Uses for a multitool: how to get the most from your versatile little gadget

uses for a multitool: multitool with vista
Learn the various uses of a multi-tool in our explanatory guide (Image credit: Getty Images)

The humble multitool is one of the most essential pieces of survival kit. Few items are as practical and I can't think of anything that, pound for pound, gives as much value for its weight in your pocket or backpack.

In this guide, we reveal 6 potential uses of a multitool for standard camping and hiking adventures in the backcountry. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list, the applications of such a tool go way beyond this, especially if you start thinking about bushcraft, fishing or hunting.  It's also worth bearing in mind that every multitool model is different, some will be better suited to the wilderness than others.

By their very nature, the best multitools do all things well but nothing perfectly. Their many components are never going to rival individual function tools, which are specifically designed for one job only. For example, the best standalone camping knife is going to perform better than the knife on your tool. However, the whole reason a multitool is on our camping checklist is that, at some point, a situation will arise where you’re glad you’ve got it.

Let's get into our 6 main uses for a multitool for your outdoor exploits.

Meet the expert

Highlander Serenity 450 Mummy Sleeping Bag: wild camp
Alex Foxfield

As someone who enjoys various forms of outdoor adventure and is a father with a household to keep in ship shape, Alex certainly appreciates the tremendous and convenient functionality of a multitool. As a qualified Mountain Leader, he values any practical innovation that makes time in the backcountry more straightforward. Meanwhile, as a Dad, he’s often found changing batteries in singing teddies that are supposed to help children sleep, but seemingly don’t.

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1. Setting up basecamp

  • A multitool can be used to hammer in the tent pegs
  • The screwdriver is handy if you need to change lantern batteries
  • When it comes to packing down, pull the pegs out with the awl

how to pitch a tent: couple setting up wild camp

Getting camp set for the adventures ahead (Image credit: Getty)

A solid camping multitool will be strong enough and allow enough clout that you needn’t grab a massive hammer for driving in the stakes on your 2-person tent. When it’s time to pack down, use the awl to get under those difficult pegs and lever them out. If you find your camping lantern is out of battery, use the Phillips head screwdriver to remove the battery flap’s screws.

2. Cooking

  • From opening cans to slicing meat and veg, a multitool is very handy in the outdoor kitchen

uses for a multitool: An over the shoulder view of a senior man kneeling down by his tent to cook bacon in a portable camping stove, he is preparing breakfast at his campsite at Hollows Farm, The Lake District in Cumbria, England

A multitool is a huge help in the outdoor kitchen (Image credit: Getty Images / SolStock)

A good multitool negates the need for so many camping utensils, making it a huge weight saver. This is particularly useful if you’re on an extended expedition. You can liberate those tinned tomatoes with your can opener before chopping up the garlic and opening the packet of bacon with your serrated knife. With everything sizzling away on the double-burner stove, you can flip the rashers with your pliers.

3. Eating and drinking

  • A multitool has various tools to help with eating and drinking
  • You can open beer bottles with the bottle opener and wine bottles with the corkscrew
  • Its knives and forks give you the cutlery you need to enjoy a meal

an apple, sandwich, and multi-tool

As an implement for cooking and eating, a multi-tool performs the function of many camping utensils (Image credit: Getty)

At some point, you’ll come to the rescue of some hapless soul who hadn’t considered how they’d get at their liquid refreshments. No multitool worth its salt comes without a bottle opener, both for beer bottles and wine corks. On an epic thru-hike? Separate knives and forks are needless additions to your pack weight. You can chop and pierce just about anything with a multitool, though you may still want a spoon for porridge and soup.

4. Repairs

  • Your multitool is very handy when tent or clothing repairs are required

Hole on the air mattress taped with gray adhesive tape

Patch up your gear with tape and keep on adventuring (Image credit: Anton Novikov)

Tent fabric and clothing are all prone to wear and tear after repeated use. As long as you’ve got some patches and tape, this need not be an issue. Use the tools’ ruler to measure the area in need of some tent repairs and cut your patch accordingly using the scissors.

5. Navigation

  • A multitool can be used to measure distances, as well as point to specific locations on a topographical map

uses for a multitool: using compass Romer on 1:40k map

A multitool can be used to measure distances, as well as point to specific locations on a topographical map (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

Quickly and accurately measure how far it is from point A to B on your map using the multi-tool’s ruler and convert it using the scale. This will give you an estimate of how long it should take you to get to point B and allow you to pace it effectively. If you’re discussing the route with a friend on a large-scale map, pointing to locations with a finger leaves quite a large margin for error. Increase your pointing precision the awl’s sharp end, which will leave neither of you in doubt as to exactly where you mean.

6. Emergency situations

  • You can use the scissors to trim dressings, cut tape and clothing
  • Pliers can be used to pull out splinters
  • Pliers can also be used to remove a tick, though a dedicated tick twister is preferable

Young caucasian man bandaging injured woman leg with elastic bandage during hiking in summer nature

A multitool can be very handy in an emergency situation (Image credit: Getty)

Let’s hope you’re never in a ‘Touching the Void’ situation. This was the infamous position Simon Yates found himself in, where he was faced with the choice of falling into a crevasse along with his climbing partner Joe Simpson, or cutting the rope that held them together, saving himself but potentially propelling Joe to his demise. Well, if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in such a fix… you’ve got your multi-tool.

In all seriousness, there are many uses for a multi-tool in first aid situations (see our best first aid kits) as is the main reason it's one of our hiking essentials. The scissors on your tool negate the need for a separate pair in your first aid kit and can be used to trim dressings down to size, cut tape or even clothing if necessary. If a splinter occurs, you can use the pliers to safely pull it out.

We wouldn’t recommend using your tool’s pliers to remove a tick unless it was the absolute last resort. This is because if you accidentally squash one of these little arachnids while trying to remove it, it can lead to complications like Lyme disease. Far better is to use a purpose-made tick twister to cleanly remove the nasties.

Alex Foxfield

Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He's the former President of the London Mountaineering Club, is training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and is always keen to head to the 4,000-meter peaks of the Alps.