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Testing Multitools - Two Idiots Outside

Posted in Product Reviews on March 21, 2014
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Contributors: Andrew Schuth

Even idiots are all about multitasking. We’ve mastered the whole walking/breathing thing, and we’re gifted at the rubbing-stomach/patting-head thing. The idea of multitasking things on a stick also appeals, be it bacon-wrapped riblet (thank you, 2013 Iowa State Fair) or tools, or what the people call multitools. Not sure whether they call the other multimeats. They should.

Elsewhere in this issue, the story “Survive the (Insert Doomsday Reason Here)” is about survival, be it building the ultimate bug-out truck or having the right weapon and knowing how to use it. It got us thinking about how to pack the truck in a more space-efficient way rather than having individual versions of each implement. That led us to three cool options: The Trucker’s Friend from Innovation Factory, Leatherman Super Tool 300, and Zippo 4-in-1 Woodsman. Since you already know how tools work, we instead talked to the companies about some reasons why they’d put a bunch of gadgets on a stick. We also wanted them to weigh in on whether moving forward we should throw all our tools in the trash and just have a multi.

Hey, multitool makers, if you could describe your multitool in a word, what would it be? Other than “multitool.”

“Bad-ass innovation.”—Chris Funk, Zippo
“Reliablity.”—Kitri McGuire, Leatherman
“Indispensable. Alternatively, Useful idiot. (OK, two words).”—Marvin Weinberger, Innovation Factory

Zippo 4-in-1 Woodsman
Tools: Axe, bowsaw, mallet, stake puller
Depth/Width/Height: 1.7/10/23 in.
Weight: 3 lbs.
Price: $89.95
Tool they wish they could have included: “Cupholder. You can never get enough cupholders.”

Turns out the saw function is one of the fave of the four, according to Zippo’s user research. The Woodsman’s integrated handle storage and multifunction sheath are also wins. “We wanted to create a camping, hunting, and survival multitool that gives you more capability for the weight or the money,” explained Zippo Outdoor Brand Manager, Chris Funk. “Whether battling severe weather, intolerable landscapes, natural disasters, zombies, vampires, werewolves, or locusts, we needed to make a tool that helps you sleep at night knowing it’s nearby.” But why not just take all our favorite tools with us on the trail? “Because you can’t strap your toolbox to your backpack,” Chris said. “A multitool, such as the 4-in-1 Woodsman, offers a more convenient option and is a lightweight, functional alternative you can easily bring with you into the woods or on the road. It’s one tool that lets you leave three others at home.” Now about that name. You know, 4-in-1 seems a little lazy to us. Why not 5-in-1? We’d much rather leave four others at home. Suggestion: add a Zippo lighter, since that’s a product already in-house. Chris said right now they wanted to focus on offering something lightweight and nonbulky, as well as a tool “whose number was divisible by 2.”

Leatherman Super Tool 300
Tools: Bottle opener, Phillips screwdriver, saw, needlenose pliers and regular pliers, electrical crimper, can opener, 154CM replaceable wire cutters and hard-wire cutters, stranded-wire cutters, 420HC knife and serrated knife, ruler, wood/metal file, awl with thread loop wire stripper, small, medium, and larger screwdrivers
Weight: 9.6 oz.
Primary blade length: 3.2 in.
Closed length: 4.5 in.
Price: Around $70
Tool they wish they could have included: “Suggestions range from an eyeglass screwdriver to a hoof pick to a sonic screwdriver.”

“We hear all the time from Leatherman users how they’d rather walk out of the house in the morning without their pants than without their Leatherman,” said Kitri McGuire, senior marketing communications specialist for Leatherman Tool Group. ‘We don’t recommend actually leaving the house without pants, but it does say a lot for how much folks rely on their Leatherman tool to get a job done.” What exactly makes this thing cooler than pants? How about the fact that it has 19 tools? It’s one of Leatherman’s most popular heavy-duty tools, and its demo skews toward DIYers, outdoorsy types, and contractors. Of all the tools, the research shows that the most used turns out to be the knife blade. We also kind of dig this fun fact: The Super Tool has gone through three iterations, and there is even an EOD version. EOD: explosive ordnance disposal. But seriously, 19? It couldn’t just be an even 20? “At some point, there can be so many features on a multitool that it goes from being convenient to cumbersome,” Kitri explained. “It has—in our humble opinion—the perfect number of features to be handy, without being heavy, too large, or too much to deal with.” The Idiots then inspected their own toolbox and noticed 18 of these tools were already in there. Why replace them? “Well, you can’t carry a toolbox on your belt,” Kitri noted. We then noted that we can and have. But the point—and fashion perspective—was well taken.

The Trucker’s Friend
Tools: Curved axe, wire twist, hammer and nail puller, spanner, pry bar and lever, tire-chain hook, ice and debris remover
Weight: 2 lbs., 9.1 oz.
Length/Width/Height: 19.5/2/5.5 in.
Price: $59.95
Tool they wish they could have included: “The most requested feature to add is a serrated edge saw. We’re working on a companion tool to be released in a few months, which will feature a folding saw.”

The most popular tool on the Trucker’s Friend is the axe. “Not surprising, since the original working name for the product was the Trucker’s Battle Axe,” said Marvin Weinberger, the inventor-in-chief of Innovation Factory. And get this: Trucker’s Friend was invented by a guy named Gys van Beek, who is 94 and possibly the oldest active inventor in the U.S. Although it was at first designed for professional truckers, all sorts of other people were drawn to it: four wheelers, hunters, ranchers, handymen, military, survivalists, and emergency and rescue workers. By the way, 7 is really close to 10. Why not have 10 and make more friends? “The objective was to create a multitool that would offer convenience while doing a few important things really well,” Marvin explained. “A multipurpose product like the Trucker’s Friend is often a good choice because of its convenience, and to avoid the hassle (and weight) of schlepping around an armful of other tools.”

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