The Best Multitool Setup for Your Belt (In Both Regular and 'Big & Tall' Sizes!)
In the world of, not so much 'preppers' but more just self-sufficient, ready-for-anything types of people, multitools are a must-have wherever you go. At a birthday party and need to cut some plastic sheathing from a toy? Camping and want to saw something down? At the DMV and need to unscrew your old license plate for new vanity ones? Multitools to the rescue. But, which to choose? Well I'm here to help.
Starting in the Marines, we all called multitools 'Gerbers' colloquially, and ALL of us carried them. They weren't issued, they weren't mandatory or even encouraged, they just actually came in handy doing Marine things day to day. Calling them Gerbers didn't mean we all actually *carried* Gerbers though. Leatherman, Gerber, CRKT, even Victorinox... all came in handy either in knife or multitool form from Marine to Marine.
Getting into the civilian world though, it was even more empowering and 'cooler' to be the guy to go "I got it" if someone was having trouble opening a box or needed a screwdriver for a task. So for the past ~15yrs, I've slowly refined what I carry on my belt. Leathermans have ended coming out on top, partially because an old buddy gave me his Leatherman Wave he abused the hell out of because he had just gotten a new one and I'd lost my old Gerber. It was missing the Philips head, the saw's tip was broken off, the micro-screwdriver was missing, overall it had just seen better days. But not because of the workmanship, just because he was a true down-home, blue collar guy that used tools heavy-handedly and didn't bother treating them well, like any reliable mechanic, construction worker or lineman you may have met.
It was so handy, and looked so good to me that I thought "I wonder how these are when they're new?" and ended up buying a new Leatherman Wave+ a few years later. I was not underwhelmed. In fact, I was sad that I'd been missing so many core functions of the multitool for so many years. But from then on, it was Leatherman for me. Sure, I love the fidget-spinner-style 'slide' pliers in Gerbers, but Leatherman was just built tough and had every feature you want and nothing you won't use.
The only thing missing on multi-tools is a flashlight. And no, iPhone lights don't cut it when you're out camping, or outside at night, or really for anything other than finding your way back to the bed from the bathroom at night. You need lights with power in the outdoors. So I found some insanely impressive high-power micro-flashlights from Nitecore. These aren't your military moonbeams, these aren't your dad's 4-D-Cell eating heavy duty flashlight/batons. These things are as bright as the damn sun, and fit into that tiny pocket in your jeans that's inside your normal pocket on the right side. Just unbelievable power from such a tiny form factor. The perfect complement to your multitool on anyone's belt. Camping went from "damnit, I have 10 flashlights for everyone and a half dozen lanterns and I still can't see 10 ft in front of me" to "don't worry guys, we'll find the dog/firewood/our campsite" in one click of a button.
So I fenagled a way to fit my Nitecore TUP1000 (1000 lumens, ridiculous power) onto my belt without having to change it along with my multitool every time I change pants. Carrying one accessory to thread inside your belt loop is okay, but more than that and you're asking to either lose your stuff or stop carrying it because it's too much hassle. So I realized that the headroom in a Leatherman multitool case has JUST enough space for a TUP1000 to fit, so it's all in the same enclosure. Perfect. For the time being...
But I've had a Wave+ for 10+ years now and use it daily. I've never lost a tool or broken a piece off, not even close actually, and have run it 'hard' myself nearly every single day of the year for a decade. My buddy was just a different breed I explained above. But I did realize one thing, the pliers weren't my go-to for anything more heavy duty than computer-sized bolts and screws... anything around the house the tool was just slightly too small for to get any good leverage/use out of.
The TUP1000 felt the same to me, I thought it was a gamechanger, but also thought "if I'm gonna grab a bigger multitool, maybe there's something with a little more oomph and maybe USB-C charging I could upgrade to as well?" as the TUP1000 is MicroUSB. And yep, there is one. The Nitecore T4K. 4000 lumens of blinding power, from a gadget just a couple millimeters bigger and wider than the TUP1000 itself. It does have slightly less overall battery life than the TUP1000 (it trades more powerful LEDs for battery size, which not only means a little bit less capacity but less life in any mode), but with USB-C charging since ALL of my pocket devices are USB-C now and I bring battery banks everywhere I go, I thought the ease and speed of recharging is better than 5-10 minutes more battery life. So I went for it.
And for multitools, I found the perfect answer too. The Leatherman Surge was the answer for me "need more leverage and useability for tasks". It's a 4" multitool vs the Wave+ 3.5", but boy does that make a load of difference. It's heavier, but I cannot tell in any situation whatsoever. It's not realistically chunkier, it fits in the same damn case. It's a couple ounces heavier, but on your belt as long as you're not a tiny person, you can't tell. You just get better functionality out of the same space on your belt. But the Nitecore T4K along with the extra height of the Surge makes it tough to fit it into that 'extra headroom' on the case. So I came up with a cool way to rig it too, that improves on the TUP1000 and its location on my belt too.
The TUP1000 hanging off the top of the case made it a little clunky for me to remove the Leatherman, because it always tapped on the flashlight on the way out of its sheath. That made me less inclined to reach for it if I just had a knife around at home. Then, the flashlight buttons were easily hit when you move, sit, or otherwise put pressure on them... leading to decreased battery life and sometimes a jarring "uhhh why is your waist lit up?" situation that I ran into a few times in front of friends. And lastly, sometimes if its clamp wasn't on tight enough it could fall off my waist.
So with the Surge and T4K combo I decided to fix this. Its clamp fits perfectly on the side wall of the Leatherman case, but it was still prone to falling off when you run or sit down. So I devised a safety system. That system had to allow me to remove the flashlight easily when I want to use it, but keep it on my waist if it fell off the Leatherman case at any point. So neodymium magnets on a string was the answer. With force, I can pull it off easily. But in freefall it was more than strong enough to keep it attached to me and not let it drop.
I ran the string through the Leatherman case's beltloop and attached the other magnet to my belt loop with an easy-to-remove clip, and voila. Perfect safety system, with respectable upgrades for both my Leatherman and flashlight.
Here it is in pictures: