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.
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.
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.