Gear Shots: The Five Dollar Multi Tool

It Was the Best of Tools, it Was the Worst of Tools

Words by Morgan Taylor. Photos by Morgan Taylor.
August 27th, 2013

I used to hate this multi tool. Years back, when I first started cycle commuting, it was the most affordable tool at MEC. The Filzer brand didn’t speak out to me from a design and branding perspective, but I bought one anyway. My friends and I dubbed it “the five dollar multi tool” and have since then continued to refer to it as such, even though it’ll now run you a big $7.75.

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Veteran photographers will tell you the best camera is the one you have with you, and it follows that this the best tool since it’s in my bag.

My disdain for this tool was based on two experiences, both related to the perceived quality of Filzer products. The first time I attempted to use the torx driver on a five dollar multi tool (my roommate’s, as I had already thrown mine off a bridge in a rage), the torx head broke clean off in a rotor bolt. To MEC’s credit, this is an easy warranty item.

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The ergonomics of multi tools seem to be low priority (seriously, designers…). The five dollar multi tool’s smooth rounded corners are good for getting things “BMX tight” in ultimate comfort. I don’t know what my problem was with this shape years ago, but now I think it’s great.

However, a good warranty did nothing to appease my feelings that these tools were made with cheese-tanium (material naming credit to NSMB contributor Omar Bhimji). The second experience was with a cone wrench from the same brand. My 15mm combination wrench wouldn’t fit a particular pair of pedals and I folded the cone wrench in half with my bare hands. This was a ham-fisted, hackjob way to develop an opinion about an affordable line of tools.

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Either the quality of the Filz Wood tool steel has improved or my standards have lowered (unlikely). In any case, I have never rounded the head off one of these things. The plastic bushings between the bits do loosen up with time, but you can tighten them.

Fast forward the better part of a decade, and the five dollar multi tool has become a trusted companion and the piece I reach for most of the time. Beyond that one warranty situation, I have yet to find an actual problem with the thing. It lacks a full size 8mm allen and a chain tool, but there aren’t many small tools out there that do boast said features.

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The all important Torx bit, now necessary for bar clamps and more. Inside is one of those unfortunate slide-it-on-the-6mm 8mm allen bits. Have you ever shattered one of these in a crank bolt? I have. Not a real tool.

I recently lost my beloved five dollar multi tool, and went in to MEC to buy a new one. I was distracted by a shiny new unit – a few dollars more and slightly smaller and lighter. Why not – it’s just a few bucks, right? Wrong. The edges of the smaller tool are sharper and dig into your hand, and the smaller size offers less leverage compounding that problem. I ended up buying another five dollar multi tool.

Good friends will stick around through thick and thin, and the five dollar multi tool has proven that it will stick around even when the cool kids are putting its head in the toilet and pressing the flush button.

It’s easily worth the inflated $7.75 price tag.

There’s something in here about sticking things out and finding true love. Rarely does that come at such a low price…

  • boomforeal

    honest, cheeky, heartfelt review – a breath of fresh air from the depths of the lumbar reservoir!

  • Cheez1ts

    Perfect timing for my multi-tool purchase (was also looking at that lighter and more expensive option). Thanks for the well written write-up Morgan.

  • GTDad

    When I started mountain biking again after many many years again. I bought the filzer I-tool grande. It has a chain breaker and 8m adapter.
    For a whopping 15 dollars it has been a solid little tool that have been very glad to have with me.

    • morgman

      The 8mm adapter is a piece I don’t put my trust in – the Mini 10 also has one – but as you say, the value in this brand is good.

  • BillyFnJackson

    I should send you a picture of my copy of this exact tool. It’s also at least ten years old, covered in rust, but still just as awesome as you mention.

    • morgman

      By any chance did you find it at the bottom of Burrard Inlet?