Sports Active: Good Gear ; Multi-Tools the American Climber Aron Ralston Sawed His Arm off with One. Robin Barton Puts the Ultimate Penknives to a Slightly Less Rigorous Test
Barton, Robin, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
There is one lesson to be learned from Aron Ralston's ordeal earlier this month in a Utah canyon. No, it's not "don't go hiking alone in remote and unstable canyons", it's "don't carry a cheap and cheerful multi-tool".
In a freak accident, Ralston was miles from anywhere and anyone when his right arm was crushed by a falling 800lb boulder. Faced with the prospect of dying slowly from thirst, Ralston decided to amputate his trapped limb with his multi-tool.
The problem was, he coolly reflected later, the tool in question was "the type of thing that you'd get if you bought a $15 flashlight and got a free multi-tool knife".
None of the multi-tools featured here compromise on quality. The least expensive is the new SwissTool RS from Victorinox, the makers of the Swiss Army penknives. It's made in Switzerland from stainless steel and has 23 features including pliers, two blades (both locking), scissors, chisel, screwdrivers and a wire cutter. The SwissTool's big drawback is its size and weight - it's significantly bulkier than than both the Gerber and Leatherman. But there is no disputing the durability.
Chipping away at the rock pinning his arm blunted the blade of Ralston's imitation multi-tool, prolonging the amputation. Gerber's Urban Legend multi-tool may have just the one blade (and it's not the largest, either), but it is replaceable, which is an important factor if you hope to keep the tool for life.
The Urban Legend has several strengths. Its aluminium body makes it noticeably lightweight and, uniquely, the pliers are spring- loaded. The features are as geared to the urban environment as the wilderness - tweezers, tough scissors, and several screwdrivers for emergency DIY of the plug-fitting variety. It's just that there aren't many of them.
The Toologic SL3 survival tool has just three features, all of them rather important: a locking blade (partly serrated), emergency whistle and a fire-steel. Strike the serrated blade against the fire- steel and hey presto, a shower of sparks. …