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Is this the world’s worst multi-tool?
But somehow I keep seeing this Emergency Camper’s Multi-Tool on “Must Have” gear lists, or “Great Camping Stuff from Amazon” blog posts. Not once. Not twice. But several times.
I have to believe that the people putting that content together aren’t really using it, because this isn’t a good tool.
In fact, it’s the worst multi-tool I’ve ever used. But in case you think it looks useful, let’s take a look at what’s included with this tool and how it holds up to use.
The Stansport Emergency Camper’s Multi-Tool includes 12 different tools, and weighs about one pound. That’s pretty heavy for a multi-tool. I couldn’t tell you what quality of steel this is made with — Stansport doesn’t mention the type of steel and my email to the company met with no response. I’m guessing that the quality of the metal is pretty low. Stansport also mentions that the multi-tool features a non-stick coating and a wooden handle. I know what wood is, but I couldn’t tell you what the non-stick coating is on this tool.
I’d like to give you more technical specifications. But they don’t exist. At least none that I can readily locate. So let’s take a look at the tools.
Tools included with this multi-tool
As I mentioned, there are 12 different tools tucked into this multi-tool. Surprisingly, they aren’t all terrible. To put these to the test, I simulated some camping experiences and ran each tool through some potential use cases. Here’s how they performed and what I thought of them.
Fresh out of the package, this was the first thing I tested. I had an old stump in the backyard on which my brother in law had recently split a little wood (using a real axe), so I strolled up and tried to stick this bad boy in it for an initial photo op.
It bounced off. At first I thought it was dull, but it wasn’t. Sure, I couldn’t shave with it, but I don’t need an axe to be that sharp to split some small pieces of wood. Then it hit me — while this is heavy for a multi-tool, it’s way too light to use as a hatchet. Typically I don’t carry an axe or hatchet in the field, though I know bushcrafters who do. Instead I rely on a fixed blade knife and baton any wood I need to split. I gave that a try, but since the hammer head is on the opposite side, it proved difficult to baton with the axe head. It’s doable, but it’s much easier to do so with a fixed blade knife like a Mora.
Additionally, when it comes to any kind of folding tool or knife, over time the connection points can loosen, especially following concussive impacts. You know, the kind you get when you use an axe or a hammer. Between testing the the axe blade, and then the hammer, already a little wiggle started to show in connection points.
Let me start by saying that seldom have I ever found myself in need of a hammer while in the field. Sure, there have been some stubborn tent stakes, but those have either submitted to my will when I used a piece of wood or a rock. Or I have simply foregone stakes and used appropriate knots to secure my shelter to nearby material. Unless you’re out doing specialty field work, you’ll only use this for tent stakes, which you don’t need to carry a tool for. But if you’re doing any kind of specialty work, then you’ll carry specific tools, not this thing.
That said, it hammered stakes into the ground well enough. The head of the hammer is fairly small, but with a little care it hits the mark. For shits and grins, I drove a few nails into a 2×4 with this hammer too. It did a decent enough job, but between the small head and the light weight (for a hammer), it took more time than it would have with an actual hammer.
As I mentioned in regards to the axe, the more I used it, the more the whole thing loosened up, making it unsafe to use. And while we’re discussing safety, when you use the hammer, you’re directing the axe head toward your face. I don’t love that. The tool comes with a piece of plastic that covers the blade of the axe, but it doesn’t stay put very well. I imagine that it’s put in place simply to avoid damage to the packaging during shipping. This is a fairly serious design flaw in my opinion, but that should be expected from the world’s worst multi-tool.
Pliers and Wire Cutter
While I have used the pliers on the Gerber Suspension multi-tool that I keep in the truck many times, I can’t think of a time I’ve used them in the field. I can think of some potential uses, like removing fishhooks, trying to straighten bent tent stakes, or picking up a hot cook pot or lid maybe. Even for hypothetical uses, however, on this multi-tool pliers are between an axe blade and a hammer head, which makes using them for those purposes impractical. The pliers themselves worked well enough, and I could use them to bend baling wire and straighten nails without a problem.
The wire cutter at the base of the pliers is similarly impractical. Luckily, I can think of even less hypothetical uses for wire cutters while exploring the wilderness. I mean, I’m sure that somewhere out in the world there is an opportunity to use wire cutters… But trying to use the wire cutters on this tool proved pretty difficult anyway. I could cut zip ties without a problem, and snip small electrical wires, though not always cleanly. Anything larger necessitated using the tool to chew at the wire several times. You definitely couldn’t use it for any precision work.
But again, if you needed wire cutters in the field, you’d likely be carrying a better tool than this.
Serrated Blade, Flat Blade Screwdriver, and File
I’m biased, but in general I don’t like serrated blades. In my experience they don’t provide any improvement on cutting with a normal blade, but they are a huge pain in the ass to sharpen. When they’re not incredibly sharp, they don’t cut cleanly, and since they are such a pain to sharpen, most people won’t end up using this blade much. That said, the serrations were fairly sharp right out of the packaging, and as far as my brief testing phase went, they stayed pretty sharp during use. The blade cut some nylon rope and paracord without a problem — of course, a normal blade would have done just as well, but if you like serrations then this blade isn’t as disappointing as I expected.
You’ll also find a flat blade screwdriver on the end of this blade. Which works well enough. It’s a little wide, but you can screw and unscrew with it. However, when you open this tool it doesn’t lock into place, nor does it even open straight out. That makes it easy to put pressure on the back side of the tool/blade, forcing it shut. Onto your fingers. Making you bleed. That’s not good, especially if you’re out in the woods. This is a serious problem that persists with every single tool that folds out of this thing.
The file is decent enough. You can file down your fingernail if need be, though you should do so carefully, seeing as there’s a serrated blade on the same piece of metal. You could also use it on a small piece of wood or something like that. Not the most useful tool overall, but it works well enough.
Also worth noting, this tool doesn’t close smoothly — it catches on the handle when you try to push the blade back into the closed position, so you’ve got to force it back and down. That could be a manufacturing flaw in my particular tool, but that’s a bad sign as well.
Bottle Opener and Wrench
I shouldn’t have forced the serrated blade back into the handle though, because I couldn’t open the bottle opener and wrench once that blade was closed. The nick is just too low for your fingernail to reach. Again, this might be just a manufacturing flaw, but I’m starting to see a pattern, and I’m certain that such flaws are probably endemic to these tools.
Once I managed to get it open, the bottle opener worked just fine. I could open beers and old timey soda bottles with it. It’s hard to get a bottle opener wrong, but when it comes to the worst multi-tool I’ve used, I had my doubts. Luckily, I got to drink my Cheerwine and craft beers with little delay — sure I had to pry up the bottle cap twice on a couple bottles, but that’s not unusual for me with slim bottle openers.
I actually like the wrench well enough, for what it is. I used it to tighten up and loosen some nuts and bolts. It worked fine, although you can’t really crank down on it — don’t expect to break any tough, locked up, or rusty nuts. Also, make sure that you flip the tool so that you’re not closing it on your hand while you turn the wrench, as it doesn’t lock open. Still, it did well enough messing around on my workbench, but I have never needed a wrench in the field. Not once.
This particular tool would probably make a pretty decent keychain though.
You know what? It’s not bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. The nick is on the tip, making it easier to open without having to open other tools. I cut through a few different sized pieces of wood, both dry and green, to get a sense of how this tool performs. It’s a mixed bag. As I said, the saw itself isn’t bad, but it just doesn’t perform that well. First of all, it’s short, so you’re only capable of cutting small wood effectively. Even then, it’s prone to getting hung up. Also worth noting is the fact that when you’re using it, you’re also rubbing the damn axe head against your arm, which makes me incredibly uncomfortable.
A saw is another tool that I haven’t often used in the field, but one for which I can see a lot of use cases. I’m friends with bushcrafters who use saws on a regular basis, but this wouldn’t be sufficient for their use. If you plan on using a saw in the woods, I suggest using a dedicated tool like a Sven Saw or a folding saw like a Laplander folding saw. Typically, I use a fixed blade like my mora for any limited cutting needs.
Phillips Head Screwdriver
Ah, another tool I couldn’t open. It has an indentation on the back of the tool, but it’s far too shallow to get a thumbnail in. I had to use another screwdriver to get it open, making it functionally useless in the field. Luckily, I’ve never needed a phillips head screwdriver while camping, hiking, or backpacking. I mean, what would you use it for?
But to test it, I screwed and unscrewed a number of screws around the house. It works find on most moderately sized screws, It won’t work on anything small or large, however, and if you really have to put some effort into it, you’ll have to take care not to put pressure on the backside. Otherwise it will close on your hand, and it’s unpleasant. I speak from experience.
Plain Edged Blade
I was prepared for this to be absolutely terrible, but you know what? It wasn’t too shabby. It had a decent edge out of the package, and it took additional sharpening pretty easily, although the overall shape of the multi-tool made it a pain. Surprisingly enough, it held an edge better than I expected. Nowhere near as well or long as my Gerber Paraframe or Swiss Army Knife, but much better than some of the $5 gas station knives that I’ve used in the past.
It cut rope and paracord without a problem, and shaved some wood for tinder no problem. It’s decent for a cheap blade, but the steel seems flimsy and, well, cheap. I wouldn’t push my luck with it. Remember it doesn’t lock and, like all the other folding tools, it sits at an angle when opened, making it easy to close accidentally. On your fingers. That’s bad.
The Emergency Camper’s Multi-Tool comes with a sheath. It’s cheap, flimsy, nylon. It has a belt loop, but you don’t want to wear this tool on your belt. The axe head sits outside of the sheath, which at best can get caught on things and at worst has the potential to cause injury. When in the sheath, the tool moves a bit much for my liking.
More importantly, as I mentioned in a few of the specific tool reviews, when you use any of the tools that require unfolding, you’re essentially holding the axe blade against your arm. It isn’t the sharpest blade in the world, but I still couldn’t get past it. Likewise, none of the tools lock into place, and when fully opened they sit at an angle the makes it easy to accidentally close them during use. That’s a serious flaw when working with blades of any kind. At the end of the day, this multi-tool is simply not a safe design.
Add to that the fact that it doesn’t sit well in your hand. It’s not ergonomic, the weight is unbalanced, and it’s simultaneously too heavy for everyday carry and too light for effective use.
Put it all together and this truly is the worst multi-tool I’ve ever used.
But it doesn’t sound that bad!
You’re right. When you take each individual tool and each minor problem individually, it doesn’t sound too bad.
But when you add all the little problems together and put them in one package, it tells a different story. We’re not looking at a bunch of minor problems, we’re looking at unsafe design flaws, lack of longevity, untrustworthy manufacturing and materials, and poor execution. Sure, it’s cheap, but you can buy a whole lot better without spending much more money. More on that in a moment.
In other words, yes it’s that bad.
What is the Worst Multi-Tool I’ve ever used good for?
As you might have expected, not much in my opinion.
I view this as little more than a cheap novelty item. It’s marketed as a survival tool, but this isn’t a tool you can or should rely on for practical use in the field.
I have no idea how or why it keeps ending up on “must buy” lists. It may work for a time or two, but in almost every use case you’ll be better served by a different tool. Sure, you could toss it in the bed of your truck or trunk of your car, but if you’re doing that you might as well just carry a couple tools that work well instead of one that kind of works.
Seriously, this very likely could be the worst multi-tool in the world. It’s definitely the worst multi-tool I’ve ever used. It’s too big to easily carry with you, and too small to truly be effective for a lot of the purposes you would want it for. I see safety issues with it, making it not only unreliable, but potentially dangerous.
Don’t waste your money on this.
If you’re looking for a functional multi-tool that you can carry with you, either for EDC or into the field, this isn’t it.
What multi-tool should I carry?
Well, it depends. How will you use your multi-tool? Will your carry it every day? Do you want it in your pockets, in a sheath on your belt, or on your keychain? Do you want something that will be useful in the woods, or a tool that will offer solutions in your day to day life? What are your potential use cases? Whatever you need, Stansport’s axe/hammer combination isn’t going to serve you well.
So what will work better? Just about anything from a halfway reputable tool or knife company. Want something that will work well and will last for years to come? Start by avoiding multi-tools that included axes and hammers. As far as brands go, Leatherman and Gerber are pretty well trusted.
What do I carry?
In my day to day life, depending on what I’m doing, I carry my Swiss Army Knife, and my Geber Paraframe in my pocket. I have a Gerber Shard on my keys, and a Gerber Suspension multi-tool in the truck. If I’m in the woods, I’ll typically keep the Swiss Army Knife with me, but add my Mora Companion to my belt. Between the two, there isn’t much that I can’t handle.
I’ve recently added a Leatherman Style PS to my kit. I haven’t put the PS through hell yet, but so far this bladeless multi-tool does the trick for any minor repairs or tool use that I might need on the go. It’s large enough to use the tools without an issue, but small enough to ride on my keychain without being in the way. The lack of a knife blade doesn’t bother me, as I almost always have the Swiss Army Knife or the Paraframe on my person as well. As an added bonus, that means it can go with me in places where blades and knives aren’t allowed — like on airplanes, in courthouses, and anywhere else that asks you to check your blade at the door.
If you’d like a small multi-tool that has a blade, I recommend the Gerber Dime. This was one of the first gifts I ever gave Clarissa, and we’ve both used it effectively over the years. I haven’t carried a full size multi-tool on me in a long time, simply because I haven’t needed to, but there are some great options out there if that’s right for you. I find that the Suspension I keep in the truck is larger than I’d like to have in my pocket or strapped to my belt, but it’s a good tool. The Gerber MP400, which I received as a high school graduation present in 2001, has also been a pretty solid tool. I still have it, nearly 20 years later, and I’ve had next to no problems with it, aside from my personal dislike of serrated blades. It offers a pretty good compromise between size and functionality. If you need a bladeless version, due to work policies or for travel, the Gerber MP600 provides another good option. If you don’t like Gerber, the Leatherman Rebar also works quite well, with a similar size, functionality, and a great blade.
None of these multi-tools will destroy your budget. The prices on the tools I’ve mentioned top out at under $100. The smaller tools don’t run much more than the Emergency Camper’s Multi-Tool, but unlike the worst multi-tool I’ve ever used, you can trust that when used properly, these options won’t let you down.
Don’t buy the worst multi-tool I’ve ever used
I spent money on this crap tool for one purpose — to help you avoid wasting your money. When it comes down to it, there simply isn’t one multi-tool that will do everything that a garage of tools will do. This particular multi-tool will appeal to the idea that you can and should have a tool for every single possible use case with you at all times. Don’t fall for it. Skip trying to cram a useless axe and an ineffective hammer into your pocket and spend just a little more to get a multi-tool that you can count on.
Or don’t. After all, the worst multi-tool I’ve ever used doesn’t cost much. You can always test it out for yourself. But if you choose to go that route, do me one favor — don’t try it out when you absolutely need an effective and reliable tool. Because it won’t take you much time to realize this isn’t just a waste of money, or the worst multi-tool I’ve ever used. It’s also the worst multi-tool that you’ll ever use too.