A multitool is a toolkit in your pocket for when you need it the most. The Yachting Monthly team put eight popular models to the test

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made use of the blades, pliers, screwdrivers, files or saws on my multitool while cruising, saving me time by not having to access the boat toolkit, so picking the best mutitool for boating and for your needs is important for many of us sailors.

A multitool is often considered a jack of all trades and master of none, and while using the correct tool for a job should yield better results, it’s not possible to carry a full toolkit in your pocket on board, or have all the tools on hand, especially when working alone or in the confines of a yacht.

On board my yacht, I have several ‘levels’ of toolkits, each with more tools.

These are buried deeper in my tool locker depending on the severity of the problem, but a multitool lives either in my pocket while sailing, or on the chart table so I can find it night or day, in calm or panic.

There are so many to choose from and all have different features and uses. Some are also better for sailors than others, so we selected eight popular models to see how they cope with life on board to find the best multitool for sailors.

Note: Under Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, it is illegal to carry a folding knife with a blade longer than 7.62cm (3in) in public without good reason. See more on knife law at the bottom of this feature.

The best multitool for boating: 8 tested

The Leatherman Wave has an excellent range of useful tools

The Leatherman Wave has an excellent range of useful tools

Leatherman Wave

Best on test

Specifications
Make: Leatherman
Model: Wave
Weight: 241g
Blade length: 72mm
Closed length: 100mm
Locking blade: Yes
Features: 17
Singlehanded use: Yes

This knife has four main blades: straight, serrated, wood saw, and metal saw with coarse and fine files, all of which can be locked open.

The wood saw was easily the best on test and ferociously sharp. Both cutting blades can be opened singlehanded.

It has good needlenose pliers, with wire cutters and strippers incorporated into them.

There’s a small reversible screwdriver fitting for flat/cross head screws (other bits are available) as well as a fine reversible screwdriver.

Care needs to be taken folding the scissors; they can be easily damaged.

There’s a lanyard loop, but using it impedes the screwdriver.

Buy the Leatherman Wave at Westmarine
Buy the Leatherman Wave at Amazon

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The Lockspike Captain is one of many traditional knives from UK firm, Currey

The Lockspike Captain is one of many traditional knives from UK firm, Currey

Currey Lockspike Captain

Best budget buy

Specifications
Make: Currey
Model: Lockspike
Weight: 140g
Blade length: 62mm
Closed length: 93mm
Locking blade: No
Features: 4
Singlehanded use: No

A good, solid – and weighty – traditional knife.

There are four knives in the range, each offering different features based around the original 1940 Lockspike Bosun design.

We tested the Lockspike Captain, which has a straight unserrated blade, a shackle key/ bottle opener and an excellent marlinspike that locks open – great for when you’re trying to prise open a really tight knot.

Its all-stainless- steel construction fared the best in the saltwater test.

The curved marlinspike makes the top of the handle when using the knife. It comes with a neat knotted lanyard.

The fastening loop on the knife locks the marlinspike.

Buy the Currey Lockspike Captain at eBay

This micro multitool performed better than its looks might suggest

This micro multitool performed better than its looks might suggest

Gerber Bear Grylls

Specifications
Make: Gerber
Model: Bear Grylls Compact
Weight: 85g
Blade length: 45mm
Closed length: 64mm
Locking blade: No
Features: 10
Singlehanded use: Yes

With the feel more like a novelty toy than a multitool, we were surprised how useful this little multitool could be.

It’s not the most robust of tools so don’t expect too much from it; our heavy-handed test team managed to bend the pliers while testing.

The screwdrivers were easy to use but the chassis of the tool twisted as we used them. The small blade handled the thinner rope well but had a harder job with thicker line.

It is, however, very compact and although small, the blades worked well.

None of the blades locked, so you’re free to carry the knife in your pocket with impunity, as long as you don’t try flying with it.

This is a handy tool to have with you to sort out small problems, but don’t give it too much to take on.

Buy the Gerber Bear Grylls at eBay

Many variants of this knife are available

Many variants of this knife are available

Wichard Offshore

Specifications
Make: Wichard
Model: Offshore – single blade
Weight: 85g
Blade length: 80mm
Closed length: 115mm
Locking blade: Yes
Features: 4
Singlehanded use: Yes

Wichard sent us their range of knives (available in many variants and colours), but we lost the Offshore with blade, shackle key and spike version in the River Medina (and it doesn’t float).

The version shown is the single-blade Offshore.

Both blade and spike/ shackle key/bottle opener can be opened singlehanded and lock into place; a button on the top of the handle unlocks each blade – a two-handed operation.

This version had a semi- serrated blade to aid cutting modern UHMWPE ropes.

The grip was comfortable and the best on test.

Not feature laden, but a good simple knife.

Buy the Wichard Offshore at Westmarine
Buy the Wichard Offshore at Amazon

Best multitool for sailors: The many simple tools fold up neatly

The many simple tools fold up neatly

Victorinox Angler

Specifications
Make: Victorinox
Model: Angler
Weight: 113g
Blade length: 60mm
Closed length: 91mm
Locking blade: No
Features: 18
Singlehanded use: No

The Angler fits easily into a pocket and doesn’t fall foul of the law, so you can keep it with you day in and day out.

It has all the features one would hope to find like various screwdrivers, small pliers, a reamer, bottle opener and a corkscrew.

It features a large and a small blade but like all blades on this knife, none of them lock open, so care is advised while using the reamer, corkscrew and screwdrivers as they can fold while in use.

The blades polished up nicely after its month in a wet ‘pocket’, the interior parts less so.

Not the most robust of knives, but it is small and light enough to be with you all the time.

Buy the Victorinox Angler at Amazon
Buy the Victorinox Angler at eBay

Best Multitool for sailors: With 33 separate functions, the Swiss Champ had more features than the rest

With 33 separate functions, the Swiss Champ had more features than the rest

Victorinox Swiss Champ

Specifications
Make: Victorinox
Model: Swiss Champ
Weight: 185g
Blade length: 60mm
Closed length: 91mm
Locking blade: No
Features: 33
Singlehanded use: No

I doubt there isn’t a boy scout in the land who wouldn’t swap an armful of badges for this Swiss army knife.

However, what’s good for the Swiss army and boy scouts doesn’t necessarily make a good knife for sailing.

The blades came through the saltwater test shining, but the insides of the knife were less corrosion resistant.

None of blades lock open.

The only time this was a problem was when applying pressure while screwing – the driver blades can fold on to your hand.

The pliers are okay for small jobs but aren’t big.

This knife has all the blades one could wish for, and while it has pliers, we missed a shackle key.

Buy the Victorinox Swiss Champ at Amazon

Best multitool: A good selection of practical tools. The knife blade can be opened with ease

A good selection of practical tools. The knife blade can be opened with ease

Gerber Crucial

Specifications
Make: Gerber
Model: Crucial
Weight: 142g
Blade length: 58mm
Closed length: 109mm
Locking blade: 91mm
Features: 9
Singlehanded use: Yes

This Gerber was one of the comfiest knifes to use.

It also had a handy belt clip as well as a built- in karabiner for when you can’t put it down – great if working aloft.

It might not have many features, but it has the basics, and more than others around the same price.

The blade is very easy to access singlehandedly and one of the few possible with gloves on, thanks to the raised nub on the blade.

The pliers weren’t the strongest on test but did a reasonable job.

The tool gave lots of leverage when using the screwdrivers, but the flex was a little disconcerting and the screwdriver tended to strip the screw heads.

Buy the Gerber Crucial at Westmarine
Buy the Gerber Crucial at Amazon

The pliers, incorporating wire cutters and coarse grip, were among the best tested

The pliers, incorporating wire cutters and coarse grip, were among the best tested

Leatherman Sidekick

Specifications
Make: Leatherman
Model: Sidekick
Weight: 198g
Blade length: 60mm
Closed length: 97mm
Locking blade: Yes
Features: 14
Singlehanded use: Yes

The polished stainless-steel Sidekick looks the business.

It has two main lockable blades: a straight blade and a wickedly sharp saw. The tool feels solid and you can use it singlehanded, but the blades weren’t the easiest to access.

Unlike the pliers on the Wave, these are spring loaded and easier to use.

There are also wood/metal files and a serrated blade, but all three are shorter than the main blade, making them a little less usable.

It has good range of tools, though some are fiddly to access. It also comes with a karabiner accessory including a hex driver hole and a bottle opener.

Buy the Leatherman Sidekick at Westmarine
Buy the Leatherman Sidekick at Amazon
Buy the Leatherman Sidekick at eBay

Best multitool for boating conclusions

In spite of playing with knives for many days, the YM test team’s fingers remain intact and any cuts are healing nicely.

All the multitools had very sharp blades and no one blade stood out for sharpness during the test period.

The only other tool that all the knives had was a bottle opener; we checked these all worked well.

You’ll have to prioritise which tools you want the most and which you will actually use.

The Leatherman Wave was the most expensive, but its quality and collection of tools stood out

The Leatherman Wave was the most expensive, but its quality and collection of tools stood out

The Victorinox Swiss Champ leads the way in the features, possibly too many – which add bulk, and while the blades lasted well in a oilskin pocket, the plates between them showed signs of corrosion.

The Wichard was simple, light and comfortable to use.

The decent lockable marlinspike, proper lanyard and build quality of the the Currey Lockspike Captain feel like the knife will survive for years and be passed from one generation to the next makes it our Best Budget Buy.

The Gerber Crucial offers the basic tools one needs, a fairly reasonable set of pliers and true singlehanded operation of the blade, with the ability to open and unlock with ease.

All this, and good value for money too.

Yachting Monthly’s Best on Test, however, goes to the Leatherman Wave, even though it was the most expensive on test by some way.

With the exception of the scissors, all the tools feel solid and work well. It is Leatherman’s most popular knife and it’s easy to see why; it has all the tools one actually needs.

An excellent set of pliers and four good, lockable and easy-to- access blades and a variety of screwdrivers and other tools, all ready at a moment’s notice.

How we tested to find the best multitool

No one multitool had the same tools as the next, so we devised a number of challenges typical to those one might find on a fraught voyage with the Yachting Monthly team.

The best knife in the world is no good if you can’t get into it, so all the knives were opened, if possible, with one hand, two hands, bare hands and gloved.

Next, the blades were tested, cutting rope on a flat surface and looped.

Where a knife had a shackle key, this was tested; where it didn’t, we used the tool’s pliers.

Cutting rope on a flat surface was one of the tests while searching for the best multitool for sailors

Cutting rope on a flat surface was one of the tests

All knives had to have one or the other to make our selection.

Screwdrivers were tested by driving brass screws into seasoned pine, with no pilot holes, to assess the tool’s grip on the screw and whether the driver blades would fold in.

Saw blades were tested on a 2in x 2in piece of timber. While the saw blades were short, it was good to see how they would cope in an emergency.

Finally, we soaked all the tools in seawater and left them for a month in plastic bags – as tools left in wet oilskin pockets can be – to see how well they fended off corrosion.

Knives and the law

On a boat, a locking blade is good, but carry a knife with a locking blade around in public in the UK and you could have it confiscated or face a maximum of four years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Under Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, it is illegal to carry a folding knife with a blade longer than 7.62cm (3in) in public without good reason.

Folding knifes with a locking blade are classified as lock knives.

These too are illegal to carry in public without good reason.

While both types are illegal in public, there is the caveat that you can carry a knife if you have a reasonable cause for doing so.

The wording of the law states you can take knives you use at work, to and from work. But there is no mention of use for a leisure activities such as camping, fishing and
sailing.

I spoke to my local police about this and they said that sailing could be considered good reason, but it would be a decision for the courts.

Interestingly, even if you are using the screwdriver on a multitool with a locking blade in a public place, it is still an illegal weapon.

If, in your haste to make it to the closest pub your knife is still in your pocket and you are stopped by the police and searched, you are neither on your way to work nor in the act of perusing a hobby – so be wary.

However, if you are going to or from your car from your boat, it’s more likely for a court to consider this a good reason.