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The debate rages on – should you carry a knife or a multi tool? The value of having an every day carry kit with you at all times is undeniable. Unexpected events mean you may have to react with just what you have on your person. Here is how I settled my own debate between carrying a pocket knife or a multi tool for my everyday life.
- A good EDC knife makes cutting fun, but multi tool blades get the job done
- Knifes can only cut, multi tools provide greater utility for day-to-day tasks
- Knives are viewed as weapons in public, multi tools are more accepted
- EDC knives ARE lighter and more compact, but you won’t notice the difference
- Good EDC knives cost more than EDC multi tools
For about 10 years my EDC knife was the Griptilian series from Benchmade. If I was around the house or out in nature (anytime I was wearing jeans) I had my Griptilian in the corner of my pocket. When I was in the office or around town (anytime I was wearing khakis or shorts) I carried my Mini Griptilian. Both of them are great knives that I highly recommend, the Benchmade Axis Lock is wonderful engineering for one-hand operation.
Then one day I was geocaching with my daughter, she was 6 at the time, and her bike got tangled in some wire along the trail. I was able to get it untwisted from the spokes and frame but it took a few minutes and my knife was useless. With pliers and a wire cutter I would have been done in 30 seconds. That triggered me to look at other options for my EDC. I settled on the Leatherman Skeletool and added it into my collection.
The Skeletool has a pocket clip and one-hand accessible blade so the convenience factor is nearly the same. With a 2.6 inch blade the Skeletool is a little shorter than the Mini Griptilian blade at 2.9 inches. Once you get above 2.5 inches blade length is as much about vanity as function for most situations anyway. After several years, my knives usually stay in the drawer and my Skeletool CX is in my pocket (yes, I upgraded). Here are the 5 main reasons why I switched:
A good EDC knife makes cutting fun, but multi tool blades get the job done
The reality is the most common use for pocket knives today is to open boxes and packaging. Now that Amazon delivers everything to your home you see the box on your doorstep and pull out your knife to slice it open as soon as you get through the door. And even though scissors are much safer, many of us still use pocket knives to open those annoying plastic clam shell blister packages.
Search for Reasons to EDC carry a knife and many of them are laughable:
- for whittling
- to skin a recent kill
- to start a fire
- for food preparation and eating
- for prying
- for digging
The first four just are not relevant to most people any more and you really shouldn’t be using a knife for prying or digging. Sure, you need to do those things in a survival situation, but they don’t come up on a day to day basis.
Knifes can only cut, multi tools provide greater utility for day-to-day tasks
In my day to day activities I am frequently within arms reach of a pair of scissors. I have scissors in my desk at work, I have them in the kitchen, living room and den at home. Utility knives with snap-off blades are also in 3-4 locations around the house. When I need to cut something I have many options available.
However, pliers and screwdrivers are less common. We keep a multi bit screwdriver in the junk drawer of the kitchen (unless someone used it and didn’t put it back). For pliers we keep a small tool bag in the utility room with essential hand tools including pliers, utility knife, and screwdrivers (don’t tell the kids about this one). Otherwise I need to make a trip to the garage to get the tools I need. My wife is less picky, when she needs a screwdriver or pry bar she is happy to use a butter knife…
With my Skeletool in my pocket I have needlenose pliers, wire cutters, and screwdriver (Phillips and flat head) at the ready whenever I need them. I can’t count the number of trips I’ve saved down the ladder and to the garage just because the Skeletool was able to do it. Of course, it is not as capable or as comfortable to use as a real set of pliers or screwdriver but it can handle 95% of the quick adjustment jobs that I come across. When I know I will be working on a project I’ll bring my toolbox with the full sized versions of the tools I need.
Knives are viewed as weapons in public, multi tools are more accepted
The other big reason given for carrying a knife is for safety or self defense. Having a knife in our pocket can certainly provide some self assurance in unsafe areas, but the difference between a multi tool and a pocket knife is unlikely to affect the outcome of a violent crime. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that a knife is used for self defense in just 1.3% of violent crimes.
It is important to note here that knife laws pertain to both knives and multi tools that have a knife blade. If your location does not have statewide preemption then you must also comply with city and local ordinances. The ‘cool factor’ definitely motivates some people to carry a tactical knife with aggressive styling. However, if you are involved in an incident that can work against a statement of “I’m just a law abiding citizen minding my own business”.
A knife is a tool, I think of my knife as a tool, but in public areas a knife is perceived as a weapon. If you unfold any knife in public, even a small keychain blade, and people are likely to give you strange looks and shy away. Most people will avoid speaking with you unless the have a rude comment. If someone does engage in conversation a common comment is “Why do you need to carry a knife? Do you think you are going to be attacked?”.
My experience has been vastly different when carrying a multi tool. When I remove my Skeletool people are invariably curious. When in public I make a habit of opening the pliers first, even if I intend to use the knife blade. People recognize pliers as tools and not a weapon. After a moment with the pliers I can open and use the knife without any negative attention.
Only knife guys want to talk about knives, everyone wants to talk about multi tools
Multi tool are great conversation starters! The Skeletool CX is different than the typical multi tool carried in a belt sheath. With its carbon fiber handle scale and carabiner clip it gets attention. People are drawn in by the styling and will frequently ask What is that? and want to know what other functions it has.
EDC knives ARE lighter and easier to carry, but the bulkier multi tool with pocket clip hasn’t been a problem
The table below says the Skeletool is larger and heavier than the Griptilian knives. Logically, an EDC knife is easier to carry but in my experience the difference doesn’t matter. The Skeletool hasn’t felt heavy or bulky in my pocket. The added weight and size do not change my carry experience in any meaningful way. Your results may vary.
|Open Length||Blade Length|
|4 x 1.2 x 0.8 in|
10 x 3 x 2 cm
|Mini Griptilian||2.7 oz|
|3.9 x x 0.5 in|
9.8 x x 1.3 cm
|4.6 x x 0.64 in|
11.7 x x 1.63 cm
Leatherman, if you are listening, there is definitely an opportunity here to make an EDC muli tool that the market will love. Start with the Skeletool and remove the carabiner clip. Find another way to incorporate a bottle opener, add a standard 1/4 inch bit driver, and redesign the knife blade to remove the weakpoint(s). Keep the design compact, ergonomic, and include a pocket clip and I tell you it will be a hit!
Good EDC knives cost more than good EDC multi tools
This reason is highly subjective. You can find a budget EDC knife for much less money than the Benchmade Griptilian series. Gerber, CRKT, SOG and Kershaw have solid knives that are good value under $50, and you can’t go wrong with a Swiss Army Knife for classic utility. A great way to save money is to search for used knives on eBay.
The most important part of any knife is the blade steel. The Griptilian series uses S30V, a top of the line premium steel However, it does drive the price up to the $100 range. For less than $80 I purchased the Skeletool CX which uses 154CM for the knife blade. Still a premium steel with excellent performance but it is a step below S30V (we researched the multi tool with the best knife blade in this post). But for that money I get the additional capability of the multi tool – pliers and screwdrivers.
Knife enthusiasts will cringe at the thought of using either S30V or 154CM for opening boxes. Cardboard, plastic zip ties, and other packaging will dull a blade very quickly. The base Skeletool has utilitarian 420HC blade steel and can be picked up for around $50 when on sale.
Remember to factor in warranty and service costs to your purchase decision as well. Most of the big multi tool and knife manufacturers advertise a great warranty but the user experience doesn’t always live up to the hype. In this article, we compared the warranty and service from the top five multi tool brands.
Pocket multi tools are the best option for EDC, especially if you are switching from an EDC knife. It may seem like we are pushing the Leatherman Skeletool (buy on Amazon) but when you look at the market there are limited choices with the combination of light weight and compactness that also has the essential functions we need and that come with a pocket clip. Another option is the Gerber Crucial (buy to Amazon). Its not as refined as the Skeletool but it is a reliable tool and still a good value.
Left handed users are not well served by the multi tool manufacturers. All of the EDC multi tools deploy their blades with a thumb hole that is setup for right handed users. This is one area where the EDC knives have an edge (pun intended). The Benchmade Griptilian knives (buy on Amazon) are truly ambidextrous as are all knives with the Axis lock. Combined with the classic design and tough, lightweight handle with great grip and it is easy to understand why the Griptilians are famous in the EDC community.