TAKE A LOOK AT HOW THESE POPULAR TOOLS STACK UP
Often, I am asked why I carry a multitool and find myself struggling with the answer. My main problem is trying to give specific examples. So, as I was thinking this question through, I came up with a simple answer: “To fix or make things.”
If you are going to carry a multitool, the first tool you have to get used to using is the one between your ears. If you do not learn how to fix or make things, then you obviously do not see the need in carrying a multitool.
Without the knowledge of how to fix things, items stay broken and you never see the repair. So, where everyday carry is concerned, multitools are of most use to people who know how to use tools.
Over the years, I have tested a number of multitools, and they range from tools that have knives on them to knives that have tools on them.
In this article, I am looking at just a few models, some new, some tried and true. I have the Gerber Truss and Armbar Drive, the Victorinox SwissTool X Plus Ratchet, and the Leatherman Surge. Don’t worry—we will also sneak in a few of your favorites.
I specifically got a Gerber Truss and an Armbar Drive. Both the Truss and Armbar come in at under $50 and represent a budget-minded approach to multitool carry.
“Out of all the pliers here, the Surge was the only one to cut whole strands of 14-gauge Romex wire … We are not talking a single strand here, but all three wires at once and the insulation.”
The Armbar falls into the category of knife with some tools. In a way, it tends to be more of an industrial style version of a Swiss Army Knife with a scissors, bit driver, hammer (platform), and awl to go with the main razor edge blade.
The driver takes regular quarter-inch sized bits. They are double-ended bits though. I like the .250-inch bit size instead of a proprietary bit, but would have loved it more had they been single-sided bits. A single-sided bit is by far the easiest and least expensive to get, and a large assortment of them is available.
The blade is a one-handed opener, but a little tough for my big thumb to unlock one handed. Overall, it is a decent tool, giving you a little more with not much more weight than your pocketknife.
“… the SwissTool X Plus Ratchet … takes regular .250-inch bits and comes with a ratchet extension and a bit holder strip equipped with a few starter bits.”
The Truss is an economical version of a full tool. I got the all-black version. For the most part, it works well. All the tools function properly.
On mine, though, the razor edge blade has a little bit of a wonky grind. My serrated blade works great. As for the rest of the tools, they work fine.
I would have to say I am disappointed in the cutting action of the pliers. On the Truss, the cutting jaws are of the anvil variety, and I had a difficult time cutting just single strands of 14-gauge copper wire.
When I look at the cutting edges, they only have a small section meeting in the middle. Having a spring action on the pliers is welcome, making them quick operating and easy to use.
Gerber provides a pouch sheath rigged for both vertical and horizontal carry. For the money, you get a lot in the Truss. On both models, the scissors work well but are a bit chucky for fine cutting.
Over the years, I have switched back and forth between a variety of tools. In the Victorinox line, I have often carried a Swiss Spirit. For this article, I tested the SwissTool X Plus Ratchet.
Up front, I have to say hands down you can’t beat the driver system that comes with both deluxe models. It takes regular .250-inch bits and comes with a ratchet extension and a bit holder strip equipped with a few starter bits.
As a tool, it is way easier to operate a separate bit driver than to try to use the on-board drives of a multitool. I love the mini ratchet so much I have bought just the drive combo on its own and put it in with other company’s multitools.
As for the main tools, they are built with quality. They are sturdy and user friendly. There is not a hot spot on the tool itself. As can be expected, the Victorinox scissors can’t be matched.
The case it comes with is made of leather with a Velcro closure. As a package, though, when you include the driver set, it is bulky. Among the tools, another favored one of mine is the chisel. Having a straight on cutting edge at times is very handy.
It is a solid tool, but you had better be prepared to lose some belt real estate to it and incur some weight gain.
Who isn’t familiar with the Charge and Wave? I own both models and have carried them intermittently over the years. For this particular article, I decided to introduce myself to the Surge, which to put it simply is a Wave on steroids.
It is larger and heavier, but the trade-off comes with benefits. The Surge is one tough scrapper. I’ve tried it in both horizontal and vertical carry for a while. I much prefer the vertical as it mitigates its size more.
Out of all the pliers here, the Surge was the only one to cut whole strands of 14-gauge Romex wire. That’s right. We are not talking a single strand here, but all three wires at once and the insulation. When I say cut, I don’t mean struggle to. I mean like a boss.
As for the tools, like the others I won’t bore you by listing them all. I would say the razor edge blades on both the Victorinox and Leatherman are on par with each other for cutting. Leatherman’s razor edge blade and serrated blade can both be operated with one hand.
The file/saw and scissors require two hands. A cool factor is the saw/file tool. The tool is an exchange blade tool. That means you can change out the file and the saw blades, which is great because when either of those goes dull, they become dead weight.
With the ability to exchange them, you don’t have to give those features up.
When it came to the saw, the company had its thinking cap on as it used a T-shank blade, which is a common blade used for jig saws, so it is easy enough to buy a replacement blade. Also replaceable are the jaws on the Surge pliers.
The cutting jaws on the Surge are bypass jaws, meaning the edges pass each other instead of an anvil cutter style where they meet. On board is a bit exchange holder that takes the Leatherman proprietary flat bits.
Therefore, if you want a good selection of bits you have to get a flat paddle set. As with the SwissTool Plus, once you add on all the extras, you get a bit of a bulky package.
DOWN TO CASES
A number of different models from a number of different companies provide a variety of cases. I found the majority of the companies design the cases to fit that tool and possibly any accessories that get sold for that tool. I tend to carry just a couple more things that make life easier.
Instead of searching for a way to carry them separately, I prefer to carry them as a package. Along with my multitool, I like to carry an LED flashlight, a pen, and a 4-in-1 micro screwdriver (eyeglass wearer).
I have been looking for a case to carry it all and it turns out Gerber makes a universal case that you size to fit your tool. The case also has enough room to add the extras you like to carry. Gerber calls the system the CustomFit Dual Sheath.
I work part-time in a specialty hardware store. During the day, I tend to carry a multitool and a dedicated folder. We frequently get people who come in looking to buy parts or are looking for a way to fix something.
I find it handy to have a multitool on me as most of the people I work with never put the tools back where they should.
Having a tool on me allows me to be helpful and solves people’s problems. There a multitude of multitools out there, therefore there should be one out there suited to your needs.
Let us face it, you only have so much belt real estate. If the lack of belt space causes you to not carry something you need, then you need an alternative. I have been trying out an ankle trauma kit for the past couple of months that I got from Wilderness Tactical.
If you want to carry a multitool, this ankle rig has enough pockets to allow for one. I also carry a Leatherman Raptor. The Raptor is a multitool in its own right as it has a pair of shears, a strap cutter, a ring cutter, and also has an oxygen tank wrench.
An alternate set of shears I carry is the Xshear, which are medical shears taken up a notch. They are super sharp and well built.