How do you improve on something that is already so amazing? That was the question I had in mind when being shown the Leatherman Free for the first time. To cut to the point, within about 30 seconds I was convinced. Now I’m not new to the mighty Leatherman, having been an owner and user of several for about 10 years. But when my excited paws had a chance to play with the new Free range of knives and multitools – in a word: Wow. The whole feel & experience is enhanced and improved from that of Leatherman tools of the past. So if it’s not already obvious, I was very impressed.

What’s a Leatherman?

If you’re an existing a die-hard Leatherman fan like myself, feel free to skip ahead. For those unfamiliar – a Leatherman is a multitool. A small, often multi-function tool made in the USA to extremely high standards. The ‘classic’ Leatherman, for which the brand is known is a set of folding pliers with various other tools, a knife, screwdrivers, bottle openers and more that fold out. In summary, they’re small, tough and very useful multi-tools. They also make other similar small everyday tools, but for now, we’ll stick with the multi-tools and knives.

Leatherman Free

How are the Free tools different?

The Leatherman Free range is a project that has been several years in the making. Instead of just a new tool, with some slightly different functions, this time they totally redesigned the architecture of the product from the ground up. What does that mean in practice? Well, basically they took everything you know and love about a Leatherman and kept it; small, light, quality, tough and jam-packed full of useful features. Then they’ve improved all those little things that could be better, or are just a bit annoying. 

For example:

Opening and closing or ‘deploying’: the various tools is now far easier. Due to clever magnets, locking mechanisms and thumb-activated tools.  Anyone who has ever used a multitool knows that it can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to get the tools out to use, and to put them away. Well, that is no longer a problem due to the magentic locking system.

The click: The haptic and physical feedback or ‘click’ is a big part of the Free range. It’s hard to describe, but trust me you’ll definitely know when each tool is clicked into place – the motions are almost effortless, yet the click feels (and sounds) satisfyingly solid. The result is very confidence-inspiring when a tool is open and clicked into place; you know instantly that tool is locked and ready to use. The ability to use the tools one-handed is now also vastly improved. The magnets allow for less resistance when opening a tool.

Leatherman Free

The Range:

There are four tools in the Leatherman Free range so far – with more coming! *(note: That big blade on the righthand side in the images below is a prototype for release in 2020 we were told – stay tuned!) So from Left to Right:

Multifunction Knives (or EDC knives) – the T2 and T4

Multifunction Pliers – the P2 and P4

Leatherman Free

Leatherman Free


I’ve been using the P4 and T2 for a few weeks now, around the house, on camping trips, photoshoots and admittedly just opening and closing the tools at my desk. It is a bit addictive… So many little tasks are made infinitely easier, with a trusty Leatherman on hand. Fixing, screwing, assembling, disassembling, cutting, prying, securing, holding… you get the point. They’re really useful! But that’s almost a given, Leathmans are known to be useful. It’s the usability and ease of function that sets the Free range apart from the crowd. Having now used these tools for a few months, I’m even more convinced than I was initially.

In the hand –  the P4 

The Free P4 is the larger and more feature-packed of the two P (Pliers) tools. The pliers come in a really nice nylon sheath and the packing oozes quality. There are 4 larger external tools that all are super easy to deploy. A straight blade knife, wood saw, serrated knife and spring-loaded scissors. The main needle-nose and regular pliers have a replaceable wire cutter and wire stripper.

Leatherman Free

In addition to the aforementioned – there is also: a bottle opener, pry tool, package opener, can opener, awl, wire stripper, ruler, wood/metal file, electrical crimper, plus various sized Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers. Yep, it’s got a lot of tools! But what’s really cool, is how easy they are to fold out. The new locking mechanism is very intuitive and can be accessed from either side of the tool – very handy! The pliers are deployed by releasing the magnetic “clasp” and flipping the tool inside-out. It might sound a bit odd, but in practice it works super well. Flicking open the pliers is also very fun!

Leatherman Free

The P4, compared to the Wave

Comparing the P4 to my trusty Wave (or Wave Plus) is an obvious sense to me. As they’re similar in size and functionality. There’s no interchangeable bit socket on the P4, but I’ve never personally wished for anything more than the standard hex and flat-head screw-driver anyway, which the P4 has covered. The large locking file of the Wave is gone, with handy spring-loaded scissors instead, which I’m a fan of. Otherwise, the biggest difference is how much nicer the Free is to use, especially with one hand. Getting to certain tools on the wave with one hand requires some serious skills and finger contortion ability. So for me, despite the very slight increase in heft and a modest price premium – the Free is a clear winner.

Leatherman Free

Leatherman Free

In the hand – the T2

The little T2 beauty has become my go-to EDC multipurpose knife. It’s small, light and still has some of the key functions that will be useful for day-to-day life. So a good-sized locking blade of course, plus some screwdrivers, an awl (for puncturing things like leather or fabric), a box opener, a pry tool and (of course!) a bottle opener. The size and weight make it perfect for throwing in your pocket or bag, just in case. There is even a hole, to tether the knife via a lanyard. Simple and functional, but not too small to feel unsteady in the hand. Winner.

Leatherman Free

Leatherman Free


Is the price premium worth it?

The Free is a jump-up in price from some of the classic leatherman Tool. Worth it? Totally! 100%. I’ve used my Leatherman Wave more times than I could recall and before the P4 came on the scene, our relationship was great. Now, and I’m sad to admit it, the Wave is gathering dust. So much for loyalty… sorry mate! I’ve found a new BT (Best Tool) and it’s set me Free. OK cheesy puns and sappy proclamations aside. The increased usability and function of the Free for me is worth it. If you’re investing in a Leatherman for the first time, pick one up and try it out. Compare it to a previous model and the difference is obvious. The quality is still there across the range, but the Free tools are a clear step above.

Things I love

  • Using it. Simply picking this tool up and using it is is a pleasure
  • The clicks, it’s loud and you know when the various tools lock into place
  • The locking mechanism is really nice and easy to use. The P4 is double-sided, so easy to access with both your left or right hand.

Sore points

  • Genetics dictated my right hand is a bit useless, so the T2 main blade is a bit fiddly to open and close one-handed, as a lefty. But that’s about it!

Conclusion

Overall I’m really impressed by these tools. It’s super impressive that Leatherman has been able to improve so much on something, which in my opinion, was already a class-leading product. Clearly customer feedback, innovation, and quality of workmanship are important to the company. 

Do you have a favourite Leatherman tool? Or maybe a cool story about how your Leatherman saved the day? We’d love to hear from you.

#experienceiseverything #paddypallin

If you’re still not convinced, head into your local Paddy Pallin Store. Pick one up and feel for yourself. Because at the end of the day the best tool is the one you’ll reach for and enjoy using. 

Leatherman Free

About The Author

Lachlan Gardiner

Lachlan works as a freelance photographer, writer and videographer. His practice lies somewhere between storytelling and being a total gear nerd. Often found hiking, mountaineering, climbing, cycling, packrafting, or just hunting down the next story - Lachlan will take basically any excuse to get into the outdoors. In between all of the above, he also works in our Paddy Pallin store in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.

One Response

  1. William Frew

    I have had a small juicy leatherman for years now only it has lost its ability to use the pliers not sure how to explain other than they don’t work anymore. Can any one help with this then I may upgrade to a new free addition.
    Kind regards,
    William Frew

    Reply

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