I'm a little boggled by all the choices in multitools these days. From the venerable Swiss Army all-in-one to the expensive Schrade creations that look like they've been crafted for Viking warlords. Any faves? More importantly, what tools do you think essential, which are gear-makers' fripperies? Malcolm Vancouver, British Columbia
Leatherman Juice C2
After all, it's really hard to improve much on something such as the Victorinox Camper ($25; www.victorinox.com), maybe the classic Swiss Army-style knife. Blade, saw, awl, two screwdrivers, can opener, wine opener (very important!), all in a compact package. And not too heavy. So this is my bedrock default backpacking tool.
With one caveat: Knife-style tools such as the Camper lack a plier function, which is extremely handy. There's one easy option to mitigate this small omission: Just stick a small pair of needle-nose pliers into your pack along with your Camper, adding not much weight and a bunch more function. Otherwise, I'm partial to tools such as Leatherman's fairly new Juice C2 ($45; www.leatherman.com). It has aluminum handles so isn't really heavy4.3 ounces. And it has just about anything that you could reasonably need: knife, pliers, wire cutters, wine opener, can opener, screwdrivers. But, if you need more, the Schrade ST1N ($50; www.schradeknives.com) adds pliers, fish-hook remover, files, and a bunch of other stuff21 functions in all. Heavier than the Juice because of its all-stainless-steel construction, but also very durable. A good all-around tool if you really want to cover the bases. Myself, I think the Camper or Juice are more than adequate.
More knives reviewed in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide.