I remember getting my first ever multi tool as a kid. My biggest frustration was not having a good reason to use it!
Fast forward to being an adult…and still my biggest frustration when it comes to multi tools is not being able to play with them as much as I’d like!
One of the reasons I love being outdoors (and backpacking in particular) is because you get to use tools, especially ones with sharp edges. And it totally makes sense to carry a multi tool when backpacking, either as your primary tool or as a backup for your more specialist kit.
Not sure what the best multitool for backpacking is for you? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. If you want to cut to the chase, my best multitools for backpacking are:
- Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier Review
- ProMaster Smart & Simple Multitool
- Leatherman FREE T4 Multitool
- Victorinox SwissChamp Review
This suspension multitool is made of stainless steel with an aluminum opening handle. It has 11 tools, including:
- Wire cutters
- Needle-nose pliers
- Serrated knife & Fine-edge knife
- Crosspoint screwdriver
- Can opener
- Lanyard hole
- Bottle opener
It has an overall length of 6 inches, a closed length of 3.5 inches, and weighs 9 ounces.
Let’s start with the very obvious here — this multitool has a lot of tools, and the tools are great quality (the screwdriver is Phillips, for example). And all of these tools are packed into a closed length of fewer than 4 inches.
One of the benefits this multitool has over some of the others on the list is that Gerber uses a Saf.T.Plus system to lock all the components in place. This is especially useful for knives and scissors, which could easily send you to the ER if they slip.
Another benefit is having multiple varieties of the same tool — a fine edge knife has a different purpose to a serrated knife. For example, cutting rope is far easier with a serrated blade.
The Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier gives you a lot for a relatively low price. A great tool offering great value!
This multitool has 15 functions, including:
- Wire cutters
- Needle-nose pliers
- Can opener
- Hook remover
- Bottle opener
- Folding saw
- Double-sided nail file
- Fish scaler
It weighs 8.2 ounces, is 3.9 inches long and is made of high-quality stainless steel.
Here we go — this is one of my favorites on the list! This pocket-sized multitool has all of the basics, and then some. It’s durable and long-lasting due to being made from high-quality stainless steel, which stands the test of time.
ProMaster boasts that this product is recommended by an army officer veteran, and it’s not hard to see why. It has absolutely everything you could need, not only out in the wilderness but also around the home. It offers not just one of each tool, but several varieties of the same, including two bladed tools and four screwdrivers!
Compared to some of the other multitools on the list, this has some fancier tools that a backpacker would very much benefit from. Take the fish scaler, for example. Not everyone goes fishing while they’re traveling, but how incredibly useful is this if you do? Scale your fish, cook it up, and enjoy a meal you caught yourself.
Oh, and it comes with a pouch, too!
Compared to the rest of the list, ProMaster’s multitool is probably the most robust option. It’s tough, and it’s made to be by your side for a long time. It also has a lot of options and would be a useful multitool to have around your house or in your car’s glove department, as well as backpacking, of course.
The only thing that stops me from giving it full gold stars is that users mention that some of the tools aren’t as tough as the multitool itself. This isn’t across the board, though. Also, this is one of the heavier options, so despite its small size, you’ll notice it if you’re carrying it in your pocket.
This is definitely one to think about if you want the basics plus a little extra on top.
The main tools in this model are:
- 420HC knife
- Pry tool
- Spring scissors
- Bottle opener
- Package opener
- Wood and metal file
- Phillips medium screwdriver
- 2 x smaller screwdrivers
It weighs 6.4 ounces, is 3.6 inches in length, and is made from stainless steel.
This may not be the fanciest option on the market, but Leatherman’s 12-in-1 multitool is another on my list that offers all you the basics you could need, and even variations of the same tool. For instance, there are four screwdrivers, including an extra-small option.
More importantly, this is one of the options where the tools lock into place when used, so it gets extra points for safety. It also has a magnetic system that allows you to open it with one hand, which is another bonus for convenience.
This multitool also comes with a pocket clip, so you have a convenient option for carrying it around right off the bat.
I really like the safety and convenience factors that aren’t present in a few of the other multitools discussed here. So, if these are two critical aspects for you, you’ll be happy with this option.
I’m not 100 percent that Leatherman’s 12-in-1 multitool lives up to all the expectations you might expect of a multitool, though. It doesn’t have the most features, and feedback suggests that it isn’t necessarily the most robust.
This Swiss army knife has 33 functions, including:
- Bottle opener
- Wire stripper
- Multi-purpose hook
- Blades of varying sizes
- And many more!
It’s made of stainless steel, weighs 6.6 ounces and is 3.5 inches long.
Most of us know the trust and respect that the Swiss Army knife brand has. I remember loads of kids wanting a Swiss Army knife when I was growing up, and nothing’s changed.
If you want to go all out with the tools available to you, and you don’t mind paying a bit extra for them — you are getting a lot of functions, after all — then you’re looking at a great multitool. It also has multiple blade options — including scissors and a saw — which will be extremely useful to many backpackers.
Why? Well, having to cut cords is a very common occurrence, as is opening difficult food packs and cutting the food. Not all food has the consistency of jello! You may also want to cut kindling or even clean under your fingernails.
This option is also compact and will easily slide into your back pocket or a pocket in a bag/backpack, so it’s a fantastic space-saver.
One downside is that the tools don’t lock in place, so you’ll have to be extremely careful during use.
This high-quality multitool from Victorinox has the option of being personalized, which makes it a great gift for a loved one who regularly goes backpacking or camping, or for someone in the scouts.
This is a more premium option, though, with more bells and whistles than you might be looking for. There’s a good chance you don’t need all of the tools this Swiss Army knife offers. So, if you’re on a budget or looking for something more basic, this may not be the one for you. If this is the case, try the Leatherman Squirt.
This shard multitool is comprised of seven functions:
- Small flat driver & Medium flat driver
- Cross driver
- Wire stripper
- Bottle opener
- Pry bar
- Lanyard hole
It’s made of stainless steel and has a titanium coating. It’s 2.75 inches in length and weighs 0.32 ounces.
Here we have the most basic multitool on our list — and a testament to how ‘basic’ doesn’t mean ‘bad.’ This seemingly innocuous little tool has seven whole functions packed into less than 3 inches and virtually nothing of weight.
The biggest benefit of this tool is that it is probably the easiest option in terms of traveling. It’s so small and innocuous, you’ll barely even notice it’s strapped to your keychain — who can feel 0.32 ounces? And yet, it has so much to it.
One advantage of this tool is that, as it doesn’t utilize any kind of blade, you have less chance of it being taken away at the airport. This isn’t a guarantee, mind you, and you’d be wise to contact the airport in question to get a more specific answer.
Of course, if you’re looking for a blade, this isn’t the option for you. However, if you don’t mind either way, you’re still getting plenty of tools and functions. Depending on what you plan to do with the multitool, you may not even notice it.
This item is the best of basics — it may not have the most advanced features, but it’s still very useful in a variety of everyday situations. It has some sharp points to help you in certain scenarios but isn’t sharp enough to be a danger while on your keychain.
It’s cheap and cheerful, and you won’t have to worry about it weighing you down. So, if you don’t need anything particularly complex or you just want something that can tackle the simple tasks of everyday life, this is a great option for you.
This keychain multitool offers nine tools, including:
- Needle-nose pliers
- Wire cutters
- Bottle opener
This stainless steel multitool can be opened with one hand and weighs 2 ounces. When closed, it’s 2.25 inches in length.
This multitool does do a bit of everything. It has all of the tools you could need for your everyday life, as well as your backpacking trip. Need to cut a fishing line? Done. Want to crack open a beer around the campfire with your friends? Ready. Need something small that’ll barely take up any space in your bag? Check, just stick it on your keychain.
All of these tools are of a great quality, too – the knife is sharp, and the scissors have a good cut to them, as frequent customers have noted. The needle-nose pliers are also particularly useful, as these can bend and cut things big clumsy fingers can’t.
This multitool is also great as it can be opened with just one hand. It’s easy to forget how useful a one-handed tool can be — what if you need to cut something and you need a hand to hold it in place? What if you’ve hurt one hand? It could happen to you — always be prepared!
It also has a 25-year warranty with the manufacturer, so you can send it back for a repair if you have any issues that are covered.
Note that the manufacturer’s description states that the product contains tweezers; however, it doesn’t. It’s also a little heavier than other options, so you may notice the weight on your keychain.
This relatively sturdy yet very small option is a fantastic option for just about everyone. It may not be the lightest option, but this is the only real flaw, and one that’s easy to look past. It’s simply the issue of packing so much into a small item.
Not to mention, the tool has all the essentials you could need with a couple of extras — a file isn’t really necessary, but you’ll probably use it. With all its exceptional qualities, it’s still affordable, too!
Overall, this is the best of the bunch in terms of conveniently fitting into your pocket without having to cut back on tools.
How to Choose the Best Multi Tool for Backpacking
The best multitool for backpacking is ultimately one that gives you as many of the most important features you might need on the trail without adding too much weight. You’ll probably also be mindful of how easy it is to carry, how durable it is and how much it’s going to cost. When whittling down your multitool options, consider the following factors:
- Types of multitool.
- Ease of use.
What Types of Multitools Are There?
To help you out, here are some of the options you can choose from:
- Wallet multitool.
- Pocket multitool.
- One-piece multitool.
Wallet Multi Tool
This isn’t the most common option for backpacking gear — and none of the products on our list are this form. To be honest, one of these is highly unlikely to be the best multi tool for anyone.
Pocket Multi Tool
Probably the most conventional option, the best multitools are designed to fit right into your pocket. Due to the smaller size, this multitool is likely to only have the absolute essentials. The ProMaster 15-in-1 is an excellent example of this tool.
Put simply, these multitools are meant to be attached to a keychain. Though they’re usually lightweight enough to go in your pocket, they tend not to be the best multi tools. However, all the basics — a bottle opener is a good example of a tool that is virtually always available — will be there. The Gerber 7-in-1 is an excellent example of this.
A one-piece multi tool is just that — a single piece of kit. It’ll often have good functionality but are, as you can imagine, pretty basic and will lack complex tools. The Gerber 7-in-1, again, is an example of this.
The above are the most common shapes you will encounter, but there are occasionally random other forms that multitools come in. In fact, some shapes are downright bizarre — I’ve even seen a multitool in the shape of a comb!
Ease of Use
When you’ve just taken a long hike, you’re probably ready to sit down and eat a can of something. You don’t want to then spend the next 20 minutes fiddling with your multi tool, trying to figure out how exactly the can opener pops out.
Look for the ability to pop all of the tools out quickly and easily, especially as there may be the chance that you need one in an emergency. This is why it’s a good idea to look into one-handed options for fast access. Both Leatherman tools on this list, the T4 multitool and Squirt PS4, offer this.
Carrying Your Multi Tool
You may also want to look into how easy the multi tool is to carry. Some are designed to be a keychain tool, while others can go into your wallet. The best multitools tend to be pocket sized multitools. Many of these will come with a pocket clip (if you’re not sure about this feature, buy one with a removable pocket clip so you can test it out).You want to look into which carrying option would be the most convenient for you, as well as if the tool’s weight will be noticeable. You want something you barely even notice.
When it comes to a multi tool, there are a couple of things to consider when it comes to the price:
- What are you getting?
- What’s your budget?
What Are You Getting for That Price?
There are multitools out there with seven basic tools on them, and there are others that say they can do 33 whole functions for you. If you’re paying more, you naturally want more options in terms of tools.
If you see more expensive multi tools that have slightly fewer options and then another $20 cheaper, there may be a reason for that. The quality of the tools might simply be superior.
What Is Your Budget?
If you’re not going to use this multi tool often, and it’s not going to be doing any particularly tough tasks, maybe you can get away with going super basic and super cheap. But is it worth the risk?
The fact of the matter is that the best multi tools will probably cost you a few bucks. Good quality pays for itself, and if you find yourself in an emergency, you may wish you paid a little more.
Don’t start panicking and thinking you need to take out a mini-loan, though. As you can see from this list, there are high-quality, low-cost multi tools. The Gerber 7-in-1 is the best example of this.
Features & Tool Selection
Consider what you’re going to be using a multi tool for. Obviously multi tools are designed to be multi purpose! But the most versatile multitool doesn’t necessarily equate to the best multitool for backpacking. In fact, when it comes to the best backpacking multi tool, we particularly need to be mindful of size and weight, and so you probably want to steer clear of a full size multitool. (Although we’ll never sacrifice that bottle opener!)
Basic Features for a Backpacking Multitool
- A knife blade: likely to be one of the most-used features on any multi tool, a knife blade can be turned to loads of different tasks from shaving sticks for tinder to gutting fish. The best multitools have blades with a locking system.
- Can opener: it’s increasingly less important to include one of these bad boys on a multi tool but the fact is they’ve been a standard on multi tools for so long, it’s hard to see them getting phased out any time soon. That, and they’re the sort of thing you really want to have on that one occasion you need one.
- Spring loaded pliers: love me a pair of spring loaded pliers on a camping multi tool. Of course you’re never going to get the leverage of a proper pair but they can still pinch and hold and bend. (Way more useful than wire cutters IMO).
- Scissors: all the best multitools have scissors – that is a fact.
- Phillips screwdriver: on the face of it it’s not immediately apparent this should be a core feature but in this day and age when we camp with all sorts of gadgets it could come in mighty handy.
- Flat screwdriver: as above…if you’re going to have a screwdriver probably best to have both types!
- Tweezers: perfect for removing splinters and retrieving small screws from cracks in the rocks after playing with one of your screwdrivers!
Optional Features for a Backpacking Multitool
You need to choose what’s right for you, but these tool options are probably optional for most backpackers. If you disagree, by all means choose a multi tool with one of these other tools!
- A serrated blade: while serrated blades can help with several household tasks, the main function out backpacking is probably limited to sawing wood and it’s probably not entirely necessary, primarily because it’s unlikely to help you cut wood as fast as you’d like. You may be better off with a dedicated backpacking saw instead.
- A cutting hook: these can help a lot with making controlled cuts where a pocket knife might be prone to slip. However, for backcountry adventures it’s best use might be for gutting (which I tend to do with the main blade). Take it or leave it.
- Wire cutters: a wire cutter is a fun addition for a survival multitool and possibly a useful addition for everyday use around a farm. In this guy’s opinion, ditch them if you want a lightweight multi tool.
- Multipurpose hook: I’ve always quite liked having a multipurpose hook but can’t say I’ve ever used it. I understand they are most useful for carrying packages that have been strung together…
- Pressurized ballpoint pen: I’ve actually always liked having this feature. They are so small they don’t screw with your pack weight but always have the potential to come in handy.
If you’re going very simple, run with the basics and ditch the other tools. On the other hand, if you have very specific tasks in mind — the fish scaler comes to mind — you’ll have to pay attention to what you’re buying.
Check the Law
The crux of what I’m referring to here is two-fold. Does your multi tool have a knife blade? And are you in an area where it’s legal to carry knife blades? If you’re traveling, always check the rules of where you’re going when it comes to carrying a pocket knife or any kind of blade, as many take for granted that it will be allowed.
Your multi tool can have some awfully sharp things on it. It’s not just knife blades. Scissors, corkscrews and pliers can all hurt if used incorrectly.
Here are the two big factors you should look for when it comes to safety:
When you pull out a knife, certain models will have a locking mechanism in place — the Leatherman T4 Multitool is one such model. A good locking system will keep the knife in position, rather than potentially dropping back toward the body of the tool. This means you’re a lot less likely to cut yourself, which is an especially important feature for a backpacking multi tool (because cuts can turn nasty quickly out in the boonies).
When you’re cutting something, you want your focus to be on the actual cutting, not trying to keep a wobbly knife in position.
This isn’t much of an issue with our list, as all our options are retractable except for the Gerber 7-in-1, which is a one-piece with no blade. However, if you do stray from this list, it’s something you need to look for.
Blades sticking out is a problem. Even if it’s not sharp enough to cut skin, you could get hurt by something sharp in your pocket. If it’s hanging from your belt, you may grab it and get a nasty poke. Getting multi tools where all the tools are folded and hidden away is just common sense.
For me, the best backpacking multi tool is the Personalized SwissChamp Red Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox — it does just have everything you could need on your average backpacking trip; it’s one of the best multitools out there period. It’s also decently priced, safe and convenient. Not to mention that it makes a wonderful gift for a backpacking loved one. I can’t recommend this one enough.
The runner-up for best backpacking multitool is the Gerber Suspension Multi Tool. Not particularly extravagant while still giving you what you need in terms of functionality (always a bonus!), this multitool offers a fantastic range of functions. It will prepare you for anything. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and has a ballistic nylon sheath as an extra.
Do You Need a Multi Tool for Backpacking?
Let’s be honest. No. You probably don’t need a multi tool for backpacking. But carrying a multi tool when backpacking can be incredibly useful as well as fun. So even if you don’t need one (per se), it is well worth investing in as insurance.