I was obsessed with multitools long before I started writing reviews professionally. I find the packaging considerations of fitting so many tools into a compact space to be fascinating. To this end, “mini” multitools are a favorite of mine.
These small multi tools vary in size but are typically small enough to slip into a coin pocket or be used as a keychain. The amount of functionality that can be crammed into such a compact form factor is truly staggering.
Having combed through the options, here are some of the best mini multi tools.
Last update on 2020-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
- 1 The Best Small Multi Tool for EDC Reviews
- 2 Gerber “Dime” 30-000469
- 3 Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, MiniChamp Pocket Knife
- 4 Leatherman Micra Keychain Multitool
- 5 Gerber Armbar Driver
- 6 LEATHERMAN Style PS
- 7 What to Spot the Best Small Multi Tool
- 8 Choose Quality, not Quantity
- 9 Conclusion
The Best Small Multi Tool for EDC Reviews
Gerber has quickly made a name for themselves in the multitool world for its innovative and novel designs. Gerber is perhaps best known for its rugged skeletonized full-size tools. Thus, it makes sense that the Dime is in many ways just a miniaturized version of those popular models.
The first thing you will notice about any multi-tool is how it feels in your hands. The Gerber Dime passes this test with flying colors. It feels solid, heavy for its size, and well-finished. It is substantial without being bulky. Although this is on the larger end of the scale for a “mini” tool, they still struck an admirable balance. It may be slightly heavy to use as a keychain, but it will disappear into your pocket with little effort.
The arrangement of tools is also a nice touch. I am a big advocate for externally accessible tools. although it may seem like a minor point, being able to access a knife or other tool immediately without unfolding the device can make a big difference for a frequently used tool. Here, you can access every tool including wire cutters, knife, box opener, scissors, medium flat driver, Phillips driver, tweezers, and a file without unfolding the tool. The only tool inside is the pliers. In fact, the bottle opener is external and doesn’t require opening or unfolding anything at all. They incorporated a lot of tools but did not sacrifice usability.
The pliers are good for their size but do not expect a miracle. Pliers are often a weak link of mini-tools. While these are functional, do not expect to be rebuilding a bridge with them. However, for delicate work or holding a nut, they get the job done admirably. The overall construction is quite nice, and the stainless steel body is guaranteed to not rust. When you factor in the price, this tool becomes an incredibly good value.
- Lots of tools
- External access
- Looks tough
- Large for a mini-tool
- Scissors are awkward
Victorinox is likely the oldest name in the multi-tool kingdom. Their “swiss army knife” name is so synonymous with multi-tools that the terms are often used interchangeably. Yet, seniority alone is not enough to be a winner. The old dog still has to run faster than the pack for our seal of approval.
From a quality perspective, this is a beautiful tool. The scales of the tool are machine-knurled stainless steel rather than the traditional red plastic, giving this particular model a much more premium feel. As with all Victorinox products, the machining is superb and there is no doubt that the engineering is top-notch. Many Swiss Army Knives are in service for decades and this probably won’t be an exception. Simply put, there is nothing to complain about regarding the execution. The concept may be another story.
Most multi-tools use a hinged design where the tool can open with implements on both sides. Victorinox rarely uses this form factor. Rather, the MiniChamp follows traditional cues with its “gum pack” arrangement, wherein all of the tools are housed in a central case. This traditional approach limits the tool somewhat and often makes it feel awkward to hold. It is svelte but not very ergonomic.
The choice of tools is also puzzling. Victorinox claims 14 tools, but there is a lot of redundancy. Two knives were included for some reason, and there is a flat bar that I could not quite figure out. Maybe it is a pry-bar? A larger flathead? I cannot say for certain. But in the limited confines of this tool, it seems like a waste. A fish-hook remover is yet another overly specific inclusion. The tools are very high-quality, they just are not the lineup I would have chosen.
This is a beautiful but niche device. The quality is undeniable, as is the beauty. Yet, given the price, the functionality leaves room for improvement.
- Beautiful design
- Great quality
- Lifetime warranty
- Confusing tool choice
At this point, I will admit that I have to divert from a standard pocket multi tool review and admit some bias. I have personally carried a Leatherman Micra for almost ten years, and am consistently impressed by its packaging and performance. My Micra was actually a gift from a good friend, and it isn’t a tool I would have bought myself. Yet, my opinion was quickly changed. The Micra excels because it doesn’t try to emulate the functions of a larger tool. Rather, it works perfectly as a miniature tool.
The form factor of the Micra is close to perfect. It folds to about the size of two AAA batteries. It will slip neatly into a coin pocket in a pair of jeans and be completely unobtrusive until needed. Rather than having a set of pliers, the Micra diverged from tradition and made the main tool be a set of scissors. This was an excellent decision for two reasons. First, pliers in a mini-tool are less than robust. Second, the “thumb driven” scissors of other tools are awkward and tiring. The Micra’s scissors are easy to use, strong, and fast.
The rest of the tools are well chosen as well. The Micra features a small blade, flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, an eyeglass screwdriver, tweezers, a bottle opener, and a file. It’s efficient, elegant, thoughtful. The tools are easy to access, and the spring-loaded mechanism of the scissors is not only useful but rather fun to fidget with.
The Micra is an excellent complement to other tools as well. Because it is so small, you can easily carry it as well as a pocket knife or larger multi-tool. I generally carry my Micra along with a Skeletool, giving me flexibility for large and small tasks. The Micra is a great value as well. It is an imminently affordable tool that solves a very specific purpose beautifully. It is one of the few multi-tools I have ever used where I can’t think of a single needed improvement. See? I told you I was biased.
- Extremely compact
- Very good tool list
- Great quality
- Fantastic scissors
- Slightly heavy as a keychain
When looking for small multi tools, it often appears that there is an arms race for who can fit the most tools into a single device. It is fairly common to see claims of thirty of more tools in a single package. If we’re being honest, there is often some “creative justifying” involved in those claims. However, when it comes to multi tool design, I am a big advocate for quality over quantity. Having a few highly effective tools will always be preferable to a bevy of useless gadgets. Within this philosophy, I deeply admire the Gerber Armbar.
Any EDC advocate will likely tell you that a knife is the most important component of any kit. Having a proper blade is a game-changer in countless situations, and many survivalists and hobbyists alike refuse to leave home without one. The Gerber Armbar is a knife first, and a pocket multi tool second. The Armbar is akin to a traditional pocket knife in appearance and function. It has a very slim profile, allowing it to easily clip to your pocket. Crucially, the knife is externally mounted and can be opened using one hand. Just a quick flip of your thumb and the frame lock clicks into place, just like it should be.
The remainder of the tool list is efficient and well-chosen, including scissors, an awl, 1/4″ bit driver, pry bar, bottle opener, and hammer. The scissors are the thumb-actuated variety, but they work well considering the circumstances. Although I find the inclusion of an awl puzzling, I will admit that it is nicely made. But the 1/4″ bit driver is the star of this show.
By allowing you to use standard bits, you can equip this tool for any specialty fastener you may encounter. If you work on cars a lot, an Allen or star head may be useful. If you work on electronics, you can insert a safety-bit. The adaptability adds a lot. Further, the bit driver is incredibly robust and can be rotated 90 degrees for more leverage. It’s an impressive feature in an impressive package.
- Great knife
- Very robust
- Incredibly ergonomic
- Limited bit storage
- Awl isn’t very useful
I am normally a big fan of Leatherman products, as witnessed by my poetic waxing about the Micra. However, the Style PS leaves me with less admiration. It is far from a bad tool, but it is designed for a very specific target audience. The Style PS is designed to be TSA compliant. With its lack of blade, you can theoretically keep it on your person through airport security. If this is a necessary asset for you, then this is not a bad option. Otherwise, you may be better served by another tool.
The primary tool in the Style PS is a set of pliers. Yet, given the design limitations of this tool, the pliers are not particularly robust and may be better described as robust tweezers. They can help you hold onto material but using them for tightening fasteners is a stretch. The tweezers are functional, but fairly basic compared to the much nicer set on the Micra. The scissors are sharp but awkward to use. Finally, the Phillips head screwdriver will work in a pinch, but only on very small screws, and there isn’t a flathead driver at all. As you can tell, the summary of this tool quickly becomes “it works well enough.”
The finish of this tool is very nice, and the design is compact and attractive. However, unless you specifically need a TSA-compliant tool, there are better choices around.
- TSA compliant
- Integrated carabiner
- Very lightweight
- No flathead screwdriver
- Pliers are small
What to Spot the Best Small Multi Tool
Choosing a small multi tool is a task that comes down to deciding your needs and personal preferences. There is never a one-size-fits-all option. However, there are still ways to find the best pocket multi tool for you. Here are some things to consider.
Scissors or Pliers?
In the small multi tool world, there is a split among what constitutes the best “main” tool. In a traditional multitool, this is almost always a pair of pliers, as the hinged design of the tool is apt to form handles. However, the size limitations of a smaller multitool mean that many companies opt for scissors instead of pliers as a more useful alternative.
Personally, I find that having a good set of scissors is generally the more useful choice. Yet, if you think a small set of pliers can assist you on a regular basis, there are many options available.
Will You Carry Another Knife or Multi Tool?
Many users choose to use a miniature multi tool as a supplement to their pocket knife or larger multi tool, rather than a replacement. If you plan to do the same, take care to not carry too many redundant tools. Having two tools can be a great way to have more flexibility and variety in your EDC, but overlap can impede efficiency.
What Obstacles Do You Encounter On a Daily Basis?
This may sound obvious, but the tools you need depends on the tasks you encounter. If you never go camping, you don’t need a fire starter on your multi tool. In essence, be honest with yourself. When looking over the specific tools included in a pocket tool, ask what situations you will encounter that make those tools necessary. You may be surprised just what you need, or don’t.
Choose Quality, not Quantity
The most common piece of advice I give to multi tool shoppers is to choose the quality of tools over the quantity. It is easy for a tool manufacturer to disingenuously list dozens of tools that they have incorporated. But how often do you need an awl? Or a fish hook remover?
The best mini multi tools should have a great knife, a good set of screwdrivers, and a high-quality pair of scissors or pliers. It is fine to add features beyond this, but never lose focus on the basics.
Picking the best mini multi tool is a difficult proposition because every person has different needs. In many ways, the multi tool you choose is a reflection on your personality and the life you lead. That is why this roundup tried to choose the best pocket multi tool from each category, allowing a cross-section of styles and functions to be showcased.
All of this aside, a winner must be chosen. It will likely come as no surprise that the best mini multi tool of this comparison is the Leatherman Micra. With its sleek and efficient design and an excellent array of functions, it will always be an easy choice for the best small multi tool.
- READY FOR ANYTHING: Our most popular mini-tool with anglers, hobbyists and anyone who appreciates the best spring-action scissors around; Perfect for tackle boxes, pockets, fanny packs and keychains
- 10 TOOLS IN 1: A knife, tweezers, file, spring-action scissors and more packed into a 1.8-ounce-keychain-sized multitool that never gives up
- OUR GUARANTEE: We’re proud to stand behind every product that leaves our factory in Portland, Oregon; That’s why we offer our 25-year warranty, so you can be confident your Leatherman lasts a lifetime
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: Equipped with a variety of personal care tools, including a nail file and tweezers, you can take care of broken nails and splinters in a pinch
- ALWAYS ON HAND: The Micra is equipped with a key ring attachment so that it doesn’t get lost and is always within reach and ready to work
Last update on 2020-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API