Made to work on the job site, these multi tools are as tough as the guy that uses them.
- Best Overall: Leatherman Surge jump to section
- Best Pliers: SOG PowerLock jump to section
- Best Knife: Victorinox RangerGrip jump to section
- Best One-Hand Tool: Leatherman OHT jump to section
- Best Screwdrivers: Gerber Center-Drive jump to section
- Best Corrosion Resistance: Victorinox SwissTool X jump to section
Best Overall: Leatherman Surge
The Leatherman Surge (Buy on Amazon) is so good we almost didn’t include the other categories. There are other multi tools that do one thing slightly better than the Surge, but none that come close to doing everything so well. Available in stainless steel and black oxide, we prefer the stainless steel because it will stay better looking even after heavy use.
The Surge is heavy-duty but it is hard to describe how beefy this tool is until you get your hands on it. Sure the specs say 4.5 in and 12.5 oz, but what does that really mean? Well a can of Coke at 13 oz is close but the bulkier size makes it feel lighter in your hand. Holding 63 quarters is 12.6 oz and gives you better feel for the weight – that is more than a roll and a half of quarters. Definitely need to carry the Surge in a sheath or holster.
With that weight you get strong, capable tools. The Surge is big brother to the Wave+ which has been Leatherman’s best selling model for decade. You can put all your strength into the Surge when doing jobs and it just takes it, almost daring you to try harder because it doesn’t flex.
Both the straight edge clip point blade and the serrated blades are 3.1 in long, made from 420HC steel. Large thumb holes make them easily opened with one hand, even with gloves on. The blade exchanger and large scissors are outside accessible but you need to unfold the handles to use the bit driver. The blade exchanger comes with a diamond coated file and a saw so you can carry the one you use most – it also accepts any standard t-shank blade from your toolbox.
Best Pliers: SOG PowerLock
There is no denying that SOG has the best pliers available on a multi tool. Their Compound Leverage system doubles the output from your grip strength compared to normal pliers on other multi tools. Having mechanical advantage means less hand fatigue which is important when you work in the trades and use your tools all day every day.
The SOG PowerLock (Buy on Amazon) has the pedigree of SOG’s military experience behind it. I recommend the version with scissors but there is also a PowerLock with V-cutters (Buy on Amazon). Built from rugged 420 stainless steel, the PowerLock has similar corrosion resistance to 410 stainless but with additional strength and hardness.
The same Compound Leverage system that gives you more force with the pliers also lets you cut wires that are nearly impossible with other multi tools. The PowerLock went through chain link fencing that stopped us cold with the Surge. It is important to note that SOG does not have replaceable wire cutters on any of their tools so if you damage the jaws you can’t just swap them out.
There are drawbacks to the PowerLock. The same Compound Leverage system that gives you great leverage also means the handles have to travel twice the distance to move the jaws. When you are working with the tool in your hand the pliers jaws do not open as wide. The other tools on the SOG PowerLock are serviceable but not as good as our overall top pick the Surge.
Best Knife: Victorinox Ranger Grip
Victorinox has the best knife blade on their Ranger Grip series because at 3.86 inches it has the longest knife blade of any pliers multi tool. The Victorinox Ranger Grip Boatsman (Buy on Amazon) is also interesting because it has the same functions as the Handyman except the knife blade has a large thumb hook for one-hand opening, but it also adds a marlin spike which is very specialized for rigging ropes.
For a more traditional multi tool with the largest knife blade I go back to the Leatherman Surge (Buy on Amazon) with its dual straight edge and serrated knife blades, both 3.1 inches long and one-hand opening. The blades on the Center-Drive and Super Tool 300 are fractions of an inch longer but the Super Tool 300 blade is not outside accessible and with the Center-Drive you have to choose between a combo edge blade and scissors.
Best One-Hand Tool: Leatherman OHT
When you need every tool available with only one hand then the Leatherman OHT (Buy on Amazon) is your only choice. The OHT puts all 9 tools and 16 functions at your fingertips with every implement on the outside of the handle.
However the OHT has several tradeoffs in order to deliver its one-hand functionality. It is a large and heavy multi tool at 4.5 in and 9.9 oz but its tools are small – the knife blade is only 2.37 in long. In our testing, the OHT performed more like a medium-duty multi tool and there are much better tools overall in that category.
Before buying the OHT, I recommend you check out the Leatherman FREE P4 (Buy on Amazon) for its one-handed capability. The pliers, knife blades, saw, and scissors are all easily accessed with one hand. I replaced my Skeletool CX with the FREE P2 (Buy on Amazon) for my EDC after testing it. The FREE P2 is slimmer than the P4 because it drops the saw and standalone serrated blade, but otherwise it is the same tool (it does switch to a combo edge knife blade however).
Best Screwdrivers: Gerber Center-Drive
Gerber built the Center-Drive (Buy on Amazon) around the bit driver and it easily wins this category. The bit driver on the Center-Drive outclasses every other multi tool on the market so it wins both the heavy-duty and full-size lists for this category.
As its name implies, the bit driver is centered on the long axis of the multi tool for more nature motion when twisting, the bit driver is nearly as long as the handle itself and gives a full 3.1 inches of reach instead of the measly 1-2 inches that is typical. Definitely get the bit kit with the Center-Drive, after all the bit driver is the main reason to buy this multi tool.
The Center-Drive also has a one-hand opening knife blade that is made from 420HC stainless steel with a straight edge and drop-point design. Inside the handles are a file, serrated blade, pry bar tool and an awl – all quality made tools that function well.
Just a flick of the wrist and the pliers slide open from inside the handles. The jaws are beefy and up to heavy duty jobs, but we can’t say the same for the wire cutters.
The replaceable carbide blades have a major design flaw because they are supported by the hex screw in the center instead of pushing into the v-shape cutout. The blades shattered and sent sharp splinters flying when we cut a simple wire clothes hanger – not a heavy duty task by any means. If you do purchase the Center-Drive use the hard wire cutters with extreme caution and always wear eye protection.
Best Corrosion Resistance: Victorinox SwissTool X
All of the major multi tool brands make their tools from stainless steel and there isn’t that much difference in the materials used when it comes to corrosion resistance. We also investigated the difference between standard stainless steel and black oxide coated tool performance in this post. But Victorinox multi tools perform significantly better when it comes to corrosion resistance for one reason – their polished finish.
The Victorinox SwissTool X (Buy on Amazon) is a heavy duty tool that really shines – literally. The SwissTool is made completely of the same stainless steel as their Swiss Army knives and polished to the same mirror finish. The smooth finish is highly resistant to corrosion, much more so than the rougher bead blast finish used by Leatherman and others.
Of course, all stainless steels can corrode if neglected enough. Be sure to follow our recommended cleaning procedure to keep your tools looking and functioning great for years and generations to come.
What Makes a Multi Tool Heavy Duty
Most people are not going to jump right into the deep end and start with a heavy duty multi tool, first they get one of the ‘regular’ multi tools and then decide to upgrade to one that is stronger and more capable. Leatherman is the only brand that categorizes their tools as heavy duty, the other brands go by function or activity.
Size and weight are the two obvious characteristics of a heavy duty tool, but that misses the point. A heavy duty tool needs to have a rugged build to withstand the abuse of every day use in the field and on the job site. Applying these criteria tools like the Leatherman OHT straddle between the heavy duty and full size categories.
Heavy Duty Multi Tool Styles
Heavy duty tools get their designs from full size tools that are beefed up to handle the toughest tasks. The same butterfly opening and sliding jaw designs carry through for these models.
The majority of heavy duty multi tools are butterfly opening because it works well. The plier jaws fold into the handle and there is still room for full-length tools. These are the largest and heaviest multi tools at 4.5 in or longer when folded. SOG and Victorinox keep their tools just under 10 oz like the Super Tool 300 but the Leatherman Surge and MUT tools are beasts at 12.5 oz and 11.2 oz.
Butterfly Opening Heavy Duty Multi Tool Product List
- Leatherman: Surge, Super Tool 300, MUT
- SOG: PowerLock, PowerAssist
- Victorinox: SwissTool
- Gerber Gear: Multi-Plier 800 Legend
Sliding Jaw Design
The sliding jaw category is dominated by Gerber but Leatherman had their OHT design ready for production as soon as Gerber’s patents expired. Sliding jaw designs require less metal so they tend to be lighter than butterfly opening tools. Both of these tools are approximately 4.5 in long when folded and just under 10 oz.
Sliding Jaw Design Heavy Duty Multi Tool Product List
- Leatherman: OHT
- Gerber Gear: Center-Drive