Entrepreneur Tim Leatherman camped throughout Europe on a shoestring in 1975.
Everywhere he went, repair jobs popped up. Plumbing leaked. Cars broke down. Tim was adroit at fixing things but had no tools.
By the time he returned home, his “multi-tool” concept had firmly taken root in his brain and the rest is history. His brand isn’t the only one on today’s market but it’s a prominent name within these 10 contemporary best sellers.
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- Best overall backpacking and hiking multi-tool: Gerber Suspension NXT Multi-Tool
- Best premium survival multi-tool: Leatherman Signal Topo Multi-Tool
- Best affordable backpacking and hiking multi-tool: Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multi-Tool
- Unique-looking dog-shaped multi-tool without a knife blade: Ultimate Survival Technologies Dog Tool
- Best minimalist lightweight, rugged backpacking multi-tool: Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-Tool
- Amazing multi-tool with premium replaceable wire cutters, and 18 outside-accessible tools: Leatherman Wave Plus Multi-Tool
- Simple, compact, pocket-friendly, packed with the essentials multi-tool: Gerber Prybrid X Multi-Tool
- Very capable stainless steel multi-tool with 27 robust functions: Victorinox Swiss Army Swisstool Spirit X
- Cheap hiking multi-tool with 14 functions including a hammer: Sheffield 12913 Premium 14-in-1 Hammer Multi-Tool
- Highly-rated and very capable affordable multi-tool: Hoffman Richter HR-100 13-in-1 Multitool
Gerber Suspension NXT Multi-Tool
Gerber may not be the original inventor of the multi-tool, but the company’s version of this essential tool could be just what you’re seeking.
Called the “next evolution of classic multi-tool design” by REI product reviewers, this stainless steel Gerber product includes 15 tools contained within a slim casing, and the pocket clip holds tight, whether you hang it from a belt loop or your backpack strap.
This locking outboard tool collection includes spring-loaded needle-nose pliers plus both straight-edge and serrated knife blades. What can you accomplish with this little tool? Strip wires.
Engage the Phillips screwdriver plus small, medium, and large regular screwdrivers. Access the awl, file, ruler, can and bottle openers, and lanyard point. Just 6.25-inches when in an open position (4.25-inches closed), this affordable tool remains at the ready, no matter how many unexpected jobs come up next time you camp.
Leatherman Signal Topo Multi-Tool
If owning a Leatherman product has always been your goal, be prepared to pay for the privilege of having the brand name on your multi-tool. Like the man, this is no ordinary product.
High-grade 420 stainless steel items included in this compact collection include a stainless steel blade, needle-nose, and regular pliers, wire cutters, screwdrivers, a saw, awl, can and bottle opener, carabiner, safety whistle, and there’s even a fire-starting ferro rod just in case you forget to bring matches along.
Every element within this tool collection was heat-treated and tempered for optimal hardness and performance during the manufacturing process.
The diamond-shaped sharpener is onboard to help you keep both straight and serrated knife blades razor-sharp, and what other multi-purpose tool features one-of-a-kind topographical map laser markings?
Measuring 4.5-inches in an open position, this small tool weighs just 7.5-ounces, so it is pocket-, vest- or backpack-ready for your next adventure.
Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multi-Tool
Don’t feel left out if you can’t afford the Leatherman Signal Topo model listed above; you can own the brand for 1/3rd the cost by choosing this Squirt PS4 multi-tool instead.
Weighing in at just 1.9 ounces and measuring only 2.25-inches when folded, this more affordable Leatherman multi-tool is a formidable product, from the contoured, anodized aluminum handle to the durable stainless-steel case and individual tools.
There will be no shortage of innovative tools at your disposal if you choose the affordable Squirt. The product includes spring-action pliers and scissors, regular and needle-nose pliers, 3 screwdrivers, scissors, wire cutters, a wood/metal file, plus a straight knife and bottle opener.
Connect the lanyard to the removable split key ring attachment or bring the multi-tool along attached to your backpack or zipper. Choose this camping multi-tool for the features, the price, or the brand name. You won’t be disappointed.
Ultimate Survival Technologies Dog Tool
You don’t have to be a dog lover to appreciate the tidy size of this unique-looking multi-tool.
You’ll spend less than ten bucks on this clever find, and the individual tools included in the product include a flat-head screwdriver, bottle opener, fingernail file, 5-position hex wrench, and 1.25-inch ruler.
For the dog lovers you go camping with, you won’t find a perfect gift that’s this affordable.
Fabricated of the same type of stainless steel found in higher-priced products, this multi-tool is likely to be more obedient than your dog when the time comes to fix or repair something on the fly.
The carabiner attaches to your backpack or belt for fast access, and the TSA has approved this little gem for travel, so feel free to toss it into your carry-on bag if you intend to fly to your camping location.
Why did the TSA okay this product and not others? There’s no knife blade included within the tool — which may be a game-changer for you despite the cute factor.
Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-Tool
Here we have yet another Leatherman innovation, yet this Skeletool stands alone when comparing the tool variety to those within the company’s product library. Leatherman calls this particular model a good example of “minimalism,” but you’ll call it essential once you check out the features.
Individual tools include a stainless steel straight-edge blade, 2 Phillips and 2 standard screwdrivers, wire cutters, bottle opener, and pliers.
A removable, quick-release carabiner clip secures this tool to a belt, backpack, or car visor, and the blade stays secure within the lock-release on the handle. Every tool is heat-treated for optimal hardness.
The handle is made of steel that has been coated with Tungsten DLC/carbon fiber for extra durability. Weighing just 5 ounces, the Skeletool’s closed length is 4 inches, and this multi-tool is mid-priced and compatible with Leatherman Bit Kits (sold separately) just in case you want to upgrade your tool.
There’s a reason this multi-tool sells out fast and consistently earns rave reviews from campers and gear reviewers: It’s the latest iteration of Leatherman’s best-selling multi-tool featuring 18 outside-accessible tools, each of which can be operated with a single hand.
This extensive library of helpful tools includes needle-nose, regular pliers, premium replaceable wire and hard-wire cutters, an electrical crimper, wire stripper, 420HC knife plus serrated knife, and this set even includes a saw.
The spring-action scissors are a trendy feature and included an 8-inch ruler can and bottle openers, wood/metal file, diamond-coated file, small and large bit drivers, and medium-size screwdriver.
All of this largess is included within a multi-tool that, when closed down, measures just 4-inches and weighs 8.5 ounces. All components are manufactured with 420HC stainless steel, and while the Wave+ is not inexpensive, you may not find more value for your money when you compare products.
Gerber Prybrid X Multi-Tool
If your camping philosophy is KISS (Keep it simple, stupid), this Gerber Prybrid has your name written on it.
Despite measuring just 4-inches when all of the tools fold into the case, expect the basics: a standard #11 retractable knife blade, pry bar, wire stripper, nail puller, medium and small flat screwdrivers, a bottle opener, and a 550 wrap cord that offers you a tether should you be working on a repair job and need both hands to accomplish the tasks.
Despite being the least expensive Gerber multi-tool on this list, you needn’t worry about being shortchanged when it comes to variety and multi-functionality, and while the blade is constructed of hefty, stainless steel, you may find the plastic handle to be a material turn-off.
That stated you would appreciate the blade’s locking feature. Weighing in at 1.7-ounces, this isn’t the most tricked-out multi-tool on this list, but it should handle simple projects when you’ve no desire to lug a huge toolbox around.
Victorinox Swiss Army Swisstool Spirit X
If you engage in a game of one-upmanship, the Swiss Army Swisstool Spirit X can give you the edge since it comes with 22 tools that serve 27 functions.
That stated, this multi-tools price is surprisingly affordable despite the Swiss Army connection; it costs the same amount as the Leatherman Wave+ described above, so if you like drawing comparisons, have at it.
Tools mounted on the unit’s stem are crafted of stainless steel that won’t rust and include these essentials: Needle nose pliers, Phillips screwdriver, spear tip blade, and more. A logo-embellished leather pouch is included.
Due to this product’s unique engineering, the user can access each tool individually from the outside while everything else remains locked down and in place. Slide the release button and accessed tools simply fold away.
When compacted for storage, the Spirit X, made in Switzerland, measures 4.13-inches long and weighs 9.75-ounces. Owners get a lifetime guarantee against defects in material and workmanship, not to mention bragging rights when owners tell pals that they own an authentic Swiss Army product.
Sheffield 12913 Premium 14-in-1 Hammer Multi-Tool
When it comes to unusual styling, no other multi-tool on our list resembles this one because the hammer feature is distinct and may remind you of how often you could have used a hammer when driving tent stakes into the ground.
When it’s not used as a hammer, this 14-tool product includes all of the essentials you need to tackle any repair job that comes your way — and it can function as survival gear if you run into problems that individual tools can’t or won’t solve.
Featuring a nail claw, pliers, linesman pliers, slotted screwdrivers, Phillips screwdriver, drop point and serrated blades, bottle and can openers, wire cutters, a wire stripper, and soft file in addition to that hammer, this product comes with an impressive pedigree.
Sheffield is a brand you can trust. Measuring nearly 10-inches in length, this multi-tool is crafted of hardwood and steel, yet it weighs less than a pound and is among the least expensive items on this list.
Hoffman Richter HR-100 13-in-1 Multitool
Even if you’re impressed by the bona fides of this 13-feature tool, you may have difficulty getting your hands on one because it sells out fast.
This multi-tool provides needle-nose spring-loaded pliers, wire cutters, can and bottle openers, mini-, medium- and large-slotted screwdrivers, small and large knife blades, a metal file, Philips head screwdriver, and a mini-saw.
Safety is assured thanks to this product’s sturdy locking mechanism, and the tool comes with a 1000D nylon case with a belt loop so it can’t wander far.
Manufactured of tough 440-grade stainless steel, folks at Hoffman Richter want you to know that this product also serves as a great self-defense device. Get the company’s Ironclad Lifetime Warranty if longevity is a criterion you demand. That alone could be worth the extra effort you make to find one.
Types of multi-tools
According to the Multi-tool Hub there is no shortage of task-appropriate mini-tools on today’s market, and because all campers have different needs and undertake different tasks, one of the following types may be more appropriate for you than the others:
The pocket knife multi-tool is the most standard type, it’s been around the longest, and it is “designed to be as functional as a dedicated pocket knife on steroids. Most tools in this category have a bottle opener, screwdriver, and can opener.
Not as versatile as other types in this category, this type is capable of handling many camping tasks.
The electrical multi-tool includes specific features needed to address electrical repairs and usually includes wire-cutters and perhaps an electric crimper plus a small assortment of non-electrical tools.
Military multi-tools are engineered to tackle both survival and on-the-go repairs. This type is the number one choice of campers, hikers, and hunters because easy access and operation are a hallmark of this multi-tool niche; thus, most can be opened with only one hand.
Expect to encounter industrial-strength materials used to manufacture this type of tool, and you may have to open your wallet wide, but in return for your investment, you could enjoy decades of use.
Custom multi-tools are trending and are often identified by the bit sets that give the user a unique way to switch out tools by removing the head and replacing it with the bit size the task requires.
The more tools and functions, the more likely the product you have selected falls into this category. Custom multi-tools come with impressive price tags, but the time you save on camping-related tasks tends to be worth the investment.
Features and functionality
Deciding how many features and how much capacity you’ll need to handle the tasks involved with your average camping and backpacking adventures is purely a personal decision.
The reasoning? Your idea of camping may be much more complicated than the dude who simply wants to build a campfire adjacent to your spot.
An ideal way to evaluate which of the aforementioned tools fits your needs is to make a list of tasks you intend to undertake at your campsite and then match the list up with the multi-tool that accomplishes each job.
Ask yourself these questions before you make a buying decision, so you’re not disappointed with the one you choose:
- How do you intend to carry it around all of the time? Don’t laugh. Some campers consider products that can’t be hung from a belt for quick retrieval to be a waste of money.
- Are you choosing a product because it’s got so many tools that you overlook the fact that you only need a few of them?
- How important is blade size? Will a straight blade serve your purposes or will you need a serrated edge, too?
- How much does size factor into your choice? Not every camper finds retrieving tools easy if they have large fingers.
- Do you need “real-tool” functionality? Some tasks are too complicated to be handled by multi-tools. Better to discover this now than after you’ve already pitched the tent.
- How comfortable are you with the multi-tool’s locking mechanism? If you’re worried about slippage when handling a multi-tool, you may wish to keep shopping.
Legalities you will want to be aware of
Despite the innocent tasks you expect to undertake once you add a multi-tool to your gear, it’s important to know that every state has enacted laws associated with pocket knives and multi-tools that could impact you, especially if you will likely board a plane to get to your camping destination.
In fact, there are federal laws and state laws to be aware of. Some states may even consider multi-tools within their open carry law parameters, which is why it will be worth your time to visit this website. Click on the link for your state and you’ll learn more about what you can’t and can’t do when you travel with a multi-tool on your person.
Products on our list represent quite the price range: Between $7 and $120, so there’s a tool for every budget.
Your job is to figure out how to get the greatest number of features and benefits that fit your camping style at the most affordable price.
Make sure you aren’t swayed by bells and whistles and the allure that comes with some of the most feature-packed products on this list. Be sure you choose the model that not only serves all of your needs but a multi-tool that stands the test of time, too.