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Why you should carry a multi-tool and a knife

440 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

A quality fixed blade outdoor knife is incredibly versatile. A quality multi-tool is also particularly useful.

But here is why you need to carry both.

by Bryan Lynch

Editor’s note: Bryan Lynch and I agree – there is no single do-it-all piece of cutlery that can handle every outdoor/survival need. I personally always carry a Swiss Army Classic, a mid-sized folder, like a Swiss Army Tinker  and a mid-sized fixed blade. Here are some suggestions for knife/multi-tool combinations.


Many people wholeheartedly believe all they need is a knife in the outdoors. I was one of them for several years.

This combination of fixed blade, multi-tool and Swiss Army Knife should be able to handle all your outdoor cutlery needs.

Growing up, I hunted and spent a lot of time in the outdoors. I always had a knife on me and was able to get by when a problem arose. But that meant there were times when my knife was used in ways it was not designed for meant and a few times I damaged a valuable blade. It was not until I started carrying a multi-tool that I realized the value of carrying both of these tools together.

The main thing that needs to be realized about a knife is that it has three basic functions: cutting, slicing, and stabbing. It is not a saw, ax, drill bit or hammer. A knife should be reserved for heavier duty tasks like processing game, hunting, making shelter, fire, and for self-defense, just to name a few.

But all too often people expect an outdoor knife to be a “tank killer.” This is in part due to marketing campaigns that demonstrate grueling and unnecessary testing methods for a knife. Some of these tests include thrusting a knife through a car door, pounding on the spine with a 2″x 4″ wooden block and using the side of the blade to hammer nails.

Any uses outside of the primary design of a knife increase the risk of damaging the most important tool in your arsenal. This is especially important when in outdoor environments and survival situations, because the only tools you have are all you have on you. If the knife is used the way it is intended to be used and taken care of it, it will take care of you when most needed.

For me, multi-tools fall into two categories: a Victorinox Swiss Champ and a pliers-style multi-tool like a Leatherman.
I will admit that I am slightly biased towards Swiss Army Knives because they have been a favorite tool of mine for most of my life. But I also like Leatherman style multi-tools because they offer larger, more robust pliers and tools.

The Swiss Army Knife Champ has a handful of different tools.

The Swiss Army Knife Champ features a handful of different tools.

There are two main reasons that I carry a multi-tool with my main knife.
1. To save  the cutting edge on my knife.
2. Avoid damaging my knife by using tools better suited for the task.

In terms of the pliers, you will need to grab, pinch, squeeze, twist, and pull more than you think you will need to in the outdoors. I have also used the pliers to dig through soil and to break through materials like glass, soft metal, ice, etc. And that is just the pliers.

Many multi-tools come with a saw, scissors, and a knife. The knife or scissors can be used in most of the light-duty cutting tasks such as opening food packaging, cutting cordage, creating tinder, first aid, etc. By dividing up the cutting tasks the edge on the main blade can be saved, which is especially important if a knife sharpener is not available.

The small saw is great for processing small pieces of wood for outdoor projects, creating tinder for fire-starting, cutting through bone, and ripping through materials like clothing, straps, dirt, and green vegetation.

One aspect that is sometimes overlooked in outdoor situations is the need for gear repair or adjusting gear. Multi-tools offer several options that include screwdrivers, scissors, metal file, punch, awl, and others. Many of these tools are more appropriate and better suited than a knife would be for gear repair or for adjusting.

Two things I have used a multi-tool for, though they are not recommended uses, is as a hammer and a pry bar. Because these uses are not a part of multi-tool’s design, I limited how often I used them. But knowing I could use them if needed to, would again save potentially damage to the main knife.

Bryan Lynch

Wrapping it up
I can understand some of the arguments for not carrying a multi-tool every single day. But when you are in the outdoors or a survival situation, weight and tool versatility are huge. Given that multi-tools are lightweight, compact, versatile, and affordable, I have a hard time understanding how anyone wouldn’t want to partner one up with an outdoor knife.

About the Author:
Bryan Lynch grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. Bryan is a regular contributor at SurvivalCache.com.

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