I have been trekking for years now, mostly in Scandinavia, Canada and Peru. For most of treks we had to be sustainable and carry food for 10-14 days at a time - so weight is always a big issue.

Obviously this requires very optimized equipment, and for this reason I never considered bringing a multitool (like a swisstool or leatherman): personally I just never saw the benefit of such a tool, as out in the wild I essentially never encountered situations that would call for pliers, screwdrivers, or any of the other sophisticated tools.

However, over the years I have seen plenty of people who absolutely swear by their multitools and bring them on every occasion, including long hikes or trekking trips.

I'd like to know of you:

  • Why do you bring your multitool on long trips?
  • What kinds of purposes does it serve, which a normal knife can't?

2 Answers 2


There's always a difference between required and excessive. A lot of these multi tools have specific purposes. Do I require a screwdriver on a trek? Mostly no. Will I use a knife, a pair of scissors or even a pair of tweezers? Mostly Yes.

So do I recommend carrying a multi tool to a trek? Yes. But having said that, there are multitude of these tools out there. What one needs to look at is the one which makes sense for a trek. I have multitools which have the basic knife-scissor-tweezer-pin combination and also another one with a screwdriver-plier combination. I do not carry the screwdriver ones on treks. They are heavy and pretty much useless.

What all have I used my multi tools for?

  • Cutting fruits, opening cans, opening up packed food.
  • Removing thorns from my fingers using tweezers.
  • Sewing up my shoes with reamer (a temporary but useful solution).

On a lighter note, once when I was on a forest survey, I met a fellow who felt his swiss multi tool knife could provide him sufficient protection against wild animals. So yeah, for some, it might give some mental strength as well :D ;)


What a normal knife can't? That would be a very selective list. And probably one could argue that pretty much everything could be achieved using a normal knife with sufficient skill. Personally I do not use a bigger knife for delicate stuff like removing a splinter ;). Also, I've met folks who do not carry a knife (mostly those going for guided treks) and prefer multi tool instead. I also believe that the human tendency to feel more comfortable with more options has to do with this somehow.

  • 2
    In Canada you can also use the tweezers to remove ticks which may carry the Lyme disease.
    – ppl
    Jul 7, 2015 at 16:04
  • Tick removal is also a major concern in the northeastern USA.
    – KRyan
    Jul 7, 2015 at 20:34
  • Are you guys saying that there aren't ticks in other parts of the world?
    – ShemSeger
    Jul 8, 2015 at 0:03
  • There are ticks in Europe too, and they can also carry nasty diseases.
    – fgysin
    Jul 8, 2015 at 6:30
  • 1
    You use tweezers to remove ticks?! You are just begging to burst the body and leave the head inside the wound. As a Team Medic I am imploring you stop doing this and invest in a tick removal tool ($3). If you must use tweezers there is a dedicated technique. bada-uk.org/correct-tick-removal/… Jul 9, 2015 at 23:18

I carry a compact Victorinox Swiss Army Knife (Huntsman) which I find perfectly adequate for all of the situations I have encountered in the wilderness.

If you consider that too heavy to carry (3.5 inches and 28grams) then you need to reevaluate your fitness (joke!) and what kind of trade-offs you are making between weight and functionality.

As an ex-soldier I know plenty of guys who swear by huge industrial leatherman tools but I have never felt they were particularly more efficient.

Here are my primary reasons;

  • The UK has very stringent laws regarding knives; it's not worth owning a larger variant
  • I will always need to cut paracord or tape or bandages so a small blade is fine
  • I often strip sticks for the kids into items/poles
  • I have sawn down small foliage for various reasons
  • I have used the bottle opener several times ;-)
  • I have whittled poles to slot into the eyeholes of the tarp
  • I have used the tweezers quite a few times

But ultimately it is really the idea that I would rather have a small, useful utility tool in my packing list and not need than the other way about.

If I was trekking the Appalachian Trail or the Rockies I would probably invest in a large, suitable knife because you are correct; 90% of the actions involve cutting, sawing, stripping or the blade portion in some way but for the UK and most of Europe a Swiss Army Knife is perfectly adequate.

The limitation of a multi-tool versus a knife is the force you can bring to bare through the handle of a knife as a hammer-like strike (tent pegs, stakes, general all-round man smashing of stuff).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.