A lot of people have written in asking for a list of cool tool suggestions and recommendations to help them with their holiday shopping. Gift guides are always a little tricky for us to put together, so we sat down, reviewed our notes and wishlists from the past year, and got to work.
The good news is that we came up with plenty of cool tool gift ideas. The bad news is that this gift guide will probably give you GAS (gear acquisition syndrome).
These are all products we own, have tested, or trust enough to recommend, and are the types of things we think most ToolGuyd readers would love to give or receive.
We skipped over the trendy tools that pop up every holiday season and disappear a few short weeks later. You won’t find tool-related equivalents to tube socks and AA batteries here either!
Do you agree with our suggestions? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section!
Table of Contents
Everyday Gear (EDC)
Disaster Preparedness (aka Zombie Survival Gear)
Gearwrench Gimbal Ratchet
These new Gearwrench palm ratchets are unlike any others in how they swivel and pivot to provide easier improved access. Plus, they look like they would be great as part of a compact tool kit.
Price: $16-21 | BUY | Learn More
Westling Socket Organizers
These high quality USA-made socket trays are top-notch. Not only do they work well, they look good too.
Price: $10-99 | BUY | Learn More
Facom Locking Pliers
Facom’s locking pliers feature multi-functional jaws, a novel slip-joint adjustment mechanism, and a unique user-friendly locking method. They’re proof that different can be a very good thing.
Price: $29 | BUY | Learn More
Wera Zyklop Ratchet
The Zyklop swivel head ratchet is a cross between a screwdriver and ordinary flex-head ratchet, and is incredibly effective in low-to-medium duty applications.
You can start off with a single ratchet, or splurge on a complete socket set. Wera Zyklop ratchets, sockets, and accessories are about as good as they get.
Price: $50+ | BUY | Learn More
Knipex Pliers Wrench
The Pliers Wrench is exactly what it sounds like. Parallel jaws, fast adjustment, compound leverage, and robust construction make this a much-loved tool with no equal. Knipex makes these in 7″, 10″, and 12″ sizes with coated and ergonomic grip options.
Price: $45-80 | BUY | Learn More
Mitutoyo Precision Tools Upgrade
If you are using cheap no-name calipers, micrometers, or indicators, have they fallen apart or given you spurious readings yet? If not, consider yourself lucky. Mitutoyo is our favorite brand for precision and machinist measurement tools, when we could afford them.
Mitutoyo workshop staples, such as rulers and calipers, can be quite affordable at times. Mitutoyo gear is always on sale somewhere, check out our where to buy page for a list of industrial suppliers.
Price: varies | BUY | Learn More
Wera Bit Ratchet Set
Combine Wera’s bit ratchet set with one of their compact bit-holding screwdrivers ($8 and up), and you have the ultimate compact screwdriving set. The ratchet (~$26) and universal bit set (~$40) are both available separately as well.
Price: $60| BUY | Learn More
Engineer Compact Scissors
Engineer’s compact scissors are small, pocketable, and the multi-functional blade shape is quite versatile. You can’t really hold these like normal full-size scissors, but the learning curve is short and gentle.
Price: $30-35 | BUY | Learn More
Engineer Twin Wrench Driver
L-drivers are useful for portable tool kits and working in tight quarters, and Engineer’s Twin wrench driver is the best we’ve ever used. Pair it with a compact bit ratchet and bit-holding screwdriver handle for unbeatable versatility.
Price: $45+ | BUY | Learn More
Vaughan Stealth High-Velocity Hammer
There are a couple of new high velocity steel hammers on the market that are designed to help you complete nailing jobs with less arm fatigue. Vaughan’s Stealth feels to be the best of the bunch, with a large striking face and good user comfort. Plus, they’re made in the USA.
Price: $35 | BUY | Learn More
Victorinox Bike Tool
This Victorinox-branded version of the PB Swiss Bike Tool comes with a 5mm hex key, a bit holder adapter, two tire levers, and an assortment of (8) screwdriver bits. It is one of the most compact and versatile bike maintenance and emergency tool kits we’ve seen. Although a bit pricey, the included Swiss-made tools might just out-live your bike.
Price: $45-50 | BUY | Learn More
Channellock Adjustable Wrench
Channellock’s made-in-Spain (by Irega) adjustable wrenches are our absolute favorites. The cushion handles are grippy and super comfortable, the adjustment mechanism is smooth and strong, and the jaws open wide without the wrench being too large or bulky.
The 8″ model (8WCB) is a good place to start.
Price: $25 | BUY | Learn More
Felo Ergonic Screwdriver Set
While we have a lot of favorite screwdriver styles that we like for different reasons, these Felo Ergonic drivers are absolutely the most comfortable we have ever used. The handles are built with firm but squishy cushioning beneath a rubbery outer layer.
Price: $32-42 | BUY | Learn More
Megapro Ratcheting Screwdriver
Megapro’s 13-in-1 ratcheting screwdriver (automotive version) is similar to the Channellock one we reviewed and love using, but works with standard-sized 1-inch 1/4″ hex insert bits instead of double-sided bits. It has a smooth ratcheting mechanism, comfortable handle, and a high quality feel.
Price: $33 | BUY | Learn More
Proto Full Polish Spline Ratcheting Wrenches
If we lost all of our combination ratcheting wrenches, we would immediately replace them with Proto’s newest I-Beam spline profile wrenches. These wrenches have anti-slip open ends that are engineered with a greater offset angle for easier access around obstacles. They are the best wrenches we have ever used.
Price: varies | BUY | Learn More
Mora Companion Knife
Mora fixed blade knives have a strong following among bushcraft and outdoors enthusiasts, but are a great value for DIYers, pros, homeowners, hobbyists, and just about everyone else. For less than $20, you get a strong Swedish-made steel knife and a sheath.
We recently took a liking to the stainless steel model, which is available in a variety of vibrant colors.
Price: $15-20 | BUY | Learn More
Kershaw Leek Knife
We consider the Kershaw Leek to be a superb pocket knife. It is very affordable, yet performs leaps and bounds better than many of the cheaper knives we’ve seen. The Leek’s blade opens via a spring-assisted mechanism, which allows for quick and easy deployment.
Price: $33 | BUY | Learn More
Benchmade Mini Griptilian (555HG)
The USA-made Benchmade Mini Griptilian is one of our favorite sub-$100 folding pocket knives. It has a high strength Valox plastic handle with stainless steel liners, and a nicely shaped hollow ground sheepsfoot blade.
We prefer the thumb-hole model with plain edge blade (555HG), and Benchmade also makes the same knife with a thumb stud option (556HG).
Price: $85 | BUY | Learn More
Zero Tolerance 0350
The Zero Tolerance 0350 is an assisted-opening folding knife built with an S30V tungsten DLC-coated stainless steel blade and textured G-10 scales. This is the knife to buy when you’re ready for a serious heavy-duty folding knife. It can handle the toughest daily cutting tasks and won’t let you down.
Zero Tolerance now offers this knife with a couple of handle, blade style, and blade finish options, but you typically can’t go wrong with the all-black plain edge blade version.
Price: $115-130 | BUY | Learn More
Zero Tolerance Rexford 0801
We own and have tested a lot of flipper-style folding knives, and find the new Zero Tolerance 0801 Rexford design to be the best so far. It deploys so smoothly, quickly, and effortlessly that we almost can’t believe there’s no assisted-opening mechanism.
A premium Elmax steel blade, beautiful titanium handle, and perfect fit and finish make this as much a gentleman’s knife as a heavy-duty workhorse.
Price: $192 | BUY | Learn More
Leatherman Wingman or Sidekick
Leatherman’s “entry-level” Wingman and Sidekick multi-tools are proof that you don’t have to spend a lot for quality. Sure, they’re a little less featured and not as rugged as Leatherman’s higher-end models, but they’re plenty strong, durable, and versatile for everyday use.
We keep flip-flopping between the Wingman and Sidekick, but tend to favor the Wingman a little more as an entry-level tool. Unless you prefer the Sidekick’s tool selection, the Wingman’s lower price allows you to start saving for the next multi-tool.
Price: $25-35 | BUY | Learn More
Leatherman Skeletool CX
When we’re out and about, the Skeletool CX is our favorite multi-tool. It’s compact, lightweight, and features the tools we use most often – a knife blade, combination pliers, screwdriver bit holder, and bottle opener. A carabiner clip and pocket clip allow for multiple carrying options.
Not only does it work well and carry comfortably, it totally looks badass.
Price: $55-60 | BUY | Learn More
We are often asked about which multi-tool we feel is the all-around best. Without a doubt, that would be Leatherman’s Wave.
The Wave is well suited for all types of users, and looks sharp enough to be given as wedding or groomsmen gifts. It even engraves nicely, thanks to an unadorned stainless steel handle.
Price: $55-65 | BUY | Learn More
Leatherman Super Tool 300
Leatherman calls this a Super Tool for good reason. The Super Tool 300 features Leatherman’s largest and strongest pliers, and also user-replaceable wire cutting blades.
While this design is focused around the pliers, it also features a nice selection of knife blades and tools that are accessible when the handles are opened.
Price: $55 | BUY | Learn More
Since its late-2012 launch, Leatherman’s OHT multi-tool has been so popular that a lot of distributors are still having difficulty keeping it in stock. The pliers deploy swiftly with just a flick of the wrist, justifying Leatherman’s naming this a One-Handed Tool.
Although technically designed for tactical users, we love the OHT’s quick and strong pliers, outside-accessible tools, and ease of use. It has become a workshop favorite.
Price: $70-75| BUY | Learn More
Fenix’s E01 LED keychain-sized flashlight isn’t too flashy, nor is it very bright. It’s a 1AAA flashlight with incredibly long runtime, high durability, and waterproof construction. Priced at just under $15, the E01 provides great bang for the buck.
Price: $15 | BUY | Learn More
Some people might scoff at the thought of a $60 imported flashlight, and if so they probably have not yet tried a Fenix product. This 2AA LED flashlight is bright (215 lumens max), waterproof (IPX8), and reasonably compact.
In our experience, Fenix makes dependable products, and the LD22 is among the best EDC, household, and emergency LED flashlights we’ve come across.
Price: $60 | BUY | Learn More
Maglite Mag-Tac Tactical Flashlight
When it seemed like Maglite was way, way behind the times, they came out with the Mag-Tac tactical LED flashlight. These flashlights are built strong, and they work remarkably well.
For about $55 on average, you get a superb 2x CR123 LED flashlight that provides reliable and consistent performance. The Mag-Tac doesn’t quite rival other brands’ tactical and high performance LED flashlights, but it comes close and at a lower price.
Price: $52-65 | BUY | Learn More
Foursevens Preon P2
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Foursevens Preon P2 LED penlight is an executive flashlight, because it really is quite elegant in person. But underneath the hood this 2AAA LEd flashlight features high quality construction and materials, a high power emitter, multiple output levels and hidden special output modes.
With the Preon P2, you’re not just paying more for looks, you’re paying for premium quality and performance.
Price: $41 | BUY | Learn More
Streamlight Stylus Pro
Prior to the Preon P2, our top penlight pick was the Streamlight Stylus Pro. Now, the Stylus Pro is still one of our favorite penlights. It is very robustly built, easy to operate via a clicky tailcap switch, and it throws a bright beam. If you are looking for an affordable workhorse LED flashlight that can be easily carried in your pocket or bag, look no further.
Price: $20-25 | BUY | Learn More
Zebralight H502 Headlamp
While the Zebralight H502W is technically a headlamp (it comes with a removable headband), we tend to use it more as a compact LED flashlight when traveling and working on certain close-up projects. The flood light design brightens up a wide work area, and the neutral white color is easier on the eyes. Colors of illuminated objects tend to be truer-to-life as well.
Price: $69 | BUY | Learn More
Dremel MM30 Multi-Max Oscillating Tool
Dremel’s MM30 Multi-Max oscillating multi-tool is not the best model on the market, but it’s a decent performer that is priced at under $99. Even without a tool-free blade change mechanism, its stowable wrench provides for relatively quick blade changes.
As with other multi-tools, the MM30 can be used for cutting, grinding, sanding, and scraping applications.
This kit makes for an excellent first-time oscillating tool, and comes with enough attachments to start you off with.
Price: $99 | BUY | Learn More
Bosch 12V Max Cordless Tool Combo Set
Bosch’s largest 12V Max cordless power tool combo kit also happens to provide the biggest bang for the buck. It comes with a compact drill/driver, impact driver, radio, (2) high capacity 2.0Ah batteries, and (2) L-Boxxes. It’s the best 12V starter kit we’ve seen, and should provide DIYers, pros, and homeowners years of great performance.
Price: $200 | BUY | Learn More
Ryobi 18V Airstrike Cordless Brad Nailer
Ryobi is the first consumer brand to have packed pneumatic-like performance into a cordless brad nailer. It drives brads without requiring the use of an air hose or powder chargers, but don’t forget that the required Li-ion battery and charger are sold separately.
Price: $129 | BUY | Learn More
Bosch Axial Glide Miter Saw
Sliding miter saws provide for great cutting capacity, but have one major disadvantage – they take up a lot of space. Bosch solved this issue in their axial glide miter saw by engineering it with compact compound pivoting joints that take the place of guide rails. The 12″ version is readily available and a 10″ saw is nearing release.
Price: $725 | BUY | Learn More
Craftsman Heavy Duty Ball Bearing
Ball bearing tool storage products are available at every home improvement retailer, but it can be hard to find good quality models at affordable prices.
In 2013 Craftsman impressed us with a new line of heavy-duty ball bearing chests and cabinets that feature Dynaglide drawer slides. Each drawer can hold up to 75 pounds in tools.
We have had good results with Craftsman’s red ball bearing storage cabinet, and presume that all of their Dynaglide products will perform similarly.
Prices start at under $200 and go up from there, depending on tool box size and number of drawers.
Price: varies | BUY | Learn More
Montezuma Portable Tool Box
Montezuma’s portable tool boxes are compact solutions aimed at mechanics, technicians, and service personnel that need quick access to their tools. These iconic triangular-shaped tool boxes are available in different styles, sizes, and colors.
Price: $330 and up| BUY | Learn Moren
Facom Cantilever Tool Box
This Facom 5-tray cantilever tool box has been a favorite addition to our shop, but it can get a little too heavy when fully loaded. We have searched far and wide, but have yet to find a better cantilever tool box.
Price: $115 | BUY | Learn More
Gladiator Adjustable Height Workbench
We tend to be picky about workbenches. If it’s not built from 2x4s, then it had better be an absolutely fantastic workbench that’s worth every penny. Luckily, Gladiator’s adjustable height workbenches don’t disappoint. They’re available in 4-foot, 6-foot, and 8-foot sizes, with your choice of maple or bamboo butcher block top.
Not only are these workbenches rock-solid and capable of supporting heavy loads, they look quite nice too. Not that you or us care about that sort of thing, but it’s still nice to have.
Price: $400-600 | BUY | Learn More
Craftsman Professional Bench Vise
Craftsman’s 87018 professional vise is the best sub-$150 bench vise we have used thus far. Period. If you want something better, you’ll have to shell out three times as much for the Wilton bullet vise that the Craftsman design is based on.
Price: $110-120 | BUY | Learn More
Craftsman Anti-Fatigue Mat
Do you spend a lot of time standing in front of a workbench in your shop? Buy this cushioned Craftsman anti-fatigue mat, and your feet, legs, and back will thank you.
Price: $40 | BUY | Learn More
Akro-Mils Organizer Cabinet
Well-organized workshops and garages will always be more efficient and enjoyable to work in than those in perpetual states of disarray. Akro-Mils metal-framed drawer cabinets are helpful for sorting and storing small parts, tools, and hardware, and can be stacked on top of each other for greater organizational needs.
Multiple colors and drawer configurations are available, but the 20-drawer unit with gray plastic drawers is a good choice for most to start out with, and is also presently the most economical model.
Price: $72 – $130 | BUY | Learn More
Everyday Gear (EDC)
It’s a durable and lightweight spork made from titanium, what’s more to say? Make sure you also have a stout knife or can opener ($1.50 via Amazon) to open up canned goods.
Price: $9 | BUY | Learn More
Pentel Sharp Kerry Pocketable Automatic Pencil
The Pentel Sharp Kerry is like the Fisher Space Pen of pencils. Its cap serves double duty – it protects your pockets from the pencil tip, and also transforms the very compact and pocketable pencil to one that is comfortable to write with.
Price: $14 | BUY | Learn More
Fisher Space Pen
There are a lot of new pens on the market today that work with Fisher Space Pen ink cartridges, but the bullet-shaped Space Pen remains our favorite. The Space Pen is compact and pocketable, and its pressurized ink cartridge is designed to write in all sorts of conditions – under water, in the cold, and even upside down.
Price: $16+ | BUY | Learn More
Skinth OG Tool Sheath
The Skinth OG tool sheath is what Batman would carry when he wants to leave his utility belt at home.
Price: $35+ | BUY | Learn More
Klein Bottle Opener
How cool is this – a bottle opener with a traditional Klein screwdriver handle! If you prefer coffee, tea, or hot chocolate over beer, they also make an insulated hot drink bottle ($19 via Amazon).
Price: $7 | BUY
Casio G-Shock Watch
Casio’s G-Shock line of watches are designed to endure rough, tough, and demanding conditions. Our favorite is the G9300 Mudman (~$175), but less featured models are just as tough and start at $45.
Price: $45+ | BUY | Learn More
Disaster Preparedness Tools (aka Zombie Survival Gear)
Gerber LMF II
Gerber’s LMF fixed-blade knife comes in two kits – an infantry bundle, and a survival knife bundle. Bothe versions come with the knife, a sheath with built-in sharpener, and multiple attachment options. The survival knife bundle comes with an added safety knife.
Stranded on a deserted island? This is the knife you’ll want to be at your side.
Price: $65-70 | BUY | Learn More
ESEE Izula Knife
Maybe you don’t want a large and heavy survival knife, but something small and pocketable. ESEE makes excellent survival knives in all shapes and sizes. Our favorite so far for workshop use is the affordable Izula, which works well wrapped with paracord or with optional bolt-on handle scales.
Price: $45+ | BUY | Learn More
Stanley FUBAR III
The Fubar III is a 30″ utility bar that can be used for prying, board bending, or striking tasks. Between uses, store it with your other disaster preparedness tools. The consumer version is not quite as overbuilt as the professional forcible entry version, but it’s better than being left with only your band hands.
Price: $80 | BUY | Learn More
Trucker’s Friend All-Purpose Survival Tool
Although originally designed for trucker’s, the Trucker’s Friend emergency survival tool is packed with features other types of users might find handy. It has a curved axe blade, spanner wrench, hammer face, nail puller, tire chain hook, pry bar, and lever edge.
Price: $60 | BUY
Gerber’s E-Tool is a folding spade shovel with a serrated blade on one side. It’s great for camping, backpacking, auto use, and other times when you need to do some light digging.
The Knipex Plier wrenches are excellent tools. We never found anything better and carried several sizes on our trucks, Shopping around for price might pay off if you plan to buy more than 1.
We also had good luck with the Bosch Axial Gide miter saws that we bought. The saw is heavy – but we had ours on Bosch’s gravity rise stands (T4B – which is similar to but more expensive than the TS2000 that Bosch sells for their 4100 job site saw). The stands that we have were made in Taiwan – then became unavailable for a while – but are now made in China as is the saw. I’ve head some complaints about the saws fence not being square to the table and/or one side being out of alignment with the other. We had this issue with one of our earliest saws – sent it back for another which was fine – but its good to check this as well as checking for dishing of the table on any miter saw. Like most miter saws – this one will benefit from an immediate blade change out (The 90 tooth Forrest CM12905115 is my current choice in this size) and a vacuum hose (Bosch Vac005) to replace the rather pathetic dust bag.
This is a great list. Might have to send this to the wife so she can know some relevant ideas for Christmas 😛
Super! Excellent list.
Great list Stuart — just a heads up: the trucker’s friend was designed for truck company firefighters.
Looks like there are two models one for truckers and one for Fire / Rescue:
Rescue model http://www.amazon.com/Innovation-Factory-IF-232-Professional-Rescue/dp/B0083R4J18/
Ryobi is releasing a crown stapler on their air strike platform saw this a few days ago on the internet. For some one looking to buy the air strike as a gift I would look for one of their cheap single battery drill deals instead of buying a battery and charger if they don’t have any other Ryobi one+ tools.
Good list I shall share with my audience.
The Facom pliers looks like a great tool – and I see that Zoro Tools is offering a 15% discount for orders over $50 – with free shipping (Dec 9-10).
The coupon code is SNOW15
” Gerber E-Tool ”
This seems to be a copy of the Fiskars/Finnish army shovel.
I think that is because Gerber is owned by Fiskars.
You silly americans! The Mora knife is from Sweden not Switzerland! =)
Nice list, to bad I already spent this years budget for tools/toys =(
I *know* it was made in Sweden, it even says so on the darn knife, and this looks to be the first time I’ve made this mistake.
Thanks for the correction!
Nice list, however I would have added a couple of Spyderco knives like the US made Manix or Paramilitary. I would opt for genuine surplus e-tool as well. Otherwise, no complaints and I have several of the tools listed purchased from your previous recommendations.
I haven’t tried the Spyderco Manix or Paramilitary, although I considered adding a Delica 4 or other Spyderco to the list. After a little debate I decided the Benchmade mini-grip was a better recommendation for the time being, but I might add a Spyderco or two to the list down the road.
I would be carefull about carrying knives that are not folders.
check yer local laws !
Great advice! Everyone should check their local laws before carrying any knife, folder or fixed blade. Something like the Mora would be suitable for carry or use around the workshop or campsite, but not in most urban settings.
This is an awesome guide, thanks for the work you put in.
Very sorry to see Craftsmen products. They have moved production of tools off shore (china) They stole a US tool designer’s 6 point wrench- Bionic wrench from an american engineer. Never will buy a sears product or tool and I hate seeing there products promoted anywhere.
Very nice guide. I am looking at an 18 ga airstrike nailer from Ryobi. I am I amd a DIYer so I hope I done’t regret not getting one from Dewalt.
I’m needing a deal on some more Flexvolt batteries. Dewalts new 60v stuff rocks!
Plus Ready for a Dewalt weedwacker that uses attachments like my 40v ryobi.
I can never seem to have enough LED flashlights…each one is better than the last one.
Where the hell can you really buy a Leatherman Wave for $55-65 like you say, both in the review and this gift buying guide? Even your own link takes me to Amazon, where it has always (and STILL is) regularly sold for $99.95, almost TWICE the price you constantly tout on your website. Unacceptable!!!!
Prices skyrocketed in the 6 years since the post was published.
I ordered a tool box and cabinet in August last year and never got it and paid for it, can you help please?
Where did you order it from? If you paid by credit card, try to dispute the charge.