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Backcountry Multi Tools

Backcountry skiing is gear intensive. From skis and boots, to outwear and backpacks filled with everything from snacks and avalanche safety gear to repair kits and first aid. My goal is to have fun and explore, while limiting risk, and balancing safety. So ultimately, this creates a paradigm on what to bring into the backcountry, and what to leave at home. My general rule of thumb is to travel as light as possible while still being prepared for the worst case scenario. So naturally, I'm always weighing the probability of risk with the objective for the day. In short, do I need to take __________ with me?

Whatever I end up bringing, I always carry a multi tool. As the name suggests, a multi tool consists of a variety of tools to address the needs for most backcountry situations. But let's be honest, there are a lot of tools that aren't needed in the backcountry. So where do we begin? What is necessary and what is luxury? almost all of them have a knife. A knife is something that is hard to replicate, but is so light and useful, a thousand times over. These days you can pick one up at your local corner store, hardware store, or any number of outdoor retailers. They can range in price from under $10 to hundreds of dollars. But what about the the other tools? What are the most useful tools for the backcountry?


The backbone of most multi tools, a knife has an infinite amount of uses. In the backcountry, I most commonly use it for the following: Trimming climbing skins, cutting bandages, tapes, webbing, and cord, as well as cheese and salami. I prefer a small serrated edge for being the ability to cut/saw small branches, if you ever have to improvise climbing skins or build a shelter with cedar branches. Regardless of the size, remember to keep your knife sharp and clean.


Pliers are probably the second most important item in a multi tool. The ability to grip, twist, and tighten are essential for repairing and improvising a number of items in the backcountry. I most commonly use the pliers when doing repair with a steel wire - either bending or creating a skin tip attachment. Pliers should always come with the ability to cut wire and are more versatile with a needle nose. And don't skimp on size. Larger pliers will be a welcome luxury when you're really putting them to work.

Pro tip: Use the steel wire included in the BC Ski Repair Kit to make your own skin tip attachment. See below for an example.


All most all backcountry hard goods utilize some kind of screws as fasteners: Bindings, boots, poles, avalanche transceivers, radios, etc. In addition, there are countless other items that you'll take with you on a multi day trip or overnight - Stoves being the most important. Take a look at all your equipment and make sure you have the ability to tighten or adjust anything that might come loose or need repair in the backcountry. Most multi tools come with a Phillips and Flat driver, but you'll probably find that your bindings or boots have a few screws that are either hex or Torx. This is where I favor having a separate ratcheting tool with a variety of bits, rather than place value on finding a multi tool with all the bits. One example is the Radical Ratchet Driver that comes with the BC Ski Repair Kit (seen below). A ratchet driver can make quick work of a repair, which can be very helpful in extreme weather.


Not a necessary item on a multi tool, but very useful for precision cutting when a knife just won't "cut" it. Think rounded edges for cutting a patch of tenacious tape for your torn down jacket, or cutting into someone's outerwear in an emergency first aid situation. Again, not deal breaker if your multi tool doesn't have them, but certainly nice to have.


In short, keep it simple.

The ultimate multi tool doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, it should be as light as possible while being able to solve the most number of problems. My go-to is the Leatherman PST II (pictured above left). It weighs 150g, has everything I need, but also compliments everything else that I carry with me in the backcountry. That said, in addition to important tools listed above, you'll find that there are luxury tools that are super handy to have with you as well:

- File (detune burrs or ski edge blowouts)

- Micro flat head (for adjusting glasses arm screws)

- Can opener (for multi day trips/fancy cans of tuna)

- Corkscrew (because you're classy)

- Tweezers (sometimes your pliers just aren't small enough)

Let me know what else you use! Your perfect multi tool should work for whatever your situation is.


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