The Best Multi-Tool

The Best Multi-Tool

Our pick

Leatherman Skeletool CX

Leatherman Skeletool CX

The best multi-tool

This light and slim multi-tool focuses on well-executed essentials—like precise, comfortable pliers—and has no filler. It’s easy to carry daily and built to last.

Buying Options

$80 from Amazon
$70 from Leatherman

Free ship $30+ w/code FREE-SHIP-QJBX

Of all the multi-tools we tried, the Skeletool CX is the one we kept reaching for long after testing concluded. Its knife deploys and locks smoothly with one hand—without forcing you to first open up the pliers—and its high quality 154CM blade steel holds an edge longer than most multi-tool blades. Other multi-tools are so bulky they need to be carried in a belt sheath, but the lighter,1 slimmer Skeletool fits comfortably in a pocket. It can also clip onto a belt or backpack with either a pocket clip or a carabiner, which doubles as an easy-access bottle opener. The CX’s pliers unfold easily, have the precision to pull a small splinter, and are comfortable to hold, thanks to the asymmetric handle. Its two Phillips and two flathead screwdrivers capably handle the most common screws. It’s backed by a 25-year warranty, but it’s sturdily built and we’d be surprised if you needed to use it—other Leathermans we’ve owned and used for over a decade have held up perfectly.

Closed dimensions: 4⅛ by 1¼ by ½ inches
Weight: 5.2 ounces
Blade length: 2⅝ inches
Tools included: Needle-nose pliers, regular pliers, hard wire cutters, wire cutters, bottle opener, Phillips screwdriver (2), flat screwdriver (2), carabiner clip

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Runner-up

Leatherman Skeletool

Leatherman Skeletool

Same design, lower quality

This Skeletool has the same great design as the CX, but the blade steel isn’t as good, the pivots aren’t as smooth, and the knife is partially serrated, making it harder to sharpen.

Buying Options

$65* from Backcountry
$65 from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $60.

If the Skeletool CX is not available, we also like the regular Leatherman Skeletool. It has the same design as the CX, so it’s lightweight, easy to carry, and contains only the most important tools. The downside is that the blade steel is lower quality and the edge is partially serrated, making it more difficult to sharpen. We also found that the pivot points are tighter, so it’s harder to open and close. It costs less than the CX, but over time we think the benefits of the better tool will be worth it.

Closed dimensions: 4⅛ by 1¼ by ½ inches
Weight: 5.2 ounces
Blade length: 2⅝ inches
Tools included: Needle-nose pliers, regular pliers, hard wire cutters, wire cutters, bottle opener, Phillips screwdriver (2), flat screwdriver (2), carabiner clip

Also great

Leatherman Free P2

Leatherman Free P2

The best full-size multi-tool

The Free P2 has a larger tool selection than the Skeletool, including scissors and a package opener, but the biggest difference is that all of the tools, including the pliers, can be deployed one-handed.

Buying Options

$105* from Amazon
$120 from Huckberry

*At the time of publishing, the price was $120.

For a larger multi-tool but one that is extremely easy to use, we recommend the Leatherman Free P2. The Free P2, released in 2019, is an entirely new design for Leatherman; with the handles closed, you can access and open all of the tools with a single hand, which is unique in the world of multi-tools. You can even deploy the pliers one-handed, with just a flip of the wrist. After we tested the Free P2 for several weeks, other full-size multi-tools, such as the classic Wave+, started to feel clunky and laborious to open. The Free P2 is over 2½ ounces heavier than the Skeletool, but it has a slender, streamlined design and comes with a pocket clip. Although it has more weight to it, we never found it unwieldy or awkward to carry.

Closed dimensions: 4 by 1½ by ⅝ inches
Weight: 7.5 ounces
Blade length: 2⅝ inches
Tools included: Needle-nose pliers, regular pliers, replaceable wire cutters, replaceable hard wire cutters, electrical crimper, wire stripper, knife, scissors, package opener, awl, can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, Philips screwdriver, medium flat screwdriver, small flat screwdriver, extra-small flat screwdriver, pry tool, ruler

Also great

SOG PowerAccess Deluxe

SOG PowerAccess Deluxe

An emphasis on pliers and drivers

This tool stands out for its strong, geared pliers and its ability to accept standard 1-inch screwdriver bits, but it’s bulky and lacks the precision of Leatherman’s tools.

Buying Options

$80* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $66.

The SOG PowerAccess Deluxe is another full-size multi-tool, but this one places a lot of emphasis on the pliers and the screwdrivers. The central pivot point is geared, which increases the power of the pliers and the wire cutters and makes it possible to open the tool one-handed. With this added strength, this multi-tool did the best with rusted and stuck bolts, and it cut wire with ease, although cuts on heavy-gauge sheep fencing dented its jaws (proving that nothing can truly replace the wire cutter). The SOG has a saw and two knife blades, and can accept standard 1-inch screwdriver bits. A downside is that it’s much more difficult to deploy the individual tools on this SOG model than on the slightly smaller Leatherman Free P2.

Closed dimensions: 4½ by 1 7/16 by 13/16 inches
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Blade length: 2 13/16 inches
Tools included: ¼-inch driver, awl, knife serrated knife, bottle opener, can opener, chisel, three sided file, small flat screwdriver, medium flat screwdriver, pliers, needle-nose pliers, ¼-inch bit driver, precision screwdriver, protractor, ruler, wire cutters, hard wire cutters, saw

Also great

Gerber Dime

Gerber Dime

The best keychain tool

Surprisingly capable for such a small and inexpensive package, the Dime’s pliers, bottle opener, and handy clamshell packaging opener are quite satisfying.

Buying Options

$17* from Amazon
$20 from Dick’s Sporting Goods

*At the time of publishing, the price was $20.

The Gerber Dime is smaller than a Bic lighter, yet capable and satisfying to use. Designed to attach to a keyring, it contains a great selection of useful tools, including scissors, pliers, a bottle opener, a knife, two screwdrivers and a clamshell cutter (for safely slicing open retail packaging). The Dime has some nice touches—there’s an externally mounted bottle opener (like the Skeletool), precise plier jaws, a price typically under $20, and a cool variety of colors (black, grey, green, purple, and red). But the knife blade doesn’t lock, as is typical of tools its size, and its pliers make better tweezers than the actual tweezers it includes.

Closed dimensions: 2¾ by 13/16 by ½ inches
Weight: 2.3 ounces
Blade length: 1⅜ inches
Tools included: Needle-nose pliers, regular pliers, wire cutter, tweezers, bottle opener, knife, clamshell opener, scissors, flat screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, coarse and fine file, lanyard ring

All of our picks laid out on a wood table top alongside a bic lighter.
From left to right: the Leatherman Skeletool CX, regular Skeletool, Free P2, SOG PowerAccess Deluxe, Gerber Dime, and a lighter. Photo: Doug Mahoney

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Leatherman Skeletool CX

Leatherman Skeletool CX

The best multi-tool

This light and slim multi-tool focuses on well-executed essentials—like precise, comfortable pliers—and has no filler. It’s easy to carry daily and built to last.

Buying Options

$80 from Amazon
$70 from Leatherman

Free ship $30+ w/code FREE-SHIP-QJBX

Runner-up

Leatherman Skeletool

Leatherman Skeletool

Same design, lower quality

This Skeletool has the same great design as the CX, but the blade steel isn’t as good, the pivots aren’t as smooth, and the knife is partially serrated, making it harder to sharpen.

Buying Options

$65* from Backcountry
$65 from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $60.

Also great

Leatherman Free P2

Leatherman Free P2

The best full-size multi-tool

The Free P2 has a larger tool selection than the Skeletool, including scissors and a package opener, but the biggest difference is that all of the tools, including the pliers, can be deployed one-handed.

Buying Options

$105* from Amazon
$120 from Huckberry

*At the time of publishing, the price was $120.

Also great

SOG PowerAccess Deluxe

SOG PowerAccess Deluxe

An emphasis on pliers and drivers

This tool stands out for its strong, geared pliers and its ability to accept standard 1-inch screwdriver bits, but it’s bulky and lacks the precision of Leatherman’s tools.

Buying Options

$80* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $66.

Also great

Gerber Dime

Gerber Dime

The best keychain tool

Surprisingly capable for such a small and inexpensive package, the Dime’s pliers, bottle opener, and handy clamshell packaging opener are quite satisfying.

Buying Options

$17* from Amazon
$20 from Dick’s Sporting Goods

*At the time of publishing, the price was $20.

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

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