Pocket Tools

If you need to make a quick fix, your pocket tools could save the day. Here are our editors' favorites.

Keep a few pocket tools with you and you'll be prepared to make that instant fix or quickly solve a DIY problem. Our staff editors and field editors team up to show you their favorite pocket tools.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Lightweight pocket tools

As the owner of a 100-year-old house and a decrepit cabin, I’m constantly doing little repair jobs. So, like many other DIYers, I find it handy to have at least a few basic tools on my person at all times. Call them “pocket tools,” even though some of them are better carried on a belt.

My Swiss Army “Tinker” (about $20) is almost always with me: It has a serious Phillips screwdriver and two knife blades. I keep the little one razor-sharp and use the big one for rough work. On my keychain is an awesome Fenix LED flashlight. For camping or a day of DIY, I add a multi-tool (below).

From Editor–in-Chief Ken Collier

A classic multi-tool

These days, you can find an eye-glazing array of multi-tools, with different features and prices. One, though, stands out: the Leatherman Wave. It’s the most popular model from the company that invented the category, and many of our Field Editors love it. The Wave has every tool a DIYer could ask for, and it’s enormously strong, all stainless and made in the U.S.A. With the accessory bits, it will handle just about any fastener, from the tiny screw on your glasses to a giant Torx-head bolt. The downside: It’s a belt tool, it’s heavy (with bits: 9.5 oz.) and it’s about $70. But talk about handy!

From Field Editor Matt Dillon,
Tinley Park, IL

The Classic Leatherman in its leather case has been the go-to multi-tool since I was first introduced to it in the spring of 1992 in Air Force Technical Training School. This “unofficial” tool was great for my jobs then, and is great for the weekend handyman jobs I have now. It also goes along on fishing trips.

Tip: Mark the Knife

Many multi-tools have a knife, saw, file and whatnot, and they all look alike when the tool is folded. But for most people, 99 percent of the time it's the knife you want. So mark it with nail polish or paint so you can find it in an instant.

Mark the knife with paint

Keychain toolbox

Even if you hate carrying stuff around in your pockets or on your belt, a couple of keychain tools can be mighty handy and hardly noticeable. Here are some new ones that we like, and a couple of old reliables.

Gerber Shard
Phillips and slotted screwdrivers, pry bar and bottle opener, each no bigger than a house key. We filed an edge on the bottle opener, making it great for cutting tape. Only about $7 at gerbergear.com.

This folding tweezer is stainless steel, needle-sharp, indestructible and absolutely the best sliver-taker-outer you’ll find. Get it for about $28 at pocketweez.com.

P-38 Can Opener
Developed by the U.S. military in WWII for opening K-rations, it’s the sentimental favorite of thousands of GIs. Get one on Amazon or eBay for a buck or two.

From Field Editor Jeb Albro, Fairport, NY
I’ve used my P-38 for more purposes than opening cans! With the cutting part unfolded, I’ve found that it helps tear through tape on boxes. The flat ends do pretty well as a makeshift flat-blade screwdriver. The corners even do reasonably well with Phillips-head screws. It’s sturdy enough to serve as a mini pry bar or scraper, if need be.

CRKT Get-a-Way Driver
A handle that holds four hex bits, has a little LED light and a bottle opener. Brilliant! You can mount the driver on the side of the handle, too, to apply even more torque. About $20 at crkt.com.

Tip: Free Pocket Ruler

If you carry credit cards, tape a piece of plastic ruler, or a photocopy of a ruler, to the back of one, and you’ve got a handy tool. Cost: Zilch.

Credit card ruler

Video: Hand Tool Hacks and Modifications for Woodworking

Bandana as pocket tool

Paint wiper. Hand cleaner. Dust mask. Hot pad. Sweat mop. Napkin. Even coffee filter. Many DIYers swear by having a handkerchief in their pocket, even if they never use it to blow their nose. Here are two: one for every day, one more dressed-up and pricey but still all-business.

The under-$10 pocketknife

My all-time favorite knife is a Stanley 10-049 pocket knife (about $8 through our affiliation with amazon.com). The blade can be sharpened or easily replaced, and it locks open for safety. The knife is thin (3/8 in.) but long enough to get a good grip on it.

From Field Editor Jim Pease,
Waterville, OH

A pocket knife that takes a beating

I work construction and can’t go a day without my Husky folding box cutter. A nice knife blade is going to get ruined quickly if you use it for grout cleanup, roofing and other jobs. The cheap Husky does the job and you don’t have to worry about keeping it clean.

From Field Editor Taylor Graham,
Centennial, CO.

Cases for whatever you carry

Pockets are one thing, but if you want to carry a multi-tool, a phone and a flashlight (or whatever your favorites are), it’s handy to have one case for all of them. We found two very different types that we like.

Skinth Sheaths.
Very slim designs for multiple pocket tools and handmade in Canada. All sorts of options. You want orange? Fine! These are made to order, and somewhat expensive ($35 to $55), but very functional and well-liked by their owners. Order from skinthsolutions.com.

Pock-its Plus Utility Holster.
There’s a Pock-it for just about any set of tools small enough to carry on a belt. Our favorite is the Pock-its Plus Utility Holster (about $14), which holds a phone, multi-tool, flashlight and more. mypockits.com

Tip: Keep your sheath on your pants

A belt sheath with a heavy multi-tool can easily slide off your belt when you drop your trousers. An easy fix: find a small “toy” carabiner and attach it to your belt loop.

Belt loop clip

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