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Uses for a multi-tool: how to make the most of your multi-functional, pocket-sized friend in the great outdoors

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

There are so many uses for a multi-tool that we simply would not dream of going camping or on a hiking expedition without one. Some of the main reasons we seek out adventure are to prove that we are capable of surviving wild environments and to become more self-sufficient. This is why the multitool is such a friend to campers and hikers; it’s the ultimate survival tool. Besides this, they are – and always will be – a very cool piece of kit.

Whether it ends up helping you set up your best tent or becomes an important component of your trekking first aid kit, it’s the versatility and compact nature of a multi-tool that makes it such a popular item for lovers of the outdoors. Of course, the uses for a multi-tool go way beyond the scope of camping and hiking, but here we are interested in the ways it can enhance your outdoor adventures.

multitool and camping kit

Don't go camping without one (Image credit: Getty)

The best multi-tools 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 multi-tool is on our camping checklist is that, at some point, a situation will arise where you’re glad you’ve got it.

Uses for a multi-tool: setting up basecamp

A solid camping multi-tool will be strong enough and allow enough clout that you needn’t grab a massive hammer for driving in those tent stakes. 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.

Uses for a multi-tool: cooking

A good multi-tool 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, you can flip the rashers with your pliers.

Uses for a multi-tool: eating and drinking

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 multi-tool 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 multi-tool, though you may still want a spoon for porridge and soup.

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)

Uses for a mutli-tool: repairs

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 repair and cut your patch accordingly using the scissors.

Uses for a multi-tool: navigation

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.

Uses for a multi-tool: emergency situations

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 content creator 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 is currently training to become a qualified mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexlangfield.com