They could be ignored no longer. The innovation we've seen in multi-tools has demanded we take a look at the latest, coolest iterations and let you know about them. The Tread (see at the bottom of this file), a whole new way to look at multi-tools, got us excited. The Center Drive got us hitting our foreheads, saying, "Why didn't I think of that?" The Synch, above, which replaces your belt buckle, just made us smile. It's likely that one of these might be just right for your next adventure. — John Geiger
1. SOG Sync II
Specs — MSRP: $88. WEBSITE: sogknives.com. NUMBER OF TOOLS: 12. WEIGHT: 8.9 oz. CLOSED LENGTH: 3.1 inches. BLADE LENGTH: 2 inches. BLADE MATERIAL: Zinc alloy.
THIS NIFTY tool features pliers, wire cutters, a file, a flathead screwdriver, a bottle opener, a ruler, a knife and more in a compact package, with a quick-release button for access. One of the best features, though, is that the Sync can be used to replace the buckle on a belt, which turns the tool into an everyday carry item with extremely easy access. Very clever. — Paul Rackley
What We Liked: The fact that this becomes your belt buckle makes it easy for everyday carry.
What We'd Change: The Sync II is a little large and heavy for carrying on a belt. Plus, who has a belt that they can easily change out the buckle on?
2. Real Avid Gun Tool Max
Specs — MSRP: $59. WEBSITE: realavid.com. NUMBER OF TOOLS: 37. WEIGHT: 13.2 oz. CLOSED LENGTH: 4.5 inches. BLADE LENGTH: 2.73 inches. BLADE MATERIAL: Stainless.
THE MAX has 37 tools on it. They range from the needle-nose pliers, a driver with 12 bits and a 3.25-inch drop point blade to the more obscure: a shotgun choke wrench and carbon scraper. It may not be top-shelf, but you have to love the $50 price tag. It really is a great tool to have in your backpack. You never know when you might need a T15 Torx, right? — JG
What We Liked: You get a whole lot of gun tools for a low price.
What We'd Change: There is some play in these tools. It just does not have the quality that the other tools have. If you use it a lot, expect to be buying a new one next year.
3. Gerber Center Drive
Specs — MSRP: $119. WEBSITE: gerbergear.com. NUMBER OF TOOLS: 14 (plus 12 bits). WEIGHT: 9.5 oz. CLOSED LENGTH: 4.7 inches. BLADE LENGTH: 3.25 inches. BLADE MATERIAL: 420 HC stainless.
THIS IS one of those watershed tools that have solved a decades-old problem that limited multi-tool usefulness. Gerber must have heard my teeth grind, and they've simply put a bend in the driver so it is in the exact center of the tool when it's opened and in use. No more head sliding off the slot. 12 common bits included. Is this multi-tool Nirvana? — JG
What We Liked: An answer to your knuckles' prayers if you often need a screwdriver or you use bits.
What We'd Change: Less plastic, which will break long before the stainless; it's bulky, especially if you're carrying the bits as well.
4. Leatherman Signal
Specs — MSRP: $99. WEBSITE: leatherman.com. NUMBER OF TOOLS: 19. WEIGHT: 7.5 oz. CLOSED LENGTH: 4.5 inches. BLADE LENGTH: 2.73 inches. BLADE MATERIAL: 420 HC stainless.
LEATHERMAN built this for outdoor adventurers. It blends useful features that Leatherman fans would be familiar with, including most of what you'll often need and a little of what you'll be happy to have, just in case. For example, the 19-function Signal has a saw, fire-starter, sharpener and whistle. There's a handy carabiner and pocket clip. — Shaun Epperson
What We Liked: Solid and backed with a 25-year warranty. Nice back-up survival tools for long-term backcountry stays.
What We'd Change: I would swap the awl for a pair of scissors to be able to snip line while fishing.
5. Havalon Evolve
Specs — MSRP: $94. WEBSITE: havalon.com. NUMBER OF TOOLS: 8 (plus extra blades). WEIGHT: 6.7 oz. CLOSED LENGTH: 4.5 inches. BLADE LENGTH: 2.125-3.75 inches. BLADE MATERIAL: Stainless.
Havalon's Jim Shockey Series Evolve Multi-Tool is pliers-based and features a gut hook in addition to features like carabiner clip, bottle opener, wire cutter/stripper, and locking bit driver. A flathead and Phillips head are included, and the Evolve also has a rail system for storing extra heads. The blade is a surgical knife that can easily be switched to a new, sharp blade or saw in the field. — David Johnson
What We Liked: The gut hook is practical, and included safety cases are great for quick blade change-outs.
What We'd Change: If you use specialty bits, the rail storage system for extras is good, but we'd just as soon see another tool there.
6. Victorinox SwissTool BS
Specs — MSRP: $200. WEBSITE: victorinox.com. NUMBER OF TOOLS: 22. WEIGHT: 10.2 oz. CLOSED LENGTH: 4.5 inches. BLADE LENGTH: 2.94 inches. BLADE MATERIAL: Black oxide stainless.
I REALLY like a few features in this souped-up Swiss Army knife. The pliers are substantial and the handles are extra long, which give the pliers more torque. I am a big fan of the fact that all of the fold-out tools fold out from the outside of the tool. That is, you do not have to open the pliers up to access the knife or any other tools. And they all lock. Nice. - — JG
What We Liked: This plier-multi-tool is longer and heavier than most others. Two knives, one serrated.
What We'd Change: I'd prefer a one-hand-opening knife. And $200 is a lot for a multi-tool.
Here's one more to consider:
Wrist Rocket: Leatherman Tread
This is the first bracelet-style multi-tool that we are aware of. Allen wrenches, hex drives, flat-head drivers, even a small line cutter, are built into the many 17-4 stainless sections. You won't have pliers, but that's not the point: you can do a whole lot with this tool without putting anything in your pocket or on your belt. They say it's Transportation Security Adminstration OK, although we weren't excited about testing that. — JG