A multitool is a pretty essential piece of kit for the majority of backpackers.
Backpacking and hiking are all about packing light but being prepared for anything at the same time. A multitool provides for both.
There aren’t loads of brands worth recommending which keeps this list simple, but it’s worth considering what your priorities are when it comes to different functions versus size and weight.
Read on for the recommendations of the best backpacking multitools of 2020, or skip to the buying guide for more pointers on how to choose and what to look for.
- Top 10 Best Multitools for Backpacking 2020
- How to Choose the Best Multitool for Backpacking and Hiking
Top 10 Best Multitools for Backpacking 2020
Leatherman Signal Multitool
Review: Leatherman are often the top-ranked brand when it comes to multitools. They’re relied on by people who need them to perform over and over again in extreme conditions without failing.
They have a range of models with different pros and cons and not all of them are ideal for backpacking but a few of them have some valuable features.
This model, the Signal, is the best Leatherman for backpacking if fire starting is something you want in your repertoire.
But it also comes with a really sharp, large knife blade, serrated saw, pliers, screwdriver, bottle opener, can opener and emergency whistle. All in all, a pretty good set up for a backpacker.
- Includes ferro rod for fire starting.
- Lightweight – 7.5 oz.
- Large, sharp knife blade and serrated saw.
- 19 functions.
- Can be used with one hand.
- No scissors.
- Questionable paint finish.
Review: The Leatherman Skeletool is as its name suggests, a skeleton of a multitool, designed to provide the minimum essential functions in a sleek, lightweight package.
It’s designed so that you can open the different functions and use the tool with one hand which could be advantageous depending on what kind of situation you find yourself in.
It’s a little lighter than the Signal but still manages to provide pliers, a knife, bottle opener, screwdriver, a carabiner clip so you don’t lose it, and of course, Leatherman’s reliably quality and durability.
- Lightweight – 6.4 oz.
- One hand functionality.
- Good sized, sharp knife blade.
- Durable and long lasting.
- No scissors.
Leatherman Micra Multitool
Review: This Leatherman has more personal grooming in mind which could make it a great choice for thru-hikers who appreciate having a good pair of scissors on hand.
The spring-loaded scissors are the main highlight, but the tweezers, knife, nail file, screwdriver and bottle opener all have their place!
It’s also ridiculously lightweight, possibly even the lightest multitool on this list.
- Super lightweight – just 1.8 oz.
- Spring-loaded scissors.
- Completely stainless steel – no paint to wear off.
- Tweezers are attached so they won’t get lost.
- Don’t trust the key ring for too long on its own!
Leatherman Rebar Multitool
Review: A little heavier and with more tools, the Leatherman Rebar is a great all-round model for its balance of relatively light weight, sleek design, number of functions and durability.
It’s the lightest of Leatherman’s full-sized multitool models, which means it still comes with formidable pliers but the overall model is light enough to comfortably carry in your pocket.
Admittedly there are probably more functions than the average backpacker would require, but you’re not going to be too weighed down by them or the price.
- 17 functions.
- Solid locking mechanism for each function.
- Large saw and knife blades.
- Lightweight – 6.69 oz.
- Fits comfortably in your pocket with rounded ends.
- No scissors.
Victorinox Spirit Multitool
Review: Victorinox is widely regarded as one of the best brands of both Swiss Army Knives and knives in general. Their products are extremely high quality and designed to last a lifetime but they’re not priced out of the game either.
This Victorinox Swiss Army Knife has an incredible 27 functions, each made with Swiss precision and quality.
Some of the functions of this top-rated multitool include scissors, knife, tweezers, can opener, pliers, screwdriver, bottle opener, wire cutter and chisel.
The knife is smaller than most of the Leatherman options but very sharp, the locking mechanisms are secure and reliable, and the tool as a whole is durable and very high quality.
- 27 functions.
- Lightweight – 7.4 oz.
- High-quality steel.
- Comes with leather pouch.
- Swiss made.
- A little stiff to begin with.
- Scissors are small and only appropriate for small jobs.
Victorinox Tinker Swiss Army Knife
Review: This model is what most people think of when you say Swiss Army Knife – the classic red case with white cross and the standard range of tools: two different sized knives, a can opener, bottle opener, tweezers, screwdrivers and toothpick.
It doesn’t have scissors but the two different sized blades mean you won’t miss them too much. If scissors are important to you, the Fieldmaster is the next model up and it includes a few other extra functions.
- Extremely lightweight – 2.2oz.
- Small and compact – 9.1cm long.
- 45” sharp blade.
- High-quality stainless steel.
- 12 functions.
- Good value for money.
- Small enough to easily lose unless you attach the keyring to something.
Victorinox Fieldmaster Swiss Army Knife
Review: Similar to the Tinker, the Fieldmaster is a little bigger, a little heavier and with a few more functions. Again, Victorinox quality is as good as it gets so there’s nothing to worry about there, it’s literally just a case of weighing up which functions are your priority.
This little beast weighs just 3.53 oz. and has an impressive 15 functions including scissors and a small wood saw which is surprisingly effective. The 2.45” knife blade is very sharp and there’s a tiny hole in the screwdriver for storing a pin.
- Very lightweight and compact.
- High-quality stainless steel.
- 15 functions.
- Scissors, sharp knife and very sharp wood saw.
Gerber Dime Multitool
Review: Another super lightweight option, the Gerber Dime also weighs in at just 2.2 oz. and comes equipped with both spring-loaded scissors and pliers.
The quality won’t be quite as top-notch as the Victorinox options, but it’s an affordable alternative that includes a couple of features that the Leatherman’s typically don’t – scissors and tweezers.
- 12 functions.
- Includes spring-loaded scissors and tweezers.
- Very lightweight and compact.
- Some surplus features like the box cutter.
- Quality isn’t up to par with Leatherman or Victorinox.
Schrade ST1NB Multitool
Review: The quality of Schrade multitools doesn’t really stack up against the likes of Leatherman or Victorinox anymore. But, they’re another affordable option and the quality is very reasonable for the price.
So, if you’re on a budget, not likely to need your multitool for everyday use, or just not ready to commit to a top of the line multitool, this could be a great option to keep in your side pocket.
- Good quality for the price.
- 20 functions.
- Comes with polyester belt sheath.
- Strong pliers.
- Lightweight – 8.1 oz.
- Scissors are the weak point.
Opinel No.8 Knife
Review: This isn’t a multitool, but for thru-hikers, 99% of the time, all you need is a good knife. I’ve opened canned food with this knife, used the tip as a screwdriver, and then of course cut a lot of bread and cheese while using it as an actual knife.
It starts out and stays incredibly sharp, it’s got a simple but reliable locking mechanism, and it’s lightweight and compact.
It’s got a beautiful wooden handle and the blade is nice and thin while still being incredibly strong.
- Excellent quality.
- Very good value for money.
- Comfortable wooden handle.
- It’s not a multitool…
How to Choose the Best Multitool for Backpacking and Hiking
The best multitool for backpacking or hiking comes a lot down to personal preference.
In all honesty, there are many experienced hikers who will tell you that you don’t actually need a multitool if you have a good knife (hence the reason the Opinel is on this list).
But, for those of us slightly less minimalistic, multitools can provide a little extra versatility.
- Tweezers can be hugely useful when it comes to getting out splinters on the trail.
- Scissors can do a better job of cutting some things than a knife (although I’ll admit, a knife will suffice most of the time).
- A can opener can be super useful when you stop in a remote village to restock and all they have are cans without ring pulls.
- The nail file can help with personal grooming when you’ve been on the trail for more than a week.
- A hook can be helpful for pulling out tent pegs.
- A screwdriver can be helpful when the screw comes lose in your sunglasses…
…The list goes on.
What may not be so useful are the heavy duty pliers on some multitools, box cutters and wire cutters, etc. Hence the personal preference factor. Some people might find uses for these things, but realistically, they’re unlikely to contribute much to your overall hiking experience.
So, what features should I look for when buying a multitool for backpacking?
Size and Weight
This is possibly the most important factor. The whole point of a multitool for backpacking is to save weight and space so that you can be prepared for multiple jobs with one tool.
All of the multitools on the list above are relatively lightweight but some more so than others. If lightweight is your priority, you can’t go wrong with Victorinox.
A Method of Attachment
Small things tend to get lost more easily, it’s just a fact. Look for some kind of key ring or attachment point so that you can tie your multitool to your bag or pocket. This way, if it falls out, it won’t be gone forever.
On the same note, buying forest colored multitools is a silly idea unless you want to waste precious time looking for it once you have dropped it or put it down somewhere.
Victorinox’s red knives score top points for practicality from this point of view but stainless steel can also be good when it comes to visibility.
This is where personal preference comes into play. For most backpackers, the knife will be the most important part. But some people may really appreciate tweezers, scissors, a bottle opener… you name it.
Think about what you will mostly be using your multitool for on the trail. A corkscrew is probably not going to be a top priority in the forest…
Knife Size and Quality
Since the knife is arguably the highlight of the tool, make sure it’s big enough, sharp enough and strong enough to be useful. There’s nothing worse than a blunt knife!
If you do think you’re in the camp where a pocket knife will suffice and you’re happy to pass on the other functions of multitools, check out our guides to the best pocket knives and best backpacking knives for more options.
On the other hand, if you realizing that a good multitool is where your heart lies but you’re looking for something that will provide for more than just basic trail needs, we have more great multitools reviewed in our guide to the best multitools for everyday use.
Know Your Hiking Style
This may sound like common sense, and it kind of fits in the personal preference part of choosing between different functions, but knowing more about what your goals are from hiking and backpacking in general will help you with your decision.
Are you focused on covering distance and carrying as little as possible or are you interested more in bushcraft or survival skills?
Lightweight and sleek with fewer functions will be your game if you’re a thru-hiker. But if you’re not hiking far and your goals are more about the camping part of backpacking, then you might appreciate a more elaborate tool.
Last but not least, if you’re considering a multitool, you’re probably thinking about safety. We have a couple of great guides on first aid kits for backpacking and bear spray to save you the time and effort of researching everything yourself. So be sure to check them out and make sure you’re nicely prepared for your next adventure.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you to make your decision and you feel ready to choose the best multitool for your needs.
Remember, more isn’t always better when it comes to the number of functions in a multitool. Quality should always be the priority. A 15 function tool with a blunt knife and weak locks will not serve you anywhere near as well as a 5 function tool with a top-quality knife that locks securely into place.
What are your thoughts on the world of multitools for backpacking? What’s your favorite model? Or are you more of a simple knife person?
Feel free to share your thoughts below and if you’re new here and haven’t downloaded our e-book on solo travel safety yet, then be sure to do that before you leave on your next adventure for some valuable tips on staying safe while enjoying the world solo.
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