Leatherman recently announced their new CURL multi-tool, and they describe it as a more affordable multi-tool for beginners. Design-wise, the Curl looks to be a scaled back version of the Leatherman Wave. I haven’t handled it in person yet, but I have reservations about the $80 Curl being a good first-time multi-tool.
I own and have reviewed quite a few Leatherman multi-tools over the years, and wanted to discuss 4 alternative first-time options.
Unfortunately, Leatherman’s costs and retail prices have gone up over the years, and so there aren’t many models for under $50 anymore.
My recommendation would be to look at the “keychain-sized” Squirt PS4, “pocket-sized” Skeletool, or “full-size” Rebar.
There are other full-size options, the Wingman and Sidekick, which are excellent tools for more casual users, but I’m not convinced about their current price levels. The Rev is a more affordable adaptation, but makes compromises to get there.
See All Options via Leatherman
Leatherman Squirt PS4
Leatherman has simplified their keychain-sized multi-tools in recent years, leaving only the Squirt PS4, Style PS, and their legendary Micra.
Of the three, I think the Squirt offers the most utility while still being affordable, and in my opinion it delivers a greater bang for the buck.
That’s not to say that Leatherman’s smaller keychain-sized tools should be dismissed, but they can be harder sells despite their slightly lower pricing.
Here’s what you get with the Squirt PS4:
- Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
- Spring-action Regular Pliers
- Spring-action Wire Cutters
- 420HC Knife
- Spring-action Scissors
- Flat/Phillips Screwdriver
- Bottle Opener
- Wood/Metal File
- Medium Screwdriver
The Squirt PS4 measures 2.25″ closed and has a 1.6″ blade length. This is a SMALL tool.
Also Consider: Style PS, Micra
If you’re looking for a small multi-tool and don’t care very much about having stronger scissors or pliers, Victorinox’s Swiss Army Knives are a great alternative.
I reviewed the Leatherman Rebar multi-tool when it first came out, and have since purchased another one.
The Rebar is more compact than more popular multi-tools, such as the Wave Plus, but that’s also because it doesn’t have any outside-accessible tools. If you want to use either of the knife blades, for instance, you have to first fold the entire tool open.
The pliers are strong, and with replaceable cutter blades.
To me, the Rebar is a great occasional-use tool, backup tool, or primary tool for users that might also carry a folding knife or other main cutting tool.
I know what some of you might be thinking – “$70 is for beginners?!” The fact of the matter is that Leatherman’s prices have gone up over the years.
With its unique skeletonized-frame design, the Leatherman Skeletool has become one of the most iconic multi-tools on the market.
This is one of my favorite multi-tools of all the time. It’s a minimalist tool with few functions, but there are a lot of times when all you really need is a knife, pliers, and screwdriver.
The bit holder works with Leatherman’s double-ended screwdriver bits and also their drive adapters.
A carabiner clip makes for easier carrying, and it also has a built-in bottle opener.
There are several versions of the Skeletool. The “standard” Skeletool is now available in several color options, and there are also specialty versions such as with an upgraded knife blade or carbide glass breaking point for rescuers.
Leatherman Wingman, Sidekick, or Rev
When the Leatherman Wingman and Sidekick multi-tools came out, they seemed to be the brand’s then-new affordable models. Both are now priced at $60.
A few years later, motivated by rising prices, Leatherman also released the more affordable Rev, priced at $40.
I have had good experiences with the Wingman and Sidekick, and I have purchased several of each over the years to give as gifts. The Rev is okay, but in my mind it works better as a backup or more casual use tool.
There are two types of multi-tool users, those who toss a tool into their glovebox or junk drawer at home or work, and those who carry a multi-tool regularly in case they’re caught wanting to complete a task without any regular hand tools.
The Rev, Wingman, or Sidekick are all a good fit for users who want to toss a “pocket tool box” into a safe place just in case a task comes up. For someone who thinks they might start carrying a multi-tool for regular use, such as anyone starting down the EDC (everyday carry) rabbit hole, these are all good starter tools.
As potential starter tools, these tools will still be useful in the future should the user seek to upgrade to something better.
In my experiences, these tools are capable, appropriately featured, and well-made, but there are some compromises in design and function so as to make them more affordable than Leatherman’s flagship tools.
It can be hard to justify the $100 and up pricing of Leatherman’s Wave, Charge, and Surge models. The Wingman, Sidekick, and Rev are a good starting point for users who might eventually work their way up, and for casual users who can’t justify spending more.
Price: $40 (Rev) to $60 (Wingman or Sidekick)
“But Real Tools are Better”
This seems to be a common argument by those who don’t see the need for a multi-tool and lack the imagination to understand others’ needs and wants might be different.
Of course “real tools” are often better. But a multi-tool is small, discreet, and far more useful than a bag full of tools that a user cannot or won’t have with them at all times.
The Rebar also has a bladeless version for those that might be prohibited from carrying a knife.
The last comment made me chuckle.
I’m a fan of the Skeletool too. It has everything I “need” in a multitool most of the time. The clip helps make it pocket-friendly.
I wish there was a lighter titanium version – though I appreciate that would be considerably more expensive. I like the shape and tool compliment, but it’s 5oz is still a bit heavy for my taste.
They used to have the Freestyle, which shaved off a bit of weight by eliminating the carabiner clip, but it was discontinued long ago.
I don’t think a titanium version would possible. The Skeletool has an aluminum insert, and the CX used to have carbon fiber. There are some places where I suppose titanium could be used, but it would likely have to be thicker, and the stainless steel pliers jaws and pivot construction would still contribute a bit of weight. There would have to be steel inserts at wear points. Ultimately, there could be some savings, but such a tool wouldn’t be affordable.
Freestyle didn’t have a screwdriver either though – yuck. 😄 I get why – it would be pointy and stick out. Too big of a compromise though.
Lighter would be better, but thanks for explaining why it couldn’t work.
I like the Skeletool function and size. It just feels hefty for the size – but that’s also probably what makes it robust.
Ah, forgot about that. Here’s an older look at the Freestyle for anyone curious:
I don’t mean to sound too discouraging. It *could* work, but it’d be much more complex and expensive than could be marketable.
the Crunch is my favorite by a long shot. the amount of times that little guy has saved me from having to go get the right sized wrench vs needle nosed pliers is impressive to me. i can use them as pliers without having the lock engage, but its much harder to use pliers that dont lock to loosen a tight fastener, in my experience
I love the crunch too; it’s an ingenious design. I wish they would update it with an outside opening blade and bit holders.
Matt the Hoople
A bit holder would make the crunch a fantastic tool. Add the blade exchanger as well and I’d buy the first one off the production line.
the bit holder is incorporated into the screw. take that out completely and it is there. its a bit inconvenient, compared to the newer versions, but it is there just the same
Matt the Hoople
Love the crunch. Always wanted one but never made the jump.
Pricing nowadays is ridiculous. I paid $54 for my Wave brand new. Of course that was approaching a decade ago.
Any multi-tool is of course a “jack of all trades, master of none”. I’ll take a Wave on my belt over a toolbox in the truck when I’m in an attic and need to tighten one screw or twist a few wires together. It’s also a lot more convenient when hiking to have that multi-tool with you when you need a pliers, screwdriver, file, knife, saw, bottle opener, can opener, or scissors, among other things. As Stuart and the entire Tool Guyd community has often pointed out: the multi-tool has its place, just make sure when you get yours, its a good quality one.
I would throw the “Wingman” in there as well. I always prefered it to the Rev at a similar price point. Over the past 10ish years I’ve carried the Wingman, Skeletool CX, Gerber center drive, and now the Free P2. The P2 is great but I do sometimes miss the spring loaded pliers of the Wingman. I know some people complain about the weight of the P2 , but I keep it on me year round, in shorts, and hardly notice it’s there.
The Wingman is my favorite of LM’s offerings (because of the spring loaded pliers and the external blade and scissors). So much so I bought a couple used ones off ebay as backups. Their prices have gone up substantially since I bought my first one (paid $25 as a Home Depot Christmas special) so used is the way to go.
The Rebar and the Wave are tops in my book. Not the perfect tool my any means but certainly handy in a bind and might save you a trip back to the truck or the shop. These two tools have solved more problems and saved more steps than I can count. Certainly I prefer to have the proper tool in hand but sometimes we cannot anticipate our needs.
There was a time when my friend Sarah was going to have her first child. I learned of this new trend for women called a “Push Gift”… From what I understand, it’s a gift given by their friends as a celebration of them having their first child.
Sarah asked for a Leatherman. Everyone, including her Husband, wanted her to be more specific, including me. Everyone had ideas of which model to get her, but ultimately it came down to trusting her Husband to guess, or trusting me to know what the whole line of Leatherman tools could do, and recommend the best. At the time… I think it’s… 2010? 2013? Around there? The Squirt line included a PS4 edition for Electricians. Instead of pliers, scissors, or whatever else as the main tool, it had a pair of wire strippers, with a crimper at the base. And, of all the requests Sarah had, one of the more specific ones that was helping us along was “I’d love if it was Purple… I love Purple…” That particular PS4 was listed as being colour coded “Lightning Purple”… So I went looking…
Unfortunately I didn’t find one in time, the baby came a little early, and her Husband scrambled for a Leatherman, getting her a MUT. She loved it, she still uses it (she’s a fire safety inspector, we never questioned her need or use of a Multi-Tool. She needs one.) and I haven’t seen the Squirt PS4 Electrician version (ES4?)since. She has since gone on to have twin girls to go with her daughter from the first time, and she’s still awesome, and I would still recommend a Squirt for such people.
I’ll probably go looking again, now that you’ve reminded me. I am way behind on my gratitude presents to Sarah. Good friends are hard to find, and you should never take them for granted. If you can use your expertise to get them awesome stuff… or make them awesome stuff… it’s all the more meaningful.
Purple Squirts are rare, put a search in eBay with an alert and be patient.
Have a Rev, that is my EDC, and itis fine, my Charge is in my backpack for dirtbiking.
I have a Wingman and I absolutely love it. I got it for about $20 with a free micra (maybe 7 years ago) which now seems like a steal. It’s held up really well. My only minor gripe is the with the can opener/bottle opener combo- can’t stand these.
If you’re going to get a Leatherman, the Wave+ is probably the best standard size multi available, next option for those with larger hands or need a larger multi tool is the Surge.
However as mentioned the Rebar is a good tool as well. As for more specialized multi tool, the Crunch which is a locking jaw multi tool is also a great tool.
I personally own the Wave+, Surge, Rebar, and Crunch. I highly recommend any of them. Your honesty better off spending the money on the top tier leatherman multi tools.
I often find new or barely used leathermans on secondhand websites like eBay or lately Mercari. Skeletool with topographic etching for under $30 shipped. Black Wave+ for around $50 shipped.
Leatherman and SOG are the only multitools I’ve come to like.
I’ve not heard anything positive or negative about SOG multi tools. Any good models to look for?
In the photography world, there is a saying about tools: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” This is why the highly portable iPhone is the worlds most popular camera and is why multi-tools remain popular.
I’ve owned a few Leatherman tools and given them all away except for the Crunch (locking pliers) models that I keep in my motorcycle tool kits
While I know it is a personal thing, I just find a Swiss Army Knife to be more useful – of course depending on the model. My must-haves are big & small blades, scissors, toothpick and tweezers, screwdrivers, awl and corkscrew. I have used the can opener many times as well
But pliers? almost never. To me a Leatherman is a pair of pliers with some hard-to-use tools attached. A SAK is a knife with some easy-to-use tools attached. And it is smaller and less expensive to boot