Whether it's ever-improving materials, human ingenuity or a need to be prepared for whatever problems life can throw at us, designers continue to push the boundaries of multitool design in hugely creative ways. This year saw the emergence of some truly original ideas that pack all kinds of functionality into implements of strange shapes and sizes. Here are the best of the bunch, some of which can be bought now and some still in the preorder phase.

A pen with some tricks up its sleeve

The Apex Bolt from Zerohour is one fine looking pen, but this is a bolt-action writing instrument capable of both kicking ass and taking names. Inside is a hidden hex-bit screwdriver along with a ceramic tip that turns it into a weapon for self-defense (or if you need to break glass in an emergency). What's more, it uses Fisher Space Pen refills so you can write under water and upside down.

Classic and clean

Portland toolmaker SOG hasn't reinvented the wheel with its PowerLitre, but it does take a very typical multitool form and pack it with an impressive array of implements. Some 17 tools feature in all, including the usual suspects like a flat screwdriver, gripper, needle nose pliers, ruler and scissors, along with food-prepping utensils such as a compound leverage corkscrew and can opener. The addition of a magnetic hex bit driver is new to the company's range, and the tool's total weight is just 4.6 oz (130 g), which makes it lighter than some other options on the market.

Customizable tools for those on the go

Anywhere Tools is a modular system from Nevada-based Keyport designed to let folks decide what to take with them on any given day, which makes a lot of sense, because most multitools are going to carry some dead weight that doesn't get used all that often. It consists of modules that can be stacked on top of one another, such as a 10-in-one multitool or two-inch pocket knife, and then additional accessories that can be added to that core. Options include a 27-lumen flashlight and USB charger cable. Pricing starts at $20 for the base module via Indiegogo, while a flashlight module can be added for $10 and a knife module for $17.

56 tools in one

Like the Apex Bolt, the Wowstick Mini looks like a rather fancy pen, though this versatile implement doesn't waste its time on mundane tasks like writing. It Is USB rechargeable and powers one of 56 swappable heads at a time, including a selection of Philips head and flat-blade screwdrivers, along with hex pieces. And when the job is done you can store it in its classy desktop stand, kind of like an electric toothbrush (though the stand won't charge it, unfortunately). The Wowstick Mini was up for preorder for $30, though the Kickstarter campaign has been successfully funded and since drawn to a close. More information is available at the creator's website.

A dynamic ratchet and a firestarter

The EverRatchet is a keychain 20-in-1 multitool designed by a mechanical engineer who wanted to combine the utility of tiny Philips head screwdrivers with the convenience of a dynamic ratchet. The cleverly designed ratchet driver fits a Philips #2 screwdriver bit snugly in its center, holding it in place as the tool is rotated. A thin beam pins it in place but has just enough give that when the EverRatchet is spun back the other way, it flexes and allows the tool to rotate freely so you can keep right on tightening. It also comes with a handy fire flint, box opener, scraper and wire stripper. The EverRatchet was available for preorder from $22, though the hugely successful Indiegogo campaign has since wrapped up and it's now selling on Amazon. More information is available here.

It takes two to multitool

The Toler Union is another modular multitool but has duality as well as flexibility at its heart. Its stainless steel and aluminum body can be split into halves to put a set of pliers in one hand and a wrench in the other, perfect for tackling two-handed tasks like removing a bike wheel. Also onboard is a bottle opener, file, metal saw, screwdriver and wood saw. The Toler Union was available for preorder for $88, though a word of caution, the Kickstarter campaign appears to have been paused for the time being, with plans in the pipe for a relaunch. More information here.

Thinking big

Bucking the trend size-wise here is the Combar from Aclim8, which is a serious looking club or baton in unpacked form. And its versatility is equally menacing with a stainless steel hammerhead up top, along with a flip-out side-pick for shoveling and a flip-out hatchet for hacking. Packed into the handle, meanwhile, are a 4.5-inch steel blade and a folding saw. One for true bush survivalists and lumberjacks. Expected to retail for a whopping $500, the Combar was available to predorder, though the crowdfunding campaign has also since wrapped up. Find out more at Aclim8's website.

Simple elegance

The Halifax from Portland toolmaker The James Brand is one multitool that doesn't bite off more than it can chew, designed to do a few things properly and look good while it's at it. A flat-blade and Philips head combination screwdriver feature here, along with a scraper and pry bar along the front edge and a bottle opener underneath. It's made out of tough 6AL-4V titanium to boot and coated in Cerakote, a protective ceramic film used by the British Army, so its good looks are made to last. The Halifax is priced at $50.

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