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Reviews > Knives > Multi-tools > Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. Red Pocket Tool > Test Report by Mark Thompson

GERBER CRUCIAL F.A.S.T.
TEST SERIES BY Mark Thompson
LONG-TERM REPORT
February 07, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mark Thompson
EMAIL: markthompson 242 at gmail dot com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Parker, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (2.10 m)
WEIGHT: 190 lb (86.20 kg)

Outdoor adventures started for me at an early age, my passions have grown to include backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing. Most of my adventures presently take place in Colorado's amazing Rocky Mountains. For trail hikes, my pack typically weighs 15 lbs/7 kg (summer/fall), 25 lbs/11 kg (winter/spring) and trail speed ranges from 2.5 - 4 mph (4 - 6 km/h) depending on elevation gain. For backpack trips, my pack weighs 40 - 45 lbs (18 - 20 kg) and my trail speed drops to 1.5 - 3.0 mph (2 - 5 km/h).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Gerber Legendary Blades
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.gerbergear.com
MSRP: US$58.00
Listed Weight: 5.8 oz (164 g)
Measured Weight: 5.8 oz (164 g)
Other details:

From the manufacturer's website, this is a multi-component tool with "Forward Assisted Spring Technology" (F.A.S.T.).

Components of the tool include:
- Half Fine/Half Serrated Blade
- Long Medium Flat Head Driver
- Long Square Cross Driver
- Bottle Opener
- Needle-nose Pliers
- Regular Pliers
- Pinch Style Wire Cutters

IMAGE 2

Photo courtesy of Gerber.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. Multi-tool arrived in a rather plain package without any of the "normal" paperwork. The warranty was printed on the outside of the box, but there were no operating or maintenance instructions (I guess they figure that everyone knows how to use one or that nobody reads the product literature).

The manufacturer lists the pliers as three separate tools; however, I would attest that they are one tool with three different sections and specific uses. Although not clear to me as to how many components are being claimed, the site does list the two different sections of the blade (fine and serrated). Without splitting hairs, I see four distinct tools:
- One knife blade (with fine and serrated sections)
- Two screw drivers
- One bottle opener
- One pair of pliers (with 3 sections)

Most of the pliers I have run across have more than one section:
- Standard pliers have a flat section on the tip (for grasping flat objects) and a rounded section in the middle (for items having a circular type shape, i.e. bolts, etc.) and some have a scissor style cutting section at the base (although I have never had any luck getting a decent cut from these)
- Needle-nose pliers have a small flat section on the tip and pinch style wire cutters at the base

The Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. pliers incorporate:
- Needle-nose pliers on the tip
- A round section in the middle similar to those found on standard pliers
- Pinch style wire cutters at the base

Although not listed as a component, the tool does have a side mounted belt clip.

IMAGE 1

The tool is a bit on the hefty side, a full ounce (28 g) heavier than my 40 year old Swiss army knife, but has a nice feel and pliers!



TRYING IT OUT

Being male, the first thing I had to do was to check out the blade. The safety device didn't operate smoothly and gave me some initial challenges as I wasn't sure if it was the spring loaded type or the on/off variety. It turns out that it is the on/off variety and I just needed to push the mechanism all the way to the off position. After a few uses, the safety seems to be operating properly. The next challenge was to get my thumb to activate the "Forward Assist Spring Technology" on the knife blade. F.A.S.T. represents a design which utilizes a spring to assist in the opening of the knife. With any type of spring loaded device, it is wise to have a safety lever or catch to prevent accidental activation. In this case, accidentally activating the spring loaded blade (assuming a safety device was not present) could result in the blade being exposed unintentionally. I wasn't too successful in activating F.A.S.T. and ended up testing the edge on the blade with my thumb. Consistent with every other Gerber knife I have owned, the blade is razor sharp!

A firm grip was required to open the tool to expose the pliers. The action was smooth yet stiff, which I prefer as I sincerely do not like sloppy tools. Considering the rather small size of the tool and what I would consider an average size adult male hand, it fit me well and comfortably. The edges of the frame and non-exposed tools were manufactured such that I didn't experience the cutting or pinching I have with other multi-tools.

Gaining access to the screw drivers and bottle opener was rather uneventful and both implements have their own locking device which ensures they stay in the fully extended position during use. The locking mechanism was easy to release, enabling a quick and easy closure.


SUMMARY

My hope is that I will be able to replace my aging Swiss army knife (I bought it in Zermatt, Switzerland nearly 40 years ago). It is not that I dislike my trusty knife, it is quite the opposite, reaching near heirloom status. There are obvious differences between the old and the new, but times have changed and so have the requirements for a field tool. The Swiss army knife has nearly twice the number of tools (even when using Gerber's count) but the Gerber seems to be much more robust and appears to be able to stand up to significantly more abuse. The Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. appears to be a well built tool that has a nice feel. I hope to become more adept at using the F.A.S.T. and actually get the blade out safely with one hand.

Please check back in approximately two months when I will be posting my Field Report.

A special thanks to Gerber and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me the opportunity to test this tool.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. multi-tool has accompanied me on every excursion I have taken since it was delivered by the friendly postal carrier. I have ventured near and far, high and low (relatively speaking, within the confines of Colorado) early and late, well you get the picture. Specifically, I have climbed 2 more "14ers" (peaks with summits over 14,000 ft/4,267 m), hiked over 24 miles ( 38.6 km) and camped for 4 nights above 10,000' (3,048 m). The temperature has ranged from 18 to 68 deg F (-8 to 20 deg C). On both of my "14er" climbs, I have encountered varying amounts of snow (although never attempted to use the tool in the snow) lots of wind and no liquid precipitation. When climbing Tabeguache Peak (pronounced 'tab-a-wash'), the wind gusts were over 50 mph (81 km/h).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The tool has, for the most part, been quietly along for the ride as its intended purpose (and mine) is for use as a repair tool. Thankfully, I haven't encountered too many opportunities or challenges that required its full potential. Don't get me wrong, I have tested the tool, although some of the testing has been relegated to performing "at home" equipment repairs. So far, most of the action the tool has seen has been in preparing lunch (yes, the blade is still wicked sharp!) or making short work of the bottle cap on my "end of the hike" Fat Tire brew - a perfect opening every time!

IMAGE 1

I don't know if I am just uncoordinated or my thumbs are too large, but even after 2 months, I still haven't been able to master deployment of the main blade. I typically use two hands to accomplish this task but know that it should be a simple one hand maneuver. I suspect that a contributing factor is the lack of distinction between the thumb post and the tool grip. The thumb post is very close in proximity, height and feel to the adjacent grip and getting my thumb to securely grip the post and effectively deploy the blade has been challenging. I don't seem to have the same issue with my Gerber knife.

IMAGE 2

I utilized the pliers in an effort to repair a charcoal grill, and found them to be comfortable and strong. The grip fits well in my hand and the surface coating provides a sure grip. A significant improvement from other multi-tools I have owned, this tool has beveled edges on the grips.

IMAGE 3

Both of the screw drivers are fitted with a locking mechanism, a huge improvement over other multi-tools. An old knife I had lacked this feature and, even with the utmost care, the implement would fold back and inevitably catch my finger on the way.

IMAGE 4 IMAGE 5

In my opinion, one feature that could improve this tool is a lanyard ring or attaching point. My previous tool had such a device and I would clip it to my pack so I would always be able to find it quickly (even in the dark) and not lose it in the bottom of the pack, or worse, on the trail. I also carry a Gerber single blade knife on the outside of my pack. Fortunately, this knife has holes in the grips and a belt clip so I was able to tie a long elastic leash to the grip and use the clip to attach it to the shoulder strap of my pack. The belt clip is nice, but they just don't give me the sense of security I want, especially for a significant component of my "10 essentials."

SUMMARY

The tool has proven to be durable and functional. I got to thinking about the differences between this tool and others I have had in the past and what I realized was that even though this multi-tool has fewer implements, I really hadn't used all the implements available on the others. What I "lost" in number, I gained in strength and durability. For example, one tool had a cork screw, a neat implement but I can't remember if I have ever taken a bottle of wine on a backpacking trip! I do miss the scissors, but I have a pair in my first aid kit. So here are the pros and cons:

Pros:
- Stout! This is a very strong tool that can take a lot of force
- Pliers - sorry to be redundant, but the pliers are great
- Locking devices on all implements - there is little worse than adding insult to injury by having a tool collapse in what is likely to be an emergency situation
- F.A.S.T. - this certainly improves the ease of getting the main blade out and ready!

Cons:
- it is heavy, but then again it is stout
- needs a lanyard ring
- thumb post on the main blade is not distinct enough to get a good grip

Addendum: Test Event Notes and Details

Location: Winfield, Colorado
Date: 30 September to 02 October 2011
Elevation: 10,000 to 14,003 ft (3,048 to 4,268 m)
Distance: 14 miles (22.5 km)
Weather: Clear with temperature ranging from 23 to 55 deg F (-5 to 13 deg C)
Event: After another stressful week at work, I had to get out of town. I drove up to Winfield, Colorado (one of my favorite places to hike and camp). I have a few philosophies when it comes to being in the woods, one is that there is no excuse for bad tasting food. Since I was car camping, filet mignon was on the menu. I promptly set up my $3 special grill, and after a few minor adjustments with the Gerber, the charcoal was lit and dinner in the works. The F.A.S.T. was put into action and special care had to be taken to keep from cutting through my aluminum camp plate as the filet gave little resistance to the Gerber blade. The sky was clear, the moon full, the mercury was dropping and my eyelids drooping so off to slumber I went. The morning came and after some oatmeal and a few cups of coffee, off to scout "The Apostles" I went with my hiking partner (who arrived sometime after my lights had gone completely out). After a nice hike and scouting adventure, we arrived back at the trail head.

After an uneventful evening and blissful slumber, I awoke focused on summiting Mt Huron. The previous day's scouting indicated that there was no snow on the route to the summit so I left the trekking poles, gaiters and micro-spikes in the car and headed up. Well, this wasn't so wise as the route was obscured during the scouting hike and I got into a fair amount of snow and lots of wind. After three and a half hours of hiking and slogging through the snow, I was on the summit. A couple pictures over the course of three minutes and I was headed down. The skies were clear but the wind made for a less than desirable lunch spot. I hiked down to 13,000 ft (3,962 m) and had a lunch of summer sausage, crackers, an apple and a candy bar. The temperature was still pretty low, certainly below freezing, but the Gerber opened nicely and made quick work of slicing through the summer sausage which was nearly frozen.

Location: near Poncha Springs, Colorado
Date: 21/22 October 2011
Elevation: 10,000 to 14,155 ft (3,048 to 4,314 m)
Distance: 6 miles (12.9 km)
Weather: Clear with temperature ranging from 23 to 55 deg F (-5 to 13 deg C)
Event: Car camp overnight then summit Tabeguache Peak. I left work at the usual time and headed south to Poncha Springs. After a surprisingly delicious dinner at the Thai restaurant I drove up to the Jennings Creek Trail Head and camped for the night. Initially I had guilt over sleeping in the back of my suburban, but when the winds woke me at 2:00 am all the guilt went away. I really enjoy my 3 season tent, but I am sure that the winds would have made for a less than restful night.

Being mid-autumn and still on daylight savings time, the sun wasn't due until 6:45 am. We all had head lights but opted to make a 7:00 am start. It was a beautiful crisp morning and the hike went well, especially considering the modified trail and off-trail hike we were undertaking. The winds on the saddle were horrendous! I don't usually like trekking poles without snow, but they were the only option if I wanted to remain standing upright. Surprisingly enough, the summit was calm and we enjoyed a nice lunch. This time, my meal wasn't nearly so cold and frozen and again, the Gerber sliced through it like a hot knife through warm butter. Once back at the trail head, the Gerber became the designated bottle opener!

Location: near Boulder, Colorado
Date: 23 October 2011
Elevation: 5,500 to 6,500 ft (1,676 to 1,981 m)
Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
Weather: Clear with temperature ranging from 34 to 68 deg F (1.1 to 20 deg C)
Event: Rock Climbing - HillBilly Heaven and Stairway to Heaven. Today turned out to be an awesome day on the rocks! We completed 5 pitches and 2 rappels in weather that was Heaven sent! Not much opportunity to use the Gerber today, but it was faithfully along for the ride.

Location: near Franktown, Colorado
Date: 6 November 2011
Elevation: 6,200 to 6,500 ft (1,890 to 1,981 m)
Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
Weather: Clear with temperature ranging from 58 to 68 deg F (14.4 to 20 deg C)
Event: Day hike in Castlewood Canyon State Park. This was a leisurely hike near home that was primarily intended as a picture taking venture. There was a cool breeze but much of the time was spent on a scenic wooded trail that kept the wind at bay. Again, not much opportunity to use the Gerber today, but it was faithfully along for the ride.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Throughout the Long Term Report Testing Period, the Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. has consistently been on every outdoor adventure I have taken. During this period, I have taken several day hikes, two days of ice climbing, a few overnight backpack trips and one car camping trip. Below are the particular trips where I was able to utilize the tool in rather demanding conditions:

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park - Two Rivers Lake
Date: 24 - 25 Dec 2011
Elevation: 8,500 - 10,000 ft (2,591 - 3,048 m)
Weather: Cold! 4 to 26 deg F (-16 to -3 deg C)

Location: Berthoud Pass (near Empire, CO)
Date: 21 - 22 Jan 2012
Elevation: 11,307 ft (3,446 m)
Weather: Cold, windy and snowing

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. Multi-Tool continued to perform flawlessly throughout the testing period. During the Long Term Report (LTR) test phase I utilized every tool and am very pleased with the performance of each. The pliers work amazingly well and proved their value when I was repairing an avalanche probe in blizzard like conditions. Despite the freezing cold temperature, blowing wind and snow, the pliers readily deployed and enabled a rapid repair. I have become more adept with the "Forward Assist Spring Technology" but still haven't been able to master its use.

SUMMARY

After an additional three months of testing, the results of the Field Report continue to hold true. This is a durable and functional tool and it has earned its place in my pack as part of my "10 Essentials." The pros and cons remain the same:

Pros:
- Stout! This is a very strong tool that can take a lot of force
- Pliers - sorry to be redundant, but the pliers are great
- Locking devices on all implements - a great feature that prevents un-intended closure
- F.A.S.T. - this certainly improves the ease of getting the main blade out and ready!

Cons:
- it is heavy, but then again it is stout
- needs a lanyard ring
- thumb post on the main blade is not distinct enough to get a good grip


A sincere thank you to Gerber Legendary Blades and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this fine piece of gear!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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