Leatherman Skeletool Review

The Leatherman Skeletool has been on my ‘wish list’ for some time now (especially the carbon-fiber handled CX version), so when I saw them at a local Target over Christmas on clearance for 1/2 price, I finally snagged one!

Leatherman Skeletool (top), shown with a Leatherman Juice S2 for comparison. Closed position.

This is considered a small or pocket multi-tool since it is only 4″ long and weighs 5oz. More importantly, it does not have the long list of tools we generally drool over – limiting itself to a very nice pair of modified needle-nosed pliers (with the typical wire cutting and stripping section), a main blade (1/2 serrated), and a bit holder with two included double-tipped bits. Besides the main tools, it also offers a carabiner loop, can opener, and a removable pocket clip.

Open position.

This is a strikingly attractive tool, at least in my eyes. The skeletal frame is defined by gentle curving lines and many holes. A triangular hole in the blade allows it to be opened single-handedly. The pocket clip curves to match the frame, and even the back of the blade has a gentle humped curve that makes it pleasing to the eye.

The tool fits well in your hand. I like just holding it. The blade and screwdriver are not perfectly placed as they would be in dedicated tools, but they work well here. The curves of the frame seem to fit my hand almost perfectly and offer a very solid-feeling grip. When using it as a pliers, there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to hold it due to the curves. Hold it the right way and you can almost feel the power flow into your grip. Hold it the wrong way and you’ll find yourself repositioning it almost without thinking.

Comparison of pliers jaws.

The 2″ pliers head and 2.5″ long blade are both strong and well-made, as is typical for Leatherman tools. The pliers head seem small if you are used to the ‘full-sized’ tools like the Kick or Wave but is the about same size as my beloved and well-used Juice S2 - the Skeletool’s is a bit thicker and a bit more squarely cut.

Comparison of blades.

The knife blade is half-serrated and has an odd but attractive overall shape. A large cut-out makes it easy to open with one hand while the slight hump and a wide spine on the back of the blade make it comfortable to use even for heavy cutting jobs. The blade is secured by an interframe lock helpfully stamped with a padlock icon.

Comparison of Philips bits

The bit is an odd and ‘new to me’ element. I need a lot of tools in my work day, including several Allen or hex tips, and a tool that lets me carry some conveniently would be a huge boon. The Skeletool features not only a locking bit holder, but it can store a spare bit in the frame! It comes with two double-ended bits- a #1 and #2 Phillips, and a small and medium slotted.

The proprietary bits (sorry for the photo quality).

The thing is – the bits are not ‘off the shelf’ things you can find in the store. The bits are greatly flattened and very proprietary. The good news is that you can get a selection of bits, a modified holster, and even a handy extension bit for pretty reasonable costs. The optional extension is cool since it holds the proprietary bits as well as standard bits!

One really slick bit of engineering is that as you close the tool, the bit fits neatly inside the frame around the carabiner. Speaking of the carabiner, I rarely find myself using it. Clipping it to a belt loop makes for an awkward carry since the tool is too short to ‘tuck’ into a pocket that way and it sort of pokes out a bit for me. I prefer using the spring clip in a back pocket… until I noticed that the protruding head was catching on things like my car seat. This is not really a design flaw, but it bothers me enough that I stopped carrying it for now (I will re-evaluate when I get the case, which I still have not ordered.)

My ‘wish list’ for the Skeletool is pretty short. I wish it had a detent that held the tool so you could use the bit at right angles for more power, and I wish it could carry bits and the extender more easily without the case, perhaps some sort of ‘snap-on bandoleer’-like device. I also wish there was a version with scissors – I use the scissors on my Juice S2 quite a bit – although I would not want to give up the light weight and small size of the Skeletool for them.

Overall, this is a solidly-built smaller multitool that feels great in your hand or pocket. It has not quite replaced my Juice S2- but it well might if/when I order the extension bit, bit kit, and case.

 

Product Information

Price:$72 MSRP, under $50 'street value'.
Manufacturer:Leatherman
Pros:
  • Strong
  • Light
  • Well-made
Cons:
  • Lacks some useful tools (scissors)
  • Uses proprietary bits
Posted in: Outdoor Gear, Reviews

13 comments… add one

  • GREGG January 30, 2012, 11:28 am

    I found this tool as well @ xmas for $19.00 and could not be happier w/my purchase. It,s light weight and I often forget its in my pocket.

  • GREGG January 30, 2012, 11:31 am

    Note: Keep an eye on the screwdriver bit. It tends to fall out real easy. I ended up purchasing another pack of various bits from Leatherman for under $5.00

  • Ian Lim January 30, 2012, 6:49 pm

    @Mark – Great Gadgeteers think alike. I also have both the Skeletool and the Juice S2 ( and a Micra and a Squirt PS4 ) . They all serve a different purpose and requirement. Oh and you forgot to mention that the carabiner doubles as a bottle opener.

    @Gregg – damn, Leatherman tools are so expensive in Australia in comparison :(

  • DStaal January 30, 2012, 7:19 pm

    If you just need a scissors in addition, take a look at adding a Style CS to your keychain. It’s basically a mini-Skeletool, with a scissors instead of a pliers. List price is under $30, and you can usually find them for close to half that.

  • Mark Adkins January 30, 2012, 8:16 pm

    @ Ian- thanks, and ” it also offers a carabiner loop, can opener, and a removable pocket clip.”.

    @ Greg- thanks for the tip!

    @ Dstall- The CS looks interesting. I am a big guy, and thick or pokey things in my pockets really bug me. It would be interesting to see if the CS is a better front pocket tool than the Gerber Splice was.

  • DStaal January 30, 2012, 9:17 pm

    Hopefully it would be: It’s about the size of a stick of chapstick. (I have one, in my emergency kit, and a PS that’s part of my airplane-travel gear. The PS doesn’t have a blade, and the scissors (moved to where the blade was, with a pliers back as the main tool) is within the allowed size.)

    From the manufactures’ pages, the Splice looks like it’s slightly shorter, but thicker and wider than the CS. (And about twice as heavy.) The Splice would be closer in size to a Squirt or a Micra.

    The one thing you may not like, is that that carabiner clip has a projection out the side, to make it easier to open. That’s really the only ‘pokey’ part of it.

  • Wazza January 31, 2012, 4:41 am

    Boy are we getting ripped off in oz $ 19. Is jaw dropping we $80. To $95 here.

  • Joe January 31, 2012, 2:51 pm

    I picked up a Skeletool shortly after it was released. I really liked the look of the tool and the access to the knife blade compared to my Original Leatherman. However, I found that, when using the pliers, the back of the knife blade and the opposing hinge would pinch my thumb. (See the photo at the top of this review).

    I gave the tool away, with a warning and demonstration to the recipient. I’ve been happy with other Leatherman tools but think they have a serious design defect with this one.

  • Mark Adkins February 1, 2012, 7:03 pm

    @ Joe- I was able to duplicate your concern, but generally my thumb rests on the pivot point for the knife so is not at risk. You can also get a nasty pinch if you hold it so the back edge of the knife is closest to you palm and you catch some skin in it. You can avoid that one by just holding it so the clip side is closest to your hand.

    The original Leatherman tools were notorious for pinching- rather badly, so I went with Gerbers back then instead. I have not noticed a real problem with them recently in the tools I have tested, but everyone’s hands and grip styles are different.

  • henry January 3, 2013, 1:27 am

    I was given this tool for Christmas, I am grateful for the gift but really disappointed with this multitool.
    the build quality is excellent as to be expected but the design and intended use is a sick and expensive joke!
    The skelatool is designed for a urban person which I am not! for me this multitool is useless, when I’m in civilisation screwdrivers, knives, pliers and bottle openers are all available and never to far away and in places I am likely to want these tools.
    When I’m far out in the wilderness I want as many useful tools for as little weight as possible,(this is the original idea behind multitools!) for which the skelatool is unacceptable. The weight is not a problem but the tool selection is a bad joke apart from the knife and pliers this has no use to me or for anyone who doesn’t live in the rat race. I cant emphasize enough how disappointed I am with this product, it dose not represent leatherman well. I suspect “product designers”, “urban” and “wider market” were behind this tool. leatherman I am disgusted you deviated from what you do best, never make a urban multitool again!!!

    • Mark Adkins January 3, 2013, 10:39 am

      @Henry- I think the key phrase in your comments is “given this tool”. I have found that multitools are a very personal thing- each person has their own criteria for what tools they need and want, how large or small the tool should be, total weight, total cost, etc.

      As a technician who often has to work away from his shop, I really appreciate the mix of tools in the Skeletool and the accessory bit kits, and rarely need some of the tools you miss so much- but that is based on MY needs. Had I been gifted with a more wilderness-oriented tool, I might feel the same about it that you feel about the Skeletool.

      I do admit to being confused by the harshness in the comment- just because the tool does not fit your needs does not mean it is a failure overall. Heck, personally, when I am hiking, etc. I don’t particularly care about pliers and carry one of my beloved Victeronix Swiss army knives instead- usually the Camper for the handy saw, scissors, and tweezers combo. The point is that just because it is wrong for your needs does not mean that it isn’t just right for someone else.

  • Damian March 19, 2014, 8:03 am

    Great review on the Leatherman Skeletool, I have one and I find it very handy, its really good when out hillwalking or camping as it is not to heavy or bulky to carry around like some other multitools are, the quality of all Leatherman multitools is great and then there is the 25 year warranty which is a bonus

  • Ian October 16, 2014, 3:48 pm

    Does anybody know which case I can get for the skeletool? I am in ireland and leatherman don’t deliver overseas? Thanks guys.

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