You can bring a multi-tool, such as a Leatherman, Gerber, Victorinox Swiss Army, and others, in your carry-on so as long as it:
- Is less than 7" in total length when fully expanded
- Does not have a knife or blade (scissors are an exception*)
- *If it has scissors, the scissors must be less than 4" in length to be placed in a carry-on
If it does not meet all the above specifications, it cannot be brought through the security checkpoint or packed in your carry-on luggage. However, it can be packed in your checked luggage so as long as it is protected and no sharp edges are present.
Here is a list of Leatherman and Gerber Multi-tools that would be allowed to be packed in your carry-on or checked luggage.
Furthermore, a list of Leatherman and Gerber Multi-tools that would not be allowed in your carry-on, but would be allowed in your checked luggage is included at the bottom of this article.
What is a Multi-Tool?
A multi-tool is a compact, portable device that has blades or extensions for several tools and can often be folded into a compact shape.
Many multi-tools have a small knife, bottle opener, phillips and flathead screwdriver, wire cutters, regular pliers, and other components. Some multi-tools even have nail clippers, fire starters, and other useful features, depending on the tool’s primary job.
Risks and Penalties for Bringing a Knife through the Security Checkpoint
Bringing any knife or sharp-edged item through the security checkpoint is strictly prohibited. While moving through the security checkpoint, if caught with a multi-tool in your possession that has a knife or blade, you could face fines ranging between $390 to $2,250.
If you are a repeat offender for traveling with prohibited items at a checkpoint, sterile area, or onboard aircraft, the fines and penalties are greater.
Be aware that you will typically have options if a prohibited multi-tool is in your bag. Just because you forgot your multi-tool in your bag doesn’t mean you’re going to be arrested and prosecuted on the spot. Instead, you’ll likely be given a couple options:
- Put it in a checked bag, or check your carry-on bag with the multi-tool.
- Give it to the friend, relative, coworker, or whoever it is that dropped you off.
- Take it back to the car
- Ship it home.
If you don’t want to move forward with any of these options and still want to board your flight, you will need to voluntarily surrender it to TSA. You will not get your multi-tool back at any point in time after voluntarily surrendering it. It becomes property of the US Government.
A multi-tool will probably have more leeway with security vs. a 9mm handgun. The TSA is most concerned about preventing firearms, explosives, and flammable substances from being on an aircraft and accessible by a passenger. If you’re caught with any more serious items on the prohibited items list, you will face criminal prosecution.
What to do if your multi-tool is confiscated by airport security?
If your multi-tool is confiscated by airport security, don’t panic, get emotional, or aggressive with TSA. Doing any of those things will only make the situation worse.
Realize that once it’s been confiscated, it’s gone. Cut your losses and continue with your travel plans. TSA will typically work with you on options so you can continue your travel plans, but not always.
If your multi-tool holds significant monetary or sentimental value, it’s best to leave it at home, or purchase a second one to pack in your checked luggage. Sometimes your checked luggage will get lost, so it’s best to leave anything with significant value at home.
What happens to multi-tools confiscated by TSA?
Multi-tools, and other items, confiscated by TSA, are typically:
- Turned over to a state agency to be sold as surplus
- Sold by TSA as excess property
- Donated to charity
Multi-tools and knives are confiscated frequently by TSA. As of publishing this article, there are 119 auctions live on the GovDeals website for various lots of TSA confiscated items. The GovDeals website is where certain government agencies sell abandoned, unclaimed, or confiscated property.
Why aren’t multi-tools allowed on airplanes?
Generally, it’s because of the blade length and other features that are present on most multi-tools. These items are seen as a potential security risk if allowed in the cabin of an aircraft, so for safety reasons are prohibited from being packed in carry-on luggage.
How to pack a multi-tool for air-travel
If you are traveling with a multi-tool, it must be securely packed in your checked luggage and not in your carry-on. For safety reasons, the blade of the tool should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent any kind of injury during transport.
Be aware, these are labeled as ‘travel-friendly’, not ‘TSA approved’ or ‘TSA compliant.’ While the information available on the TSA website leads us to believe the below are acceptable for travel in a carry-on bag or on your person through the airport, it’s not guaranteed. The final decision lies within the individual TSA officer screening you at the security checkpoint.
Non-Travel Compliant Multi-Tools
|Leatherman||Super Tool 300|
|Leatherman||Charge + TTI|
Super Tool 300 EOD
|Leatherman||Charge + G10|
|Leatherman||Wave + Set|
Outdoor Adventure Set
Surge Tool Pouch
Signal Tool Pouch
Everday Essentials Set
Charge + TTI Tool Pouch
Skeletool Tool Pouch
Charge+ Tool Pouch
|Leatherman||Curl Tool Pouch|
|Leatherman||Heavy Duty Set|
Large Ainsworth EDC Set
Everday Carry Set
|Leatherman||Bond & Curl Set|
Ainsworth EDC Set
Wave+ Repair Kit
Lockdown - Drive
|Gerber||Lockdown - Pry|
Lockdown Slim Pry