By Greg McReynolds
A multitool is an essential carry item for upland hunters—expected to handle tasks ranging from trimming burrs to opening cans of dog food. Once the domain of a single maker, the multitool has turned into a full-fledged industry with dozens of choices from a host of manufacturers.
For upland hunters, pliers are the core function, especially if their dogs have an encounter with a porcupine or cactus. Other helpful items include a quality knife, screwdrivers, a file and scissors.
Seldom considered is a multitool’s ability to cut the hard wire rope used in snares for coyotes and bobcats—and that unintentionally may ensnare hunting dogs. Wire rope is a challenge to cut and requires bypass cutters, as opposed to anvil-type cutters.
We tested four multitools, evaluating their usefulness for the uplands and their ability to cut the 7×7 stranded wire commonly used in snares.
The SOG Powerlock had the best pliers in the test. It has a unique, geared design for compound leverage on the jaws and gives significant cutting/crimping force with little effort. All the tools are tucked inside the pliers, and there is a removable cover hiding the knife blade, screwdrivers, wood saw, scissors and other tools. Every tool locks in the open position. The Powerlock includes a can opener, a file and an excellent pair of scissors. The knife blade is a small, half-serrated, clip-point blade that does not open with one hand but does lock. This was the only tool in the test that cut the stranded wire in one try, and the non-replaceable bypass cutting blades stayed sharp through multiple cuts of the wire. While the Powerlock’s other tools are less accessible and the knife blade does not make a great pocketknife replacement, the pliers alone make this multitool an excellent buy. If my dog were in trouble and I needed wire cutters or pliers in a hurry, this is the tool I would want at hand. Weight: 9.6 oz. Price (including Cordura sheath with belt clip): $75. SOG.
The Victorinox Swisstool was the lightest and most compact multitool tested. All of its tools, including screwdrivers, scissors and a wood saw, are accessible from the outside without opening the pliers, and all lock in the open position, with a slider mechanism releasing them for closure. The blade, which is serrated and square-tipped, does not open with one hand. The Swisstool feels very much like a tool and wouldn’t work well as a knife for tasks like skinning. I really like its size and that it includes a metal file and can opener. It has bypass-style cutters with non-replaceable blades, and it took two tries to cut the stranded wire—although the blades were easy to squeeze and stayed sharp through multiple cuts. As the most compact and lightest tool in the test, the Swisstool would be a great choice for carrying in a hunting vest and as a supplement to a standard pocketknife. Weight: 7.4 oz. Price (including leather sheath): $105. Victorinox.
The Leatherman Surge is substantial, and its most commonly used tools (two knife blades, a saw and scissors) are accessible from the outside without having to open the pliers. The less-used tools (screwdrivers, bit driver and so on) are located inside the pliers handles. Every tool locks in the open position. The Surge has two knife blades—one plain drop-point blade and a serrated sheepsfoot—that are opened easily with one hand and use liner locks that make for one-handed closing. This model had the two most useful knife blades in the test. I like that it includes scissors, a metal file (that can be swapped out with a saw blade) and a can opener. The Surge has bypass-style cutters with replaceable blades. It took two tries to cut the stranded wire, but the tool did cut through it and the blades stayed sharp through multiple cuts. Although the Surge is a little bulky and heavy, the two one-handed blades make it a good pocketknife replacement that covers all the essential functions. Weight: 12.5 oz. Price (including Cordura sheath): $130. Leatherman.
The Gerber Center-Drive Plus is an interesting concept based on the idea of a center-axis screwdriver. This tool has the best screwdriver in the group, and it comes with 14 standard ¼” drive bits. (You can customize the bit lineup at your local hardware store.) One bit is held in the screwdriver and a second in the handle, with the 12 spare bits coming in a plastic holder that fits in the sheath. The spear-point blade is half serrated, opens with one hand and has a liner lock for one-handed closure. The screwdriver also is accessible without opening the pliers. Other tools include scissors and a file, and everything locks open. There is no can opener. The pliers were the only ones in the test that had a light spring load to keep the jaws open—which I can attest is a handy feature when pulling porcupine quills out of a dog. The replaceable, rotatable, bypass cutters took two tries to cut the stranded wire, but they stayed sharp through multiple cuts. Weight: 9.5 oz. Price (including leather sheath, 14 drive bits and holder): $104. Gerber.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHRIS SIEFKEN