There’s been significant demand for multi tools that provide the functionality of a full size tool in a smaller, lighter package. The Gerber Crucial is an attempt to meet this need with a select group of basic tools you can carry anywhere. Today’s Gerber Crucial Review will cover the tool complement, build quality, and general usability of this tool and provide our thoughts on its overall value.
- 1 Gerber Crucial Overview
- 2 Gerber Crucial Tools
- 3 Gerber Crucial Review
- 4 Gerber Crucial accessories and extras
- 5 Gerber Crucial Vs Comparable tools
- 6 Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Gerber Crucial
Gerber Crucial Overview
The Gerber Crucial sits in an interesting position on the spectrum of multi tools. At 3.6 in long and just 5 oz, it’s a good bit smaller and lighter than full size tools. Despite this it’s still significantly larger than the keychain multi tools we’ve reviewed before.
Going into this review we were a little worried the Crucial would be a solution to a question no one asked. Too dainty for real tasks but too heavy for the light duty work keychain tools usually face. Our biggest questions focused on how sturdy the build was, how effectively the smaller tools work, and whether or not it felt good in your hands. Many tools of smaller size have odd handle geometry or tools that just aren’t up to snuff. Let’s dig in and see how the Gerber Crucial holds up.
Gerber Crucial Tools
The Crucial, like many of Gerber’s multi tools, is available in several different versions. Depending on which tool loadout you prefer there will be between eight and nine tools included on your Crucial. There’s also a special edition of the Crucial with an attached corkscrew but it’s difficult to find at the best of times.
The Crucial uses a standard butterfly fold design with all outside access tools. The tools use a liner lock system that we found both easy to use and very secure when open. Given its small size there were no removable tools or advanced features like a bit driver. It’s compact design necessitated some sacrifices in other areas. Here’s an in depth look at each included tool.
Pliers and Wire Cutters
The pliers on the Crucial are only available in a needlenose configuration, though they also have a regular plier area as well. We found the teeth on the pliers to line up well and give you a good grip. The only issue we had was with the shape of the handles.
Gerber went with an aggressive curve on the Crucial’s center line. We found it really uncomfortable to squeeze the handles when trying to turn a stubborn nut or hold onto something with weight. One side would always dig into the meaty part of your palm while the other just didn’t sit well. Overall not a great handle design for applying real torque.
The wire cutters were another disappointing feature. Gerber describes them as “V-cut” wire cutters but they definitely weren’t as good as those on other multitools. They were designed to meet together rather than overlap but we found that they often had trouble getting through even mid gauge copper wire. Hard wire was just about impossible to cut through, especially given the uncomfortable handles.
There’s only a single knife blade on the Crucial, a 2.2 in combo blade with a rounded off point. It came from the factory reasonably sharp and was easy to put a new edge on but didn’t keep it for long. The steel seemed to be pretty soft compared to other multi tools and folding knives we’ve used before. As long as you don’t mind frequent sharpening it’s a functional blade at a reasonable size.
The combination carabiner and bottle opener on the Gerber Crucial was honestly one of our favorite features. It’s actually built into the handle and folds out like any other tool. Most of the multi tool carabiners we’ve seen before either attach to a keychain/lanyard hole or are aftermarket additions.
It worked great as a bottle opener and made it really easy to clip your Crucial to a backpack or other bag. If you get one of the other versions of the Crucial the carabiner is replaced with a strap cutter or corkscrew attachment instead.
There are two screwdrivers found on the Gerber Crucial. One is a small flathead driver and the other is a cross driver used for phillips head screws. The flathead driver worked fine for its size, though we definitely wouldn’t recommend you try even very light prying. Our real issue was with the cross driver.
Simply put it’s too narrow to work effectively. You might as well use the flathead for phillips head screws as try to turn them with the cross driver. Unless you found a screw that was exactly the size of the cross driver it would frequently slip and scratch your screw head.
If you have more of a preparedness bent to your EDC the Crucial Black Edition may be the tool for you. It has all the tools on the standard Crucial with the exception of the carabiner. It replaces it with an effective strap cutter great for slicing through seatbelts in an emergency. In general we find a bottle opener more useful but for emergency services personnel having a strap cutter could really come in handy.
If you were lucky enough to get one of the limited release Crucial Corkscrew editions we applaud your foresight. The corkscrew replaces the carabiner/bottle opener piece on the standard Crucial but does add in another stand alone bottle opener. If a corkscrew is something you like to have this version will definitely fulfill your needs. Good luck finding one though, they haven’t been available from Gerber since the first limited run. Read our multi tools with a corkscrew guide if a corkscrew is important to you.
Gerber Crucial Review
The Gerber Crucial was built to bridge the gap between pocket tools and full size multi tools. It has a reduced loadout of tools that try to cover the broadest possible uses a multi tool can be put to. The tools themselves have interesting designs, with many features we find pretty useful. Unfortunately, Gerber stumbled with the implementation.
The pliers themselves are reasonably good quality but the shape of the handles makes them very uncomfortable to use. The knife blade is a good length for the Crucial’s size but doesn’t hold an edge long enough for most people. The same issues apply to the included screwdrivers. The flathead is decent but the cross driver is far too narrow to fit well in most phillips head screws.
On paper the Crucial is a great pocket tool with a good loadout of basic tools. When you dig a little deeper though, you find all the little things that reduce its overall usefulness. It’s not all doom and gloom of course. We love the carabiner/bottle opener. A fold out attachment point like that is rare among multi tools and Gerber did a good job with it. Likewise, the serrated element of the combination blade is great for cutting through cordage and cardboard. The liner lock system is another feature we dig. It’s simple, widely recognizable, and works well.
When you weight the Crucial’s good and bad points you end up with a multi tool that’s adequate, nothing more and nothing less.
Gerber Crucial Pros – Things We Liked
- Compact Size
- Good Bottle Opener
- Attached Carabiner
- Effective Liner locks
Gerber Crucial Cons – Things We Didn’t Like
- Mediocre Wire Cutters
- Uncomfortable Handles
- Cross Driver Frequently Slips
Who’s The Gerber Crucial For?
The Gerber Crucial is a minimalist version of a full size multi tool. It’s compact and reasonably lightweight, yet still includes most of the in demand tools you’d expect from a full size multi tool. It’s perfect for the backpacker or outdoorsman who isn’t looking to be weighed down. It’s also an option for people who want to try out a multi tool but know they won’t haul around eight ounces of steel on their belts.
If you’re looking for a reasonably good multi tool that’s lightweight and functional, the Gerber Crucial should be on your list.
Gerber Crucial accessories and extras
The Gerber Crucial’s small size limits the number of accessories available for it but it does have some options. We’ve included all the available finish, color, and carry options in our Gerber Crucial review to let you know all the options available to you.
Pocket Clip – The Gerber Crucial comes with a pocket clip already attached. Given its relatively small size this makes sense as a carry option. We found it to work well as both a pocket and belt clip. Depending on how thick your belt is though you’ll likely have different results.
Different Colors – The Crucial is available in blue gray, green gray, standard gray, or a special black edition. The blue gray, gray, and green gray all have the standard tool complement but the black edition replaces the carabiner/bottle opener with a strap cutter.
Replacement Parts – Gerber offers an industry leading lifetime limited warranty on all their products sold in North America. They cover any defect in materials or workmanship and are known for honoring their warranty. If you have any issue with your Crucial be sure to send in a warranty request for repair or replacement.
Gerber Crucial Vs Comparable tools
There aren’t many tools like the Crucial out there. Its combination of full size functionality and pocket tool dimensions mean there are only a few tools that can really compare. The tools below have the same combination of compactness and usefulness as the Crucial.
Crucial Vs Leatherman Skeletool
The Leatherman Skeletool is a hugely popular pocket tool that does a good job pushing the limits of what a multi tool can be. It’s slightly larger than the Crucial, coming in at 4 in long, but weighs the same 5 oz. It has fewer tools but actually matches all the functionality of the base Crucial.
One thing we noticed right off the bat was how much better the Skeletool’s pliers and wire cutters were then the Crucial’s. A lot of this just came down to the much more usable handle architecture but you could also tell the general workmanship was nicer. We also really prefer the bit driver of the Skeletool to the Crucial’s mediocre cross driver. Given how closely priced these two tools are the decision was easy.
The Crucial is a decent tool but it has some problems. The Skeletool does everything that the Crucial does, it just does them better.
Crucial Vs Leatherman Freestyle
The Leatherman Freestyle is an even more stripped down version of the Skeletool. It’s slightly smaller and lighter than either the Skeletool or Crucial but lacks much of their functionality. The Freestyle is basically just a pair of multi tool pliers with a combo knife blade. It’s great for replacing your folding knife with something that can serve dual purposes but doesn’t allow you to turn a screw or open a bottle.
Overall the workmanship of the Freestyle was still better than the Crucial’s. The curved shape of the Freestyle’s handles made the pliers far more effective, and the knife was both longer and held an edge better. If you really want screwdrivers you should go for the Crucial, but overall we think the Freestyle is better made.
Crucial Vs Leatherman Juice C2
The Juice C2 is the largest model in Leatherman’s Juice line of lightweight pocket tools. It’s actually smaller and lighter than the Gerber Crucial despite packing in more tools. It has four screwdrivers, a bottle/can opener attachment, and includes a corkscrew on the standard model. It uses a classic butterfly fold design with rounded handle edges. We found it to be much more comfortable to use than the Crucial.
Overall the Juice C2 wins out against the Crucial as well. The C2 was lighter, better made, included more tools, and just generally more comfortable to use. Did we mention it’s also less expensive? We rest our case.
Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Gerber Crucial
Gerber tried for a welterweight hit with the Crucial but ended up knocked out in the fourth round. The Gerber Crucial isn’t a bad multi tool, it’s just nothing special. The included tools are basically functional but don’t shine. The geometry of the handle makes using the pliers downright painful at times.
Given the relatively high price of the Crucial we definitely recommend you check out other pocket tools before you buy this one.