Eli wrote in with a tough question – he’s looking for the perfect pocketable multi-bit screwdriver for everyday use, one that he can use equally well in a crawlspace or at the top of an antenna tower.
He purchased a Wera Kraftform Kompakt 25, and is fond of the design, except for the large handle size and limited bit storage capacity.
In his email, Eli mentioned my affinity for the PB Swiss Insider, which I reviewed many years ago, here.
Here are some of Eli’s preferences for the perfect pocketable screwdriver:
- Locking bit holder, or at least a really strong magnet
- No longer than 6″, under 5″ is ideal
- Built-in storage for at least 3-4 standard-sized screwdriver bits
- Handle 1-1/4″ wide or smaller
- Extending shaft is preferred but not required
I’ve been trying to figure out an answer for Eli, but my thoughts on this one are an absolute mess. If anyone was hoping for a clear answer, I’m sorry to disappoint. But, there are a couple of nearly-perfect pocketable screwdrivers that might fit the bill.
I love my PB Swiss Insider screwdriver, but there is one sour point; the bit cartridge end cap can loosen up if you use the screwdriver a certain way. It’s a minor annoyance, and it doesn’t happen every time I use the screwdriver.
I have come to believe that this shouldn’t be a problem for a screwdriver that regularly retails for $40.
I really want to see a slide-out bit holder on the Insider, similar to the Insider Stubby. The Stubby is too small for regular use, or it’d be near perfect.
The PB Swiss Insider 2 is much better than the Insider. It can hold more bits and its bit cartridge is secure when you’re using the tool. The Insider 2 is only available in black, but maybe it will eventually come out in more colors.
The Insider 2 came out on 2010. I finally bought one, in late 2016. Why did I wait so long? It costs too much for what it is, regularly priced at ~$60.
There is also the PB Swiss Insider 3, with ratcheting mechanism, available in short and long shaft versions.
I like the Insider 2 and 3 very much, and they’re on my review queue. But their price points are a bit hard to swallow. The original Insider regularly retails for $40 – a lot for a non-ratcheting screwdriver. But the Insider 2 costs even more – $60. The ratcheting Insider 3 is $90. If you’re not in a rush, it’s best to wait for the big Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that come around every year.
I love the quality of PB Swiss’ 1/4″ hex screwdriver bits, but I do wish these screwdrivers were available with and without them. Being able to buy them without bits would make these screwdrivers quite a bit more affordable.
The Insider 2 and 3 screwdrivers each come with 10 bits, and you can swap them out for others if you so choose.
If you’re looking for the BEST EDC pocketable screwdriver at any cost, these nearly fit the bill.
Personally, I think the pricing is a little high for what you get. But, if it checks all your boxes and is something you would use every day, the over-time cost breakdown can be easier to justify.
I really like my Wera Kraftform Kompakt 25. I don’t often use it at home or in the workshop anymore, but it’s my go-to when on the go. When packing up a tool bag or box for off-site use, I’ll toss in the Wera driver, pouch and all, usually with a bunch of other bits.
It’s a clever and very versatile design, but it does have a chunky handle.
Wera makes small (but handy) narrow-handled bit holders, and I like mine a lot. They’re small screwdrivers – really small – and so they’re not going to be up to heavy duty or high-torque tasks. They also don’t have any built-in bit storage.
A couple of other compact multi-bit screwdrivers come to mind.
The Picquic SixPac is a decent tool. It’s not quite as nice to use as the PB Swiss Insider 2, and it works with long harder-to-find 1/4″ power-style screwdriver bits instead of 1/4″ hex 1″ insert bits.
But it’s far less expensive. You won’t cry if you accidentally drop it down a sewer grate.
There apparently was a stubby Megapro screwdriver (old Amazon listing), but it doesn’t seem to be sold anymore. The handle might have the deal-breaker, but we’ll never know. Megapro screwdriver handles tend to be chunky, but so are the PB Swiss and Wera picks discussed above.
The Picquic SixPac can be found for as little as $12 on Amazon. At the time of this posting, there’s a “clippable” $2 coupon that drops the price further.
PB Swiss Insider 2 vs Wera Kraftform Kompakt 25
In his email, Eli mentioned the Wera Kompakt 25 being too uncomfortable to carry in a pocket, even his cargo pants pocket. Well, it does come with a belt pouch.
The Wera Kompakt 25 checks off a lot of boxes, and is currently $32 on Amazon. That’s a lot for a multi-bit screwdriver, but isn’t too much of a leap upwards given the value of what you get.
I don’t know if I can recommend the PB Swiss Insider  as an alternative. I love how compact it is, and it’s great to use, except the occasional heavier use times when the bit cartridge loosens up and spins around a little.
Is the PB Swiss Insider 2 worth nearly double the price of the Wera? Objectively? No, but the price does get a lot better around Black Friday. If you ordered one around last Black Friday, it would have been around $41 after discount. It holds 4 more bits than the Wera, but it’s also still just a plastic-handled screwdriver.
You know, Kobalt’s compact multi-bit screwdrivers used to be decent. They didn’t have a lot of features, their removable bit cartridges were clunky, the ratcheting mechanisms were not high quality, and you had to be careful to not cross-thread their the end caps. But they were usable.
Please don’t think that I’m trying to say that everyone needs a $30+ EDC screwdriver and that nothing cheaper will do. In his email, Eli specifically asked about the Wera and PB Swiss Insider series. That’s what prompted this post, and why I keep revisiting those products.
Okay, so I dug out a few of the multi-bit screwdrivers and bit holders that I have within quick reach. There are others, but I don’t want to increase the scope of the comparison by too much.
I suppose you could consider these to be my current favorites.
From left to right:
- Wera mini bit holder
- PB Swiss bit holder screwdriver
- PB Swiss Insider 2
- Wera Kompakt 25 ($32 via Amazon)
- PB Swiss Insider 3 ratcheting screwdriver
- Volcanic Co. screwdriver
I couldn’t locate my PB Swiss Insider. It’s smaller than the Insider 2, and I’d say close to the size of the PB Swiss bit holding screwdriver.
Hmm. So it seems that the PB Swiss Insider 2 and Insider 3 handles are about as large as the widest part of the Wera Kraftform Kompakt 25 handle. I wouldn’t have thought that if I didn’t line them up together, something I don’t remember thinking to do before. I guess the Wera only looks and feels a little larger, possibly due to the geometry of the handle?
I’m starting to wonder if I should pull back on my recommendation for the Insider 2. It’s not any bit more pocketable, and while it can store more bits, it lacks the locking extendable bit holder of the Wera.
If the PB Swiss Stubby Insider were a little longer, it might best all the other options. But as it is, it’s too short for use as a general purpose screwdriver.
The Insider is a great pocketable screwdriver, but I don’t think it’s the best option for everyday field use. The Wera Kraftform Kompakt 25 and PB Swiss Insider 2 are great options, despite being a little chunky.
My go-to used to be a Klein multi-bit driver. Or Kobalt. Or Irwin. It was whatever I had at hand. I bought my PB Swiss Insider in November 2008, for $22, when Amazon was deeply discounting everything from the brand. I also bought a Felo multi-bit driver, but I didn’t like it very much. The Felo is currently in my “spare screwdrivers” box somewhere.
The PB Swiss Insider was my favorite for a long time. But it also wasn’t my daily-use screwdriver. It was my “I need something pocketable, comfortable, and capable” screwdriver. It’s great for impromptu tasks. But annoying for long projects.
It saw a lot of use, but there were times I carried it but didn’t need it.
I bought my Wera in 2011, on sale for $20. It never really took the place of my Insider, even the times when the Insider’s threaded end cap bit cartridge annoyed me most. But it’s seen a lot of use, and a lot of miles.
I should specifically mention that the Insider’s threaded end cap isn’t always an annoyance, and it didn’t always annoy me. In fact, it took me a while to even notice it. But now that I have more options, I have become less blind and forgiving to the Insider’s downsides.
I only bought an Insider 2 at the end of 2016, 8 years after I bought my original Insider, and more than 6 years after it was released.
For me, the Insider was more of a “just in case” type of the tool, and the Wera Kraftform 25 a tool bag companion. The Insider 2 is better, but larger, and pricier.
I didn’t buy it to replace my Insider, but because there were finally enough review requests to convince me to entertain my curiosity.
I use all of these tools regularly, but they’re not quite my go-tos. I more prefer individual screwdrivers, and at times bit holder screwdrivers.
Thinking about what to recommend to Eli has been very difficult for me. What do your recommend to someone looking for a pocketable tool for everyday use in all kinds of situations?
Something pocketable? I don’t know if I can make a confident recommendation here. I would want the best screwdriver available to me, and I don’t think there are any pocketable drivers that I’d reach for first.
The Wera has an extending shaft, but its handle is chunky. And not everyone loves the Kraftform geometry. The original PB Swiss Insider has an imperfect bit cartridge end cap, the Insider 2 is a little large and pricey, the Insider 3 is large, pricier, and heavy. The Picquic SixPac doesn’t have the most comfortable handle, and replacement bits can’t be easily found.
I have found that for pocketable multi-bit screwdrivers, there are many aspects that need to be balanced perfectly. They lump together into 3 main factors:
- Size and bit storage
- Performance, comfort, user-friendliness
No screwdriver I own fulfills all three, at least not perfectly.
The pocketable screwdrivers I mentioned above, as well as others I didn’t, might be a little compromised when it comes to actually using them. They might carry well and offer adequate built-in bit storage, but might not be as comfortable as less pocketable drivers might be.
And if there’s a better screwdriver, it might not be pocketable.
Something like the PB Swiss Insider 2 might be strong in size and performance categories, but it’s a little expensive. I suppose it’s less pocketable too, at least compared to the Insider, but the Insider’s user is less stellar than I once believed.
Less expensive pocketable screwdrivers, like the $7 or so Kobalt that I can’t bring myself to get rid of, aren’t all that great to use once you know how much better more premium tools really are.
I’m sorry Eli, I had been hoping to give you some good advice, but everything I have said comes down to this – the Wera Kraftform Kompakt 25 is likely the best pocketable multi-bit screwdriver that you’re going to find.
The Kompakt 25 offers a strong balance between pocketability and usability. You won’t find a more compact and pocketable tool that delivers the same versatility and performance, or at least I haven’t.
It’s not perfect, but I’m finding it hard to recommend anything over it.
Here are some links:
Building upon everything I said, I think that my picks would be the Picquic SixPac if on a strict budget, Wera Kompakt 25 on a bigger budget, and PB Swiss Insider (1, 2, or 3) if I liked what they offered and had a higher budget.
Lastly, Picquic also offers a smaller multi-bit driver, the Multique, but it works with 3/16″ hex bits instead of 1/4″ hex. There’s also the Dash 7, which looks to work with standard 2″ bits. I haven’t tried either of these models yet, but the Dash 7 is looking quite appealing.
What would you recommend? Imagine that you’re a tech that works in all kinds of different situations, and you prefer to stash your screwdriver in a pocket. It needs to be compact, reliable, comfortable to use, and with built-in bit storage.
And for those of you that take your tools on the go, what kind of screwdrivers do you use, and would you recommend them to others?