What follows is a post I made on another prepper board, but thought it was quite relevant here. This is the other (bottom) end of the spectrum from most of what's been discussed. I do now have a S.O.G. Power Lock as my primary Multi-tool.
Some time back, I was at a pawn shop, and in their display case, they had a number of Sheffield knives and small multitools for sale, pretty darn cheap. So I picked them up as beater tools. Since then, I have been looking at the absolute bottom end of multitools, those easily affordable options, and I'll be covering my opinions here. So far, that amounts to two Sheffields and two Husky/Coast tools from Home Depot. I may pick up some Ozark Trail tools later on.
Large Sheffield (model 1200E)
Cost (used): $5
Tools: pliers/wire cutter, blade, awl, medium slotted screwdriver, large slotted screwdriver/bottle opener, fish scaler/file, small slotted screwdriver, philips screwdriver, can opener.
Above is a pic (Sorry for the shaky-cam work here). Model is listed as 1200E. These are almost all stainless steel, except for thin plastic scales on the outside of the handle.
Pliers are good, but the shape of the tool's handle is a bit painful when applying extreme force. At full grip strength, there is a slight flexing felt through the frame, but it doesn't seem like I could bend them no matter what force was applied. Wire cutters work okay. The spring used to assist in plier opening is bare, and could be taken out or lost, which I'm not keen on. All other tools are pretty well made. The slot screwdrivers have well defined surfaces, the awl is very sharp and it's a full phillips head screwdriver, not the flat phillips seen in some tools. My only complaints with this tool is that it comes with a fish scaler instead of a saw and that the blade was not sharp when purchased (although I seem to have managed to get a decent edge on it). Every tool but the fish scaler was tested, and works well. I should note that these are not locking tools, so care must be taken, particularly with the screwdrivers.
I'm VIRTUALLY certain this is the same multitool that Emergency Essentials sells as the 'High Uinta Multi-Function Tool' for $4.95 brand new.http://beprepared.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_CU%20T200_A_name_E_High%20Uinta%20Gear%E2%84%A2%20Multi-Function%20Tool
Small Sheffield (model 12010)
Cost (used): $3
Tools: pliers/wire cutters, can opener, small phillips, tiny slotted screwdriver, scissors, knife, file, awl, small slotted, lanyard/lock
Again, pic above, and model number is 12010. This is the little brother to the previous tool listed. The same critique applies to this as to the previous concerning use of pliers: exposed spring and uncomfortable grip at high pressure. But again, I don't think any amount of force I could apply would actually damage these. Tools are again well crafted. The awl is REALLY sharp, the can opener looked dubious when I first got it, but it powers through cans pretty effortlessly and shows no sign of bending. Scissors are a little better than you'd get on a Victorinox classic, which is to say they work, if in a frustratingly slow way (good enough to trim errant strings and such, not much else). I should note that just with this tool, I made both an alcohol burning pop stove and a tin-can wood-gas stove. For light metal work (tin cans and aluminum) this thing is surprisingly up to the task. Maybe the best $3 I ever spent. One last feature: the lanyard ring has a hook that locks the tool closed, which I guess was made for key chain use. It weighs just a bit more than my SOG Crosscut (1.68oz), and is on par I guess with the Leatherman Micra (or maybe Squirt) and Gerber Clutch in size. I WISH this thing was available on every store shelf. It is every bit as good as the Gerber Clutch, in my opinion.
EDIT: I just spotted this tool in a blister pack with a folding knife at a Sears tool store for $10. I have no idea what the knife is like, so buy at your own risk. I'd call $10 more than the tool is worth by itself.
Husky Medium Multi Tool
Cost (new): $5 (2 for $10 pack)
Tools: pliers/wire cutters, saw, small slotted, can opener, medium slotted, blade, awl, phillips, file.
These are currently available at my local Home Depot in a pack of 2 for about $10. Thats a $5 brand new multitool. They have a skeletonized frame. The tool, in theory, comes with a lifetime warranty, but I've read that getting either Home Depot or Husky to honor it is a task. All tools work as promised, but the file is not good for much more than filing your nails, and the edges of all of the slotted screwdrivers are sort of rounded, which I suspect will cause undue wear to both the tool and the screw. It has a full Phillips head, which is nice. Pliers are good (enough). Saw is actually pretty substantial, if somewhat short. Can opener functions as promised. Awl is sharp and solidly made. As with the Sheffields above, this thing is uncomfortable when bearing down on the pliers. Unlike the Sheffields, it's partly due to these weird bumps on the handle. I guess they're supposed to be for grip, but they just make it more painful to use. Here's my big complaint: These things weigh 6.78oz, and are about half an inch shorter than the large sheffield (so less leverage on the pliers). They're about 50% wider, and about 20% thicker.
Cost (new): $2 ($3 pack with multitool and knife)
Tools: Pliers/wire cutters, serrated blade, small slotted, awl, bottle opener, blade, small phillips, tiny slotted, file
A smaller cousin to the Husky, the multitool from Coast comes in a pack with a lock-blade knife. The Awl is good, but could stand to be sharper. The tiny screwdriver is terrible, and more-or-less pointless. The standard blade comes dull. Surprisingly, the file on this tool is good.
Let's be real here. If you went out and spent $10, you could get a 2-pack of the Huskies. Throw them into a barter bag, or a scout-kit fanny pack. Once the blade is sharpened, these are actually not bad survival tools: 2” blade, solid saw, can opener, serious awl, pliers.
If you spent that same $10, you could buy 3 of the Coast multitools (and also get 3 lockblade knives). Almost 1½” blade, serrated blade, awl, pliers. While it's missing a saw and can opener (which I'd like to see both here), It's STILL better than nothing in a survival situation. You can open tin cans with any blade, if you don't care what it does to your edge. Heck, use the blade on the multitool to beat up, and keep the folding knife included with it to do less damaging work.
I have to say at this point that the folding knife that comes in the pack with the Coast multitool is kind of crappy. However, it's not nearly as crappy as the $1 folding knife from Walmart. This knife is all metal, and has a decent locking mechanism. Blade length is 2 1/8”. As I said above, being that this is the longer of the blades, I'd keep this one for 'softer' work, and if punishment had to be done, delegate it to the blade on the Coast multitool.
So, are they worth it?
For EDC: I've chosen the small Sheffield (I also have a SOG Crosscut). Light weight, high function for that weight
For SHTF primary: Get something other than what's listed here (I just ordered a SOG Powerlock)
For poor kid/boyscout/glovebox/tacklebox: the Husky.
For SHTF lend/barter and affordable beater: The Husky.
For better-than-nothing or stocking stuffer: The Coast
I'm not a gear snob. I love good tools, but I understand that in the real world, there's only so much money you can invest in certain things. If you drop that awesome $100 leatherman into the lake, well... Guess you should have been using a Husky, huh? If you're a kid just learning outdoor craft, one of the Huskies would do you fine, I think. And, like with the lake example, kids are apt to loose things. Better it happen to 'Timmy's First Multitool' than with a Cabela Leatherman Charge TTI, huh? And finally, while I'd love to be able to afford a good multitool for car, house, purse, Bug Out Bag, and tool belt, and a handful to hand out to allies should SHTF... there's just no way that's fitting in the budget. I have a friend that I work for on occasion that's an electrician. That man loses tools at a startling rate. I considered getting him a multitool, then reconsidered. But, maybe one of these Huskies is a reasonable solution.
In closing, any situation where the destruction or loss of the tool is likely, I think cheap multitools are a good option. Also, in any situation where you have to outfit large numbers of folks with gear, while not optimal, cheap multitools are a more affordable solution. So, my recommendation is go to Home Depot, buy a couple $10 blister packs, each with 2 Husky multitools, stick them in all your packs, or give them to your nephew for a camping trip, and forget about them.