A good multi-tool is an important part of any dirt biker's basic tool kit but with an almost overwhelming selection of multi-tools on the market today, it can be difficult to know which one is the best choice for any particular application. The three big players – Leatherman, Gerber, and Victorinox offer an amazing selection of quality tools, and the only deciding factor is usually your wallet. When choosing a multi-tool to take out on the trails (or anywhere else for that matter), the basic criteria would include weight, size, functionality, and price.
Weight and size: These two components usually go together in that smaller multi-tools are generally lighter (that's general - some higher priced multi-tools are made with expensive components that lowers the weight/size ratio). A first step when deciding which tool to buy would be to decide where you'll carry it. If it's snug in a fender pack, weight is not as important (although size may be), but if you're carrying it in a fanny pack or in your pocket, you'll appreciate something smaller and lighter. Dual-sport riders have more options because they have more storage space, but if the tool is buried deep in the nether regions of a pannier it's not going to be very helpful in everyday or emergency situations, so consider two multi-tools - a full-blown uber-accessorized multi-tool for the panniers and a smaller one for the tank bag. **A been-there-done-that note - don't attach a multi-tool to your belt loop. The belt loop wasn't designed to hold a heavy tool and with all the bouncing of the dirt bike the belt loop will tear, leaving your multi-tool lying along the trail for the guy behind you to find.
Functionality: Choosing which multi-tool accessories to get can be tough, but it's safe to say all multi-tools should, at the very least, have a knife blade, pliers of some sort, saw blade to cut kindling, a screwdriver and flint/firestarter. We all like the ooh and ahh factor of gadgets and tools, but do you really need that corkscrew if your dirt bike breaks down and you're stranded out on the trails? When push comes to shove, think survival. Buy a multi-tool that will get you back home safe and sound. You can get the corkscrew out of the kitchen drawer when you get home to celebrate your safe return.
Price: There's a huge range of prices when it comes to today's multi-tools. You need to keep in mind that these tools last a long, long time so if it seems expensive up front, divide the number of years you'll have the tool into the purchase price and it won't seem expensive at all. Besides . . . how much is your health and well-being worth? If you have second thoughts about the price of the tool you selected, start paring down the tool's options until you find one in your price range.
Where to buy a multi-tool: Once you decide which attachments you need and how much you want to spend, start searching. Leatherman, Gerber, and Victorinox aren't the only players in the multi-tool market, but they're all established companies with excellent customer service and warranties. You won't go wrong with any of their products. Fortunately, all three manufacturers use names for their products (i.e., Rebar, Diesel, Hunstman, etc.) which makes it much easier to compare prices.
- Leatherman: The Leatherman website makes it easy to get more info as they have a separate tab for multi-tools. If you want to compare prices, they also have their own Leatherman Amazon page where you can find more product reviews along with many answered questions.
- Gerber: The Gerber website has a multi-tools page along with a selcetion of knives, hatchets, military, and survival gear. The Gerber Amazon page has most of the same products (except some military items) and might have better prices.
- Victorinox: Victorinox doesn't make actual multi-tools, but their Swiss Army Knives are nothing short of amazing. The big advantage with the SAK is that they pack so much functionality in a very small, lightweight package. It's fairly easy to find more info about the SAKs on the Victorinox website, but as with Leatherman and Gerber, Victorinox also has a storefront on Amazon that can help with the names, price comparisons, and alternate product reviews.
Multi-tool video: Okay, most of us don't play with explosives or shoot big guns, and it may be overkill for the average dirt bike trail rider, but the first video highlights the many uses of the Leatherman 850022 MUT Tactical multi-tool (Amazon). I'm sure the military guys can relate, (and appreciate) the MUT's functionality.