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Reviews > Knives > Multi-tools > Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. Red Pocket Tool > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
Reviewed by Jamie
Product Information Back to contents
Product Description Back to contents
The Crucial F.A.S.T. is a part of the Gerber Legendary Blades multi-tool family. It sports what Gerber calls Forward Action Spring Technology (F.A.S.T) which applies only to the blade component. The "Spring Tech" is designed to help the user open the blade with a simple thumb swipe on the provided thumb stud. There is a locking mechanism on the blade so it doesn't flip open or fold down unexpectedly. The blade is blunt at the end and the back half is serrated. The other components include a belt clip, flat head screwdriver, a Philips head screwdriver, a bottle opener, and the pliers, which have a needlenose tip and an inset wire cutter. All of these open in the traditional way with a little help from a fingernail notch or unfolding of the handles. The two drivers also have locks that automatically move into place when the tool is fully deployed. The smaller "half" of the handle is a glossy dark red while the larger side, with the blade attached, is a smooth black on one side and a grooved black on the other side. Gerber calls this a G-10 handle and it is supposed to give the user a more effective grip.
Arrival Condition and Informational Material Back to contents
The Crucial F.A.S.T arrived in late September with only its box as packaging. Not much informational material to speak of, although I found all the components perfectly intuitive to use without the need for instructions. The box does provide information about the warranty and a cautionary paragraph outlining the ways the tool should not be used and that it is a "cut hazard". Within that write-up I found a curious few words - "Do not apply force onto back of blades." I found this a bit odd since doing exactly that is sometimes a necessity when using the blade to cut something thick in diameter. Will see how that plays out in the field tests.
Expectations and First Impressions Back to contents
I carry and use a multi-tool regularly on my hikes, mainly for removing cacti from shoes and doggie foot pads. My expectations for this tool are pretty much what I have for all equipment I carry, it better work for the job I need it to or it's getting replaced! I'm not sure how useful three of the components on this tool will be in hiking situations but I'll do my best. For instance, I'll probably have to get creative to use the drivers as I don't have any screws on any of my hiking equipment other than my camera and those are much too small for this tool. I do expect to use the pliers and the blade quite often, however.
My first impressions are mixed at this point. On the "I'm not sure how this will go" side, it feels a bit heavy for the few components it offers. I'm also hearing a very slight grating noise as the pliers are opened and closed. Additionally, the locking lever for the flat head driver tends to stick and not fully deploy unless the driver is pushed farther back against the handle. (Lever out of position pictured at right) The lock on the other driver/bottle opener clicks right in so it appears the other one has not been crafted perfectly. On the "cool, this looks good" side, I like the balanced feel and the fit of the handle in my palm when using the knife. I'm also looking forward to finding creative ways to use all the components. Lastly, I like that the blade has a blunt tip, for safety reasons, but it will be interesting to see if I miss having a sharp point.
Field Tests October thru December Back to contents
After receiving the Gerber Legendary Blades Crucial F.A.S.T in late September I've carried it on thirty-six hikes and used it approximately 25 times.
Most of my hikes are quick day hikes lasting between 1.5 and 2.5 hrs. These always take place within the borders of Maricopa County, Arizona on our local desert mountain trails. The elevations on these Sonoran Desert paths range from 1,300 ft (400 m) up to 2,100 ft (640 m). Weather conditions were usually sunny and calm with temps in the 50 F to 85 F (10 C to 29.5 C) range.
In addition to my regular weekday hiking described above I've also taken three longer day treks (for fun instead of work) on various segments of the Black Canyon Trail, which spans a total mileage of 79 miles (127 km) from the north end of Phoenix up to Mayer, AZ. This old sheep herding route primarily runs through Sonoran Desert terrain mixed with several wash/riparian area crossings along the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountain range.
I replaced my other multi-tool with the Crucial F.A.S.T so it's been the only option I've had in the field over the last few months. In that time the component receiving the most use has definitely been the belt clip. Insignificant as that may seem, this is a very important feature since a clip that doesn't work would most likely result in another hiker finding the tool along the trail somewhere. I rarely wear a belt so I prefer to carry the Crucial F.A.S.T clipped to my pack's shoulder strap although I was using it so frequently on our hike through Biscuit Flat I kept it clipped to the inside of my pants pocket instead. Whether attached to my pack strap or to my pants the belt clip has securely held the tool in place. I also haven't found it difficult to detach the tool when I've needed it. So far, I'm pleased with the clip's performance.
When carrying the Crucial F.A.S.T in my pants pocket, I really noticed the weight of it much more. It's definitely heavier than I'm accustomed too, which to my mind is a negative for my personal hiking purposes.
After the clip, the bulk of my use has come in the form of using the needle-nose component to remove cactus spikes from doggy tails, paws and on one occasion a bottom lip. (One example is pictured below) It has performed well for this task so far. The pliers are bigger than the ones I'm used to but they aren't overly bulky leading to a clumsy feel, which is a good thing because removing cacti from a squirming pup is often something of a delicate procedure! I've found if I hold the pliers so the larger black section of the handle is in my palm and the smaller red section is at my fingers I can open and close it comfortably with two fingers. Thankfully, at least for the trail-dogs, the needle-nose tip is thin enough to fit in between dog toes and foot pads with ease.
Least of all, I've used the blade a couple of times to slice open random food packaging and as a field first-aid helper after my oldest son took a spill on some rocks. On the packaging it sliced through like butter, as one would expect of a new blade. For my son, he had a bit of ripped up skin on his palm that needed to be removed so I could clean the rock debris out and give him a proper bandage. The knife zipped through this little flap of skin easily with only minimal trauma to my patient. Haha!
I'm finding it hard to find reasons in the field to use the drivers. I've checked through all my outdoor gadgets to see if I own anything with screws that correspond to the size of the drivers but I don't. Everything is much too small. I will keep my eyes open for ways I can utilize these as well as the wire cutters and bottle opener features and hopefully have something to say about each in my Long Term Report.
Pros and Cons Thus Far Back to contents
Aspects I'm pleased with…
Aspects I'm underwhelmed with…
Collective Use and Field Conditions Back to contents
Since posting my Field Report in December I have carried the Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T pocket tool on thirty-five more day hikes and one kayaking trip. I estimate it was used somewhere around thirty times on those outings for a total of fifty-five collective use days in the field.
The field conditions remained the same for a majority of my treks as stated in my Field Report: Day hikes through desert preserves near Phoenix, Arizona ranging between 1.5 and 2.5 hrs in length at elevations between 1,300 ft (400 m) up to 2,100 ft (640 m). Winter temperatures fall somewhere between 50 and 65 F (10 and 18 C) with both nice and sunny weather or stormy with light sprinkles.
Other trips included: A six hour kayaking/hiking trip at Lake Pleasant Regional Park in Peoria, AZ. The weather was very windy with overcast skies and temperatures in the upper 50's F (14 C).
A 6.5 mile (10.5 km) trek on the Maricopa Trail near Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Weather was beautifully sunny and calm.
Long Term Findings Back to contents
The Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T has eight features, some of which I have found useful with regard to hiking needs and others I have found no use for whatsoever, despite trying. The regular pliers, square cross driver and the bottle opener remain in new condition since I didn't find any ways to use them in the field. Conversely, the blade, needle nose pliers and belt clip have all been used repeatedly throughout the last four months. Basically in the same ways they were being used in my Field Report so I won't go into any repetitive details previously covered.
I will comment on the blade, however, since I did use it more often over these last two months. I used it to cut up fruit during some of our snack breaks, to cut rope, as the spark device in conjunction with a magnesium stick, to cut skin to remove a splinter and to construct a fire saw out of yucca. It performed well at all these duties and to my surprise I have not missed having a more pronounced blade tip. I have found the F.A.S.T feature of the knife convenient. It does make deploying the blade easier. I feel like there is less risk of it slipping from my fingers and collapsing back into its notch, which also makes it safer. I confess, I did resist the temptation to "apply force" to the back of the blade because after thought I decided I did not want to use the knife outside the manufacturer's stated parameters during the test series. Given that, I cannot comment on how the blade holds up to this type of use at this time.
Although not used extensively, I did find a couple of ways to use both the flat head driver and the wire cutters in the field. I, on occasion, stumble across old downed barbed wire fences while hiking. These can be a hazard to dogs so naturally having a tool that can cut through wire fencing could be a very handy thing to have around. On my Maricopa Trail hike I ran across some old knocked down sections of fencing so I took the opportunity to give the wires cutters a go. They were strong enough to cut through single strands of wire, which is what the barbs are made of but not strong enough to cut through anything thicker. A successful showing for the Crucial F.A.S.T though I think.
As for the flat head screw driver, sadly I never found any traditional ways of using it in the field. I did, however, discover it could be used instead of the knife as the striker component when using a magnesium stick to make fire. To my pleasant surprise the driver effectively performed both the scraping of the mag stick to accumulate shavings and the striking to emit sparks. A truly wonderful find since it saves wear on the blade.
With the exception of a bit of black paint scraped off the thumb stud, the tool is in very good condition. Any grinding noises I originally experienced when deploying the various tools have totally disappeared. The locking mechanism on the flat head driver still does not fully drop into locked mode unless the diver is purposely bent back farther than it wants to naturally extend. Beyond that, everything still works as it should.
Final Thoughts Back to contents
In sitting down to write this last installment of the test series I asked myself, "Is the Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T a tool I'd take with me hiking if I wasn't testing it?" My answer is, "Probably not." This doesn't, however, mean I don't think the tool is a good one. It just means I feel it's larger, heavier and has a few functions I can't imagine needing in the outdoors. That being said, the components I used regularly were very helpful and worked flawlessly. As for the pieces I didn't use or only used purely because I was trying to find ways to use them for testing sake, I'd love to see those replaced with parts more germane to hiking. Tweezers and a much smaller flat head driver come to mind.
I did enjoy being part of this test so thank you Backpackgeartest.org and Gerber Legendary Blades for allowing me to be in on it.
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Reviews > Knives > Multi-tools > Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. Red Pocket Tool > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto