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Last updated: May 31, 2021
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A multi tool can be a fantastic way to minimize the number of tools and gadgets you need to take on a trip. Multi tools pack all sorts of functions into one small pocket-sized tool, allowing you to use the multiple attachments which are built-in. The best multi tools for survival can provide you with protection and ensure that you always have a knife, scissors or a saw when you need it. If you are a survivalist, camper, backpacker, or just love the great outdoors, one of these tools is a must-have.
We’ve judged the vital features of the products, and what makes the best, including the number of functions and built-in tools, the weight, size and dimensions and the durability of the product. Our editor’s choice, the Leatherman Surge, offers a hard-wearing, convenient design and is a great example of what you should be looking for when buying a survival multi tool.
In this article, our team have put together a lot of research, using manufacturer information, reviews and consumer guides as well as first-hand experience to create a full overview of the best options in the market today. Our research is presented as a simple table of the products, detailed reviews of all of the models and a buying guide to help you make your choice.
Our editor’s choice is a very compact, yet reliable model of multi tool with a huge amount of features. The large pliers at the tip of this are a focal point, but 20 other tools also fold out, including a saw, replaceable wire cutters and even screwdrivers and knives.
The clever design has been created in order to only need one hand to open the tools, so if you need to hold something with the other hand, you can still use everything you need to within the tool. It is small and portable and comes with a lanyard ring to attach it to your clothes.
Made in the USA, this even comes with a 25-year warranty, showing how much confidence Leatherman has in their product. This is also available in multiple finishes so you can choose the design that appeals to you best. Though not the cheapest product out there, it has plenty of quality and can last a lifetime if treated right.
Why are we impressed?
21 tools built in
25 year warranty and a design that can last a lifetime
Easy to use, even with just one hand, all of the tools flip out with ease
Multi-tools are sometimes called Swiss Army Tools or Swiss Army Knives. This is due to the product’s synergy with Switzerland and the fact they were invented and manufactured there years ago. The Victorinox is a great example of one of the Swiss versions. It folds down to a tiny size at less than an inch across, but still packs plenty of power in.
32 different functions are included and are easy to access, you won’t find yourself fumbling around to pull out the tools. The knife and saw are particularly good quality, so for survival needs, this can help with some of the more rugged activities you may have to put up with in the great outdoors, and can cut through lots of the obstacles you might come across. This can come in handy in so many scenarios. A mini compass is even included for the adventurers out there.
The lifetime warranty is impressive and shows the quality on offer. Swiss craftsmanship is definitely playing a part here.
Why is it special?
Comes with a mini compass
32 different functions
Easily portable and less than an inch wide
What are the flaws?
May be too small if you have large hands, making it tough to use
Many of the products on this list cost quite a bit, for the top craftsmanship you often have to expend quite a bit of money, but the Gerber Bear Grylls multi-tool (endorsed by celebrity survivalist Bear Grylls) can provide an exception, and doesn’t cost as much as many of the other options out there.
The clever rubber grip makes it easier to hold on and means this won’t slip out of your hands easily. A patented safety system to prevent injury is also in place.
The jaw of this product has a spring inside, this makes it very easy to pop out and use even with one hand. It is a very well-constructed multi tool, too. With stainless steel which is corrosion resistant.
There are 12 components within, and this is fine for many of us. The most important tools are included. However, this is significantly less than some competitors.
What are its best features?
Well-made and corrosion resistant
Safety system to prevent injuries and accidents
What could be improved?
Not as many tools and features as the competing models
The Leatherman Signal has a great design, and is available in multiple colors which are bright, which has a functional use, too, making it easy to spot and pick up on a campsite or in an emergency.
The diamond sharpener which is inbuilt gives this a real bonus as you can keep the blades sharp. A fire-starting rod is also in place, this is a clever idea and eans starting a fire without a match will be simpler.
This is very durable and has the same Leatherman 25-year warranty as the other models in this range.
Like a lot of the multi tools on the market, this also has a one-handed functionality meaning you can open the individual tools with just one hand, great for if you have to hold onto something at the same time, or if you are attached to a rope, for instance.
This is a little larger and more robust than some of the other options.
The Victorinox SwissTool X is another example of one of these multi tools with Swiss origins. It has an impressive 27 different functions and is one of the thinnest multi tools, too. Folding down to just 0.7 inches, this can easily fit inside the nylon belt pouch which comes with it. This helps to keep the tool protected, keep you protected and make it convenient to store your tool.
The functions include pliers, blades, bottle openers and more. As with many of these tools, this is one of the multi tools for survival which is made with stainless steel and built to last. In fact, like most of the Swiss tools on this list, it has a lifetime defect guarantee.
A clever design has been implemented to let you access each tool, and these easily secure into place once you’ve opened it out. The Victorinox is definitely one of the more ergonomic models.
What makes it stand out?
Ergonomic and comfortable to use
Easy storage inside the robust belt pouch, which fits any belt
27 tools inbuilt
Comes with a lifetime warranty against defects
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Doesn’t have the same simple one-handed functionality that some products in the list do
Leatherman multi tools have a very dominant place in the market, and they offer a huge range. However, the most compact and thinnest is the Leatherman Wave which is just 1.25 inches across. This fits perfectly in your pocket, ready for outdoor pursuits.
In spite of the small size it has 18 tools including the obvious plier (it is designed to have the plier as the main tool) and also scissors, different kinds of knives, screwdrivers and more.
Just like the other products from Leatherman on the list, this offers 25 years of warranty. The stainless steel is an excellent quality and this is a product which should last many decades.
The Wave is also another of the Leatherman products which can be used with one hand, so you can reach it and flip it out without having to use both.
Why are we impressed?
Comes with 18 different tools
Screwdriver bits can be changed
Easy to open with just one hand
What negatives must you be aware of?
If you purchase the black finish, it can visibly scratch quite easily
The Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier is a little bit different to the rest of the products on the list as it is based around a plier design. Both of the handles of the plier feature more tools which can fold out and be used for a range of activities.
There are 12 different functions in total including sharp knives. These can be locked into place by a switch on the handle.
The nylon sheath this comes with is very good quality. Also, the Saf.T.Plus safety locking system in place on most Gerber models of multi tool creates an extra layer of safety when using.
The Suspension model of multi tool is just 4 inches long and very lightweight, so it is great for keeping attached to your backpack or pretty much anywhere else on your person while you are out and about.
The pliers which this product is based around are spring loaded and really easy to use. This is another of the cheapest multi tools for survival and is good for people on a tight budget.
What do we love it for?
Gerber’s lifetime warranty backs up your purchase
Excellent quality of plier
Lightweight and portable
What were we disappointed with?
Fewer tools and functions than many competing models
Time for something a little different! We’ve included the Off Grid Tools Survival Axe Multitool. As you may have guessed, this is primarily an axe, but it also has a multi tool functionality with an incredible 30 tools built in.
It has a hatchet blade and functions as a very sharp and high-quality axe, great for survival.
The compromise for such a product is the fact that it weighs a lot more than all of the other multi-tools on our list, this is due to the heavy-duty axe and also the handle it has. The main blade of the axe can be sharpened to ensure long-term effectiveness.
The extra bulk means this product can offer some extra features, though. It has a hammerhead which can come in very useful. The steel glass breaker can also be a big plus point in certain scenarios.
This may be far bigger than the type of product you’re looking for, but if you want an axe with some extra functions, great for survival scenarios, it is worth considering.
Why is it special?
30 different functions included with this axe
Excellent quality and lifetime warranty
What are the flaws?
Much bigger and therefore not portable.
Not the most solid axe
Things to Consider
A purchase such as a survival multi tool can be used in some really crucial situations. Survivalists will tell you how important the difference can be between a blade which is reliably sharp, and one which isn’t. To help you make the right choice, we’ve put together a buying guide with lots of information about Swiss army tools and multi tools. This isn’t an everyday purchase, so make sure you take the time to learn what makes a good tool. Our list of the tools and functions which we think should be included can be particularly helpful to ensure you don’t get a tool which ends up being of very little use to you.
Benefits of having a quality set of survival multi tools
To properly understand what makes a good multi tool, you should first understand the benefits of having good survival tools at your fingertips. You will probably find that your multi tool sees a lot of use in your everyday life. They are so useful that for a variety of awkward tasks you might just find yourself reaching to your belt or pocket for your Swiss army tool.
Some of these tools also have specific functions which are aimed at preppers and survival use. For instance, some have mini compasses included for navigation or fire spark creators that make it far easier to start a fire without matches.
You should ensure you don’t just go for the first multi tool you see. These are the kinds of products which can, in theory, last a lifetime or be passed down generations. Especially with many of the Swiss models, there is an amazing level of workmanship that has gone into the design. This is why a lot of them can offer lifetime warranties.
Features to look out for when choosing a multi tool for survival
The following features are those we’ve chosen as the most important, and these are what we have used to evaluate our list of the top multi tools for survival. Think about what you will find most useful. Different survivalists will prioritize different things, for instance, if you plan to set traps you will need knives. If you want your tool to help you navigate, you can go for one with a compass.
What features/tools does it have?
Some of the tools on this list, such as the Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, have over 30 different functions and built-in tools. This is an incredible number. In any product such as this, there are a few tools which are staples and should be found in most of the products. There are also some which are added luxuries. Think about what you really need. A Swiss army knife is pretty useless if it has toenail clippers and bottle openers where it could have knives and proper tools.
Common features and tools include:
Standard knife – this can be used for a variety of different things including food prep, making traps, cutting rope and cord and more.
Serrated knife – these can be more useful for cutting some other items including wood. It can act as a saw.
Pliers – for the hard to reach areas and those where you need to generate a little more twisting power!
Screwdriver – there are many attachments which can let you fix things in a survival setting, and a screwdriver can come in very handy.
Wire cutters and wire strippers – great for all sorts of electrical repairs.
Dimensions and weight
Think about the environment you are most likely to be using this tool in. Also, if you have a backpack set up for survival scenarios, think about where the tool fits in. Perhaps you are going to opt for one with a pouch such as the Victorinox Swiss Army SwissTool X. This will allow you to easily connect it to your belt and grab the tool whenever you need it.
There is quite a lot of variation in size. Some people find that the very smallest can get a bit awkward to use, especially people with big hands. Most of the models on our list are small enough to comfortably fit inside a pocket, meaning they can be at your fingertips in one quick movement if you need your tool in a rush.
What materials is it made from?
The quality of the materials your tool is made from is another vital element. You shouldn’t opt for a flimsy model, and stainless steel tools will be the best option for most. These may be coated and sheathed to add an extra layer of durability.
What can you use a survival multi tool for?
A multi tool can help you in a variety of different situations. In fact, the number of these types of situations are virtually limitless. Multi-tools can help with virtually every task you will come across in a survival scenario. Creating shelter, building traps, sharpening other knives, making fire, fixing things, cutting food, opening cans of food…the list is endless.
The main difference is the build-quality and the materials that the high-end multi tools have been made with. Spending a little extra on a brilliant multi tool can ensure it lasts a lot longer, and that you get a model made with decades of use in mind rather than a few months.
There aren’t really multi tools where the whole tools and function can be replaced, but many have elements which can be. For instance, some allow you to change screwdriver bits on a screw attachment or change blades once the one attached to it has become worn and blunt.
Multi tools should have knives, usually one serrated and one non-serrated. Also, pliers are extremely helpful and in place with most. Screwdrivers, scissors, wire cutters and firelighters are other features which can be very favorable.
The Leatherman Surge is our top-rated multi tool and the product we recommend the highest. It has a 9.9 rating due to having two different styles of pliers and over 20 brilliant attachments. It is also very robust and has a long warranty.
Also impressive and incredibly lightweight is the Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool. This gets a rating of 9.7 due to the huge amount of functions it packs into such a small model. The Swiss craftsmanship is also clear and evident in what is one of the best multi tools for survival use.
The Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Multi-Tool is highly regarded too, with a 9.5 rating. Endorsed by Bear Grylls himself, this is exceptional value and has some surprisingly great features and build quality when you consider the low price.