Bikepacking is all about getting away from it all. Part of that is an inherent need to be self-supported. Unlike a short ride around a major city, if you have a problem, you are likely on your own. Even if there is someone you could call, they probably can't drop by with a car to pick you up.
Along with the isolation, the backcountry is unpredictable and you've got to be ready for whatever comes your way. If you'd rather not find yourself pushing a broken bike back to civilization you need to be able to handle mechanicals. Whatever strategy helps bring your repair kit together it will need to include a multi-tool. With that in mind, we've put together a list of some of the best MTB multi-tools as well as ideas worth considering when choosing the best bikepacking multi-tool. Keep reading to see our list of tools or jump ahead to see a few things worth considering no matter what multi-tool you go with.
- What is bikepacking? The ultimate guide
- Best bikepacking bags: carry your gear and supplies with ease
Best bikepacking multi-tools
One of the most common repairs you are likely to encounter is dealing with a flat. In the world of tubeless tires that can include dealing with slow leaks because of sealant clogging the valve stem. It can also mean swapping in a tube and dealing with a stuck valve stem retaining nut. The Wolftooth 8-Bit Pack Pliers make dealing with those two challenges high up on the list of features.
Beyond that, there's a variety of useful bits that all store in the handle. Even if you never end up needing to make a bike repair, the large pliers can come in handy for all kinds of bikepacking tasks.
Crankbrothers has a reputation for making some of the best multi-tools and it's well earned. The design is what people think of when they think of a multi-tool. There are a bunch of fold-out bits, a little like a Swiss Army Knife. Crankbrothers offers a few variations on the design depending on how many tools you want. No matter which one you get the design is similar. There's enough length that each tool can handle recessed bolts, and the tool is comfortable in your hand. Crankbrothers has been making the M19 for a long time and despite being an excellent price this tool will outlast your bike.
Fitting a huge number of tools into a single multi-tool presents a challenge. Shove them all in and none of them end up being all that usable. Topeak meets the challenge by splitting the ALiEN X into two distinct sides. Fold-out any of the tools and you get a long length that makes accessing hard-to-reach bolts easy. It's possible to use it like this but it's bulky and large in your hand. Release one side from the other and you've got a much more manageable tool. This unique design allows Topeak to fit an impressive 34 functions into an easy-to-handle form factor.
Tightening carbon fiber parts with low torque specs can be a very scary process. Get a little overzealous out on the trail and you might have just cost yourself a lot of money and be left pushing a broken bike. The Topeak Nano Torque Bar DX is a set consisting of a handle and cover along with a selection of bits and torque limiters. You don't get a huge number of tools in the kit, and you can only carry two different bits plus one torque limiter if you want everything to pack into the tool. What you do get though is peace of mind.
The Fix It Sticks Mountain kit is a multi-tool only in the loosest terms. The system centers around a set of replaceable edition Fix It Sticks. That means you get two sticks with magnetic bit holders at both ends and a hole in the center. Attach any of the included bits to the ends of the Fix It Sticks and you are set to go. If you need leverage, attach the two sticks to make a T-Handle tool that feels great in your hand. The design means that when broken down and stored in the included bracket, the core of the system is very space-efficient.
Silca is all about making the best parts. Anything they make is excessively researched and iterated until they come to a product that is as gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to use. The multi-tools available from Silca are no different.
There are 20 tools in the Venti option and each one is precisely forged then coated in a chrome plating designed for better grip. Given that rust can kill a multi-tool of this design, the chrome plating should come in handy for longevity as well.
It doesn't matter how good your multi-tool is if you leave it at home with a different bike. At the same time, bikepacking storage space is at a premium. The OneUp Components EDC multi-tool solves both problems. If you are willing to add threads to your steerer tube/stem, you get a tool you won't ever forget plus an easy-to-access option that saves rummaging through your bags. If your steerer tube doesn't work, or you aren't interested in adding threads, you can also choose to store the tool in the OneUp EDC Pump. You need a pump anyway and now it can double as tool storage.
- Best bikepacking saddles: comfy saddles for multi-day adventures
- Best bikepacking pedals: the perfect options for long days on a loaded bike
Multi-tools: what you need to know
1. Keep your bike in good repair
It's much more fun to be on your bike pedaling as opposed to off your bike wrenching. The best way to make sure you pedal more than you wrench is to spend time making sure your bike is in the best condition possible before you head out on a ride.
The backcountry is unpredictable and things happen, but a little maintenance can go a long way. Spend time in the comfort of your house inspecting your bike. Look for anything that's not quite right and do your best to replace things before you have an issue. If you notice you've got a tire that's looking a bit worse for wear, it's much nicer to swap it out before a big trip instead of dealing with the consequences on the trail.
The tire is a great metaphor for most things on your bike. Tires are expensive, and it can be tempting to try and squeeze out a little more mileage before swapping it. The same thing goes for your chain and the cables for the brakes or derailleur. Changing your chain or cables before they break on the trail will save you the hassle of an emergency repair. It's also worth mentioning that changing a chain often will extend the life of your cassette, and that saves you money.
2. Practice with your tools
The time you find yourself doing emergency trail repairs tends to be the worst possible time. It's getting dark, it's pouring rain, you've got a bunch of friends standing over your shoulder waiting on you, the list goes on. The only way to make it worse is to work through that repair with unfamiliar tools.
When you get a new multi-tool, spend some time really getting to know it. Go through all the tools and see how they work. Check out how it opens and how you use each tool. If you are doing maintenance in your home, consider grabbing tools out of your portable kit for a while. The tools you have at home are going to be easier, and more comfortable, to use. Before you switch to those though, make sure you've gotten really comfortable with the multi-tool you bring with you.
3. Every bike is unique
Every bike isn't completely unique but when you compare each setup to a multi-tool it can feel that way. Your combination of saddle, bars, groupset, and wheels is unique enough that you want to make sure you have all the tools you need. In a lot of ways, this goes hand in hand with the idea of practicing with your tools, but there is a little more to it.
Multi-tools package a set of tools together that are most common. Your setup might have something unique though. If you don't have it with you when you need it you could be in a bad spot.
When you practice with your tool, also make sure you look at your bike and see what tools it needs. Do you have bolts that require a star bit (commonly referred to as Torx), and do you have the correct size for what's on your bike? Do you have lots of carbon pieces that need a torque wrench, and do you have one? Do you have the correct size hex bit for everything on your bike? You may need to add extra tools beyond what a multi-tool has but whatever you need make sure you have it.
It's worth considering the position of the bolts you need to access too. The position of brake calipers on a frame or seatpost design may mean that some bolts aren't as straightforward to access.