Best Multi-Tool for Backpacking in 2020

Backpacking is one of the ways that I love to escape from the long work week. Getting out of town and into the backwoods, carrying just enough supplies to get you through the night or weekend, is not only a great way to relax, but can be quite thrilling as well.

The peace and quiet of being out and about in nature is very zen like, but being isolated from civilization is not without it’s inherit dangers or problems.

I remember on one of my first backpacking trips, I thought I was pretty smart and thought of everything that I would need for the weekend. When the zipper on my pack got stuck, I realized how helpful having a pair of pliers would’ve been.

Ever since, I’ve always carried a multi-tool with me when backpacking, no matter if I’m trail hiking or bushwhacking it.

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What Makes a Good Backpacking Multi-Tool ?

It doesn’t matter if you’re an ultra-light backpacker bushwhacking it in no man’s land or packing it in on trails going from designated campground to campground, there are certain features that makes a multi-tool better for backpacking than for other purposes.

Here are some of the features to look for in the best multi-tools for backpacking:

Weight

When it comes to backpacking, every ounce in your pack counts. You only want to take the bare essentials with you and every tool that you load into your pack means less room for food, water and shelter.

Bringing a multi-tool, instead of multiple individual tools, allows you to have a wide variety of functionality in one small light weight package.

However, there are tons of multi-tools out there that have a bunch of tools and gadgets that you would never need when backpacking, and all they do is add unnecessary bulk and weight.

That’s why the next section is also extremely important for backpacking multi-tools.

Functionality

You want to be prepared for any situation, but you don’t want to be bogged down from the weight of extra tools that you’ll never use. That’s why it’s important to figure out what functions of a multi-tool are most important to the type of backpacking you do.

What I need in a multi-tool could be vastly different from what you need.

I’m not much of an ultra lightweight backpacker, and I don’t typically go on trips longer than a couple of days or too far off the beaten path. In my case, I’m not needing a multi-tool with a huge variety of tools. Just the bare necessities, with some survival tools thrown in. I might not go too far off the trails, but I do tend to do a lot of solo backpacking. Having survival tools with me gives my wife some piece of mind when I’m off on one of my excursions.

My friend Pete, on the other hand, likes to go on week long trips and almost always with other people. He likes to have a multi-tool that can handle more situations. For instance, having scissors to trim down some moleskin to cover blisters or cut off a hang nail. I’ve personally never found a need for scissors in any of my trips, but those are the types of situations he finds himself in when out on longer adventures.

Construction

When you’re deep in the back woods, far from civilization, the last thing you want is your tools breaking on you. That’s why it’s critical to carry a high quality multi-tool with you when backpacking.

You can find all kinds of multi-tools in the bargain bin at your local sporting goods store, but you definitely get what you pay for. When it comes to being prepared for an unexpected emergency, you want to make sure that your tools won’t fail on you. That’s why it’s important to buy from respected manufacturers, that back their workmanship up with long warranties.

Backpacking Multi-Tool Reviews

Best Utility Multi-Tool for Backpacking

Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X

The Swiss Tool Spirit X is a good looking multi-tool. The designers at Victorinox did a great job of not only making it stylish looking, but making it very versatile.

The Spirit X comes with a wide variety of tools, 24 according to Victorinox. However, it does seem to suffer from some “feature inflation” as many of the 24 tools are pretty much the same thing. For example, the cable cutters and wire cutters are listed as four separate tools, when in reality, they basically all use the same section of the pliers.

On the other hand, the tools that it does come with are very useful for a backpacking multi-tool and made with the same quality you expect from the makers of Swiss Army Knives.

One thing I like about the Spirit X is that all of the tools, besides the pliers, are available from the outside. That means that you don’t have to unfold the tool just to get access to a knife or screwdriver. Also, all tools lock into place, giving you a secure tool with a comfortable grip.

As far as full size multi-tools go, the Spirit X is considerably light, but you’ll definitely know that you’re carrying it. It doesn’t have a hook or clip built into the tool, so you need to use the included leather pouch to help keep it secure.

The Spirit X is a great utility type multi-tool, but it does lack some of the survivability tools, like a fire starter or whistle, that I like to see included in backpacking tools.

Features:

  • Needle-nose Pliers
  • Large blade
  • Wire and Cable Cutter
  • Can opener
  • Screwdrivers 3 mm & 6 mm
  • Bottle opener
  • Scissors
  • Reamer, punch & sewing awl
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Wood saw
  • Metal saw
  • Metal file
  • Chisel

Weight: 7.4 oz.

Length: 4.1 in.

Height: 0.7 in.

PROS

  • High Quality Pliers and Tools
  • Externally Available Locking Tools
  • Light Weight for Full-Sized Multi-Tool
  • Lifetime Warranty

CONS

  • No Survivability Tools
  • High Price

Best Survival Multi-Tool for Backpacking

Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool

The Signal is a full sized multi-tool that is designed to compete with some of the Bear Grylls branded tools from Gerber. However, unlike the Gerber counterparts, the Signal is built with the Leatherman quality you’d expect.

It’s packed with features you’d expect in a survival multi-tool. It comes complete with a large pair of needle nose pliers, wire cutters, a decent knife blade, a saw, a screwdriver, a can opener and an awl. All standard stuff as far as multi-tools go, but the Signal is augmented with a ferro rod fire starter and emergency whistle.

It’s made from a lightweight, yet strong, aluminum chassis that holds strong, forged steel tools. The knife and saw are accessible from the outside, making them easily accessible without having to open the tool’s body.

The Signal also includes a striking “hammer” surface on one end of the tool, which works surprisingly well. I’ve used that feature many times hammering in tent stakes.

I’m not a huge fan of having to open the tool to access some of the smaller tools like the screwdriver and the serrations on the blade seem to get in the way more than they are useful.

However, the benefits of this multi-tool for backpacking purposes far outweigh the small nitpicks that I have with it, and it has become a permanent member of my backpacking gear.

Features:

  • Needle-nose Pliers
  • Combo Knife Blade
  • Wire Cutter/Stripper
  • 3/16″ Screwdriver
  • Can opener
  • Awl with Thread Loop
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Wood saw
  • Hammer
  • Ferrocerium Rod

Weight: 7.5 oz.

Length: 4.5 in.

Height: 0.7 in.

PROS

  • Includes Fire Starting Ferro Rod and Safety Whistle
  • Includes Hammer Tool
  • Includes Biner-Style Clip
  • Light Weight Full Sized Multi-Tool
  • 25 Year Warranty

CONS

  • Serrations of Combo Blade can get in the way
  • Not All Tools Externally Available
  • Price

Best Light Weight Multi-Tool for Backpacking

Victorinox SAK Hiker

The Swiss Army Knife (SAK) has been a mainstay in many backpackers gear for many years and for good reason.

The Victorinox Hiker comes packed with essential tools you would need for backpacking in a small, light weight package. Weighing in at only 2.7 oz., the Hiker is the perfect multi-tool for those of you who are looking to get the most bang for your buck in a tool you barely notice you’re carrying.

The Hiker is very similar to the popular Camper model. What makes them different is, the Hiker gets rid of, in my opinion, the worthless corkscrew in favor of a Philips screwdriver.

The one feature I wish it had, that many other SAK’s include, is the mini-scissors.

Features:

  • Large blade
  • Small blade
  • Can opener
  • Screwdrivers 3 mm & 6 mm
  • Bottle opener
  • Reamer, punch & awl
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Wood saw
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers

Weight: 2.7 oz.

Length: 3.6 in.

Height: 0.6 in.

PROS

  • Light and Small
  • Includes Only the Essential Tools
  • Lifetime Warranty

CONS

  • No Pliers
  • No Scissors

Bonus: Ultra Light Weight Survival Multi-Tool

Tool Logic Survival Card I

Tool Logic® SVC1 Survival Card

The SVC1 was designed to carried with you at all times so that you can be prepared for those unexpected situations that life can throw your way, especially when you are out solo backpacking.

The Survival Card I comes with a wide variety of tools that will help you get out of a sticky situation, but not necessarily be useful for everyday use.

It’s the same size as a credit card and weighs less than two ounces. Also, it includes a hole for lanyard attachment, making it’s easy to wear or carry with you whenever you head out into the great outdoors.

Features:

  • Skeletonized, Serrated Knife
  • Magnesium Alloy Fire Starter
  • Loud Safety Whistle
  • 8x Power Magnifying Lens
  • Compass
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers

Weight: 1.3 oz.

Length: 1.6 in.

Height: 0.6 in.

PROS

  • Extremely light weight
  • Lifetime Warranty

CONS

  • No Longer Manufactured

Tool Logic® is a brand name and registered trademark of SOG Specialty Knives. ToolLogic.com has no relationship with SOG Specialty Knives, direct or indirect, and we don’t imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

Conclusion

There are a ton of multi-tools available and for a wide variety of uses, but when it comes to choosing which multi-tool to use when backpacking, it really comes down to a few features and making sure that it’s light weight and durable.

These are the best multi-tools for backpacking based on my needs and experiences, and hopefully my reviews can help you decide which multipurpose tool best fits your needs when out and about in the great outdoors.

What features do you need in a backpacking multi-tool or when have you found yourself needing a multi-tool out in the back country? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author Josh P.

I'm a computer geek by day, but I've been building and fixing stuff for as long as I can remember. I have a passion for DIY and woodworking projects and my wife considers me a tool junkie. One day I hope to finish the never-ending list of home improvement and remodeling jobs around the house.

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