Knipex Cobra XS Water Pump Pliers.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I’ve spent a lot of money on multitools over the years. In part, that’s because I like the idea of a single tool that serves many functions, and partly it’s down to no one tool being ideal. Furthermore, I can’t lie, there’s a small bit of me that just loves new, shiny things.

But ultimately, multitools all fall short in one way or another.

Too bulky. Too uncomfortable to use. Too big. Too small.

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Oh, and there’s usually a big, locking blade that’s largely unnecessary. This is a no-no here in the UK, and also something that’s going to result in the tool being confiscated if I accidentally try taking it on a plane.

So, it got me thinking. What is it that I really want from a multitool?

The answer: A decent pair of pliers that grip really well and can clamp down with strong force.

Everything else — screwdrivers, tin openers, knife, awl, thing for getting stones out of horse’s hooves — I either have as part of my EDC (everyday carry), or I don’t really need.

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I want a pair of pliers that are compact enough to unobtrusively fit into a pocket, yet strong enough to, well, do what I expect pliers to do.

And I’ve found what I need.

Knipex Cobra XS Water Pump Pliers.

First, these are tiny. Measuring 4.02 x 1.18 x 0.39 inches (10.21 x 2.99 x 0.99 cm), and weighing on at 2.19 oz (62 g), they can slip into a pocket or bag totally unobtrusively.

These fit into the hand perfectly.

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But don’t let their small size fool you.

These have 11 adjustment positions and can open enough to grip a 1-inch (24 mm) fastener. I’ve used these to do simple plumbing, change a car battery, and even change an alternator.

They’re also great for disconnecting cable connectors in larger electronic devices, such as PCs, washing machines, cars, and so on. They offer better drip than your fingers can ever achieve, but not so much that you end up destroying things.

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And they really do grip, with the precision machined teeth really biting in.

Pliers left open on gray gridded background

Huge bite for such a small size.

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Initially, I had concerns about the handles.

They look uncomfortable, especially since they aren’t coated in anything rubbery. But having used these extensively, I can say that it’s not a problem. The handles are comfortable, even when the pliers are being used hard.

The precision-ground jaws can also clamp down on small fasteners or those that are flush to the surface.

Pliers gripping a fastener

Gripping a fastener that’s flush to the surface (and look how good those jaws look, even after a lot of use)

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Oh, and here’s another feature I appreciate.

I don’t know if you’ve ever pinched your fingers between the handles of a pair of pliers, but I have, and I can tell you that it’s up there with stepping on a Lego or banging your shin on a coffee table when it comes to pain. So many multitools let you do this, and because they’re something you might only use every so often, it can surprise you (in a bad way).

Well, good news. These Knipex pliers won’t do this.

They’re also very corrosion resistant. The ones I own have been in my pocket for weeks, used outdoors, and even in water, and they are still almost like new.

And all this for under $30. These Knipex Cobra XS Water Pump Pliers are just awesome.

Combine these Water Pump Pliers with, say, a Wera screwdriver kit, and it you’ll be able to tackle 90% of the jobs that a multitool can do, and do it better and more efficiently.

Need something bigger? No problem.

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You can pick up the Cobra water pump pliers in sizes from 4-inch to a whopping 22-inch.

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