Gear

Best Multitool for Backpacking in 2020

best multitool for backpacking
Bertie
Written by Bertie

Going backpacking isn’t simply a matter of throwing on a backpack, walking all day and setting it down at night with nothing in between. We aren’t cavepeople anymore. There are things you need for your comfort and safety. 

Want to hammer in a tent peg but would prefer not to carry a whole hammer? Need to remove hot meat from a pan? What you need is something that does everything – a multitool.

Not sure what would be the best multitool for backpacking for you? Don’t worry; you’re covered here. If you want to cut to the chase, my best multitools for backpacking are: 

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
  • Scissors
  • Saw
  • 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. 

The Verdict 

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.

In Summary

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
  • Knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Fish scaler
  • Ruler.

It weighs 8.2 ounces, is 3.9 inches long and is made of high-quality stainless steel. 

The Verdict 

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!

In Summary

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. 

The Verdict 

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. 

In Summary

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: 

  • Tweezers
  • Screwdriver
  • Bottle opener
  • Wire stripper
  • Keyring
  • Scissors
  • Multi-purpose hook
  • Blades of varying sizes
  • Ruler
  • And many more! 

It’s made of stainless steel, weighs 6.6 ounces and is 3.5 inches long.

The Verdict 

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.

In Summary

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. 

The Verdict 

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.

In Summary

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
  • Knife
  • Wire cutters
  • Screwdriver
  • Bottle opener
  • File

This stainless steel multitool can be opened with one hand and weighs 2 ounces. When closed, it’s 2.25 inches in length.

The Verdict 

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. 

In Summary

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. 

Finding the Best Multitool for Backpacking 

Through my research, stainless steel multitools are the most robust. Regular steel and some aluminum models do exist, but these aren’t as high-quality as the stainless options.

When whittling down your multitool options, consider the following factors:

  • Types of multitool.
  • Ease of use.
  • Budget.
  • Features.
  • Legalities.
  • Safety.

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 Multitool 

This isn’t the most common option for backpacking gear — and none of the products on our list are this form. As well as simply slipping into your wallet, it can also utilize other features. Examples include a screwdriver and/or wrench. 

Pocket Multitool 

Probably the most conventional option, this small multitool is 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.

Keychain 

Put simply, these multitools are meant to be attached to a keychain. Though they’re usually lightweight enough to go in your pocket, they won’t always have the most advanced features. 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. 

One-Piece 

A one-piece multitool 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. 

Other

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 multitool, trying to figure out how exactly the can opener pops out. 

You may also want to look into how easy the multitool is to carry. Some are designed to clip onto keychains, others fit into the pocket, while others can go into your wallet. 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.

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 of Leatherman’s options, the T4 multitool and Squirt PS4, offer this. 

Budget 

When it comes to a multitool, 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 than 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 multitool 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? 

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 options. The Gerber 7-in-1 is the best example of this.

Features

Consider what you’re going to be using this tool for. Certain tools are useful for everyone, and others that really only suit specific tasks. Some tools universally come with every multitool — we all need that bottle opener!

If you’re asking me what tools would be considered vital, I’d suggest: 

  • Can opener: Backpackers often carry canned food. 
  • Basic small cutting tool: Knife, scissors or small pliers. 
  • Screwdriver: Primarily if you carry equipment that has screws and may require opening/fixing. 
  • Tweezers: Not just for plucking eyebrows. Tweezers are great for getting small objects out of small holes when your fingers just can’t. They can also help remove screws after unscrewing. 

If you’re going very simple, you’re unlikely to get options such as knives and scissors — often considered vital tools for backpackers. 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 blade, and are you in an area that would allow you to carry a blade? If you’re traveling, always check the rules of where you’re going when it comes to carrying a knife or any kind of blade, as many take for granted that it will be allowed.

Safety

Your multi tool can have some awfully sharp things on it. Even if you don’t buy a model with a knife or pair of scissors, there still may be a corkscrew or pliers; both of which can hurt if used incorrectly. 

Here are the two big factors you should look for when it comes to safety: 

Locking 

When you pull out a knife, certain models will lock that knife in place — the Leatherman T4 Multitool is one such model. This means that the knife will stay in position, rather than potentially dropping back toward the body of the tool. This means you’re a lot less likely to cut yourself. 

When you’re cutting something, you want your focus to be on the actual cutting, not trying to keep a wobbly knife in position. 

Foldable/Retractable 

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. 

Conclusion

For me, the clear winner is the Personalized SwissChamp Red Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox — it has everything you could need on your average backpacking trip. 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. 

My runner-up is the Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier. 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. 

About the author

Bertie

Bertie

I’m Bertie and I’ve been enjoying the wilderness for as long as I can remember. I get out camping, hiking and backpacking whenever I can. And when I can’t, I enjoy writing about outdoor-related stuff!

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