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Choosing A Multi-Tool

Updated on January 31, 2011

If you're an outdoors-man (or an outdoors-woman for that matter) you have probably acquired a good amount of gear for your many adventures.  Over time one comes to find that some gizmos have revolutionized their outdoor experience, while other gadgets have been a waste of time.  One of the essentials in my book is a multi-tool.  I knew when I started getting into hiking and camping that I wanted to buy a multi-tool, but there are so many on the market!  This resulted in a 6 year quest to find the perfect one.  I'm cheap, and if I'm going to make an investment in a piece of equipment I want to be absolutely sure it is the one I want.  In this hub I'll share with you my search for the perfect multi-tool.

Name Brand

I am not normally an advocate for going name brand with anything. Generic things tend to hold up and perform comparable with name brand most times. When it comes to a multi-tool, you really want to stick with the big names. The big names will carry a higher price tag, but that is because they are using a higher price tag metal. There may be a rare situation that this statement would be false, but generally speaking the price tag a knife carries is indicative of the metal its made out of. If you want your knife to hold up and keep a sharp edge, you'll have to pay for quality metal which many big name brands provide.

Below are three name brands that I considered in my search.


One of my first knives was a Gerber knife and I was always pretty pleased with it.  I always thought that the Gerber knives were of decent quality and also had a very slick look to them.  When I began searching for a multi-tool I first looked into Gerber knives.  I was very impressed with the compact design of Gerber with the slide in and out plier head.

As I held the tool, it occurred to me that I didn't really know what I was looking for in a multi-tool.  I wanted one, but what did I want it for?  This question had to be answered before I could continue my search.  I wasn't going to make this decision solely based on looks and brand loyalty.


The industry standard right?  Leatherman has so defined the multi-tool phenomena, that it is very common for people to call a multi-tool a leatherman irregardless of what brand the multi-tool is.  Once I decided what features I was looking for in a multi-tool, I decided to look for those features in leatherman's line.  

I landed on the Leatherman Surge.  This tool boasts a 19 in 1 tool combination.  Nothing is too revolutionary as its what you expect with a multi-tool.  Pliers, knives (which can be accessed even if the tool is closed) screwdrivers etc.  But what I really like about this tool was the unique engineering of a detachable diamond file.  This is a brilliant innovation.   Growing up I always hated the file, and didn't understand what purpose it could possibly have.  Now I understand that, among other things, they are extremely useful in sharpening knives.  The diamond will give the file long life and increased effectiveness.  The problem with most files is that they can't be used on the multi-tool itself because they are attached.  With this detachable file you could now sharpen the knives on the multi-tool.  I was sold.


I went to Bass Pro Shop to buy my Leatherman.  I wanted to buy it in person rather than online to assure myself that I was buying from a legitimate dealer with warranty information.  I went into the knife section in Bass Pro and saw my leatherman.  Since I had driven a ways to get there I decided to play with some other tools while I was there.  It was then that I first saw a SOG multi-tool.  I opened it up and instantaneously had a crisis on my hands.

First, if you've never handled a SOG, you're not prepared for opening one.  They have a very unique plier head driven by gears which give their pliers extra strength through compound leverage.  Everything opens so uniform and smooth.  It really just feels right.  As I looked through the attachments they had some pretty nice ones including a very high quality wood saw, a chisel, and a v-cut for skinning things.  No detachable file though...I was torn.

In the end I chose the SOG PowerAssist Black Oxide.  If you ever get the chance to handle one, I know you'll choose it too.  The pliers are amazing, the powerassist technology works right, the knives are safe with the locking mechanism, and if you don't like the attachments you can buy different attachments and swap them out yourselves.  Its designed for you to be able to swap them out yourself, so no worry about voiding your lifetime warranty.  The knives come super sharp from the factory and if they ever dull (but they probably won't unless abused) send it in to the company for a sharpening.  You pay only shipping.

All in all, my SOG has been the perfect companion, on my hip from the day a bought her.  If only she had a detachable diamond file...


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    • kephrira profile image

      kephrira 6 years ago from Birmingham

      They do give these things funny names sometimes don't they? The Gerber Compact Sport - I must have missed the flat pack furniture races at the last olympics.