Every backcountry skier should carry a multi tool, but few do.
There, I said it.
Most carry the traditional swiss army knife which is great for the bottle of vino and brie at the cabin but if your gear fails you (and it will - it is only a matter of time) then you need something a little more utilitarian in nature to make sure you ever make the cabin. Something that has their best interest at heart, which was designed specifically with their needs in mind. Their are plenty of cool looking multi-tools on the market but most fall up short when it comes to the requirements for the true backcountry skier.
Only two years ago I had a pair of well worn Fritschi bindings give up the fight a few kilometres and 1400' from our local ski area while on a rather routine backcountry tour with friends. This was enough to possibly cause us to spend the next 6 hours wallowing waist deep in powder the wrong way - ie. boot packing out. We managed to fashion a solution for the up track with some duck tape and a precisely whittled tree branch to ensure that there was enough tension to keep my boot firmly attached to my binding. Without going into the details lets just say that if I had the T20 Torx bit I would have been saved in an instant. Instead, I could uncork bottle of wine, open a bottle of beer, skin a marmot and clean the goop out of my teeth if need be. My trusty swiss army knife had failed me,… time to re-think the knife in my bag of tricks.
Brooks-Range has just released their new Backcountry Multi-Tool to answer the needs of many who have been looking for that all in one solution. There are many multi-tools on the market but the geniuses at Brooks-range decided to make one specifically for the backcountry skiing crowd so that we could fix anything on a pair of Fritschi or Dynafit bindings - well done! The Multi-Tool is made from stainless steel and aluminum to maximize strength and minimize weight and of course has the standard issue locking knife blade, pliers and bottle opener.
So what makes this multi-tool so special? lets just say it has enough tools to totally take your bindings apart and then some. It includes eight screw bits (with one is built into the end of the wrench) and if you loose a bit you can replace it or add to your collection by visiting your local hardware store as these are a standard 1/4" size. It also includes four wrench sizes and a few other goodies like a drill bit, extension driver,wire cutters and, well read the details below and you will get the idea:
1. Needlenose / Regular pliers / Wire cutters
2. Serrated / Straight knife
3. Bottler opener
4. Bit Driver with #4 + #9 Slotted (end of wrench), #1 + #2 Philips, #3 Pozi, T20 + T10 Torx, 1/8th Allen head and Driver extension
5. Wrench (6, 8, 10, 11 mm)
6. #14 sewing needle
7. 1/16th drill bit
Size Closed: 3.5cm x 10.5 cm / 1.4" x 4.1"
Size Extended: 9cm x 15.5cm / 3.5" x 6.1"
Weight: 205g / 7.2oz
Weight with out add-ons: 165g / 5.8oz
(Note: The Brooks-Range Multi-Tool is currently not in production as Brooks-Range was not happy with the quality of their manufacturer. They told us that they are looking at bringing it back to market as soon as they can assure quality of production. We have not had any problem with our sample tool in the few years that we have been using it.)
Super durable and multi functional - geared towards the needs of a backcountry skier who may have to repair their gear in the field. This tool is a little on the heavy side but that is the price you pay to make it last and not fall apart when you torque on it.
Since this is a backcountry multi-tool it would be nice to have a much lighter weight carrying case as the current one is very beefy and heavy, additionally an idiot cord would be a "nice to have" as this will disappear fast in deep snow if dropped (you will notice in the pictures above that that is the first thing that was added).
Ease of Use 2/2
Quality / Price 1.5/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.
UPDATE APRIL 2013:
The Brooks-Range Backcountry Multi-tool received plenty of good press when it was initially released and for good reason. It's the ideal ski touring tool, I have packed mine with me for the past two years and it has come in handy more than a dozen times. Shortly after it was released though it got discontinued due to poor quality on the manufacturers end. Brooks-Range tells me they are still trying to resurrect it but so far I have not seen it on their web site. I have found nothing wrong with my Backcountry Multi-tool other than I have lost one or two of the screw bits as they tend to fall out. We will continue to harass Brooks-Range to bring back the multi-tool and if you want it back as well comment on the forums link above and let us know so we can let them know.