For multiple decades of countless adventures, I never brought a multi tool when I went skiing. It wasn’t due to me being lazy—at home and at all other activities I am notoriously prepared, and as a photographer I’m not scared of carrying a little extra weight. And it wasn’t due to carelessness—I have tried a whole catalogue of “perfect multi-tools,” finding none fitting of the claim. And so I depended on friends’ semi-adequate kits, or just suffered the consequences of mid-trip broken gear, which, as anyone knows, sucks. A lot.
And then I came across the Leatherman Skeletool. Be it deep loose star drives, unscrewing stuck battery cases on beacons, twisting bailing wire around a broken pole, cutting slices of salami and opening beers, I’ve found a use for the Skeletool nearly every time I ventured into the mountains. The seven different fixed tools, combined with the 42-piece bit kit and bit extender, allows you to access hard-to-reach screws and parts (particularly on tech bindings). Three years after that initial purchase, my pre-ski day checklist is now beacon, shovel, probe, helmet and multi-tool.
To clarify, the seven built-in tools are:
- Needle nose pliers
- Regular pliers
- Combo straight/serrated knife
- Wire cutters
- Hard-wire cutters
- Bit driver
- Carabiner/bottle opener
At first glance, the seven fixed tools are not much compared to what some other all-in-one tools can initially boast. But it’s not these options that make the Skeletool so different—it’s those seven, combined with the expansive bit selection and a basic repair setup (bailing wire, duct tape, screws, crazy glue, etc.), that allow me to finagle nearly every backcountry-gear situation.
The major problem I’ve found with many other multi-tools is actually the same extensive list of they boast so heavily on the packaging. A good number of these never get used, and due to their all being fixed they don’t have the flexibility or reach to tighten or loosen parts that are hard to get to. These means half the weight you’re carrying is useless, and you still have to bring along other tools like a Pozi-Drive screwdriver.
The major negative to this system is that you must purchase the Bit Kit and Bit Extender separately, which adds quite a bit to the total cost: At $64.95, the Skeletool itself isn’t unreasonable, but at $24 and $18 respectively, the Bit Kit and Bit Extender bump that price up to over $100, quite steep for a multi-tool. Without these additions, the Skeletool loses much of its function.
Besides price, the other problem I found is that you need to be very careful while swapping out the small bits in the snow, as they are easy to drop with gloves on and are hard to find while standing in waist-deep powder. I’ve found that keeping the tool, bits and extender in a waterproof iPhone case helps solve the problem—although does add to the already significant cost.
After three years of constant summer and winter use the pliers are still straight, the blade is sharp and the bits haven’t broken, one of my initial concerns. Maybe this is an over statement, but I can only think of a handful of outdoor items that I have really grown attached to over the years and this is one of them. So, if you don’t have a good backcountry tool setup yet, do yourself—and your tool-mooching friends—a favor by adding the Skeletool to your pack. It’s worth the price, and you’ll thank me later.
To purchase the Skeletool, Bit Kit and Bit extender, visit Leatherman’s website, www.leatherman.com.