Last updated May 2019: We’ve updated this guide for 2019 with new multi-tools, including a new Editor’s Pick. Links and prices have also been updated.

Editor’s Pick Best Multi-Tool: Gerber Center-Drive

For 2019, Leatherman debuted it’s most significant tech overhaul to its well-known line of multi-tools in years. The new collection is called Free, and its innovation is invisible — a magnetic architecture that lets users wield its tools easily with one hand. It’s an upgrade that highlights a multi-tool reality we all refuse to accept: yes it’s nice to have a lot of tools in one unit, but they’re all kind of annoying to use.

The Free P2 changes that, which is why we’ve positioned it as a replacement for the Leatherman Wave Plus on this list, and why it immediately earns the top spot as Editor’s Choice. Our previous choice here, the Gerber Center Drive, initially one out for the same argument — easy use with one hand — but the Free P2 does so in a lighter, slimmer package with more tools.

For more on the Leatherman Free P2, continue reading below.

Weight: 7.6 ounces
Material: 420 high carbon stainless steel
Number of Tools: 19


At the core of every DIYer is a psychological inclination for over-preparedness. If there’s the slightest chance that a task will arise, a toolbox is supplied with the appropriate implement to restore working order. As more specialized chores reveal themselves, the toolbox becomes overstuffed, expanding into a shed or even a garage. The local contractor is never contacted.

The DIY spirit exists even in those of us who aren’t inclined to solve every problem on our own, and one thing we and the all-doers can agree on is the practicality of the multi-tool. In the multi-tool, an entire collection of tools is shrunk into a go-everywhere sidekick. But a multi-tool shouldn’t replace the toolbox; it should complement it. Stash one in a kitchen drawer or a glovebox, and you’ll be sure that the occasional unanticipated job never goes without a response.

Types of Multi-Tools

A multi-tool is a multi-tool… right? A picture drawn in the mind’s eye likely renders a chrome-silver tool with twin handles that fold open to reveal pliers, and has a variety of cutters, drivers and openers that fold out of either side. (It may even have the name Leatherman etched into its side, but that brand is by no means the only multi-tool maker to hold in high regard.)

That image is the classic multi-tool, but the category has grown to be more general and all-encompassing. Practically speaking, any tool with multiple functions is a multi-tool. In this guide, we’ve broken the category down into three groupings.

The first, full-size multi-tools, is like the example above. These are full-featured tools designed for any task. This is a toolbox-worthy tool that often comes with a leather holster that can attach to a belt.

The second, mini multi-tools, is a pared-down and more portable version of this. The highly-specialized tools have typically been stripped away to leave only small versions of the essentials. These tools are small enough to go unnoticed in a pocket or attached to a keychain.

Our third category is keychain multi-tools. These tools are highly minimal and aren’t designed to replace anything else you might carry. Instead, they tend to serve as keychains with some additional functionality supplied by a bottle opener.

What Makes a Good Multi-Tool?

The answer to this question is entirely subjective. Today, there are so many types of multi-tools available that one can easily find an option with a toolset to serve the needs and tasks that you encounter most often. Those who want the most function possible should opt for a full-size tool. Others will achieve optimum practicality with just a bottle opener and a small knife.

There are, however, some qualities that we look for in deciding which of these tools are best. A multi-tool’s main features, such as pliers and knives, should be robust enough for use in almost any situation. All tools should lock, and scissors and pliers should, ideally, be spring-loaded. Generally speaking, if a tool is present, it should be useful.

Buying Guide

The Best Full-Size Multi-Tools of 2018

Gerber Center-Drive

The fundamental idea behind a multi-tool — to pack as many individual tools into the smallest, pocketable form — presents a dangerous flaw. Quantity can become a detriment to function. Think about it — how many of the dozen-plus claimed “tools” are you leveraging in a pinch?

Gerber asked that exact question to the contractors, mechanics, outdoorsmen and members of the armed forces who use its tools. Then, it culled the common denominators and set out to make the ultimate master-of-a-few, failure-at-none multi-tool and came up with the Center-Drive.

The Center-Drive rids itself of unnecessary features and improves the primary tools that users find the most use for. Its pliers slide up out of the knife and are spring loaded so that they can be operated with one hand. Its plain edge knife blade is bigger than any other multi-tool we’ve come across. The screwdriver gets the biggest upgrade though; it’s full-size and angled inwards so that it can be rotated on a center axis and comes with standard, replaceable bits. It’s one of those ideas that works so well; it makes us wonder why nobody took the screwdriver more seriously before.

Weight: 9.5 ounces
Material: 420 high carbon stainless steel
Number of Tools: 13

Leatherman Free P2

Leatherman, like Kleenex and Band-Aid, is one of those brand names that has come to stand for the category of products it produces: multi-tools. When you think “Leatherman,” you likely conjure up the Wave, a long-time best-seller among the company’s 50-plus tool arsenal and a favorite of ours until the recent release of the Free P2.

Like the Wave, the Free P2 features all the tools one might imagine should be present in a multi-tool: pliers, scissors, a bottle and can opener, wire cutters, a screwdriver, a ruler, a file. But there’s a fundamental difference in that it, and every other tool in the broader Free collection, has an innovative magnetic construction that makes using those tools much more manageable. The upgrade is twofold: you can now flip open the pliers, balisong style, with one hand, and every smaller implement is also positioned for one-handed use with small nubs that you roll your thumb over to deploy. No more annoying nail nicks and no more opening the pliers just to get to the bottle opener.

We’ve been using the Free P2 for a few months now and can attest that the magnetic system, while it might sound like a gimmick, genuinely brings the multi-tool to a higher level of functionality, particularly for tasks that require two hands. It’s more expensive as a result, but the utility combined with the lifespan on these products make it worth that; it’s everything that makes Leatherman’s other multi-tools great, but better.

For those in need of more tools than what’s in the Free P2, the Free P4 also has a saw and an additional serrated knife blade.

Weight: 7.6 ounces
Material: 420 high carbon stainless steel
Number of Tools: 19

Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X

Victorinox’s famous Swiss Army knives are multi-tools in their own right, so it’s not a surprise that the company can pull off a full-sized butterfly-style tool too. In many ways, the Spirit X is a predictable multi-tool, but that’s precisely why it succeeds.

It has a long, frame-lock plain edge knife as well as separate saws for wood and metal. Its needle-nose pliers aren’t spring-loaded, but are functionally long, with different-sized teeth and built-in wire cutters. Its scissors are spring-loaded, but are small (this is the case for many multi-tools, and it’s okay because big cutting jobs will probably call for a full-sized pair anyway).

The Spirit X has the other mandatory tools: a can opener, bottle opener, a Phillips head and two flathead screwdrivers, but it also comes with some extras, like a multifunctional reamer and a crate opener. It also has a unique handle shape that appears almost bent. In use though, that shape provides a more ergonomic grip when operating either fold-out tools or pliers. It’s that handle shape that makes the Spirit X a notable standby.

Weight: 8.7 ounces
Material: Stainless steel
Number of Tools: 22

SOG Baton Q3

SOG’s recent Baton series reimagines the multi-tool from the outside in. It’s often that the more functionality a tool receives, usually in the form of added features, the more unwieldy it becomes in a pocket or attached to a belt. The Baton is long and slim, so it’s more manageable and more comfortable in hand.

Of SOG’s four Baton multi-tools, we prefer the Q3. It has all the essentials a multi-tool should, including pliers that are deployed by pulling the tool apart. There’s also a plain edge knife, medium and small screwdrivers, spring-loaded scissors, a can opener and a bottle opener, and a tiny driver for adjusting watches and jewelry.

All of these tools lock, and because they fold out of the ends of the Baton, the entire length of the handle is left for use, which we found provides more comfort and depending on the tool you’re using, more torque.

Weight: 6 ounces
Material: Stainless steel, aluminum handle
Number of Tools: 13

The Best Mini Multi-Tools of 2018

Gerber Dime

The Dime measures in at a mere 2.75 inches fully closed, which means you can attach it to your keychain or throw it in your pocket without worry. For something this small and light, it boasts an array of tools that includes real spring-loaded pliers, spring-loaded scissors, screwdrivers and a nifty blade that’s designed to slice open plastic clamshell packaging. Best of all is the bottle opener that’s at the ready without opening the tool at all. In this price range, there is bound to be a few drawbacks; the Dime’s tools don’t open as smoothly as other multi-tools, meaning you have to dig your fingernails to open them. But the positives outweigh the negatives.

Weight: 2.2 ounces
Material: Stainless steel
Number of Tools: 11

Leatherman Micra

Leatherman’s expertise in packing a bunch of tools into one practical package extends beyond full-size multi-tools, and the Micra is arguably Leatherman’s greatest mini multi-tool. It’s no bigger than a disposable lighter, yet functions (and looks) much like Leatherman’s larger multi-tools. The opening action is clean and satisfying; the scissors are sharp and spring-loaded; the nine other tools are useful for most people’s’ everyday needs. If we were to pick one standout feature, though, it’s the Micra’s simple shape. Perfect rectangles are meant for keychains. And they’ll never go out of style.

Weight: 1.8 ounces
Material: Stainless steel
Number of Tools: 10

Victorinox MiniChamp

The classic Swiss Army Knife seems like it exists in a category of its own, but technically speaking it is a multi-tool. Victorinox makes the Swiss Army in a number of sizes with varying toolsets, but the MiniChamp is a standout. It expertly packs a handful of tools that you’ll actually use — like a nail cuticle pusher and a ballpoint pen — into a tiny package. It also has the requisite knife and bottle opener, but it’s the little flashlight that gives the MiniChamp an extra leg over the rest of the Swiss Army models.

Weight: 1.6 ounces
Material: Stainless steel, ABS/Cellidor handle
Number of Tools: 18

The Best Keychain Multi-Tools of 2018

James Brand Halifax

The James Brand is more well-known for its thoughtful and stylish pocket knives. Ryan Coulter, the brand’s founder and designer, is on a mission to own the pocket, and the Halifax fills an essential role in doing that. The small, solid-state tool is designed to provide a home for your keys, but it’s also equipped with the ever-important bottle opener and a flat edge that acts as a screwdriver in a pinch. For most of us, that’s all we need.

Material: Titanium
Number of Tools: 3

Leatherman 10

Leatherman’s most basic multi-tool has no hinges or moving parts and is small enough to fit on a keychain. The 10 is built for basic everyday tasks like opening boxes and bottles. The tool also comes with a screwdriver tip that functions as both flathead and Phillips head as well as a multi-size hex wrench. Leatherman made the 10 with 420 stainless steel, and it weighs half an ounce, which is light enough to go unnoticed on a keychain.

Weight: 0.5 ounces
Material: 420 stainless steel
Number of Tools: 4

Quiet Carry Shorty

On a surface level, the Shorty is an EDC tool designed to keep keys organized in your pocket. Quiet Carry designed the tool with extra functionality though, which is transmitted through a fold-out multi-tool (the Shorty can also be ordered with a knife blade, or a blade with a bottle opener built-in). The multi-tool combines a bottle opener, screwdriver, and hex wrench, and employs a frame-lock for sturdy use. The great thing about the Shorty is that it houses the tool and your keys in a minimalist rectangle, freeing you from the clutter created when carrying multiple items.

Weight: 1.6 ounces
Material: 416 stainless steel
Number of Tools: 4