Owning Leatherman multitool pliers is like a cult. You must have a pair or a collection of Leathermans if you consider yourself a real tool enthusiast or an outdoor person.
And as if that’s not enough, you must keep up with what’s new in Leatherman’s lineup of multi-tool pliers.
To give you a proper perspective, the Leatherman brand has a faithful following similar to that of Apple. You are either a Leatherman guy or others.
And when you are a Leatherman fanboy, it feels criminal not to have the hottest or the latest pair of Leatherman in your EDC tool pouch.
Boy, these American-made multipurpose pliers are very good. You cannot afford to be without them if you fancy pocket tools. You can even trade your cloak for a Leatherman.
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Why do you need Leatherman pliers?
Leatherman pliers belong to the EDC class of tools. Like other brands of multi-tool pliers, they are designed for carrying around in your pocket or hip to help you fix things on the go.
The many functions of a single pair of multi-tool pliers open up a whole world of problem-solving. You can use them as a screwdriver, hand saw, knife, or regular pliers.
Some people call them survival pliers because they have all the tools you need to survive in the jungle.
Most multi-tool pliers are equipped with a bottle or can opener. These openers can start a good conversation with a stranger after helping them open a beer or can of food.
Multi tools are simply very convenient for small tasks. They are far easier to whip out of pocket or pouch than to rummage a packed toolbox searching for the right tool.
Amongst all the brands of multi-tool pliers, Leatherman stands out. Firstly, they are made in the USA by a reputable company, so quality is out of the question. The brand has provided us with decades of satisfaction since the 80s. That’s why there is a solid Leatherman fanbase.
Secondly, Leatherman pliers come in a variety of configurations. This is so that you can choose the one which best suits your needs.
Thirdly, multi tool pliers are convenient to have at hand. They help you tackle tasks that otherwise would require a whole tool box. Leatherman multitools lead the pack because they are reliable, rugged, and of superior quality.
Lastly, Leatherman multitool pliers give you the nostalgic memory of the good old Swiss Army Knives. I call them the Swiss Army Knives incarnate because you can tell they are built to last. They are also very functional and durable. Plus, you get a 25 years warranty on any Leatherman pliers.
What Leatherman should you get and why?
As I have mentioned, there are more than a dozen types of Leatherman multi-tool pliers. In this section, I will cover the most common Leathermans and their best applications so that you can pick the one that suits your needs.
Leatherman Wave Plus – Best for all trades
The Leatherman Wave is the most versatile and most popular pair of folding pliers. It is the best-selling not only within the Leatherman brand but across all brands of multi-tool pliers. It is also everyone’s favorite multitool pliers.
What makes Leatherman Wave pliers so good? It is high quality and nicely made. It is also fit for any trade from fishing to bike repairs and electrical works. These pliers are an absolute gem!
The most recent version of Leatherman Wave is Wave plus. It has 18 tools including needle nose pliers, regular pliers, replaceable wire cutters and hard-wire cutters, wire crimpers, wire strippers, smooth-edge knife, serrated knife, saw, can opener, file, screwdriver, and bit drivers. Most of these tools are easy to open and lock conveniently without unfolding the pliers.
My favorite tool on Wave+ is the diamond file. It is incredible for sharpening. I use it to sharpen axes, kitchen knives, and scissors. It can also be good for sharpening finishing hooks if fishing is your trade.
Despite the good qualities, Wave is quite bulky and not good for carrying in the pocket. It is an EDC tool for carrying in the pouch or toolbelt. Most campers and technicians like to put them in a pliers holster or inside the bag or gang box.
Leatherman Skeletool – Best EDC
The Leatherman Skeletool is another fantastic multi tool. It has a smaller form factor than the Wave but of course, fewer functions. It has its place, nonetheless.
Skeletool multi tool pliers have all the basic tools including a screwdriver, knife blade, bottle opener, and a bit driver. You can use the bit driver Leatherman bits to tighten or loosen #1 & #2 slotted and Philips screws.
This model of leatherman multi-tool comes in different colors and series. The most popular series is the Skeletool CX. Others are skeletool, RBX, and RB.
One of the most outstanding features that make the Skeletool CX stand out is the premium 154cm steel knife. It is one of the best knives you will find on any Leatherman pliers. The knife holds an edge for a ridiculously long time and is accessible without opening the tool. Other Skeletools have a 450HC steel knife.
Generally, everything is cool about the Leatherman CX except for the finicky pocket clip and lack of a spring mechanism on the pliers.
The pocket clip is quite awful, to be honest. It bends quite easily and could cause you to lose the tool. I find it safer to hang the tool on the belt loop using the on-frame carabiner or put it in the pocket.
Secondly, the pliers are not spring-loaded although they open and close quite smoothly. A spring mechanism is a necessary feature on small pliers. It saves you the frustration of trying to open a tiny pair of pliers, especially if you have big hands. So, the lack of a spring mechanism on the Skeletool CX may be a turnoff for a person with gigantic hands.
Other than that, the Leatherman Skeletool CX is the perfect minimalist multitool. It is compact (4-1/4″ long and 5.14 ounces heavy), solid, lightweight, and features all the basic tools you need to take on small tasks. You can carry it anywhere including fishing, camping, and hunting. The knife is very handy!
Skeletool multi tools also come in different colors including blue, green, black, stainless steel, and typographical print. Most people, especially women find the colorful skeletools very attractive, making them one of the women’s favorite. The Skeletool CX is one of the best multitool gifts for women.
Leatherman Wingman – Best for a beginner
The Wingman is another quality pocket multi-tool by Leatherman. It offers 14 different tools: spring-action needlenose pliers, spring-action regular pliers, wire stripper, 420HC combo knife, spring-action scissors, package opener, ruler, can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, Phillips screwdriver, medium screwdriver, and a small screwdriver.
The most outstanding features of the Wingman are a knife blade and scissors. You can access them without opening the tool. Oh, and the pliers are spring-loaded, which enables you to operate them with one hand.
Generally, the Leatherman Wingman has all the basic tools you can never live without. It is not too small or too large and is lightweight for the pocket or hip. It has a nice reliable pocket clip.
IMO, the Wingman is the best leatherman for a beginner. It is also the ideal multitool for construction and warehouse work for opening packages. Might also be a good gift for a woman because of the good balance of weight, simplicity, and usability.
Leatherman Squirt ES4 – Best for Electrician
The Leatherman Squirt ES4 is a really handy small-frame pair of multi-tool pliers. It has 9 different tools and is super lightweight. It weighs less than 2 ounces and is about 2-1/4″ long.
The main function of the Squirt ES4 is to strip electrical wires. It has long jaws with grippers at the end, a wire stripper section in the middle, and wire cutters next to the pivot.
The stripper section has multiple slots for stripping different wire sizes. They are sharp and cut through the insulation like butter. The wire cutters are also sharp but could tad longer.
The other tools on the Leatherman Squirt ES4 are a knife, scissors, file, 2-D Philips screwdriver, and flat screwdriver with an integrated bottle cap opener.
These small-frame multi-tool pliers are pocket friendly and a perfect keychain tool. They come in handy when you need to strip away wire to make an electrical connection. They are a must-have for any electrician.
Leatherman Charge Plus TTi – Best for Engineers
The Leatherman Charge Plus TTi is made with premium material from the Titanium handles to diamond-coated file, ultra-sharp S30V Knife, and premium replaceable cutters. It is the most heavy-duty Leatherman you can find but it also comes at a premium cost.
The Charge+ TTi has 19 tools including all the basic tools you would need to survive. Most of the tools are accessible with the pliers unfolded but the knife and saw are outside accessible. You access them with the tool closed.
The S30V steel knife is the best. It stays sharp the longest and is resistant to corrosion. It is the best knife you can find on any leatherman.
Unfortunately, the pliers on the Charge+ are not spring-loaded. However, the multitool has a decent size and won’t get lost in big hands. This makes it easy to open and close the pliers even without a spring mechanism.
Overall, the premium tools on the Charge Plus TTi make it a professional set for taking to the job site. It is the best Leatherman for engineers. However, it is quite heavy (8.89 ounces) to carry around in the pocket. You need to put it on the workbelt of in the toolbox.
Leatherman Surge – Best Heavy-Duty
The Leatherman Surge is a 21-in-1 heavy-duty multitool. It has the most tools and is one of the largest multi-tools on the market and within the Leatherman lineup.
The Surge is best as an upgrade rather than a first multi tool. It is the ideal upgrade for Leatherman Wave.
The Surge feels beefier and more robust, and definitely heavier than the Wave. It has all the tools you find on the Wave plus an awl, blade exchanger, and a larger screwdriver.
Unfortunately, the size of the Surge does not allow you to carry it in your pocket. You need to put it in the toolbox, or toolbag, or just carry it on your waist inside a pliers holster.
Like the Wave+, the Leatherman Surge is good for all trades including repair works and outdoor activities. However, it is best to use it for tougher tasks that other smaller multi tools cannot handle.
There you have it. These are the most common Leatherman multi tools and the best way to use them, IMO. However, you can use them however you wish. It is only that some models feel better for specific tasks.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Leatherman surge and Leatherman Free P4 have the most tools. They have 21 tools. Each has all the basic tools plus additional tools that set the two models apart. For example, the Surge has a blade exchanger that allows you to change blades whereas the Free P4 has a mini pry tool for opening cans.
The Leatherman Charge Plus TTi and Skeletool CX have the best knives. The Charge+ has an S30V steel knife while the CX has a 154cm steel blade. Both blades are premium and retain the edge for a long time. They are also outside accessible, which makes it extremely easy to deploy them.