Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Review
Cons: Exactly the same as much cheaper Gerber Suspension, large fistful of pliers
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate multi-tool is functionally the same as the *Gerber Suspension. The only difference is the branding and the handles' rubber patches. We have compared these tools extensively, and it appears that everything else is the same. Highlights include spring-loaded pliers, an included sheath, externally-accessed features, and knife blades are deployed with one hand.
In our weighted, carefully tailored scoring regime, the Bear Grylls tool scores 47 out of 100. For a variety of reasons, this is among the lowest scores in our review. The main reason is that we have eliminated many lower scoring tools from our selection. What is left for us to review is the "cream of the crop". Of this select subset, all are excellent and something must be at the bottom. In this case, keeping the Bear Grylls tool company with the lowest score is the identical, but differently-branded, Gerber Suspension. Despite the low scores, there are many good reasons you might choose one or the other of these Gerber tools. Read on for more.
In evaluating the functions of a multi-tool we make a few assumptions and then weigh the presence or absence of other options. All tools tested have pliers, at least one blade, and at least two screwdrivers. After these "standard" features, on the short list of distinguishing characteristics, to our testers at least, is scissors and an accessory bit driver. Beyond that saws, openers, and files are the things you might look for. Across the board, though, those first items are the most sought after. The Bear Grylls has the scissors but no bit driver. The scissors are tight and usable, cutting fingernails as well as paper. The blades on the Bear Grylls are disappointingly small, but hold their edges well. The screwdrivers are nothing special but function just fine.
In terms of comparisons, it must be noted again that the Bear Grylls is exactly the same, in terms of what you get, as the Gerber Suspension. Like, identical. Of the primary functions, these two are relatively similar to the Best Buy Leatherman Wingman. The Wingman has fewer screwdrivers, and only one blade (the Gerber has two) but the Wingman blade is bigger. They both have scissors and basic screwdrivers. The Wingman has a file and a unique "package opener", while the Bear Grylls has a wood and plastic saw. Another close competitor is the Victorinox SwissTool SpiritX. The Victorinox has a similar feature set to the Bear Grylls, including scissors and wood saw. The Victorinox adds a metal saw, two types of files, and the scissors are definitely more functional than those on the Gerber.
Since the pliers of a multi-tool are the most prominent attribute, and literally form the "backbone" of the device, it is pliers ergonomics we look at most in depth. For the full-sized pliers of most multi-tools there are three main criteria. First, the handles cannot pinch your hand. Some people are more susceptible to this. With the Gerber tool, no one will have any trouble with pinching. There is plenty of space between the plier handles. The downside of this space, which brings us to our next criteria, is that the plier-closed dimensions of the handles is quite large. For maximum leverage in plier grip, your fist can exert the most force when it is nearly closed. Even for the largest of hands, then, smaller plier handle profile means better grabbing power. Of all the tools we tested, the Bear Grylls has the biggest fist full. Finally, spring-loaded pliers make certain tasks easier while that attribute has virtually no cost. The Bear Grylls Ultimate has spring loaded pliers. The other ergonomic considerations of the Bear Grylls are minor after the pliers. The thumb-tab equipped, one-handed opening knife blades are very nice. The locking tools and blades are clutch. As compared to the Gerber Suspension, the rubber patches on the handles are marginally more comfortable in hand.
As compared to the other tools in our test, the Bear Grylls pliers are larger than any of the others, in pliers mode. This compromises the grip you can achieve. The Leatherman Surge is the next bulkiest, with the remainder of the tools at least an inch smaller in fist-filling dimensions. The Leatherman Wingman is somewhat more compact, while the Gerber Crucial is considerably more svelte.
The Bear Grylls, Suspension, Charge TTI, Leatherman Wave, and Leatherman Wingman tools all have main blades that open from the outside and can be deployed easily with one hand. With just a little dexterity the SOG PowerAssist main blades can also be used with one hand. This attribute is relatively new to multi-tools, and is very much appreciated. So many tasks are easier when one can activate a blade with one hand. The SOG Baton Q4, Victorinox SwissTool SpiritX, Leatherman Crunch, Gerber Dime, and Leatherman Squirt PS4 do not have this attribute.
The Bear Grylls is one of the heaviest and bulkiest products in our test. Thankfully, it comes with an included sheath, lanyard ring, and an outer profile that is smooth and therefore easy on your pockets. With other, smaller options available, the Bear Grylls is unlikely to be your "everyday carry" choice, but it is portable enough to give you options.
This Gerber model and the Top Pick Gerber Dime could be entirely different beasts. The Dime is a tiny fraction the size of the Bear Grylls, and as such earns our Top Pick award for portability. The Gerber Dime almost disappears on your keychain, while the Bear Grylls would be more than a pocket full for most people. The BG Ultimate is similar in size to other full-size multi-tools. At the top of the weight scale in our review, the heaviest five devices are all clustered between 240 and 270 grams. While the Bear Grylls is the heaviest of these (269 grams), the difference between all these heavyweights isn't all that important. With the others in this category, you mostly get more features. For the feature set of the Bear Grylls, the Leatherman Wingman is more portable. Leatherman doesn't ship the Wingman with a sheath, but the Wingman is more compact and comes with a dedicated pocket clip. For roughly similar features, the Wingman is more portable than the Bear Grylls.
Gerber builds its Bear Grylls Ultimate with practical, affordable materials and design considerations. We had no actual problems with the tool, but we do wish a few things were more polished. First, deploying the pliers from storage goes against a fair amount of resistance. Next, the central plier hinge/pivot is looser than we'd like to see. Our final complaint is in the size of the blades. For such a large tool, we'd like to see blades bigger than a couple inches. On the other hand, the locks are easy to use and none of the tools show any damage after hours of rough treatment in a variety of household, expedition, and mechanical tasks.
The Leatherman, Victorinox, and SOG tools in our review seem a little more polished, overall, than the construction of the Bear Grylls Ultimate. Deploying the pliers, for instance, on the SOG PowerAssist is smooth and effortless while none of the hinges exhibit any play. As compared to other Gerber full-size multi-tools we have tested, the Bear Grylls Ultimate is of tighter construction and more confidence inspiring materials. The Bear Grylls, in addition to being larger and beefier, seems made with tighter tolerances and more careful machining than the Top Pick Gerber Dime.
For household and expedition use, the Bear Grylls by Gerber deserves consideration. It is a little bulky for everyday carry, and not robust enough for regular manual laboring.
On its own, this competitor isn't a bad value. The materials will last well, and for this feature set, it isn't way expensive. However, when one considers that Gerber makes the Suspension Multi-Pliers with exactly the same features and tools at 2/3rds the cost, the branding of the Bear Grylls doesn't seem at all worth it. Perhaps you are a huge fan of this "survival expert" and don't mind the branding penalty you pay. Otherwise, skip over this for the Suspension.
Seldom does a company's internal branding inconsistency pop out like it does with the Suspension and Bear Grylls tools. Gerber could have distinguished this Bear Grylls tool with some other attributes and avoided the scrutiny they attract here and elsewhere online. As it is, we feel it is important to advise consumers that this tool is exactly the same as a product that the manufacturer prices at a fraction of the cost.
— Jediah Porter