You're Never in a Fix with a Leatherman in Your Pocket
Maybe you’ve seen the movie 127 Hours, or perhaps you know the story of Aron Ralston. It’s a true story. In 2003, Aron Ralston was hiking alone in Utah when a boulder fell on his arm, pinning him in place. Suffice it to say that after five days of being stuck, Aron used a dull multi-tool to help free himself; according to Aron, it was not a Leatherman multi-tool.
Aron Ralston would have been better off had he been carrying a Leatherman multi-tool, and you’ll be better off, too, if you keep one handy. Leatherman multi-tools are among the best in the world. They are made almost entirely from stainless steel, along with bits of aluminum, titanium, bronze, carbon fiber, glass-filled nylon and other high-quality materials. Aluminum parts are hard anodized, a process that creates a protective coating up to four times thicker than standard anodizing. Most Leatherman knife blades are made of 420HC stainless steel. The only exceptions are two models with 154CM stainless steel blades, which hold an edge about three times longer than standard stainless steel, and one model with an S30V stainless-steel blade, which holds an edge up to six times longer than standard stainless steel.
Leatherman wire cutters are ground so precisely that they can cut paper, after cutting through multiple 16-penny nails. Screwdrivers are ground on three sides to grip screw heads securely. Handles are comfort sculpted to prevent hand fatigue. Saw blades resist clogging in wet or sappy conditions, and they work on the pull stroke rather than the push stroke, to avoid bending.
Perhaps the best thing about Leatherman tools is that they’re made in America—Oregon, to be specific. American-made tools are generally of higher quality than tools made abroad. In fact, Leatherman tools are so well made that they’re backed by a 25-year warranty. They’re so fine that you might be reluctant to use one for the first time, lest you blemish it. But Aron Ralston certainly wouldn’t have hesitated. And you shouldn’t, either.
B&H carries the full line of Leatherman tools. Sometimes the same tool is available with different sheaths, with or without metal gift tins—the stock varies over time, so for example, some models are available with a black-oxide finish, others are not. Check the link for each model in this article to see the current options. There’s no doubt you will find a Leatherman tool that meets your needs exactly. Of course, all of the Leatherman tools also make great gifts. We’ll review the pocket-size models first, some of which are small enough to fit on your keychain, and then we'll examine the full-size models that are best carried in a sheath, backpack or bag.
The Leatherman Juice C2 is a handy pocket-size multi-tool with a stainless-steel body, anodized aluminum handle scales and a lanyard ring. It’s only 3.25 inches long when closed, weighs just 4.3 ounces and is the slimmest of three different Juice models. Slim as it may be, the Juice C2 has everything you might need on camping trips and picnics, including a 2.6-inch 420HC knife, bottle opener, can opener and leverage-assisted corkscrew. With the Juice C2 in your pocket, you can save the day if someone brings wine but forgets a corkscrew—and you also get to share the wine.
Other features of the Juice C2 include pliers, wire cutters and four screwdrivers, one of them being a fully usable Phillips head. Leatherman claims that the tool has both needle-nose and regular pliers, but they’re really just different parts of the jaw of the same tool. Regardless, both parts of the pliers work efficiently; the needle-nose pliers can grasp small objects while the regular pliers can clamp down on larger objects such as nuts and bolts. The Juice C2 also features soft wire cutters and hard wire cutters, and again these are really just different parts of the jaws of the pliers—the soft wire cutters use bypass blades to slice through softer wire while the hard-wire cutters use the shearing action of the inner most part of the jaws to cut hard wire, even as thick as a coat hanger.
If you like what the Juice C2 has to offer but want more, consider the Leatherman Juice CS4. The Juice CS4 takes the tool set of the C2 and adds scissors, a saw and awl. Even if you never use the saw or awl, the scissors will come in handy often.
If you like the compact size and sleek look of the Juice but want even more tools at your disposal, the Leatherman Juice Xe6 is the way to go. As the biggest Juice of the bunch, the Xe6 adds a 420HC serrated knife, a diamond-coated file and a wood/metal file to the tool set of the CS4.
|Leatherman Juice Xe6||Leatherman Micra|
If you’re looking for a good personal-grooming tool that’s also useful for tightening screws and tinkering on occasion, the Leatherman Micra is an ideal choice. Made entirely of stainless steel, the Micra is an ideal tool to keep in your pocket, purse or glove compartment. Sized right for a keychain, the tool is just 2.5 inches long and weighs only 1.8 ounces. Nonetheless, the Micra houses a 420HC knife, spring-action scissors, a nail file and cleaner, a tiny ruler, a bottle opener, tweezers, two regular screwdrivers and a flat Phillips-head screwdriver. The flat Phillips-head screwdriver is basically a flat screwdriver with a Phillips-shaped profile; quite usable for light-duty work such as tightening the antenna on a radio.
Sometimes a multi-tool is quite useful, but its appearance is what really makes people want to own it. That’s the case with the Leatherman Skeletool, which happens to look really cool. The Skeletool has a cutaway appearance, almost as though outer parts of the tool were removed to reveal its inner workings. The effect looks cool and helps make the tool lighter. Though its body and blades are stainless steel, a 6061-T6 aluminum handle insert adds some comfort and flair to the tool, and also keeps the weight down—to exactly 5 ounces, that is. Features of the Skeletool include a 420HC stainless steel combo blade (part straight and part serrated) and a removable pocket clip. All of the blades and tools lock to prevent injury. Tools include the combo needle-nose /regular pliers, hard and soft wire cutters, a carabiner clip/bottle opener, a large bit driver and a bit kit, containing #1 and #2 Phillips bits and 3/16" and 1/4" flat screwdriver bits.
If you like the look of the Skeletool, you’ll probably like the Leatherman Skeletool CX even more. Both versions offer the same set of tools, but the Skeletool CX has black handles and a carbon-fiber handle insert. The handles are also given a Tungsten Diamond-Like Coating (DLC) that resists scratching and corrosion. The icing on the cake is the Skeletool CX’s more durable 154CM stainless steel straight-edge blade instead of the regular Skeletool’s 420HC combo blade.
The Leatherman Style CS multi tool has a similar appearance to the Skeletool but it’s smaller and much lighter. At just 2.9 inches in length when closed, and with a weight of only 1.4 ounces, you’ll forget that Style CS is even in your pocket. But you’ll sure be glad it’s there when you need it. Lightweight but rugged, the Style CS features a stainless steel body with a glass-filled nylon handle scale. The centerpiece of the Style CS is its sharp spring-action scissors. The tool also features a nail file and tweezers, so there can be no excuse for showing up at a meeting with ragged fingernails. Other tools include a 1.6-inch 420HC knife, a flat/Phillips screwdriver and a carabiner/bottle opener.
It’s unfortunate that you can’t bring most Leatherman tools on a commercial flight, at least not in the United States. You can put them in baggage that you check, but not in your pocket or carry-on bag. But you might have better luck with the Leatherman Style PS, which meets TSA specifications for a carry-on multi-tool; we say might, because you never know what an individual TSA agent might object to, and it could be confiscated at the security checkpoint. Regardless, Leatherman makes the Style PS airplane-safe by replacing the Style CS’s knife blade with small scissors and replacing its spring-action scissors with pliers.
In general, the multi-tools that Leatherman classifies as full size are larger and heavier than the pocket-size models, and they typically offer more tools and longer blades. Of course, pliers with longer handles also give you greater leverage, and thus more gripping, crushing and cutting power.
The Leatherman Blast is a 4-inch multi-tool with a stainless-steel body and Zytel comfort-grip inserts on the handle. The comfort-grip inserts make squeezing the handles of the pliers easier on your hands. The Blast comes pretty much loaded, as far as tools are concerned. It’s got a 3-inch 420HC clip-point knife, pliers, 8-inch ruler, bottle opener, can opener, wire cutters, various size screwdrivers, a saw, scissors, wire stripper, wood/metal file, small bit driver and a lanyard ring. The only things the Blast doesn’t have are a crimper, awl and corkscrew.
The Leatherman Charge TTi is a high-end multi-tool with comfort-sculpted titanium handles that are much lighter and resist saltwater corrosion better than stainless steel. The Charge TTi has both a long wearing S30V clip-point blade and a 420HC serrated blade with a cutting hook on its end. The cutting hook makes short work of opening tough clear plastic clamshell and blister packs, as well as cardboard cartons, burlap sacks and other packages without risking injury or damage to the contents. The knife blades are accessible without having to open the tool—you can open them with one hand and all of the blades and tools lock into place for added safety. The Charge TTi is a fully loaded tool; it’s got everything except an awl and corkscrew.
The Charge TTi features small and large bit drivers. The small bit driver holds a reversible jeweler’s screwdriver bit with a tiny Phillips head on one end and a slot head on the other end. The larger bit driver holds a reversible Phillips/slotted bit, and a bundled set of six additional reversible bits includes popular hex, torx, square and slotted drivers.
Most screwdriver bits in this world fit into standard ¼-inch hex drivers. But, if you look at the picture of the Charge TTi, you can see that its bit driver is not quite hex shaped, but flattened to make for an easier fit in the handle. For that reason, the Charge’s bit holder will only accept special flattened bits like those that come with it. An optional set of 21 flattened reversible bits includes metric hex bits, among others. You might also want to pick up an optional bit driver extension. The extension is also somewhat of an adapter in that it fits into the Charge’s flattened bit driver but will accept both the special flattened bits and standard hex bits.
A permanently attached lanyard ring slides out of the handle when needed and a removable lanyard ring snaps into the handle if you prefer it. A removable pocket clip is also included. The Charge TTi is fairly heavy at 8.2 ounces, so you might consider keeping the Charge in your glove box or backpack and, say, a Micra or Style in your pocket.
Needle-nose pliers are great when you have nothing else, and sometimes you need the finesse of a needle nose. But even the combo-jaw needle nose pliers found on most Leatherman tools have their limitations. When you need serious gripping power or clamping functionality, only locking pliers will do. The Leatherman Crunch contains 15 tools, the main one being rugged locking pliers. Conventional locking pliers are bulky, but the geniuses at Leatherman figured out a way to get them to fold into the handle of a multi-tool.
The locking pliers are relatively small but powerful, and can lock onto pipes and other objects up to one inch in diameter. A hex-bit adapter is exposed by removing the pliers’ adjusting screw, which is screwed into a hex-shaped threaded hole; it’s really pretty slick. You have to buy hex bits separately, and the Crunch uses standard ¼-inch hex bits, not the flattened ones that the Charge TTi uses. Other Crunch features include a 420HC stainless steel sheepsfoot serrated knife blade, hard and soft wire cutters, a wire stripper, a wood/metal file, a bottle opener, a ruler, a lanyard ring, one Phillips head screwdriver and three slotted screwdrivers.
All of the multi-tools we’ve looked at so far are general-purpose items; you could use any of them to fix anything anywhere, more or less. And of course, you’ll always be able to use any multi-tool for any repair job because screwdrivers are screwdrivers and pliers are pliers. That being said, some of Leatherman’s multi-tools are particularly useful to military personnel. The Leatherman MUT is one such multi-tool. With 18 tools and 3 bits, the Leatherman MUT is first and foremost a very useful multi-tool. But it’s also a tactical tool for use with firearms. Parts of the tool are threaded for cleaning rods and brushes and all the screwdriver bits are sized for standard military and civilian sighting adjustment. Tactical tools include a bolt override tool, a replaceable firearm disassembly punch, a replaceable bronze carbon scraper, a cleaning rod/brush adapter, a ½-inch wrench and a 3/8-inch wrench.
The blades on the outside of the MUT can be operated with one hand, and a carabiner/bottle opener lets you clip the MUT to your uniform or pack or open a refreshing beverage. The many tools on the MUT include needle-nose/regular pliers, replaceable hard and soft wire cutters, an electrical crimper, a 420HC combo knife, saw, hammer, replaceable cutting hook, large bit driver, removable titanium pocket clip and a bit kit. The most commonly used tools, if worn or damaged, can be replaced easily in the field using just a #8 torx bit. All Blades and Tools lock into place for safety. The MUT weighs 11.2 ounces, making it one of the heaviest Leathermans around.
If you need an even more specialized multi-tool, the Leatherman MUT EOD might be what you’re looking for. EOD stands for Explosive Ordnance Disposal, and that says it all. Whether you're adjusting your sights or cutting a fuse, the last thing you want to do is waste time looking for the right tool; just reach for the MUT EOD. The MUT EOD loses the regular pliers (but not the needle-nose), the 154CM replaceable hard-wire cutters and replaceable firearm disassembly punch and replaces them with 154CM replaceable fuse-wire cutters, a military performance spec cap crimper and a replaceable C4 punch.
If you like the idea of owning a multi-tool but don’t want to spend a lot of money and can’t decide which one to get, consider the Leatherman Sidekick. The Sidekick packs 15 tools into a full-size multi-tool, but costs just a fraction of what many other Leatherman tools cost, even with locking outside accessible blades and comfortable rounded handles. Tools include spring action needle nose and regular pliers, wire cutters, a 420HC straight-edge knife, a 420HC serrated knife, a wood/metal file, a saw, three screwdrivers, a bottle opener, can opener, wire stripper, lanyard ring and removable pocket clip. A carabiner accessory features a hex bit driver and bottle opener.
If you’ve already worn out one or two multi-tools, and want to buy just one more that will last for the rest of your life, and your childrens' and grandchildrens', the Leatherman Super Tool 300 is just the ticket. The heavy-duty Super Tool 300 features 19 tools in one, and its pliers are the largest and strongest ever featured in a Leatherman. Large side cutouts make it easy to extract tools, and rolled handles make the grip comfortable. Stranded, hard and regular wire cutters are all removable so you can replace or re-sharpen them whenever necessary. Other tools include an electrical crimper, 420HC straight-edge knife, 420HC serrated knife, a wood/metal file, a saw, various screwdrivers, an awl with a thread loop, a 9-inch ruler, bottle opener, can opener, wire stripper and lanyard ring.
If you want a Super Tool 300 with more of a military slant, then check out the Leatherman Super Tool 300 EOD. It has the same rugged features of the regular 300, plus EOD-specific tools including military-performance-spec cap crimpers, replaceable fuse-wire cutters, cleaning rod/brush adapter, and replaceable C4 punch. It has no regular pliers and just one knife blade (a 420HC Combo Knife), but a replaceable T-shank metal saw has been added.
With 21 tools in one, plus 2 bits, the Leatherman Surge is one of the two largest Leatherman multi-tools available. It has large pliers, long blades, large- and small-bit drivers and four outside-opening blades. It also has easy-to-use locks and a blade exchanger that lets you choose between a saw or file. The Surge is fully loaded with every common tool imaginable. Aside from some of the specialized EOD tools we’ve talked about, the Surge possesses everything except a corkscrew. It should come as no surprise that, being so chock-full of tools, the Surge is heavy: it weighs 12.5 ounces.
|Leatherman Surge||Leatherman Wave|
The Leatherman Wave is the most popular Leatherman multi-tool. The original Wave made headlines with its comfortable handles and outside-accessible blades that could be opened with one hand. Redesigned to make it even better in 2004, the Wave was given larger knives, stronger pliers, longer wire cutters and locking blades. It also has both large- and small-bit drivers so you can tighten or loosen any screw, whether it’s a standard-size one on your tripod or a tiny one on your eyeglasses. Basically, the only tools the Wave doesn’t have are an awl and a corkscrew.
The term “wing man” refers to a secondary pilot flying to the side and behind the lead pilot, basically watching his back, ready and able to help when the going gets rough. The Leatherman Wingman might not help in an aerial dogfight, but it’s comforting to have at your side nonetheless. Lightweight and a great value, the Wingman can assist you in projects at home, at work or at a campsite. It features an outside-accessible 420HC combo knife blade and spring action needle-nose/regular pliers with built-in wire cutters. Other tools include a wood/metal file, scissors, screwdrivers, a bottle opener, a can opener and a wire stripper. It even has a small angled blade used to open packages and cartons without risking damage to the contents. The Wingman weighs only 7 ounces.