multipurpose tool and the elements

-- Last Updated: Jun-14-06 8:23 AM EST --

I am looking for a multipurpose tool that I can keep in my PFD that will hold up to the elements (both salt water and fresh) Any tried and true suggestions would be appreciated.


Remember that all stainless steel
alloys corrode - just at a slower rate than carbon steel.

Therefore, whichever one you get, make sure you rinse it well with fresh water after every time you get it wet.

A coating of oil will also go a long way towards keeping it from corroding.

Over time, they will all corrode and stainless steel is very much susceptable to chloride attack (component of salt).

excuse me if this is a silly question
But is there a marine grade stainless steel? Or an equivalent?


Agree With Waterdoc
I have a Swiss Army knife that has held up well with rinsing and an occasional spray of WD40. Not kept in the pfd, however. I keep it in a hatch.

Any particular reason for keeping it in the pfd instead of a hatch? Changing boats a lot and using the same pfd?

SS descriptions

at McMaster-Carr.

search for “stainless steel” and you will get more info on various steels than you can ever remember.


There is a marine grade stainless steel.
My Benchmade knife is made from it. But it’s quite expensive and I’ve never seen anything like a multi-purpose tool made from it. I’ve been looking for a marine grade stainless (or titanium) needle nose pliars and so far have found nothing.

I’m an Okie so I can’t really speak to the salt water aspect but the most functional and solid multi-tool I’ve found is the Victorinox. I’ve abused the heck outta mine and it shines like it’s brand spankin’ new…and, it finds a way to perform everything I’ve needed it to do.



Marine Brass? Seriously.
Propellors are often made out of a blend of brass with some resistance to salt.

I have done some blacksmithing and bronzecasting and have wondered why not hammer an old prop into a knife blade. The softer metal will not KEEP an edge as well as iron or steel. This means you shouldn’t use it on everyday things, keep it sharp, save it for emergencies.

Would it survive salt water corrosion better than stainless steel?

BTW, I would NOT use modern silicon bronze used for casting scruptures. It is harder than brass, but the silicon in the blend makes the alloy too brittle.


there are a small handful of SS knifes made that don’t rust. some are quite soft and don’t hold an edge.

I have a Spyderco “Salt” that is holding up, tho the hinge pin is rusting. it’s going back.

multi tools have waaayyyy too many parts to protect from the salt enviro. soak it in Corrosion Block and keep it in a hatch.


dive stuff
i use all dive gear…my wenoka knife has been on my pfd for 3 years and has zero rust on it…and yes that pfd HAS gotten wet…

some companies use different grades of ss.

Get two knives
Get a small/med sized dive knife for you PFD, and Multi tool to keep in a compartment.

You can get dive knives in Titanium for $60.

Or you can get a SS one for less than half.

My SS dive knife took a little bit of a beating last month. I was down in Belize and dove twice a day for a week. It never got rinsed off untill the end of the week. So there was a couple of spots of rust on the edge. Hitting them with a sharpening stone cleaned them off, but the edge had to be resharpened. In general it has held up well after five years of occasional rec diving. But as noted above, all SS is subject to Chloride attacks. Titanium won’t rust, but its twice as much.

For diving, you really want a blunt tip knife. For kayaking I won’t recommend a sharp drop point, but a med point might be OK. The diving BCD is really an air inflatable PFD, and you don’t want to punch a hole in it while you’re underwater weighted down with a tank and 20 lbs of lead. :o



– Last Updated: Jun-14-06 12:48 PM EST –

In general, to make an alloy more resistant to salt corrosion, it needs to be softer. This creates problems for edge retention in knives. Generally speaking, (and yes there are exceptions), the more corrosion resistant, the worse the blade. From a practical point of view, rinsing a knife or multitool is a small price to pay for getting a better knife.

I've kept a Myerchin L300 Boat knife in my PFDs for years, without any problems.

The blade on it is 440C, which is a good knife steel. It will rust if abused, but the alternatives in 420 steel, or AUS-6, while more corrosion resistant, have much worse edge retention. I believe Leatherman uses 420 steel in their blades. I've had a couple of those in various configurations for years, and corrosion has never really been an issue. Similarly, I've never managed to corrode a Gerber multitool or any of the various Swiss Army Knives, (SAKs). The SAKs by Victorinox and Wenger are interesting because they use surprisingly soft steel in their blades. It's got excellent corrosion resistance, and surprisingly decent edge retention in normal use. And, because the steel is soft, it's easy to put an edge back on them, even for those without a background in knife sharpening.

If you've got lots of money burning a hole in your pocket and want a truly corrosion proof knife, there are cobalt options. For instance, Boye makes a Cobalt Boat Knife.

My take on things is that, that is overkill for 99.9% of boaters. All in all, I wouldn't worry that much about corrosion on any of the more popular multitools by Leatherman, Gerber, Victorinox or Wenger, provided you're willing to do minimal maintenance on them, and rinse them off before storing them. I'd also suggest considering at least one with a marlinspike, if you're going to be around wet rope.

There is an awesome write-up on
knifes on the Cabelas website.

Hinge points will seize up
Forget carrying a multipurpose tool like a Leatherman on your PFD. First of all it’s likley to be too heavy and take up space that could be better used for a flare or mirror. And do you really anticipate needing pliers, a can opener, an awl and a sawblade while underway?

I tried carrying a Leatherman Wave in my PFd because I wanted to “be prepared.” I never used it and, even though I rinsed it off after paddling, the hinge points have corroded and are basically stuck in place. Some of these tools are crammed with parts and one spot of corrosion can jam them up. It’s a paperweight now! I keep a replacement in a dry bag in my dayhatch now and am looking for a single blade knife to carry in the PFD. The other folks who responded suggesting a dive knife are spot on. The Spyderco got good reivews in Sea Kayaker but it has a hinge, which is apparently not rust proof.

Good Luck

Multitool. By far the most useful, easy to use multitool ever created.


harbor freight
you know I haven’t had it too long, only about a year or so, but my mutli-tool is holding up. My father got it for me at some junk tool store. it was to find out if I should get a good one (carried my swiss army knife for 15 years). I don’t use the multi tool carefully be any means. I have zero fear of breaking it, but it has held up, kept an edge and had enough tools for all sorts of jobs. Boating, pruning (little saw), my custodial jobs at work, around the house, wood working shop at camp. I just keep it in the PFD and don’t worry about it. If you are getting it jsut to have with you…a cheap one will do fine.


I have a Gerber recoil
that I have used for 2 years and it is fine, so far. I rinse it off each outing and let it dry before I put it away.