Do You Need a Multi Tool for Backpacking

A gray multitool you might need for backpacking

Each hiker, camper, and outdoor enthusiast has their own preferences when it comes to gear. Some claim that one knife is enough if you know how to use it. Others, on the other hand, believe that having the luxury of a specific tool for each task makes life easier in the wild. Finally, there are those who believe that a multitool is the best solution as it’s very light and substitutes a lot of other tools.

Carrying a multi-tool when backpacking provides you with some additional tools which means additional safety in the wild. However, carrying it along with your other tools means increased weight that most people don’t like to lug around. It is up to you to decide whether you prefer extra security or a lighter pack on your camping trip.

Table of Contents

The Pros of Having a Multitool When Backpacking

There are a lot of advantages to having an all-in-one tool with you whether hiking, camping or cycling in the wild.

Multitools Are Lightweight

For most people, a multitool is a great way to encompass everything you need in one item. This can come in extremely handy for ultralight campers, cyclists, or any other adventurer who likes traveling light.

Carrying a multitool along with your small tent bag and collapsible stove when backpacking is like carrying a Swiss Army knife on steroids. If you know how to properly use it, it could replace most of the tools in your pack. This is an effective way to reduce the weight of your pack.

Every pound you save by making your tools more compact is a pound you don’t have to carry around on your hikes. And the lighter your pack, the more ground you’ll be able to cover each day.

No Unnecessary Tool

A big problem with having a separate tool that serves a specific use is that sometimes we don’t get to use them.

If you’re carrying a small hatchet and a saw, you’re likely not going to use them both unless you’re planning on building a specific type of shelter. Having them both on the same tool means you won’t have to lug around a piece of equipment you won’t use. 

This can save you a lot of trouble both when in the wild and when picking gear.

It Has Many Uses

A multitool has as many uses as there are tools on it, and then some. With some creativity, you could probably find even more uses for each tool in there.

Having a multitool with you is generally useful, no matter where you are. That’s why more and more people are incorporating them in their EDC packs.

When backpacking away from your home, you’ll want something that has multiple uses, even if you’re carrying it with all the other tools in your pack. You never know what’s gonna happen and what type of situation you’re going to run into. 

Multitools Keep Everything Safe and in One Place

Having your tools all in one package means there’s little to no chance a single tool will roll off onto the forest floor and out of your sight, lost forever.

This is especially useful with smaller tools such as tweezers, scissors, or a nail file. While these aren’t the most crucial among your gear, you’ll still want to protect them and keep them safe.

In addition to this, you’ll never have to go looking through your pack to find the tool you need for the job. Just take out your all-in-one multitool and you’re set. No need to undo your pack and waste precious daylight rummaging through it.

Of course, most backpackers have a very well-organized pack that grants easy access to all the gear they might need on the trail. However, there’s still something so satisfying when you have all the tools you might need on your belt, ready to be used.

Good for Simple Tasks

Imagine walking on the trail and suddenly you come across some edible plants and/or roots. You don’t want to damage your potential meal by squishing it with your hands or breaking it off where you’re not supposed to.

Your primary knife might be a bit too bulky for the task and your other gear won’t be so accessible. Just take the multitool off your belt and use the small blade on it to gather the wild edibles.

Multitools are excellent for simple tasks that require your tools to be ready at hand and easy to access. Apart from gathering edibles, you can use them for:

  • Cutting cordage
  • Making feather sticks
  • Processing tinder
  • Making wooden stakes
  • General carving

It’s Good to Have Redundancies

Finally, carrying a multitool along with your usual gear can be a good idea.

No matter how well we treat our equipment it still has a limited lifetime. For some pieces it may be a year, for others, it could be as many as fifty.

A multitool with its case, ready for a backpacking trip

Apart from just succumbing to old age and use, sometimes we can be responsible for damage taken by our gear. Improper use, camping in high humidity conditions, and plain old bad luck can shorten the lifespan of our tools. And nothing is worse than having a tool break on you in the middle of your backpacking trip.

This is why every outdoor enthusiast knows that redundancies can save your life. And nothing has more redundancies than a multitool. And they’re all easy to carry and conveniently packed in one tool.

The Disadvantages of Having a Multitool When Backpacking

Carrying a multitool with you isn’t perfect for every trip. While it can be a useful addition to your backpack, it’s not the right solution for every single situation. Here are some of the reasons why people don’t like carrying multitools when they’re backpacking.

Jack of All Trades – Master of None

While the multitool is a good all-round tool, it’s not really great at any specific task. For this reason, most backpackers use a multitool only as redundancy or as a tool for the simplest of tasks.

You Can’t Use Two Tools at the Same Time

It is full of tools meant to cover a wide range of applications, but you cannot use two of them at the same time. The way it folds and the way all the items are placed on it makes it almost impossible to use two things at the same time.

This is by far the biggest problem most backpackers have with the multitool, and the reason most of them decide to use multiple tools instead.

Getting Leverage Is Difficult

Because the nature of the multitool is to be compact and small, it’s really hard to get good leverage when performing those heavy-duty tasks like splitting medium pieces of wood or trying to lift a heavy pot off the fire.

Additionally, applying too much pressure on a multitool can cause it to break at the joints.

If you’re doing these tasks on a regular basis when backpacking, make sure you bring specialized equipment, designed for the task.

Do I Need a Multitool When Backpacking?

The answer to this question is not an easy one. The most important things you should know before making the call are how good you are with it, what you can do with it, and do you really need all of the items on it.

Here are some additional things that will help you make a better decision when preparing for your adventure.

Situations in Which You’ll Need a Multitool

A multitool is a good solution for people who like to have all of their gear in one place. If you’re practical like this and don’t like to sift through your bag and look for that one specialized tool you brought for this specific task, then the multitool is the choice for you.

In addition to this, it is great for those who don’t like to carry a lot of weight when on the trail. Those frequenting the Appalachian Trail know the importance of a lightweight pack. And the multitool will provide the most utility for the weight.

Apart from this, if you have a specific task designated for this tool, it could be useful to bring it with you. For example, most types of multitools come with a hex screwdriver. If you’re bringing glasses with you on your trip, and need to tighten them often, now you’ve got the tool for the job.

Additionally, if there’s a possibility any of your tools will break when on a backpacking trip, it would be smart to bring some lightweight redundancies such as the multitool.

Finally, if you have a camp fuel stove, and don’t need to process wood to build a fire, you don’t need an axe or a large knife, and having a multitool is great.

Situations in Which You Won’t Need a Multitool

It is not recommended to bring a multitool on a backpacking trip when weight is of the essence and you already have the main tool. If you’re an avid hiker, but you don’t use most of the tools in the multitool, carrying a single item is better for you.

A single, high-quality knife or hatchet can replace a number of tools in the right hands. And a single item is much more durable than any multitool.

If you do decide that carrying a multitool is the best option for you, make sure you practice with it. The equipment is only as good as the person using it can make it, and any aspiring hiker, backpacker or woodsman should be practiced with each piece of the gear they’re carrying on their trips.

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