BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools | Boating Magazine

BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools

Some of the best multitools for boaters are put to the test.

BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools

Victorinox Skipper - $88
This traditional-looking Swiss Army knife is targeted to boaters with its long serrated blade, marlinspike and shackle wrench tools.

Blade Lock: 3/3
Tool Presentation: 2/3
Ease of Deployment: 1/3

BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools

Gerber Tactical Bullrush - $69
Graphite sides offer superior grip due to their texture and add a no-glare tactical look and feel.

Blade Lock: 1/3
Tool Presentation: 3/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools

Gerber Industrial MP1 - $115
The blade locks were easy to operate, and the textured surface of the graphite grips was secure in our hand.

Blade Lock: 3/3
Tool Presentation: 3/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools

Leatherman Charge TTi - $183.40
Its textured titanium grips are secure. The blades, saw and diamond file deploy from outside. The serrated blade has an efficient strap hook on the back.

Blade Lock: 1/3
Tool Presentation: 2/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools

Leatherman Black Wave - $100
Comparable to Leatherman’s TTi, the Black Wave has a tactical finish and lacks only the onboard strap hook to be a rescue-ready tool.

Blade Lock: 1/3
Tool Presentation: 2/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools

SOG PowerAssist EOD - $126.50
Built with special forces in mind, the Black Oxide tactical finish is glare-free and corrosion-resistant.

Blade Lock: 2/3
Tool Presentation: 1/3
Ease of Deployment: 1/3

BoatingLAB Tests: Multitools

Victorinox Swisstool Spirit Plus - $149
This highly polished stainless-steel tool builds on the Swiss Army (since 1891)legacy. Safe and easily operating blade locks tied with the Gerber MP1’s.

Blade Lock: 3/3
Tool Presentation: 3/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

We didn’t expect to find the perfect multitool, but each of these proved its mettle. Weaknesses were all normal trade-offs expected from adding features in a compact tool. But damn, the blades were sharp and they stayed that way after we hacked at some of the most abrasive ropes, like three-strand nylon, Manila rope and the polyethylene rope from a crab pot buoy.

Versatile and User-Friendly
Versatility is a function of the number of tools, the ease of deploying those tools and the subjective “usefulness” of any given tool for its intended use. These are the features we valued, and how we scored for each.

Blade Lock Points
3 = Locks are located behind the blade.
2 = Locks are beside the blade.
1 = Locks are in the path of the folding blade.

Tool Presentation Points
3 = All tools are presented with pliers closed.
2 = Most tools are presented with pliers closed.
1 = Significant tools are inside plier handles.

Ease of Deployment
3 = All tools are easily, singly deployable.
2 = Some tools require a strong thumbnail.
**1 ** = Some tools can’t be deployed without opening other tools for access.

Blade Sharpness
We didn’t score blades for sharpness. These were all amply sharp and held their edge, never needing honing in our tests, but we proved this: Straight blades were better at carving, shaving and whittling and still strong for cutting rope in a single pass. Serrated blades didn’t cut a folded rope any easier than straight blades did, but when we wrapped Manila and poly rope around a solid object, simulating a fouled prop, a serrated blade was superior at “sawing” it free. Long blades were better for cutting rope. Short blades took multiple passes to do the job. Short, serrated blades were even more difficult.

Clippers and Strippers
Clipping 14-gauge wire proved one tool had a cleaner cut than the rest. Only the SOG’s Crimper fastened a 14-gauge butt connector. Wire strippers weren’t much more effective than a blade edge. Narrow strap hooks cut better. Guess which crosshead driver sunk 1-inch screws best in our fastener test.

Victorinox Skipper - $88
This traditional-looking Swiss Army knife is targeted to boaters with its long serrated blade, marlinspike and shackle wrench tools. Its genteel design includes a corkscrew, toothpick and tweezer.

Blade Lock: 3/3
Tool Presentation: 2/3
Ease of Deployment: 1/3

Best Individual Tools: The 3¼-inch, as-sharp-as-it-gets serrated blade will saw the prop free of crab pot lines.

Fail: It lacks scissors, and the hard-to-open crosshead bit is hidden below the pliers.

Max Tools: 15 (pliers, crimper, wire cutter, serrated blade, two flat screwdrivers, crosshead driver, marlinspike, shackle wrench, can opener, bottle opener, punch/reamer, corkscrew, tweezer, toothpick)

Best Application: Use it for boating, camping, sailing and impromptu cocktail parties.

Carry Options: Lanyard ring

Gerber Tactical Bullrush - $69
Graphite sides offer superior grip due to their texture and add a no-glare tactical look and feel. The strap hook is sharp and easily deployed in an emergency. The half-serrated blade thumbs open, and the crosshead driver includes a modified Frearson bit. Optional bits are available.

Blade Lock: 1/3
Tool Presentation: 3/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

Best Individual Tools: The strap hook is tops in our test for sharpness and ease of use; its wide hook edge could be a gut hook too. Full-size Frearson driver is easy to control for setting screws.

Fail: Wire cutters didn’t cut crisply, and the stripper jaw behind the cutter was imprecise and hindered wire-clipping. You could perhaps open bottles with the strap cutter hook or pliers in a pinch.

Max Tools: 5 (half-serrated blade, pliers, wire cutters, Frearson driver bit, flat blade bit)

Best Application: It’s a great rescue pocket or belt sheath tool, ideal for the ditch bag, rafting or inflatable boat ­applications thanks to the keen-edge, blunt blade.

Carry Options: Ballistic nylon belt sheath

Gerber Industrial MP1 - $115
The blade locks were easy to operate, and the textured surface of the graphite grips was secure in our hand. All the tools, including the hex driver, were presented from the outside of the closed tool, making them easy to select and deploy.

Blade Lock: 3/3
Tool Presentation: 3/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

Best Individual Tools: The 14- to 16-gauge wire stripper was the only one with the capability of a dedicated tool.
This had the quickest and easiest-to-use crosshead driver.

Fail: With all the space in this tool, we wanted to see scissors.

Max Tools: 13 (pliers, wire cutters, straight blade, serrated blade, two screwdrivers, socket driver, Frearson bit driver, bottle opener, can opener, wire stripper, chisel, punch/reamer)

Best Application: Tuck a sleeve of ¼-inch hex bits in your pocket and this tool is prepared for anything from emergency fixes to general-duty routine maintenance around the boat.

Carry Options: Ballistic nylon belt pouch sheath

Leatherman Charge TTi - $183.40
Its textured titanium grips are secure. The blades, saw and diamond file deploy from outside. The serrated blade has an efficient strap hook on the back. This most versatile tool comes with a unique, removable but secure, mounting pocket clip or lanyard ring.

Blade Lock: 1/3
Tool Presentation: 2/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

Best Individual Tools: Sharp scissors cut braid fishing line without adding line tension. Socket driver boasts 14 bits.

Fail: The crimping tool didn’t do the job on our butt connectors, and inboard tools require a strong thumbnail to deploy.

Max Tools: 29 (straight blade, serrated blade, pliers, clippers, file, saw, straight driver, jeweler’s screwdriver, scissors, strap hook, socket driver, 14 bits, crimper, bottle opener, can opener, wire stripper)

Best Application: Titanium grips and SC30V stainless steel make it reliable around salt water with proper care. A full bevy of tools and a great cutting strap hook make it ideal for unexpected ­maintenance or rescue work.

Carry Options: Leather pouch, ­removable locking lanyard ring or pocket clip, plus a fixed lanyard ring

Leatherman Black Wave - $100
Comparable to Leatherman’s TTi, the Black Wave has a tactical finish and lacks only the onboard strap hook to be a rescue-ready tool. Extra socket tool bits are optional, but both blades were comparably sharp and capable.

Blade Lock: 1/3
Tool Presentation: 2/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

Best Individual Tools: Scissors were sharp and cut cleanly. Wire cutters worked crisply. Knives will thumb-deploy as blade hinges break in.

Fail: Inboard tools like scissors and screwdrivers are hard to deploy without a strong thumbnail. Blade locks are in front of folding blades.

Max Tools: 14 (straight blade, serrated blade, pliers, clippers, file, saw, straight driver, jeweler’s screwdriver, scissors, socket driver, two bits, bottle opener, can opener)

Best Application: An ideal tool around the marina, it has two blade options that can cut rope like butter. A full bevy of tools make this multitool ideal for ­unexpected maintenance.

Carry Options: Ballistic nylon belt pouch, retractable lanyard ring

SOG PowerAssist EOD - $126.50
Built with special forces in mind, the Black Oxide tactical finish is glare-free and corrosion-resistant. Compound pliers give plenty of leverage for using wire ­cutters, pliers or the crimping tool. A double safety on each blade keeps each from deploying accidentally.

Blade Lock: 2/3
Tool Presentation: 1/3
Ease of Deployment: 1/3

Best Individual Tools: The blasting cap crimper made short work of our 14-gauge butt connector crimp test. The compound plier multiplies the force of the user’s grip.

Fail: PowerAssist blade deployment was sticky and unreliable, and compound plier gears gave a rough grip in screwdriver use.

Max Tools: 13 (pliers, wire clippers, straight blade, serrated blade, three flat screwdrivers, Frearson crosshead driver, file, strap hook, crimper, bottle opener, can opener)

Best Application: This is a tactical knife ideally suited to extreme applications, survival and evasion. Each of those qualities can be useful around the marina and on board the vessel.

Carry Options: Ballistic nylon belt pouch, lanyard ring

Victorinox Swisstool Spirit Plus - $149
This highly polished stainless-steel tool builds on the Swiss Army (since 1891)legacy. Safe and easily operating blade locks tied with the Gerber MP1’s. All tools deploy from outside the unopened pliers. A ¼-inch hex wrench, corkscrew and jeweler’s screwdriver add civility and utility.

Blade Lock: 3/3
Tool Presentation: 3/3
Ease of Deployment: 3/3

Best Individual Tools: Sharp scissors cut braid fishing line without adding line tension. Socket driver boasts 14 bits and an effective crosshead driver.

Fail: Some kind of texture on the handles would make for a better grip. We’d prefer a straight-edge blade to the wood saw.

Max Tools: 25 (pliers, wire clippers, serrated blade, file, saw, three straight drivers, jeweler’s screwdriver, crosshead driver, punch/reamer, scissors, socket driver, six bits, bottle opener, chisel, can opener, two wire strippers, corkscrew)

Best Application: Highly polished 420 stainless steel makes it reliable around salt water with proper care. A full bevy of tools and compact presentation make it ideal for unexpected maintenance, and the corkscrew will be handy at parties.

Carry Options: Leather pouch

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