Keychain Multi Tools Revisited

Screwpop

I recently had a peculiar customer service experience with the makers of the Screwpop keychain tool. I had lost the original 1/4″ hex nut driver that came with the tool and had tried to replace it using a standard 1/4″ hex nut driver that I had spare (already owned). To my utter amazement it didn’t fit.

In fact, none of my 1/4″ hex nut driver bits fit in the Screwpop. I reached out to Screwpop to ask if they were aware of this and they admitted that their 1/4″ driver bit is not a standard size (?) and none of the ones available from hardware stores will fit. The solution? Buy a new Screwpop! Yup, that’s what they suggested, somewhat tongue in cheek. That’s not a very affordable or intuitive solution. However, I should add that despite the somewhat flippant initial response from Screwpop customer service, the owner/creator did offer to send me a complete replacement free of charge if I ordered a new bit from them. So I have to give an eventual hat-tip to Screwpop for doing the best they could to try and fix the situation.

This recent experience made me decide to take another look at all of the other keychain-type tools that I own and do a quick feature and weight comparison.

Swiss Tech Util-Key

My all time favorite keychain tool is the Swiss Tech Util-Key. It epitomizes what a well made and carefully thought through multi-tool should be. It has all the features that I want and none that I don’t. I’ve owned and carried several of these for over a decade. I say several because TSA like to confiscate them when I forget to remove them from my key chain before traveling. !@#&$!

Atwood G2 Gasbaby

The tool I ‘love’ the most is my Peter Atwood G2 Gasbaby. Hand-made by Peter, limited in number, superbly made and highly functional. The only reason I don’t carry it all the time is that it’s just a little bit too heavy, but to Peter’s defense he does make a thinner titanium version that weighs almost nothing. Unfortunately, I’ve never been lucky enough to snag one. His tools sell out within minutes of being made available!

Mini Tools

In addition to these two tools I have a handful of other well know mini tools that I’ve been given or purchased over the years. Without going into detail about each one, here is how they stack up when compared on the number of functions and their overall weight.

Here is a table showing all of my mini tools sorted by weight, heaviest to lightest. It’s not surprising that the Leatherman Squirt is the heaviest, but I do find it interesting to see how many functions you get for the weight.

To further illustrate this point, here is the same table (below) with the mini tools sorted by the number of functions they each have as identified by the manufacturer. You can easily see why the Swiss Tech Util-Key with 6 functions and weighing less than any of the other mini tools is such a popular tool. The form factor is brilliant too. It looks like a key and doesn’t get in the way of your other keys when it’s on your keychain.

I’m also a huge fan of the Swiss Tech Micro Tool because it is one of the smallest tools I know of that has a functioning pair of pliers and wire cutters. At 45g it is slightly heavy though and you’ll definitely notice the extra weight on your keychain. Not listed here is the legendary P-38 can opener. I have so many of these that I take it for granted that I will always have one with me wherever I am, usually on the same neck cord that I carry my whistle and microlight on. I sometimes even put a small ranger band around it to stop it clinking.

Swiss Tech Micro Tool

There are a lot of well designed and beautifully made keychain sized tools available on the market. If you are going to invest in one make sure that you determine what you are going to use it for. In the example of the Screwpop, the majority of its weight is in the heavy loops that makes up a bottle top opener. While that might be perfect for the occasional weekend camp out, it’s a complete waste of space as a serious tool. In fact the bottle top opener on my Util-Key does a much better job of popping open a cold one. But as others have mentioned, how useful or necessary is a bottle opener? Not very in a backpacking situation. At least a P-38 can hack open a can and do a myriad of other things.

For now, on my keychain at least, I’m going to stick with the Util-key. What has your experience been with keychain tools? Do you find them useful or a total gimmick? If you carry one, what do you favor? Please leave a comment below.

Disclosure: The author owns these products and paid for them using their own funds.

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  • http://www.prepplace.blogspot.com badvoodoodaddy

    That sucks that they have that bad of customer service. I will not buy one just because of that. I think that if someone sells something they should have the confidence to back it up with great customer service.

  • BadVooDooDaddy

    That sucks that they have that bad of customer service. I will not buy one just because of that. I think that if someone sells something they should have the confidence to back it up with great customer service.

  • DD-Longlegs

    Because it recently happened to me I thought it would be useful to mention that when you have too heavy of a keychain (and it doesn’t have to be that heavy at all!) you can damage your ignition. This is an expensive thing to replace! Practice being a keychain minimalist, at least on the set you use in your vehicle, or you might get a shocking repair bill. Just an FYI

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      That’s a great point and thanks for reminding me. Someone had mentioned this as a comment on one of my Flickr photos, was that you too? Either way it’s a good reminder to make sure you don’t ruin your ignition. That’s why I love you guys commenting, always great information to share.

  • DD-Longlegs

    Because it recently happened to me I thought it would be useful to mention that when you have too heavy of a keychain (and it doesn’t have to be that heavy at all!) you can damage your ignition. This is an expensive thing to replace! Practice being a keychain minimalist, at least on the set you use in your vehicle, or you might get a shocking repair bill. Just an FYI

  • bfgreen

    That’s a great point and thanks for reminding me. Someone had mentioned this as a comment on one of my Flickr photos, was that you too? Either way it’s a good reminder to make sure you don’t ruin your ignition. That’s why I love you guys commenting, always great information to share.

  • http://www.TakeaLongHike.com Ray Anderson

    Nice stuff here, but I agree that some items are a little heavy.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      @f261d32919c47d4ddcda6be780fb5e4f:disqus Yeah some are a bit on the heavy side, especially the Screwpop for the four functions you get. I still recommend the Util-Key and good old P-38 to anyone!

  • http://www.takealonghike.com/ Ray Anderson

    Nice stuff here, but I agree that some items are a little heavy.

  • bfgreen

    @f261d32919c47d4ddcda6be780fb5e4f Yeah some are a bit on the heavy side, especially the Screwpop for the four functions you get. I still recommend the Util-Key and good old P-38 to anyone!

  • shoeless joe

    My most versatile keychain tool was the Leatherman Micra, but is too bulky for dress pants. I tried the Swiss Tool for a while but missed having a proper blade. Now I carry a key shaped folding knife from Harbor Freight.

  • shoeless joe

    My most versatile keychain tool was the Leatherman Micra, but is too bulky for dress pants. I tried the Swiss Tool for a while but missed having a proper blade. Now I carry a key shaped folding knife from Harbor Freight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186800439 Matthew Pittman

    While they’re not Atwood Prybabies, Gerber makes the Artifact and Shard, which are much more affordable. The ones I’ve got, tho, don’t seem to be useful enough to stay on my tool keyring very long. (I’ll admit having the craft blade on the Artifact is great when you need an ultra-sharp blade.) I prefer the P-38 and SAK Signature Lite in my pocket, with a M4 Sebertool (with a Craftsman 4-way driver) as a backup pliers in my Bauer Bag.

    I’ll second keeping your keyring lightweight (or have two, one for tools, one for keys, like I do) to prevent auto ignition switch damage.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      The problem I have with the Gerber Artifact is that it’s a blatant ripoff of Peter’s Prybaby design. How can Gerber get away with that and why can’t they spend more time being creative than just copying someone else hard work? Th two keychain rule is a very good one though! @facebook-1186800439:disqus

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186800439 Matthew Pittman

    While they’re not Atwood Prybabies, Gerber makes the Artifact and Shard, which are much more affordable. The ones I’ve got, tho, don’t seem to be useful enough to stay on my tool keyring very long. (I’ll admit having the craft blade on the Artifact is great when you need an ultra-sharp blade.) I prefer the P-38 and SAK Signature Lite in my pocket, with a M4 Sebertool (with a Craftsman 4-way driver) as a backup pliers in my Bauer Bag.

    I’ll second keeping your keyring lightweight (or have two, one for tools, one for keys, like I do) to prevent auto ignition switch damage.

  • bfgreen

    The problem I have with the Gerber Artifact is that it’s a blatant ripoff of Peter’s Prybaby design. How can Gerber get away with that and why can’t they spend more time being creative than just copying someone else hard work? Th two keychain rule is a very good one though! Matthew Pittman

  • Arejay41

    I recently purchased a Gerber Artifact to add to my keychain. Check it out, it’s a quite nice little tool.

  • Arejay41

    I recently purchased a Gerber Artifact to add to my keychain. Check it out, it’s a quite nice little tool.

  • Multitools

    Great information you have. It is equipped to use and very useful. Thanks for you information.

  • Matthew Robbins

    Is the Screwpop hole smaller than 1/4 inch? You could spend a little time with a bench grinder or a small angle grinder and grind a standard bit down to size. Just a thought.

  • mark

    Yes i love these mini tools – packing so much function in, but its a similar point as with ‘survival pack/pouch’ – what am i actually going to use hiking etc..? bottle opener- no… screwdrivers + pliers, not really. even the knife is a duplication for me. having said that i do carry a leatherman style cs – the new version with better scissors, but really i could do without.

  • Alecks

    When my UtiliKey came in the mail my wife looked at it like it was a joke, “what do you need a knife everyday for?”. Two years later, she has my jeep keys for use as the baby mobile and just yesterday I saw her whip it out to cut the tags of my daughters new shoes.
    I’ve had mine for two years, it has only minimal rust and has been used a least a couple of times a week. Sorry to hear yours get confiscated by TSA, mine has made it through half a dozen flights but that could just be Aussie laziness.
    Easily the best micro / keychain tool. I also have a Gerber Dime Micro, a little heavy but lots of functions.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I have Util-keys on all of our sets of keys. I even put a slightly better edge on the flat “blade” section so that they are usable for box cutters and such. Totally amazing tool for it’s size and price. Every keychain should have some. I have other tools too, like you, but this one is small and light enough to always be there when I need it :) Thanks for the feedback!