Given the price of the average multi-tool choosing one should be done with some caution, there are a few reputable brands available and one should avoid the cheaper “no name” versions as they tend not to go the distance.
So let’s think, how regularly will you use it? Where will you carry it? What are you main requirements? The idea of combining tools is not unique but the multi-tool as we know it was invented by Tim Leatherman in 1984. Originally known as a ‘Pocket Survival Tool’ it was essentially a pair of pliers that closed in a unique fashion where the pliers folded into the handle making a compact tool that could fit into a pocket without damaging the pocket.
Add to this knife blades, screwdrivers, files, scissors and openers and the tools have evolved into the units we know today, compact and streamlined and highly adaptable in a variety of situations.
So when choosing a tool consider exactly what you will be using it for, as certain tools are specific to certain trades. Then look at your own level of capability, whether a full blown tool would be appropriate or if a smaller compact tool would be a better choice, for instance if it would just be used in emergencies, around the campfire or in the bush.
Bear in mind how you will carry the tool, if it’s a full size tool it could be somewhat weighty on your belt and may be better in a day-pack or the cubbyhole of your car. Leather and nylon pouches are available for belt carry and everyday storage.
A good sized blade is an important feature as it can have multiple uses in the kitchen or around the campsite, then a small compact pair of scissors will also come in useful. Screwdrivers, tin and bottle openers are also very handy, as is a small file. Think about the use you want to get out of the pliers when making your final selection as you can get a heavy duty blunt nose option or the finer needle nose, the first being tougher and the second being more versatile.
Then check that you have good side cutting blades and a wire stripper as these will prove to be invaluable at home and outdoors. For heavy cutting some tools offer geared jaws that increase the cutting power. Some tools even come with additional screwdrivers, corkscrews and the like that you can add to, these are obviously priced at the top end of the segment though.
Lastly look after the multi-tool once you have bought it, regularly check the cleanliness and lightly oil it, be careful of lending it out, they often never come back!
Do you have a preferred tool, then tell us about it at www.allterrain.co.za
Words: Glyn Demmer
Popular Mechanics, one of our sister publications at RamsayMedia just did an interview with Tim Leatherman: