Evolution is fascinating. It is the incremental process of growth and development. In the case of mankind, it has taken approximately 200,000 years to get to the point where we are today. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait that long for significant change in some of the fun stuff we play with outdoors. I’m sitting here right now with two Gerber multi-tools. One of them is the first multi-tool I ever owned–the Gerber Multi-Plier. The second is Gerber’s new Crucial multi-tool. Granted, the two are different sizes and intended for different purposes, but you can still pick out the advancements in the newer multi-tool no matter the traces of DNA still present from its predecessor. A couple of those improvements include better styling that contribute to the Crucial’s ergonomics, and the various tools lock into place as well. And, aside from that, there’s a splash of color throughout the package rather than the utilitarian gunmetal gray steel that was used in years past.
The Crucial is set up as a lightweight and compact multi-tool for every day use. It’s smaller form factor lends itself to being carried on a regular basis, rather than being left behind for being too heavy or large. I’ve got a few other multi-tools that are great for the outdoors or shop environments, but aren’t the best for pocket carry because of their greater size. That’s not the case with the Crucial. In fact, the Crucial comes with a pocket clip set up for right-handed carry. Once extracted from the user’s pocket, it’s a simple matter of unfolding the handles to snap them in place and have the needle-nose pliers ready to use. There’s a section in the middle fo the pliers that you can use for smaller size nuts or bolts, but don’t be expecting to do any hard-core work with the Crucical. It’s a tool designed for personal use and smaller tasks that you might encounter on a regular basis. Below the section for undoing nuts/bolts, there’s also a set of wire cutters that come in handy as well.
If you’re looking to use the knife blade and not the pliers, well, not to fear; it’s set up perfectly for one-handed opening once you remove it from your pocket. The blade has a wedge-shaped thumb stud that provides for the one-handed operation. It’s a very smooth action and I had no difficulty in getting a good hold on the thumb wedge to open it easily. The blade itself is just a hair over 2.25 inches long and half of the length closest to the grips are serrated with the rest being a straight edge. For the style blade that it is, it did a nice job with various tasks that I threw its way. A lot of folks don’t like serrations. I’m kind of half and half on them. For a general woods tool, a serrated blade really doesn’t come into play much, so it doesn’t usually serve a functional role unless you need to cut some webbing or rope along the way. In every day life, you’re more likely to have situations where a serrated blade comes in handy. What I would really like to see in this type of utility blade on a multi-tool dedicated to the outdoors is one where the serrations are on the front half of the blade and the straight edge closest to the handle. The main reason for that is with the straight edge portion closest to the blade, you can do carving work and other fine tasks that require precision and control. With the serrations positioned forward, they can be used for cutting rope, and (in my opinion) be a safer tool for emergency situations where you’re cutting someone out of webbing or a seat belt. That’s just a thought anyway, and it’s not a slight to the Crucial since most blades on the market have a similar setup.
The handles on the Crucial are more aesthetically pleasing than older models, and if held in the right position, they provide a firm grip and are very comfortable. The trick is to let the arc of the side resting against the palm to be far enough down that it conforms to the arch of the muscle closest to the thumb. Holding it in the position illustrated in the picture results in a further reach with the pliers, but the bottom edge of the handle digs into the palm if much force is applied. Choking up a little further provides a very strong and stable grip, though you’ll lose a little reach. That said, this isn’t the kind of tool that you’re really going to use when a lot of force or torque is applied. So any discussion about the comfort level not being perfect when you choke up on the Crucial is based on an extreme scenario which you won’t encounter on a regular basis.
Aside from what’s already mentioned, the Crucial also has two driver heads–one cross driver and one flat head. All of us have encountered situations where we needed a screwdriver for a quick task, and with the Crucial, you can always have one close at hand. The interesting bit with the Crucial is that the cross-driver is locked into place with a liner style lock. You don’t get a lot of length in the driver, but that’s typical with just about all muti-tools. The liner lock is a nice touch to keep it from collapsing into the handle during use and will probably save you a couple of skinned knuckes! So, have we begun to grasp the meaning behind the Crucial name yet?
The Crucial multi-tool provides the user with just the items that are most commonly used on a regular basis. Rather than picking through 18 different tools and implements, you quickly get a feel for where everything is located when you need it. Not only does this reduce clutter in the tool, it helps keep the weight down to a nice 5 ounces, which is very easy to carry in a pocket. But, there’s still one item left, and what could be more “Crucial” for daily life than a bottle opener? Gerber has wisely decided to include the combintation bottle opener/carabiner clip as part of the no-clutter package of the Crucial kit. Besides being good for opening up your favorite beverage, you can also use the carabiner clip to attach the Crucial to a pack strap or belt loop for easy access. This was the one area where the Crucial slipped in its performance. As a bottle opener, it excelled, but after a while, the carabiner gate began to stay open once I clipped it to something. It wasn’t springing back into place like it should. The main concern with that is if you clip it onto a pack strap and the gate doesn’t close, the Crucial could end up getting lost. Fortunately for me, this isn’t a deal breaker. I carry my knives and multi-tools in a pocket or a sheath, so I’m fine just using that part of the Crucial as a bottle opener only.
So, what’s our verdict on the Crucial after it’s all said and done? I’m actually quite taken with it. It’s a great tool that I can always have on me to give me access to tools that I need on a regular basis. Those tools include the knife blade, flat driver, cross driver, and bottle opener–all of which can be accessed from the outside of the Crucial without having to open up the body to expose the pliers. The addition of the pocket clip makes it a little bit handier since I don’t have to dig into my pockets for it. They are loaded up enough as it is! The important thing I like to point out from time to time is that items are reviewed in the context of their price range and intended purpose. For under a $40.00 street price, you get a well thought out tool that’s comfortable, provides a strong grip, and is easy on the eyes. No, you’re not going to be changing the bolts on your local roller coaster (I actually got denied access to a park one time because of my multi-tool.), but the Crucial will certainly fit the bill for just about all of the average-Joe tasks that you might encounter. The only negative was the carabiner gate sticking open, but that doesn’t affect me in the least.
Whether you’re the suburban action-adventure type or the true outdoors person needing a lightweight and compact trail tool at your side, you need to try the Gerber Crucial out for yourself. It’s got a lot of history behind it already, and I think you’ll be pleased with evolutionary progress they’ve made over the years!