Whether you just need a knife and screwdriver or a whole suite of doodads, there’s a multi-tool out there for you. But there are a lot to choose from, so we contacted some of the top manufacturers and had them send us their best gear. Gerber, Buck, SOG, Leatherman, and CRKT all sent us their top-of-the-line tools so we could give them a fair and honest comparison.
We took a look at their durability, sharpness, warranty, and tool selection among other things, and now pronounce our judgment:
SOG Power Assist Black Oxide – MSRP $122
- 15 Tools In One
- Power Assist (geared) Pliers
- User Replaceable Tools
- Assembled in the USA
- Lifetime Warranty
Review: SOG is predominantly known for their knives more then their multi-tools, but perhaps the PowerAssist should change that perception. As far as multi-tools go, the PowerAssist has the standard tool set (a Philips head screwdriver, a standard screwdriver, a knife, and a can opener), as well as the SOG V-Cut (for cutting webbing), and one serious saw. The pliers portion of the tool has a gearing option in order to give you extra power when using the cutting tool. In the video on SOG website, they cut a washer in half with it, and it seems almost effortless. This wasn’t just marketing BS, it works. I tried the washer test myself and it worked exactly like they showed. I liked the SOG overall, I found it to be the easiest tool to use the pliers function on, and the knife blade locking system works extremely well. I did have a minor complaint about the tool locking system — it’s extremely difficult to unlock a tool once you have it open. Other then that minor complaint, I found the SOG to be a quality product.
SOG has obviously put a large amount of time and effort into making a multi-tool that’ll do pretty much everything. It’s large, and heavy, but can do it all.
- 19 Tools in one
- Clip point knife and and serrated knife
- Replaceable Wire Cutting Blades
- 25-year Warranty
Review: Tim Leatherman created the first multi-tool in 1980, and the Super Tool 300 is the ultimate version of that multi-tool. The Super Tool 300 is Leatherman’s ultimate tool designed for pretty much what ever you need it to do. It has every possible attachment you might need, including a saw, awl, file, bottle opener, and multiple sizes of screwdrivers. If MacGyver had carried a multi-tool instead of a pocket knife, this would have been the one. The Super Tool 300 also comes with a ballistic nylon case, intended to be attached to military webbing. This is one serious multi-tool.
Leatherman is the original, and still making the multi-tool of choice of many people out there. The Super Tool 300 continues that tradition by bringing a full compliment of accessories to the table.
- 13 Tools in one
- 1/2 Fine edge & serrated blade
- Retail package opener
Review: Gerber’s Strata is one of the more elegant looking multi-tools (let’s face it, the majority of them look pretty utilitarian), and it has a unique locking system. Instead of pushing on a release lever, you slide a portion of the handle down to unlock whatever tool you’re decided to use. The Strata has several different tools, covering everything from the standard pliers with wire-cutters to scissors, standard and Philips screwdrivers, a saw, and even a file. Gerber warranties their products for life, so you won’t need to worry about defects or quality issues, which aren’t a problem at any rate. There were a couple of issues I noticed about the Strata; the handle seemed loose and moved from right to left in a manner other then designed. Not a major problem, but one that could become a warranty issue.
The Strata looks nice, but I’m a little reluctant to recommend it given the quality issues. It could have just been the unit they sent me, but I’d be careful before buying this one.
- 4-Ever Warranty
- Quality knife blade
- One Handed opening on all the tools
- Nylon carry sheath
Review: The Buck X-Tract is unique in that all of its tools can be opened with one hand. The pliers slide forward, the can opener can be opened via a small metal stud, and even the standard and Philips screwdrivers can be opened single handedly. The Buck also has the best knife blade of all the multi-tools, which is quite impressive considering it’s one of the smaller and less expensive multi-tools I checked out. The Buck X-Tract has a lifetime warranty, and judging from the quality of the pliers, you’re probably going to need it. To be honest, the quality of the pliers on the X-Tract isn’t exactly the highest quality. The blade on the other hand, is great. So if you’re looking for a multi-tool that has fairly low quality pliers but an extremely high quality knife blade, the Buck X-Tract is your product.
I actually like this tool. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that most of the others have, but it does have the best blade.
- TSA Friendly (no blade)
- Designed for your modern nerd
- Changeable screwdriver heads
- Built in LED light
Review: CRKT is a bit of an odd man out. I really like their product though – it’s customizable based on your needs, making it the only tool that doesn’t require the purchase of a specific tool for a specific job. CRKT send me the GoNerd Flux; it’s a specialized tool for someone who works on computers. The GoNerd Flux has a build in (removable) 2GB USB drive, interchangeable bits (standard and Philips), and a built-in LED light. It attaches via a carabiner clip, making it ideal to attach to a belt loop or tool bag. If I still worked as an IT repair tech, I’d want one of these tools. If the GoNerd Flux has any shortcoming, it’s the lack of a knife blade. It does make it TSA-friendly, but there’s no way to trim or remove a zip-tie from inside a computer for example. Also, no pliers. Because the GoNerd Flux is customizable, you can buy a module that has a knife blade and a pair of pliers, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the “nerd” features CRKT built in. Overall, the GoNerd Flux is a well built, quality tool.
The GoNerd Flux is a completely customizable tool. I like that. You don’t necessarily need a saw and a file when you’re work on a computer. But you can change out the module if you decide you want to take it camping with you.
Bonus Review: CRKT M21-14SF – MSRP: $129.99
- Combat Folding Knife
- Designed by Kit Carson
- Automatic Safety lock
- Entire knife covered in non-reflective black
Review: CRKT also sent along a bonus with their GoNerd Flux, a combat folding knife. Now it just so happens that I personally like knives, so I was quite excited to take a look at their folding combat knife. Make no mistake, this is a combat knife. It’s designed for a soldier who needs a knife while deployed. Most of CRKT’s combat knives are designed by Sergeant Major Kit Carson of Vine Grove, Kentucky. The M21-14SF is an aluminum knife, made with black anodized metal, and locks open using a dual “AutoLAWKS” system that instantly transforms the knife from a folder to a fixed blade, making it an ideal combat weapon.
This knife is pure awesome. While I’ll never put it to it’s intended use, it’s still nice to have a good sharp knife with you at times. Plus, it looks really bad-ass.
Conclusion: I’ve loved doing this gift guide. I love multi-tools, I love what they represent, and I’ve typically had one strapped to my belt since my first Leatherman Wave. Much like Les Stroud, I never go hiking or camping without my trusty multi-tool. Which is why, to my surprise, I have to declare the SOG the winner. To be honest, I’ve always been partial to Leatherman products, but the SOG Power Assist really impressed me and caused me to change my allegiance.