Last Updated March, 2020: We’ve added new picks and insights. Prices and links have also been updated.
Carrying a full-sized multi-tool every day might work if you’re a forest ranger, a tradesman or a full-time fly fisherman, but for the rest of us, it can be somewhat impractical — adding unnecessary weight with something you’ll rarely get full use out of during the day.
That said, you don’t want to be completely unprepared for the unexpected inconvenience or repair that requires a bit more than good intentions. For those of us in this group, there are compact multi-tools, which provide excellent utility with significantly minimized size. To that end, we’ve selected a handful of great compact multi-tools that are convenient for everyday carry.
Leatherman Free T4
Leatherman’s Free series comes with a major upgrade: internal magnets that allow for easy one-handed use. If the novel concept is best exemplified in its full-sized P2 multi-tool, then it’s best distilled in the T4. Think of the T4 like a Swiss Army Knife; it has spring-loaded scissors and tweezers in addition to a knife, pry tool, awl, bottle opener, screwdrivers and more. They all fit into a pocketable package that weighs just 4.3 ounces.
Number of Tools: 12
Weight: 4.3 ounces
Closed length: 3.6 inches
Best Budget Mini Multi-Tool
The Dime measures in at a mere 2.75 inches fully closed, which means you can attach it to your keychain or throw it in your pocket without worry. Even so, it boasts an impressive array of tools including real pliers, spring-loaded scissors, screwdrivers and a nifty blade that’s designed to slice open plastic clamshell packaging as smoothly as a chef’s knife on tuna. Best of all is the bottle opener that’s at the ready without opening the tool at all. In this price range, there are bound to be a few drawbacks; the Dime’s tools don’t open as smoothly as other multi-tools, meaning you really have to dig your fingernails to access them. But the positives easily outweigh the negatives.
Number of Tools: 12
Weight: 2.2 ounces
Closed length: 2.75 inches
Victorinox MiniChamp Alox
Best Keychain Mini Multi-Tool
You’ve seen the classic red Swiss Army knives, but Victorinox’s Alox collection is on another level. The MiniChamp Alox is made of embossed aluminum, finished with a special corrosion-resistant treatment. It’s ridiculously lightweight, and the shiny silver color is an attention-grabbing feature not seen in most multi-tools. If you’re looking to adorn your keychain with a nice accessory and don’t need something you’re going to use every day, this one’s for you.
Number of Tools: 15
Weight: 1.4 ounces
Closed length: 2.28 inches
Best Scissors-Based Mini Multi-Tool
In the same way that Kleenex is associated with tissues, the name Leatherman is inextricably linked with excellent multi-tools. No one makes ’em better. The Micra is arguably Leatherman’s greatest mini multi-tool. It’s no bigger than a disposable lighter, yet functions (and looks) much like Leatherman’s larger multi-tools. The opening action is clean and satisfying; the scissors are sharp and spring-loaded; the nine other tools are useful for most peoples’ everyday needs. If we were to pick one standout feature, though, its the Micra’s simple shape. Perfect rectangles are meant for keychains… and they’ll never go out of style.
Number of Tools: 10
Weight: 1.8 ounces
Closed length: 2.5 inches
Gerber Armbar Drive
Best Screwdriver-Based Mini Multi-Tool
Gerber’s latest multi-tool, the Armbar Drive, riffs on the typical butterfly format with a rectangular shape that, like some of the others on this list, calls to mind a Swiss Army Knife. The tool comes with a 2.5-inch blade, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, scissors, an awl, a hammer and a bottle opener. For many, that’s more tools than necessary, but they all fit neatly into a 3.6-inch package that only weighs 3.1 ounces. (Pro tip: if you know you’re never going to use an awl, opt for the similar Armbar Cork, which includes a wine key instead.)
Number of Tools: 7
Weight: 3.1 ounces
Closed length: 3.6 inches
Quiet Carry Shorty
Best Organizational Mini Multi-Tool
If the best multi-tool is the one you have on you, then the best way to be prepared is to make sure you’re carrying one at all times. The best way to do that is to attach a tool to something important, like your keys. Quiet Carry’s Shorty isn’t one that you add to a keychain; it is the keychain. With a multi-tool blade (there’s also an option for a clip-point knife), the Shorty not only equips you with a bottle opener, screwdriver and hex wrench, but it also organizes your keys into one compact package.
Number of Tools: 4
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Closed length: 2.35 inches