Sunday, February 03, 2008

Why carry a multi-tool when hiking?

My daypack is too heavy and stuffed with too much gear, partly because I usually hike alone and carry extra survival gear. One item I usually carry is a small multi-tool and a friend asked why I carry it and what I would use it for. To him, the multi-tool was an obvious choice to lighten my pack. Considering that question, I've thought about how I have used the multi-tool in the past and what I've seen others use similar tools to do in the backcountry. I'm primarily interested in the pliers; I carry a Swiss army knife with screwdriver and scissors and of course a blade.

I've used pliers several times to repair equipment; stoves, pack stays, and zippers. I haven't recently often needed pliers for repairs, I think my gear is better quality and less fragile than it was years ago. Also, I don't usually take a stove on a day hike. I no longer use an external frame pack and therefore don't have pack stays. I still occasionally use the pliers on my multi-tool to fix zippers or more often unblock them, on packs and jackets.

I've seen and used pliers to remove hooks, thorns, large splinters, and porcupine quills from cloth or flesh. It isn't necessary to be fishing to get tangled in discarded fishing lines and hooks. A fall may result in nasty splinters or thorns and using the small jawed pliers on my multi-tools is a lot easier than trying to pull out the item with fingers, especially if cold or using my non-dominant hand. I've never gotten quills embedded but I have seen dogs do so and pliers are really useful then.

There are a few other things I've used the multi-tool for and probably more that I have forgotten. The pliers make a good pot-lifter. Occasionally I use the screwdriver because it is more robust than my SAK or as a small pry bar. The file can be handy for smoothing sharp edges. I haven't decided for certain yet but may continue to carry the multi-tool because it is small, light, and useful.

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