By Gibbs Milliken
Small multi-tools are becoming as popular as pocketknives.
Each year, designers and manufacturers become more ingenious at making it possible to carry an assortment of handy, lightweight and functional tools in a small space.
The compact multi-tools described here are smaller than three inches when closed. Each of these products has the mandatory knife blade, but also carries a set of other tools. All these products have rings or holes for attaching a lanyard, snap-clip, or key chain for easy access and loss prevention.
Among the most complete is the Swiss Army Champ ($70, Model #53501, Swiss Army Knives, (800) 243-4032, www.swissarmy.com). It contains a myriad of precision instruments and performs small tasks efficiently. Because of its bulk and weight, this model is best carried in a belt-case. The much smaller Midnight Manager II ($32, Model #53856, color: translucent ruby, Swiss Army Knives) contains such urban essentials as scissors, nail file, screwdrivers, a retractable ballpoint pen and handy red LED flashlight.
Another lighted model is the well-crafted Dakota Micro Torch Tool ($24.95, Dakota Watch Co., (636) 922-5502, www.dakotawatchco.com). Constructed of high-grade stainless steel, the unit has a main pair of needle-nose pliers, wire cutters and seven survival tools. The attached white LED flashlight has a very strong beam, adjustable resting/clamping positions and folds partially into the handle for storage.
Perhaps the best functioning and easiest to use of the micro tools is the Schrade Tough Chip ($32.95, Model #ST-2, Imperial Schrade, (845) 647-7600, www.schradeknives.com). When open, this design has a tool-locking safety and a frame just large enough for a secure grip. The heavy-duty shears are sharp and strong, with comfortable spring-loaded handles contoured for excellent cutting leverage. Also included are a two-sided removable diamond file, great for sharpening fishhooks and knife blades, functional-sized tweezers and a toothpick. The knife blade, driver heads, and accessories are easily accessed with the tool open or folded.
The ultra-compact Abel Perfect Tool ($40, Abel Products, (805) 484-8789, www.abelreels.com) is designed specifically as a fishing accessory. It has all the essential fix-it items for a freshwater fly fisher. Attached to a retractor, this light all-in-one folds into a tiny unit that can be dropped into a pocket or hang free for ready use.
Another design in a compact contemporary frame is the Leatherman Squirt ($39, Model S-4, Color: storm gray, Leatherman Tool Group, (800) 847-8665, www.leatherman.com). This is offered in assorted colors and is a fine quality, smoothly finished unit featuring sharp scissors and tools for delicate tasks. The most modern style in compact tools is the Credit Card Companion ($22.50, ToolLogic, (800) 483-8422, www.toollogic.com). Constructed flat like a credit card, the thin plastic case has pull-apart tools including a large knife-head, small can opener/screw driver, plastic compass, magnifier, toothpick and tweezers.