While the popular slip joint pliers is a mainstay in every overlanding tool kit, there are some other pliers common to upgraded tool kits including needle nose pliers, lineman pliers, “Channellock” pliers, and wire cutters. But what if you took those additional pliers and injected them with steroids or a serious intelligent upgrade? Well, then you would my list of next level pliers.
1. Knipex Plier Wrench
Where to start with this one? How about with the name. Knipex is pronounced with the hard K no matter how silly it sounds. And once past the name, you will find a meticulously designed, German engineered hand tool. Although a passing glance might seem like this yet another take on a tongue-and-groove or “Channellock” adjustable jaw pliers, it really is something completely different. A love-child between pliers and a wrench, if you will. First, you will first notice that the jaws always remain parallel. And then you will see a camming mechanism. So what do camming parallel jaws give you? Imagine it as a variation on the adjustable wrench (think Crescent wrench) theme. Except a life changing execution combining pliers with a wrench. And even more amazing is that once on a bolt or nut, downward pressure on the upper handle will keep the pliers in place, and the harder you push, the tighter the pliers grip. Several sizes are available. While I have five, seven and ten inch versions, the seven inch pair of Knipex Pliers Wrench is my grab-and-go size for overlanding.
2. Klein Multi-Purpose Hybrid Pliers
The Klein J215-8CR pliers begin with a modified lineman tip with serious crunching capabilities. Then a set of wire stripping blades with a full set of cutting blades after that. Two bolt/nail cutting holes appear just after the joint followed by a crimper/loop grabber. What makes these pliers next level is they offer the bite of a lineman pliers with the dexterity of a needle nose profile. While I usually avoid so-called hybrid tools, this particular set of features in this form factor is exceptionally good at what it does, it is especially good at twisting and cutting repair wire, something all overlanders know about.
3. Klein Journeyman Heavy Duty Diagonal Cutters
The side cutter is a staple of every tool box, but most are smaller and feel like more of a hobbyist tool. But the Klein’s J2000-59 are like a comically large version. A full nine inches tall rather than the usual five or six inch cutters. And once you get up to knives and handles this size, it opens up many other uses, massively increases the leverage, and works well when wearing gloves or using two hands. Overlanding can involve both fabrication and modification. Cutters this large are like having a machine shop in your pocket.
4. Snap On High Leverage Combination Pliers
Although these high leverage pliers, or HL138ACP as Snap On calls them, have an odd look, their bite is serious. A surprising field test often done on the Snap On truck is to grab a piece of bar stock steel with these high leverage pliers, then wrap a rubber band around the handles. Now without squeezing the grips, try to pull the bar stock out of the jaws. It’s not easy or maybe impossible. These pliers grab with such force that one must be careful not to crush your work piece. But if you need to really hold on to something or apply a crazy amount of hand force, then this is your ticket!
5. Snap On Talon Grip Needle Nose 6” Pliers
Anyone who has used Snap On Talon Grip pliers knows they have a tremendous advantage in grip and lateral or twisting strength especially with needle nose pliers. So where better to apply such innovation? With a small needle nose pliers since the gains are even greater. Some needle nose pliers grab more like tweezers than pliers slipping and twisting off. Not these Snap Ons. These pliers bite way above their pay grade. Well, pay grade may not be the right word since they are Snap On and you will pay a premium, but you know what I mean.
When crawling around your overlanding rig working on whatever challenge is in front of you, the last thing you want is to not have the right tool. And the best thing is to have the optimum tool that makes all the difference in the world. Refining and building your overlanding tool kit by optimizing the effectiveness of each tool, while minimizing the amount of tool overlap, you will have much more capability with many fewer tools meaning there is a better chance you will have the right tool and it will be in your hand when you reach the problem.