is too big?
• Is this for everyday? If so, how much space do you have available?
• How much does it weigh, either in the pocket, a bag, etc.
• What will it go next to? Consider that it might rub against a cell phone, keys, or whatever is nearby.
• Color is largely subjective, unless you need low-vis options like black oxide. There are numerous options, including many flashy colors
Tools: What is in this thing?
• It's easy to go overboard, and better if you have a use for everything if possible. Prioritize what you really need with the other sections above
• Consider zccess to the tools you’ll need most, and more quickly – very often things like knives should be to the outside
• Locking tools, for safety
• Replacement of wearable items, such as wire-cutters
• Quality – not all tools are created equal, and some models may be better at a task than others, even from the same manufacturer
• Additional tools – bits, wrenches, etc
• Warranty – may never need, but shows a level of faith by the manufacturer
• Engraving – for that really personal option
What do you carry?As I said, I have a bunch of these, and that doesn't include the 3 or 4 my wife has. Here are a few of my favorites and why.
Leatherman Charge TTi - I've been carrying this one for over 7 years, and it has served me very well. The ability to change out the screwdriver bits is great, which prompted me to get the optional bit set. The file is the only thing showing wear, but not yet to the point where I'll take advantage of the 25-year warranty to have it replaced. It used to ride on my belt all the time, but since I took up motorcycling, I've moved it to a sheath on my EDC. I love having the knives on the outside for quick cutting with easy thumb opening. 2 blade options is also a big benefit.
Gerber 600 Basic - Actually, I have an earlier model, but it's essentially the same. I've owned a number of these, including, until it disappeared somewhere, a customer one in forest green. I really like the one handed 'flick' opening, and have one of these in my truck and another in my 72-hour kit. I have found that some of the tools are not as tough as I'd like, and having all of the tools on the inside makes access slow.
Leatherman Style CS - This is on truck key chain. I carry the Micra on my motorcycle keychain, for similar reasons. Both of these have great scissors, a small blade, tweezers, and a few other every day tools I find useful to keep around. They are small, but that makes it easy to make sure they go with me everywhere.
Leatherman MUT - This is the newest tool in the stable, so I don't have a lot to say on it yet. I'll be getting around to a full review soon for a friend, but at least I can tell you what led me to pick it up. While I do shoot, I also play airsoft, which uses replica firearms. More than once I've needed to open up a gun to do a quick repair and didn't have the tools I needed. This will help fill that option. Additionally, it has great bit options, tougher wire-cutters, and a quick cutter for things like cord or seat belts. Finally, and this was the deciding factor, it has a hammering surface. More than once I've used the handles of the TTi to pound things, but it really isn't cut out to handle that. We'll see how it works out!