Multi-Tools: How Much Do You Need?

tn_c5795_multitoolThe versatility of a multitool makes it a great holiday gift for just about anyone. Like a Swiss Army knife, this all-in-one gadget lets you carry multiple tools in one compact, easily portable form.

But all multi-tools are not the same, and wading through the vast array of options available can seem overwhelming. Models range from deluxe tools with lots of bells and whistles to lightweight, efficient versions that are pared down to the basic necessities.

In order to get the best value out of a multi-tool, it’s important to assess the needs of the individual you’re buying for and choose a model specifically tailored for them. Here’s what you should keep in mind during your search:

Every multi-tool is different.

There’s a wide variety of multi-tools on the market, and many are customized for specific situations. Some are geared for fishing or kayaking, while others cater more to campers or handymen. Some are intended for tough repair jobs on the river or trail, and some just offer basic utility while you’re out and about. Consider who will be using the tool and what they will need it for before making a selection.

Every multi-tool user is also different.

There are people who keep a single multi-tool on hand in case of emergencies, and there are people who own a variety of them for different situations and use them on a regular basis. A connoisseur will have more specific requirements and preferences than a casual user. You should also consider how the tool will be carried. On a tool belt, every ounce of weight matters, so the tool should be as efficient and streamlined as possible. In a purse or bag, however, a little extra weight doesn’t make as much of a difference so it’s okay to go for a slightly heavier tool with more functionality.

More is not necessarily better.

There’s no point in spending extra money for a tool that has unnecessary bells and whistles. Even though multi-tools are compact and portable, unused gadgets still add extra weight and bulk, so it’s a good idea to stop and consider whether that saw or awl really will come in handy someday. Choose the smallest, lightest multi-tool that meets your needs.

Comparison shopping is key.

Selecting the right multi-tool is about identifying which tools will be used most often and which will be the most potentially handy in an unforeseen situation. Make a list of essential features you’re looking for in a multi-tool, and find several models that fit the bill. Then compare the additional gadgets they offer and weigh which would be most useful to you. Once you’ve identified the important features you’re looking for, consider the user’s other hobbies and interests. If the person is a wine drinker, look for a tool with a corkscrew. If you’re buying for a camper, a fork and spoon might be appreciated.

Men and women may prefer different gadgets.

When choosing a multi-tool for a wife or girlfriend, keep in mind that a woman will often have different priorities than a man. For example, many multi-tool fans claim scissors are pointless because you can just use a knife for cutting, but a woman would be more likely to use scissors for many jobs. Also, choose a tool with screwdrivers and not just bit drivers, as many women will not want to carry bits with them.

Form can be as important as function.

A good multi-tool should be streamlined and fit nicely in the hand. It should also be easy to carry, whether on a tool belt or in a purse. If it’s too bulky or intimidating, it might end up tucked in a drawer instead of carried around and used.

There’s no need to be put off by all of the different multi-tool options out there. With a little extra consideration, you can choose a tool that will provide maximum use and value for the holidays and beyond.

~Nicole Krueger, 2009

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