Through over a dozen years teaching survival skills and tramping through the wild, I’ve learned one solid truth: a good multi-tool is like a trusty sidekick. It’s that one piece of gear that’s got your back, whether you’re cutting a piece of cord or fixing gear.
I’ve tested more tools than I can count, and I’ve found some favorites that just make life outdoors a bit easier. These include:
- Real Avid Gun Multi Tool CORE – Best for firearms maintenance
- LEATHERMAN, Skeletool CX – Best for everyday carry and quick fixes
- Victorinox Swiss Army Swisstool – Best for precision
- SOG Powerlock V-Cutter – Best for emergency situations and rescue operations
- Victorinox Swiss Army RangerGrip Boatsman – Best for boating and nautical applications
- LEATHERMAN, Surge, 21-in-1 Heavy-Duty Multi-tool – Best for heavy-duty work
- GERBER Center-Drive PLUS – Best for quick fixes
1. Real Avid Gun Multi Tool CORE
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As a seasoned wilderness survival instructor, I’ve tried many different tools during my time in the wild and I’ve found that having the right tool at the right time is crucial. This multi-tool fits the bill with its array of functions tailored for firearm maintenance.
The product includes:
- Carbon Removal Tool: For cleaning the bolt and scraping off burnt powder residue.
- Front Sight Adjuster: For A2 type iron sights, aiding in zeroing the rifle.
- Pin Punch: Useful for takedown pin removal.
- Bolt Override Tool: To fix malfunctions and stoppages.
- Cord Cutter: For slicing through cords or webbing.
- Bottle Opener: A handy tool for opening bottles.
In my personal use, the Real Avid Gun Tool CORE has proven to be a durable and indispensable part of my kit. Its solid construction and intuitive design make it easy to perform a variety of adjustments and repairs on the go.
While it’s not a replacement for a full gunsmithing set, for quick fixes and adjustments, it’s incredibly handy. The convenience of having several tools in one compact form cannot be overstated when you’re miles from your workshop.
|Material||High-grade steel and polymer|
|Dimensions||4 x 2 x 0.5 inches (approx.)|
|Weight||0.5 pounds (approx.)|
|Main Tools Included||Bolt Carrier Group Scraper, Firing Pin Scraper, Buffer Tube Wrench|
|Additional Components||Detachable Pin Punch, 8-32 Threaded Receiver, Lanyard Loop|
2. LEATHERMAN, Skeletool CX
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The LEATHERMAN Skeletool is a compact multitool that’s designed for the minimalist adventurer who wants functionality without the bulk. Crafted from durable stainless steel, it features a combo knife, pliers, bottle opener, and more, all folded into a sleek, skeletal frame that slips easily into your pocket, you can find a multi-tool with a pocket clip if you prefer.
Its lightweight design means it’s there when you need it and unobtrusive when you don’t. While it doesn’t pack as many tools as some of its bulkier counterparts, each tool it includes is robust and effective. From personal experience, the Skeletool has been a handy asset during treks and camps. The knife is sharp and accessible, and the pliers grip with reassuring strength.
However, I’ve noticed the screwdriver bits can be a bit fiddly to swap in a hurry, and the minimalist design might leave you wishing for one or two additional features in complex situations. Despite these minor drawbacks, it’s a solid piece of gear for those who prioritize ease and efficiency.
- Needle-nose Pliers
- Regular Pliers
- Hard-wire Cutters
- Wire Cutters
- Combo Knife
- Carabiner/Bottle Opener
- Large Bit Driver
|Included Tools||7 Tools (pliers, wire cutters, knife, etc.)|
|Primary Blade Length||2.6 inches|
|Closed Length||4 inches|
|Replaceable Pocket Clip||Yes|
3. Victorinox Swiss Army Swisstool
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The Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X is a testament to Swiss precision engineering, embodying versatility in a sleek, compact design. Crafted for resilience and reliability, this multi-tool can be your companion for every challenge. Whether tightening screws or slicing through materials, it’s the multi-tool that has rarely met a challenge it couldn’t tackle.
Its stainless steel construction speaks of durability, while the accompanying leather pouch offers a touch of elegance and practicality for on-the-go adventures.
However, no product is without its flaws. In my experience, while the Spirit X excels in versatility, it can be a bit cumbersome when you’re looking for speed. The tools, while numerous, sometimes require a bit of finesse to deploy quickly.
While the stainless steel is robust, it adds a noticeable weight, which is a factor you should consider if every ounce counts on your journey.
|Material||High-grade Stainless Steel|
|Closed Length||105 mm (approx.)|
|Width||35 mm (approx.)|
|Thickness||18 mm (approx.)|
|Weight||209 g (approx.)|
|Number of Functions||24|
|Scale Material||Stainless Steel|
4. SOG Powerlock V-Cutter
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The SOG PowerLock Multitool is a solid piece of gear for anyone who loves the outdoors. It’s built to last, with a stainless steel body that can take a beating. I’ve used it on several trips, and it’s packed with practical tools like pliers and a knife that come in handy when you’re in a pinch.
It’s a bit on the heavy side, and some of the tools are tough to get out, but it’s dependable. When you’re out in the wild, this multitool is like having a toolbox on your belt.
The SOG Multitool PowerLock typically comes with a ballistic nylon sheath for protection and easy carry, ensuring that you have quick access to your tools when you need them.
|Overall Length||7 inches (approx.)|
|Closed Length||4.6 inches (approx.)|
|Weight||9.6 ounces (approx.)|
|Material||Stainless steel construction|
|Components||18 tools including pliers, wire cutters, etc.|
|Finish||Black Oxide or Polished|
|Warranty||Limited Lifetime Warranty|
|Country of Origin||Made in the USA|
5. Victorinox Swiss Army RangerGrip Boatsman
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The Victorinox RangerGrip Boatsman is a multi-tool that’s built tough for outdoor challenges, especially on the water, I would say. It’s got a solid grip and a variety of tools, like a one-hand blade and pliers, to handle quick fixes or complex tasks.
As someone who needs and uses these tools pretty often, I value gear that’s reliable and easy to use. The Boatsman is a bit heavy, but that’s because it’s made to be sturdy and last long, even in rough conditions. It’s not the kind of tool you forget you’re carrying, but it’s one you can count on when you need it most.
|Length (Closed)||130 mm|
|Scale Material||Two-component scales|
|Tools Included||22 functions including a lock blade for one hand, needle-nosed pliers, wire cutter, and bit case|
6. LEATHERMAN, Surge, 21-in-1 Heavy-Duty Multi-tool
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The LEATHERMAN Surge is like a reliable friend you want on every outdoor trip. In my dozen years teaching survival skills, I’ve seen my share of multitools, and the Surge is the kind you can count on. Made with tough stainless steel, it’s got a bit of weight to it, which means it’s made to last.
It packs tools for nearly any job you’d need in the wild—think pliers for snags, a knife for slicing, and even a saw for cutting through obstacles.
The product includes:
- Leatherman Surge Multitool
- A selection of interchangeable bits for various uses
- A carrying case for protection and portability
|Number of Tools||21|
|Primary Blade Length||3.1 in|
|Closed Length||4.5 in|
7. GERBER Center-Drive PLUS
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Unlike other multitools, the Center-Drive Plus offers a full-size screwdriver with a standard bit head, which means no compromises in torque and efficiency when tackling screws. The one-thumb opening system allows for quick and easy access to the tools, making it a reliable companion for quick fixes and tasks on the go.
Crafted with a focus on real-world usability, this multitool includes a knife blade that is sharper and more accessible than many of its competitors. The inclusion of a second-bit holder with a set of bits adds to its versatility.
However, I did notice that the pliers can be a bit stiff initially, and the tool’s heft, while reassuring in terms of durability, might not appeal to those who prioritize lightweight gear. Overall, the Gerber Center-Drive Plus is a solid choice for those who need a multitool that can keep up with demanding tasks.
- Gerber Center-Drive Plus Multi-Tool
- 12-piece standard bit set
- Premium leather sheath
- Magnetic bit holder
|Main Tool||Center-Axis Driver|
|Knife Blade Length||3.25 inches (approx.)|
|Closed Length||4.7 inches|
|Construction Material||Stainless Steel with Premium Components|
|Additional Tools Included||Pliers, Wire Cutter, Serrated Blade, etc.|
|Weight||9.5 oz (approx.)|
When you’re in the market for a survival multi-tool, there are several critical factors to consider ensuring you get the best tool for your needs. Here’s what to keep in mind:
1. Intended Use: Specialization vs. Versatility
Some multi-tools are specialized, offering tools for specific activities like hunting or fishing, while others are more versatile for general use.
The Real Avid Gun Tool CORE is excellent for firearm enthusiasts, providing specialized tools like a carbon removal tool and front sight adjuster, making it perfect for on-the-fly gun adjustments.
2. Tool Selection: Quantity vs. Quality
More tools aren’t always better. Consider the quality and necessity of each tool. A well-chosen selection that you’ll use is better than having many you won’t.
For a well-rounded toolset, the Victorinox Swiss Army Swisstool Spirit X offers 24 high-quality functions. If fewer, more specific tools are needed, the LEATHERMAN Skeletool CX excels with its carefully chosen essentials.
3. Size and Portability
A multi-tool should be easily portable without compromising on the essential tools. Size will impact how you carry and use it.
The LEATHERMAN Skeletool CX is a standout for its sleek design that doesn’t sacrifice functionality, making it the go-to for those who need a compact tool on their adventures.
Heavier multi-tools often come with more features but can be cumbersome. Lighter tools are easier to carry but may offer fewer functions.
If you’re looking for a full-featured tool and don’t mind the extra weight, the Gerber Center-Drive Plus is robust. For a lighter option, consider the LEATHERMAN Skeletool CX.
5. Durability: Material and Construction
The material and build quality determine the multi-tool’s longevity, especially in challenging environments.
The SOG Powerlock V-Cutter’s stainless steel body is built for durability, suitable for those who need a rugged tool that can withstand heavy use.
6. Ease of Access
In urgent situations, being able to quickly access and deploy tools can be critical.
The Gerber Center-Drive Plus features a one-thumb opening system that allows for fast and efficient tool deployment when time is of the essence.
7. Ergonomics: Comfort and Ease of Use
Ergonomic design can reduce hand fatigue and make the tool more comfortable and safer to use over extended periods.
The Victorinox Swiss Army RangerGrip Boatsman with its two-component scales provides a secure grip, which is particularly useful in wet conditions or when wearing gloves.
8. Locking Mechanism
A good locking mechanism prevents the tools from folding or closing inadvertently, which is vital for safety during use.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Swisstool Spirit X has a reliable locking mechanism, ensuring that each tool stays in place during use, offering peace of mind during complex tasks.
9. Additional Features and Accessories
Some multi-tools come with additional features like sheaths, bit sets, or even USB drives, which can enhance their functionality.
The LEATHERMAN Surge is notable for its extras, including a selection of bits and a protective case, making it a great package for those who value added functionality.
10. Warranty and Brand Reputation
A reputable brand with a solid warranty reflects confidence in the product’s quality and ensures support in case of defects.
Opt for a tool like the SOG Powerlock V-Cutter, which comes with a limited lifetime warranty, highlighting the brand’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.
Can survival multi-tools be taken on commercial flights?
Most airlines have strict regulations regarding sharp objects and tools in carry-on luggage. Survival multi-tools, especially those with blades longer than 4 inches, are typically not allowed in carry-on bags but can be packed in checked luggage. Always check the airline’s specific regulations before traveling.
How should I maintain and care for my survival multi-tool to ensure longevity?
Maintain your multi-tool by cleaning it after each use, especially if it has been exposed to saltwater or dirt. Apply a drop of oil to the hinges and moving parts regularly to keep them functioning smoothly. Sharpen the blades as needed, and store your tool in a dry place to prevent rust.
Are there multi-tools designed for left-handed users?
While most multi-tools are designed to be ambidextrous, some models may have features that are more convenient for right-handed users. However, there are multi-tools with one-hand opening blades and tools that can be comfortably used by left-handed individuals. It’s best to handle a multi-tool before purchasing to ensure comfort and ease of use.
What is the most important feature to look for in a survival multi-tool for extreme climates?
In extreme climates, the most important feature to look for is the durability and reliability of the tool under harsh conditions. Materials that resist corrosion, such as stainless steel, and features like a locking mechanism that can be operated with gloves are crucial for cold environments.
Can survival multi-tools be customized based on personal needs?
Some manufacturers offer customization options for multi-tools, allowing you to select which tools are included. This can be particularly useful for professionals who may need a specific toolset for their activities. Additionally, there are multi-tools with removable bits or attachments that can be tailored to individual needs.
Is it better to have a multi-tool with more functions or fewer, more specialized functions?
The choice between a multi-tool with more functions versus fewer, more specialized functions depends on your specific needs. If you’re looking for versatility and the ability to handle a wide range of tasks, a multi-tool with more functions might be beneficial.
However, if you have specific needs or want to minimize weight and size, a multi-tool with fewer, specialized functions may be more practical. It’s all about the balance between functionality and portability for your particular situation.
So, wrapping this up, picking out the best survival multi-tool is a personal choice. It’s about what feels right in your hand and fits into your adventure. The top picks I’ve shared are the ones that have proven their worth time and again.
Choose one that suits your style and needs, and it’ll be one of the best investments for your outdoor kit in 2023. Pack smart, stay safe, and enjoy every moment out there.
My name is Casey Harper, and I specialize in wilderness survival, navigation, and first aid. With over 12 years of experience as a wilderness survival instructor, I have had the privilege of guiding individuals and groups through challenging outdoor environments, ensuring their safety and teaching them essential survival skills. Additionally, I contribute to GearDisciple by writing insightful articles on survival strategies and reviewing outdoor gear. Through sharing my knowledge and experience, I aim to equip others with the skills and tools necessary for thriving in the wild, embracing the beauty and challenges it presents.