A good multi-tool is an essential part of any gear set, but with the plethora of tools to choose from, making the proper selection can be difficult. The top two manufacturers in the field, Leatherman and Gerber, produce a wide variety of multi-tools, from keychain-sized to heavy-duty construction tools. For outdoor/camping/survival use, the best multi-tools should have a good variety of offerings, sturdy construction, and be easy to use.
The Tale of the Tape
The Gerber Multi-Plier 600 Bluntnose offers: Tungsten carbide insert cutters; bluntnose pliers; wire crimper; fine edge knife; serrated knife; cross point screwdriver; small, medium, and large flat-blade screwdriver; lanyard ring; can opener; bottle opener; file; ruler; and locking tool mechanism. The stainless steel tool weighs nine ounces.
The Leatherman Wave offers: needlenose pliers; regular pliers; hard wire cutters; wire cutters; wire stripper; 420HC knife; 420HC serrated knife; saw; spring-action scissors; ruler; can opener; bottle opener; wood/metal file; diamond-coated file; lanyard ring; large bit driver; small bit driver; medium screwdriver; and locking tool mechanism. The 420 high-carbon stainless steel tool comes in at 8.5 ounces.
The Features That Set the Tools Apart
The Gerber 600 has all its tools located on the inside of the handle. This means that you cannot access the tools unless the pliers are deployed. It has a one-handed open feature, which makes opening it very easy — with a flick of the wrist, the pliers fly out. You’d be surprised how often you only have one hand available when you need a tool.
The Leatherman Wave is made of a more sturdy steel. The 420 high-carbon stainless steel holds an edge better than standard stainless steel. It also has four tools accessible from the outside: both knives, the saw, and the file. This is handy when you just want to get to commonly used tools and not have to open the pliers. Plus, the saw is an essential tool when camping.
There is a noticeable difference in the way the tools feel. The Gerber 600 has a thin wall that encases the internal tools. The Leatherman Wave has a thicker wall that encases the internal tools. The thinner wall of the Gerber 600 makes it feel slightly flimsy. Also, the Gerber 600’s plier head has a little wiggle at the hinges due to the way it’s mounted in the one-handed opening slide.
The Gerber 600 has very powerful Tungsten wire cutters which are superior to the Leatherman Wave’s wire cutters. The Leatherman Wave has a saw, scissors, and needle nose pliers, which are not offered on the Gerber 600.
In terms of price, we’ve seen the Gerber 600 retailed for approximately $40, while the Leatherman Wave retails for approximately $60.
Overall, even with the $20 price difference, the Leatherman Wave is the superior multi-tool. The additional tools, the sturdier construction, and the access to external tools make this the multi-tool you should have on your belt.
Alex Sanchez, “The Nature N3rd,” has spent countless hours in the deep wild. He uses his knowledge to help those just getting acquainted with nature. You can find his basecamp at NatureN3rd.com.