My backcountry repair kit is on the thin side when compared to many skiers, but I do always carry a multi-tool in my pack. In my experience, the highest use tools for addressing boot, binding and unforeseen backcountry issues are a scewdriver of one sort or another, pliers and a good blade. Scissors are a nice plus but not a requirement, and a bottle opener is always a handy companion. Although there’s no true dedicated backcountry ski multi-tool on the market at the moment, there are numerous generic multi-tools available that meet skier needs. After trying a variety of different models, I have narrowed down a selection of multi-tools that offer what I like to have handy in my pack. Here are three different Leatherman brand multi-tools that feature bit drivers and meet my needs at various levels.
The key detail on all three of these tools is the built-in bit driver. It’s short, and you need to buy the added proprietary bit collection to get a good variety of bit options – the bits are not standard 1/4″ hex, they are a slimmed-down variation. But better yet, what really makes them viable ski tools and sets them apart from the competition is the ability to add a bit extender that accepts standrd 1/4″ bits and creates a truly usable screwdriver. The Leatherman bit extender turns these tools into a driver that works with regular 1/4″ bits like used in most tools, so you don’t need to buy the extra bit kit.
The Leatherman Charge is the heaviest and most fully-featured of the three tools included here. It boasts 19 different tools and features. And by heavy, we’re talking a full eight ounces or half a pound – that’s 227 grams for the metric crowd. It’s hefty for sure, but I’d rather carry the weight and be able to ski out than not carry it and have to walk out on one ski or similar.
The Charger is the ticket for multi-day trips. The main benefits of the Charge are having a small pair of scissors, a micro-screwdriver that’s nice for eyeglasses/sunglasses adjustment and multiple blade options. Beyond the above, a small saw and file can also prove their value very quickly when you need to cut through wood or work on a ski edge. The bit driver fits the aftermarket bits available from Leatherman (pictured) as well as the bit extender (pictured). Really, if you want to be able to reach binding screws and have reasonable leverage, the Leatherman bit extender for an extra $18 should be considered required equipment.
MSRP: $140 – 8.3 oz – Check prices for the Leatherman Charge
Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool
The Leatherman Signal multi-tool is the middle-of-the-road model of the three tools featured here. At seven ounces, it’s a touch lighter than the Charge but still heavier than the Skeletool. It’s also got a nice blend of tools including a partially serrated blade, small saw, can opener, diamond sharpener, hammer, hex bit driver, safety whistle, and ferrocerium rod – hence the Signal name.
I can’t really say the sparker has proven to be very functional in my attempts at starting a fire, and I certainly would not bet my life on starting one with it. But perhaps someone more skilled in primitive pursuits than I could find more success.
The aforementioned hammer is built into the end with the clip and is actually reasonably effective. It’s small size actually makes for precise albeit relatively light hammering, but it’s actually pretty well suited to using on small binding and boot parts.
Like the other two multi-tools, it accepts the Leatherman bit extender, which I deem a required accessory if you really want to be able to reach binding screws and have reasonable leverage for emergency repairs.
MSRP: $120 – 7.5 oz – check prices on the Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool
Leatherman Skeletool Multi-Tool
And for the gram-counting minimalists among us, the Leatherman Skeletool is the clear choice in bit-driver multi-tools. It’s bare bones for sure (ha!), but offers the basic essentials for turning screws, cutting stuff and the utility of pliers in a light five ounce design. Together with the bit extender, it weighs less than either of the other tools on their own.
Tool selection is limited to the multi-use plier, partially serrated blade, a bottle opener and the all-important bit driver. But the reality is that it offers the essentials for doing emergency repairs and adjustments on modest-length day trips.
It includes a couple of bits for the built-in bit driver and lets you store the spare within the handle. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, its the Leatherman bit extender that really gives you the ability to reach the wide variety of screws found on boots and bindings. Just add a couple of torx bits, a #3 posi-drive, plus Philips and flathead bits and you’ve got a light, low-profile set-up for getting out of a jam – all for under a hundred bucks. The Skeletool with the bit extender is the set-up you will find in my day-trip repair kit.
MSRP: $60 – 5 oz – check prices for Leatherman Skeletool Multi-Tool
MSRP: $18 – 1 oz – check prices for Leatherman Bit Extension
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