I evaluated over 30 of the best survival multitools and found the Leatherman Wave Plus to be the top choice.
I considered the functionality the pliers, bit drivers, wood saw, dual blades provide in a survival situation. I also considered the durability and the price of each survival multitool. The Wave came out on top as the best value.
There are hundreds of multitools on the market. Selecting one to rely on for survival in a wilderness or urban setting is no easy task. The usefulness of each tool and how it fits into your overall survival plans must be considered.
I have included tips below on how to select the best survival multitool for you depending on your budget and lifestyle.
I have over 40 years of experience using all types of multitools. I have used them in industrial factories working on equipment, repairing vehicles, in my workshop, and while camping in remote areas when my life literally depended on them.
From my first Swiss Army knife when I was a boy to the latest Leatherman and Gerber multitools today, I have tried nearly all of them. I also reviewed what multitools others commonly carry in the survival and bushcraft community.
Keep reading to find out my top picks followed by a guide on what to look for when buying a multitool for survival. Also find out which ones not to buy.
Quick Comparison of our Favorite Survival Multitools
Best Survival Multitool
Leatherman Wave Plus – Best Overall
- Size: 4” x 1.2” x 0.7”
- Weight: 8.5 oz
- Number of Tools: 18
- Notable Tools: Pliers, Wood Saw, 2 Bit Drivers, Scissors, 2 Blades
- Main Blade: 2.9”, 420HC, One-Hand Open, Locking
The Leatherman Wave Plus is our top pick for the best survival multitool.
This multitool has been hugely popular ever since it came out in 1998. With 18 tools, durability, compact size, and a reasonable price, it is easy to see why.
On the outside of the tool, the straight-edge main blade can be opened with one hand. There is also a serrated blade, wood saw, and file on the outside of the tool. Being on the outside makes access much easier since I don’t have to unfold the tool.
On the inside of the tool are scissors, a can opener, and three screwdrivers. Two of the screwdrivers have interchangeable bits.
I really like that I can exchange the bit for the exact one I need. In my experience as an engineer, I have seen many times that trying to use a flat-head screwdriver on a Phillips screw usually just damages the screw head.
Also, many vehicles have various odd fasteners such as torx or hex heads. I have a full set of bits for my Leatherman multitool that works for 90% of the fasteners that I encounter.
For survival, this tool has a wood saw for making fire tinder. I find that the spine of the saw is great for striking a ferro rod. The two knife blades are a good backup to my main knife as well.
On the downside, the scissors are small and not as good as the scissors on my Swiss Army knife. This multitool does not have a punch or awl, which is a little disappointing.
Where this multitool really shines is the combination of the pliers and screwdrivers. If I have car trouble, I can use this multitool to fix most minor issues, from wiring problems to loose battery terminals.
The Leatherman Wave Plus is for anyone looking for the best survival multitool. This one has the best tools at the best price. If you are in your car a lot, this is a must-have. It is great to keep in your boat or RV as well.
25 Year Warranty
Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champ – Best for Wilderness Survival
- Size: 3.6” x 1.3” x 1.0”
- Weight: 6.5 oz
- Number of Tools: 33
- Notable Tools: Wood Saw, Pliers, Scissors, Magnifying Lens, Awl
- Main Blade: 2.5” Stainless
The Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champ is our pick for the best wilderness survival multitool.
It also was our top pick as the best Swiss Army knife for Survival in our Best Swiss Army knife review.
While the Swiss Army knife is sometimes not thought of as a multitool, it should be strongly considered if you are preparing for survival in a remote outdoor location.
The Swiss Champ has a wood saw, two knife blades, a great pair of scissors, and an awl. It also has a magnifying lens that can be used to start a fire in a pinch.
While it does not have large pliers like our top pick, it does have a smaller pair that can be used for light tasks. The three screwdrivers are decent but not as good as the interchangeable bits on the Leatherman.
The scissors, tweezers, toothpicks, and magnifying lenses are often overlooked as useful tools for first aid. In a long-term survival situation in the woods, this sets the Swiss Champ apart from a plier-based multitool.
While this one is not the best for working on a disabled vehicle or other mechanical device, I find that it is the best for surviving in the woods away from civilization.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champ is for someone looking for a multitool for wilderness survival. Hikers, bushcrafters, campers, and hunters that spend a lot of time in the woods should strongly consider this one.
First Aid Tools
Two Knife Blades
Blades Do Not Lock
Screwdrivers are Limited
Leatherman Signal – Best Backup
- Size: 4.5” x 1.5” x 0.63”
- Weight: 7.5 oz
- Number of Tools: 19
- Notable Tools: Pliers, Wood Saw, Bit Driver, Ferro Rod, Sharpener, Whistle, Carabiner, Awl
- Main Blade: 2.73”, 420HC, One-Hand Open, Locking
The Leatherman Signal is our top pick for the best backup survival multitool.
This multitool is similar in size to our top pick, the Wave. Instead of 4 external blades, this one only has two. Included is a main knife with a partially serrated blade and a wood saw.
I like that I can open the main blade with one hand, and it locks back in the open position. I do not like that it is serrated. I would much rather have a straight blade that I can sharpen.
What makes this multitool unique from all the others is it has a built-in ferro rod, knife sharpener, and whistle. These are all things I have in my pack or survival kit anyway. But it is nice that these are integrated in case I am separated from your gear.
The ferro rod and sharpener are kind of small, but they are functional and better than nothing.
I do like that this multitool has an awl. See my guide below for the benefits of having an awl in a survival camp.
The screwdriver has an interchangeable bit just like the wave, which I really like. It does not have the small screwdriver bit tool, though.
The carabiner makes it easy to clip this multitool on my pack, which lends itself to being there just in case I need it.
Since it is more expensive than the Wave, it is hard to say this is the best survival multitool. If I had absolutely nothing else, it is nice to have the Ferro rod built in.
For me, this is a good backup survival multitool for cases where I want to have something but do not have space for a full survival kit. Options I like are one in my truck, boat, or ATV, or I can clip it on my pack as a backup.
The Leatherman Signal is for someone who wants a backup survival multitool or wants one to keep an all-in-one survival tool separate from their main survival kit.
Built in Ferro Rod
Locking Main Blade
25 Year Warranty
Serrated Main Blade
Only One Knife Blade
Gerber Dual-Force – Best for Urban Survival
- Size: 4.65” x ~1.5” x 0.8”
- Weight: 12.0 oz
- Number of Tools: 13
- Notable Tools: 2 Position Pliers, Wood Saw, Bit Driver
- Main Blade: 3.25”, Coated Steel, One-Hand Open, Locking
The Gerber Dual-Force Multitool is our pick for the best urban survival multitool.
This multitool is like other plier-based multitools since it has a butterfly opening configuration that reveals a set of pliers.
What sets this tool apart is the pliers themselves. They have a unique two-position slip joint jaw that allows me to adjust the closed size of the pliers.
The problem I have with most multitools is that when I need to work with a larger fastener or object, the handles are too far apart for my hand. This prevents me from being able to grip with much force.
Gerber has solved this problem with the Dual-Force. The handles are nearly 50% closer together than most other multitools, allowing me to comfortably grip the tool and really squeeze.
The Jaws themselves have two sets of teeth so that I can find the perfect position for the fastener and my hand. The jaws also have a layered construction instead of the typical single-piece cast jaw. In tests, Gerber says they are twice as strong in torsion tests compared to cast-type jaws.
All of the tools can be opened with the multitool in the closed position, which I really like.
The knife blade is the biggest on our list. It is 3.25” inches long and is almost 1/8” thick at the spine. This is comparable to some fixed blade knives.
I like the bit driver. It is a center-axis bit driver, which means when I turn the handle, the driver rotates in the center of the handles. This makes it easier to use than other multitools.
I also like that the bit driver uses standard ¼” drive bits, which I can find almost anywhere at a very good price. The handles have two storage holders for the bits. This allows me to carry three different screwdrivers right on the tool.
All of these great improvements over the traditional multitool, plus the wood saw and metal file, make it one that should be strongly considered.
The Gerber Dual-Force Multitool is for anyone that is looking for an urban survival multitool that excels in tools for mechanical repairs. If you are a mechanic, this is the tool for you.
Slip Joint Pliers
Large Knife Blade
Center Drive Screwdriver
Leatherman Surge – Best Heavy Duty
- Size: 4.5” x 1.6” x 0.8”
- Weight: 12.5 oz
- Number of Tools: 21
- Notable Tools: Pliers, Wood Saw, Bit Driver, Scissors, 2 Blades, Awl
- Main Blade: 3.1”, 420HC, One-Hand Open, Locking
The Leatherman Surge is our pick for the best heavy-duty survival multitool.
This multitool is the largest and heaviest on our list and weighs almost 50% more than others. It has the largest pliers and the longest knife blade of any other Leatherman multitool.
It is configured very similar to the Wave, with blades that are on the outside of the tool. The main difference is one of the blades has the capability to exchange between a metal file and the wood saw.
I like this feature since I can configure the tool to more of a work/EDC tool with the file and exchange it with the saw during a survival situation when I need fire tinder.
Instead of a small screwdriver, an awl is included. This makes the multitool more useful for repairing tarps or crafting tools at camp.
If you plan to carry this multitool, you really need to plan on using the included sheath. It is too heavy for me to carry in my front pants pocket, and the sheath also holds the file or wood saw blade when I am not using it.
The Leatherman Surge is for someone that needs a heavy-duty survival multitool. If you need a heavy tool for work to carry everyday but also want some survival features like a wood saw, this is the multitool for you.
Two Knife Blades
25 Year Warranty
- Size: 4” x 1.2” x 0.8”
- Weight: 5.0 oz
- Number of Tools: 7
- Notable Tools: Pliers, Bit Driver, Carabiner
- Main Blade: 2.6”, 420HC, One-Hand Open, Locking
The Leatherman Skeletool is our pick for the best lightweight survival multitool.
This multitool is the lightest plier-based multitool on our list. It has three key tools. A main blade with a combo straight/serrated edge, pliers, and a bit driver with exchangeable bits.
There is also a carabiner on the end of the tool, so I can easily attach it to my pack or belt loop.
I like that there is a place where I can store a second screwdriver bit in the handle. It comes with a dual-sided flat and Phillips bit, but since I have a bit set, I can change them to whatever I want.
Keep in mind that these bits are proprietary to Leatherman. While some think that it would be nice if they used a standard ¼” bit, this would make the tool wider than it currently is. I personally think the flat bits are a good idea since I can carry more of them, and they are very compact. See our accessories below for a link to the driver bits.
I do not like that the main blade is serrated, and there is no wood saw. I found I can get by with just the blade to make fire tinder. However, since the main blade has a chamfered spine, it does not work as a ferro rod striker.
Since this is a super light multitool, it is good for a backpacker or someone that is conscious about their pack weight. Just make sure your fire-starting kit is on point.
The Leatherman Skeletool is for someone that needs a lightweight survival multitool. It is the lightest available but sacrifices some tools that could be critical for survival away from civilization.
Screwdriver Bit Storage
Locking Main Blade
25 Year Warranty
No Wood Saw
No Can Opener
Gerber Gear Stake Out
- Size: 4.5” x ~1.3” x 0.75”
- Weight: 3.3 oz
- Number of Tools: 11
- Notable Tools: Hook, Scissors, Awl, Saw
- Main Blade: 2.2”, Stainless, Locking
The Gerber Gear Stake Out is a unique multitool that is worth considering if you spend much time outdoors. This is a knife-based multitool like the Swiss Army knife and does not have pliers. It has some great features for wilderness survival and camping.
The main feature of this multitool is a large hook that is designed to help pull tent stakes out of the ground. We have all been there, especially when using tent stakes in hard ground. They are impossible to remove without a crowbar or some other huge tool.
Gerber has solved that issue with this multitool that only weighs 3.3 ounces.
Along with the hook, this multitool has a large awl that is also a Ferro rod striker. The awl is almost 2 inches long, which makes it great for crafting larger tools or structures I need at camp. The hook can also be used to tighten lashes and bindings. Just these two features alone make it a great tool for bushcraft camping.
I like that the knife has a plain scandi grind and I can open it with one hand. The blade and all the tools lock when opened, something that the Swiss Army knives lack.
I also like that the carabiner makes this tool easy to clip on my belt loop or pack. Considering this is the lightest tool on our list, it really makes a great backup option to a larger multitool or belt knife.
It even has a pair of tweezers that should not be dismissed for first-aid, as we discuss in the guide below.
The Gerber Gear Stake Out is for campers, hikers, and bushcrafters that want a lightweight survival multitool as a backup to their main belt knife or larger multitool. It is a great tool to keep with your survival tent.
Tent Stake Hook
Locking Main Blade
Leatherman Charge Plus TTi
- Size: 4” x 1.2” x 0.8”
- Weight: 8.9 oz
- Number of Tools: 19
- Notable Tools: Pliers, Wood Saw, 2 Bit Drivers, Scissors, 2 Blades, Gut Hook
- Main Blade: 2.9”, S30V, One-Hand Open, Locking
The Leatherman Charge Plus TTi is a premium version of our top pick, the Wave.
The configuration and the tools are the same as the Wave. The main blade is made from S30V steel. S30V is a stainless steel that is more durable and holds an edge better than the standard 420HC.
The body of the multitool is made from Titanium. Titanium is stronger and more durable than the standard stainless-steel body, like the other Leatherman tools have.
I have had my Leatherman Charge TTi for nearly 15 years. I carried it every day for many years and used it at work. I traveled a lot to customers and needed a good tool to work on equipment.
Now it is part of my get home bag in my vehicle. I have the full exchangeable bit set with it as well.
While this multitool is the most expensive on this list, it is the best you can get. For a survival multitool that you don’t use every day, the lower-price Wave is fine.
If you plan to use a multitool every day, and do not have the budget for a second one for your survival pack, this is the one to get.
The Leatherman Charge Plus TTi is for someone that plans to use a multitool everyday and doesn’t want to buy a second one strictly as a survival multitool. This one is the best of the best.
S30V Steel Blade
25 Year Warranty
- Size: 3.8” x 1.3” x 0.6”
- Weight: 7.0 oz
- Number of Tools: 14
- Notable Tools: Pliers, Wood Saw, 2 Blades, Screwdrivers
- Main Blade: 2.6”, 420HC, One-Hand Open, Locking
The Leatherman Sidekick is a lighter pocket-sized multitool that works great as an EDC survival multitool.
What is great about this tool is that it is sized to fit in my front pocket. If I carry this multitool every day, it will always be there no matter what happens. When my survival comes into question and I don’t have all my other gear, I still have this in my pocket.
I carried a Leatherman kick for many years that is now discontinued. It is small enough to fit in my pocket as a pocket knife. What I don’t like about it is that I must open it to get to the blades.
The Sidekick solves this problem and has a main blade and a wood saw on the outside of the tool. Both can be opened with one hand and they both lock when opened.
I like that this multitool has two blades. The larger main blade has a straight edge and the smaller second blade is serrated.
I do not like the screwdrivers on this tool. It seems that instead of a fixed flat and Phillips screwdriver, they could have included one with exchangeable bits.
Still, if I am in a survival situation, they say the best tool is the one you have. If this is always in my pocket, it may be the best survival multi tool I can buy.
The Leatherman Sidekick is for someone that wants a survival multitool that can fit their pocket. It can replace your normal pocketknife with 13 additional tools.
Two Knife Blades
25 Year Warranty
The Best Multitool for Survival Guide
In this guide, we are focusing on what to look for in a multitool for survival. Multitools are great for everyday carry (EDC); I carry one every day. But what makes a great EDC multitool for you may not be the best survival multitool.
You can read people’s opinions on the internet in guides where they do a bunch of “tests” to determine the “best” product. Usually, these are short sighted, and the tests are not the same as years of real-world experience.
In addition, depending on your lifestyle and environment, the best multitool for you could be totally different from someone else.
While survival scenarios can take many forms, they can generally be thought of in two different environments, wilderness and urban. Either way, I consider a multitool an essential survival tool.
Keep reading and we will explore what the differences are and what to consider for the best survival multitool for you.
Brand and Quality
Just like most products today, you can find cheap alternatives to name brand multitools that look just like the original. If you see a multitool that is surprisingly cheap, there is likely a reason.
Cheap multitools are made in low-cost countries where quality control is nonexistent and the materials that are used are inferior.
If you just want a survival multitool to play around with, cheap is fine. If you plan to buy one to depend on in a survival situation, don’t buy the cheap one.
Leatherman tools have a 25-year warranty and Victorinox and Gerber have a lifetime warranty. I have used these brands for over 27 years and never had an issue.
Of course, price is a big part of deciding which survival multitool is best. Along with price, compare the features and the usefulness of the multitool.
If you have a low budget, it may be that you need one multitool for both EDC and survival. This would be different for someone who prefers dedicated multitools for EDC in their vehicle get-home bag and another in their bushcraft pack or bug out bag.
While I considered this in my review, it is up to you to decide what has the most value to you.
The size of your survival multitool is important mostly if you are planning to have it as part of your EDC. Obviously, if you just want a multitool to keep in your vehicle or emergency gear, you can go with a larger one.
I have carried multitools in my pocket and in a pouch on my belt. For my work EDC, I prefer a pouch, since it is more comfortable, and I can carry a larger tool. I also have a smaller Leatherman that I carry in my pocket on occasions when I don’t want to use the pouch.
In the woods, my bushcraft pants usually have enough pockets that I can carry a SAK in addition to a folding fixed blade knife. I may take one of my Leatherman multitools too if I am driving offroad.
Not only the number of tools but the quality of the tools should be considered when choosing your survival multitool.
How do you know what you will need before you need it?
Check out the list below and also see our review of the Best Swiss Army Knives for more uses.
Which Tools Are The Most Useful on a Survival Multitool?
Below are the tools to look for and skills you can practice before finding yourself in a survival situation with the wrong multitool.
I use the pliers on my multitool the most in my everyday life. From tightening up the battery terminals on a lady’s car at the gas station, pulling a hot pot off of the campfire, to removing a fishhook. There are a ton of uses for the pliers, and are the only reason to carry a plier style multitool over a SAK.
A knife is the most important tool to have in a survival situation. The uses are endless, from cutting paracord to preparing food. Your multitool should be your primary backup to a full tang bushcraft style belt knife.
If I do lose my belt knife, the larger blades on a multitool are great alternatives. Just look at the Alone gear list and what the contestants selected for their gear. A multitool is one of the top picks instead of a larger knife in many cases.
While out in the woods, I do like a smaller blade for carving tools that my main knife is too big for. The small blade and handle of the SAK are great for this. The handles of most multitools are uncomfortable to use for more than a few minutes.
The wood saw on a multitool is underappreciated. Yes, you are probably not going to use one in everyday life. It is not often you need to saw wood in your office or car.
But the usefulness of the wood saw during a survival event is huge. Maintaining your body temperature is a big priority the survival rule of 3 tells us. The main way to keep warm is with a survival shelter and fire.
With the wood saw, I can create fire tinder. I can use the spine of the saw blade to strike a ferro rod to ignite the tinder. I can then saw larger pieces of wood for kindling. I can even make a quick survival shelter.
I also like the wood saw for small details when working on projects around camp. It is easier to control than a larger bushcraft style folding saw or my belt knife.
If you don’t have a bushcraft camp axe or a folding saw, the saw on a multitool is a huge asset.
The screwdrivers on a multitool are great if I need to work on a vehicle or do other mechanic work.
I especially like the exchangeable bits on the Leatherman multitools. Most of the built-in screwdrivers on multitools and SAKs are limited in size and won’t work on everything. I have three packs of bits in my truck of all shapes and sizes for this very reason.
I have worked on my firearms at the range, helped people with broken-down vehicles, and tightened up screws on my fishing reel with my multitool screwdrivers.
While these are a little much to carry every day, they are a great addition to your vehicle get home bag. If you break down in the middle of nowhere, they can get you out of a pinch.
I don’t think I have ever used the awl or reamer on a multitool during a normal day at work. I have used it quite a bit at camp though, mainly for making holes in wood or other soft materials for passing paracord through.
For example, I made a toggle for my bushcraft tarp ridgeline at camp. After cutting a small ½ inch diameter stick, I drilled a hole through the center of it with the awl. I then used the awl to help get the bank line through the hole.
As you study your survival skills, do not underestimate the use of the awl. It can turn something like a stick into something useful quickly.
It seems I never have a can opener when I need it.
Did you pack the can opener? Who cares? I have one on my multitool.
In a survival situation, I can always use my belt knife, but using a can opener on a can of soup I have found is much easier, and not nearly as messy.
We should also discuss the most underrated SAK tools, the tweezers, toothpick, and magnifying lens.
In a long-term survival situation in the woods, these can make life much easier. They are great not only for hygiene but for first aid.
If you ever get a few tiny thorns in your hand you will understand. The tweezers and magnifying lens are great to have when you need them, and often forgot about when you don’t need them.
Multitools You Don’t Need
There are some multitools out there that you don’t need. Many people gravitate towards the “tactical” type tools that are used by some government agency and think that they are the best for a survival multitool.
One good example is the Leatherman MUT EOD. I have seen this recommended as the best survival multitool, and I disagree. It is designed to be used by bomb teams and has fuse-wire cutters, a C4 punch, and a few useless firearm tools like a carbon scraper.
Just because this tool looks cool and has some “tactical” tools does not mean that it is the best for survival. I have no idea what I would be using a C4 punch for in the woods or while hunkered down at home.
Another gimmick that I have seen is the survival axe multitools. Most of these are just a cheap hatchet with some other cutouts or add-ons that seem to make them multi functional. While you may think it is a good way to save money, most are a waste of money.
A good survival hatchet is one of the most important tools you can have in the woods. Don’t compromise its usefulness or durability. Survival axe multitools are made with cheap materials and have weak points that will cause them to break easily. They are also awkward to use and are prone to cause injuries.
Just think, which is better? A strange looking cheap tool made in China or a name brand multitool with a lifetime warranty?
Survival Multitool Accessories
These bit kits are a must-have if you have a Leatherman with the exchangeable screwdriver bits.
This sharpener is the best I have found for multitools. The stone is also great for larger knives. It is compact and the price is great, so there is really no reason to not have it in your pack or vehicle.
Best Survival Multitool Video Review
Here is a video overview of our top pick, the Leatherman Wave Plus.
What is the Best Multitool for Survival?
This is a personal decision based on the guidance I have given above. It largely depends on your budget, environment, and lifestyle.
If you plan to hike, camp, or bushcraft in a remote area then the Swiss Champ Swiss Army knife is a good choice to add to this combo. It is likely you won’t need the larger pliers that the Leatherman and Gerber multitools have out in the woods. The added benefit of all the other tools that the Swiss Champ includes and the affordable price make it the best value in this case.
If you live in an urban area, especially where fixed-blade knives are not allowed, then the Gerber Gear Dual Force is the best survival multitool. Pair it with the Leatherman Signal as a backup and you have a great urban survival multitool combination.
Now that you have decided on the best survival multitool, take a look at our other survival guides and gear reviews. Having a good survival fire starting kit and a survival compass is just as important as a multitool.