An expensive purchase but one that needs careful consideration! Many factors other than budget need to be taken into account when you make your choice, it’s not something easily undone as no store will simply take a tool back because it does not suit you or you are unhappy with it’s functionality.
Multi-tools are not really a new idea, I even remember my father purchasing the odd multi purpose tool when I was a kid, and they fulfilled the intended purpose but never to any great degree. It was only when Tim Leatherman developed a commercially made multi tool in the mid 80’s that they really took off, These compact tools were essentially pliers that closed onto themselves taking up less space, some came with blades, screwdrivers awls and saws and the pocket survival tool genre was born. Today there are numerous tools available to the adventure and one has to carefully consider the options before purchasing.
They come in a variety of sizes so it’s easiest to classify them as small, medium and large as that often determines how you will carry them, the smaller versions being the highly capable keychain styles and the medium and larger ones offer similar functionality although the larger derivatives often have add on tools. In bot types there are also dedicated tools such as those designed for the maintenance of firearms in the field.
So how does one go about choosing a tool what should be considered?
• Is it for general-purpose use, work or hobby specific?
• Will you carry it every day and how will you carry it, belt carry suits most medium to larger tools whilst the smaller ones fir comfortably on a key ring. Bear in mind that a large tool on a belt can be a hindrance and is often deemed to be unfashionable in certain circumstances.
• What tools are essential, bear in mind that some of the smaller tools sacrifice pliers for a scissors.
• If you wear glasses then a small screwdriver is essential.
• Do not knock the card type tools as they can be very versatile and take up minimal space in a backpack or camera bag.
• Be careful of carrying tools onto a plane; establish that yours meets aviation safety requirements or rather put it in your luggage in the hold.
• Beware of the sales pitch- you will use a decent blade, pliers and side cutter as well as a scissors-possibly followed by tweezers and small screwdriver for glasses-then the bottle opener comes in use when opening a cold drink at the end of the day.
• Don’t consider a cheapo knock off; it will just disappoint you in the long run.
• Do not believe that a good multi-tool is the replacement for every other tool, rather look for something more specific if that is your need, companies do make dedicated bike and rescue tools as well as other specialist tools.
Stick to reputable brands such as Leatherman, SOG, Victorinox or Gerber, there will always be backup and spares which in many cases come free of charge if there is no evidence of abuse. Look after your tool by keeping it clean and lightly oiled, the same would apply to you pouch or carrying case as well. It’s an investment that nowadays comes at a price but will prove to be indispensible in the bush, the car and around the home. Along with cable ties and duct tape a good multi-tool is high on my list of items to carry every day.