The Best Multi-Tool

The Best Multi-Tool

Carrying a multi-tool opens up a world of problem-solving and empowerment. Similar to keeping a flashlight in your pocket, once you have it, you find yourself using it multiple times a day for various tasks. In rural New Hampshire, where we’ve tested over 25 multi-tools, the Leatherman Skeletool CX emerged as the top choice.

What sets the Skeletool CX apart is its sleek, lightweight design and minimal lineup of well-executed essentials. Unlike other multi-tools burdened with rarely used tools, the Skeletool offers pliers, knife, screwdrivers, and a bottle opener—all we ever needed for minor fixes and daily tasks.

Whether fixing fences, slicing hay-bale twine, or assisting in the birth of a lamb on a cold March morning, the Skeletool CX proved its worth time and time again. Its simplicity and functionality make it a reliable companion for any task, ensuring you can get things done without unnecessary bulk.

Leatherman Skeletool CX

The Skeletool CX is designed with a focus on essential features, ensuring precision and comfort with its pliers while eliminating unnecessary tools. Its lightweight and slim profile make it convenient for daily carry, and its durable construction ensures longevity and reliability.

Among all the multi-tools tested, the Skeletool CX stood out as the one we consistently reached for, even years after our initial testing. Its one-handed knife deployment and secure locking mechanism make it effortless to use, while its premium 154CM blade steel ensures long-lasting sharpness. Unlike bulkier alternatives requiring a belt sheath, the Skeletool’s slim and lightweight design allows for comfortable pocket carry. Additionally, it offers versatile attachment options, including a pocket clip or carabiner for easy access and a built-in bottle opener. The precision-engineered pliers are adept at various tasks, from removing splinters to handling common screws with its assortment of screwdrivers. Furthermore, the Skeletool boasts Leatherman’s renowned durability, backed by a 25-year warranty, although its robust construction suggests little need for warranty service.

Closed dimensions: 4⅛ by 1¼ by ½ inches
Weight: 5.2 ounces
Blade length: 2⅝ inches
Tools included: needle-nose pliers, wire cutter, bottle opener, Phillips screwdriver (2), flat screwdriver (2), carabiner clip

Leatherman Free P2

The Free P2 has a larger tool selection—including scissors and a package opener—than the Skeletool CX. But the biggest difference is that all of the tools, including the pliers, can be deployed using one hand.

For those in need of a larger multi-tool that prioritizes ease of use, we highly recommend the Leatherman Free P2. Launched in 2019, the Free P2 represents a groundbreaking design from Leatherman. One of its standout features is the ability to access all tools with a single hand, even when the handles are closed—a rarity among multi-tools. The pliers can also be deployed effortlessly with just a flick of the wrist. After extensively testing the Free P2 for several weeks, we found that compared to other full-size multi-tools like the classic Leatherman Wave+, it offered a more seamless and intuitive user experience. Despite being over 2½ ounces heavier than the Skeletool CX, the Free P2 boasts a sleek and streamlined design, complete with a pocket clip for added convenience. Despite its slightly heftier build, we never encountered any issues with carrying or handling the Free P2.

Closed dimensions: 4 by 1½ by ⅝ inches
Weight: 7½ ounces
Blade length: 2⅝ inches
Tools included: needle-nose pliers, wire cutter, electrical crimper, wire stripper, knife, scissors, package opener, awl, can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, Phillips screwdriver, medium flat screwdriver, small flat screwdriver, extra-small flat screwdriver, pry tool, ruler

Leatherman Signal

The Signal has the Skeletool’s basic set of tools, plus a few extras geared toward the outdoors and emergency preparation, including an effective whistle and a fire starter.

For individuals who spend ample time outdoors or prioritize emergency preparedness, we also recommend considering the Leatherman Signal. While it shares many similarities with the Skeletool CX, such as a simplified tool selection, asymmetric handles, and a bottle-opener carabiner clip, the Signal distinguishes itself with a focus on outdoor-oriented features.

In addition to the standard knife, pliers, bottle opener, and screwdriver, the Signal incorporates several additional tools tailored for outdoor activities. These include a whistle, fire-starter rod, knife sharpener, saw, and awl. Despite its larger size compared to the Skeletool CX, the Signal’s integrated outdoor tools blend seamlessly into the design, adding minimal bulk while providing practical functionality.

The Signal’s outdoor-centric design lends it robustness and versatility, with features like larger pliers, replaceable wire cutter blades, and extended plier handles. Whether for camping, hiking, or survival scenarios, the Leatherman Signal offers a comprehensive set of tools that can prove invaluable in outdoor settings.

Closed dimensions: 4½ by 1⅝ by ¾ inches
Weight: 7½ ounces
Blade length: 2¾ inches
Tools included: needle-nose pliers, wire cutters, knife, saw, hammer, awl, can opener, bottle opener, Phillips screwdriver, flat screwdriver, quarter-inch box wrench, 3/16-inch box wrench, carabiner, ferro rod, whistle, sharpener

Leatherman Free T4

The Leatherman Free T4 lacks pliers, so it’s smaller than the other models here, but it has a nice set of basic tools and a strong build quality.

If you’re seeking a more compact option without pliers, we recommend considering the Leatherman Free T4. Despite its smaller size, this model offers a versatile array of tools, including scissors and tweezers, making it suitable for various tasks.

One notable feature of the Free T4 is that all tools, including the knife, securely lock in the open position, enhancing safety and usability. Additionally, it boasts a pocket clip for convenient carry, a feature often absent in plier-less models. Similar to the Leatherman Free P2, the Free T4 allows for one-handed deployment of all tools, although maneuvering the knife may require a bit more dexterity.

Constructed with durability in mind, the Free T4 is backed by Leatherman’s 25-year warranty, ensuring reliability and peace of mind for long-term use. Whether for everyday tasks or on-the-go convenience, the Leatherman Free T4 offers a compact yet capable solution for various situations.

Closed dimensions: 3⅝ by 1 by ⅞ inches
Weight: 4.3 ounces
Blade length: 2 1/16 inches
Tools included: knife, scissors, pry tool, package opener, awl, bottle opener, file, Phillips screwdriver, flat screwdriver (3), tweezers

Gerber Gear Armbar Drive Multi-Tool

The Gerber Armbar Drive is similar to the Free T4, but it’s not as refined. It’s also not as expensive.

For those in search of a straightforward and budget-friendly multi-tool, we suggest considering the Gerber Gear Armbar Drive. While it may lack pliers, akin to the Free T4, it compensates with its compact size and lightweight design.

The Armbar Drive offers a practical assortment of tools, including a knife, screwdrivers, package opener, scissors, and a bottle opener. Notably, its bottle opener features an innovative design that enables swift, one-handed use. However, it’s worth mentioning that the screwdriver does not lock in the open position, although the knife does.

One drawback of the Armbar Drive is the absence of a pocket clip, which may affect ease of carry for some users. Nevertheless, considering its affordable price point and functional tool set, it presents an excellent option for individuals seeking a basic multi-tool without the added bulk of pliers.

Closed dimensions: 3½ by ¾ by ¾ inches
Weight: 3.1 ounces
Blade length: 2⅝ inches
Tools included: knife, Phillips screwdriver, flat screwdriver, pry tool, bottle opener, scissors, awl, striking tool

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