Leatherman Surge Multitool review – “Jack of all trades” tool excellence!

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Leatherman Surge 30

REVIEW – I’ve tried hundreds of multitools, but none suit my needs better than Leatherman. I’ve had one as my constant companion since 1984 when the original PST (Personal Survival Tool) replaced a gaggle of gear required for college classes. Initially introduced in 2005, the Leatherman Surge has received a few makeovers and is still going strong. How does the latest iteration stack up? Please join me for a deeper look!

What is it?

The Leatherman Surge is a compact, pocketable multi-tool featuring multiple frequently used tools that fold for convenient storage.

What’s included?

  • Leatherman Surge multitool
  • Belt case
  • Instruction manual

Tech specs

  • Twenty-one tools
    • 01 Needlenose Pliers
    • 02 Regular Pliers
    • 03 Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters
    • 04 Premium Replaceable Hard-wire Cutters
    • 05 Stranded-wire Cutters
    • 06 Electrical Crimper
    • 07 Wire Stripper
    • 08 420HC Knife
    • 09 420HC Serrated Knife
    • 10 Saw
    • 11 Spring-action Scissors
    • 12 Awl w/ Thread Loop
    • 13 Ruler (8 in | 19 cm)
    • 14 Can Opener
    • 15 Bottle Opener
    • 16 Wood/Metal File
    • 17 Diamond-coated File
    • 18 Blade Exchanger®
    • 19 Large Bit Driver
    • 20 Large Screwdriver
    • 21 Small Screwdriver
  • Weight: 12.5 oz. | 354 g.
  • Closed Length: 4.5 in. | 11.5 cm.
  • Open Length: 7.0 in. | 17.7 cm.
  • Primary Blade Length: 3.1 in. | 7.87 cm.
  • Blade Hardness: 55-59 HRC
  • Width: 1.7 in. | 4.3 cm.
  • Overall Thickness: 0.8 in. | 2.3 cm.
  • Materials: 420HC Stainless Steel, 440C Stainless Steel, Black Oxide
  • Included bits: Phillips #1-2 & 3/16″ Screwdriver

Design and features

An 1800-year-old multitool was unearthed in the Mediterranean and is now on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in the UK. In 1851, Herman Melville described a Sheffield tool with “multiple contrivances” in his novel, “Moby Dick.” Later in the same century, Karl Elsener produced “Swiss army” knives in Ibach, Switzerland. Today, a web search for plier-based multitools finds hundreds of models, all variations of Tim Leatherman’s original 1975 “Mr. Crunch” design ideas.

In my youth, many different bladed tools found their way into my pockets, but as skills developed, pliers became a necessity but were cumbersome to carry. In 1984, I made dozens of trips to my local mall’s Cutlery World store to caress the stainless steel beauty of Tim Leatherman’s original mass-produced PST Personal Survival Tool, salivating, savoring, and saving for months to afford the $125 price tag. Forty years later, I’m rarely without one. They are still objects of extraordinary beauty and utility, and the Leatherman Surge is no exception.

Arriving wrapped in black and yellow, the Leatherman Surge arrives in recyclable protection.

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The Surge measures 4 1/2 inches when closed and weighs 12 1/2 ounces. It feels hefty and robust.

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For comparison, here is the Surge next to its siblings, Wave.

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And with more of the family (top to bottom)  PST, Rebar, Wave, Free P4, and Surge.

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Straight and serrated blades, a T-shank holder with a removable saw, and spring-loaded scissors are accessible without deploying the pliers. All are secure with liner locks. The scissor blades are short but sharp.

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Leatherman includes a two-sided diamond-coated/ metal file that fits into the T-shank holder. The diamond file can quickly edge a dinged blade or smooth a cracked fingernail. The aggressive metal file grit powers through plastics better than most of my dedicated tools.

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Both knife blades are made of razor-sharp 420HC steel, which holds an edge well, is easy to sharpen, and is corrosion-resistant.

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The handles pivot to access the pliers and internal tools.

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On one side, there is a can/bottle opener and flat bit holder with reversible Phillips and flat-blade screwdrivers. Are you worried about breaking these bits? Don’t! Over the years, I’ve used the bit kit extensively and never broken one. The bottle/can opener also has a “V-notch” wire stripper.

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The can and bottle opener works great. I’ve often used it to unlock ridiculously stubborn lids that confounded dedicated openers.

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The other side sports two sizes of slotted screwdriver and an aggressive awl. Each tool is equipped with a nail notch to aid deployment. The screwdrivers are beveled on both sides and provide excellent grip on even the most obstinate fasteners. I’ve used the awl to open boxes, make holes in drywall, scrape paint from metal surfaces, and even perforate bricks and ceramic tile to make clean breaks. Fantastic!

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All internal tools are locked in place with spring-loaded back locks that engage in cutouts at the back of each implement. The Surge also has a spring assembly along each internal spine that engages locks to prevent the external tools from opening with the internal tools deployed. It’s not 100% foolproof, but some fiddling is needed to bypass it – do yourself a safety favor, and don’t do that! Safety first!

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Powerful pliers with needle nose tips crown the Leatherman Surge multi-tool. I used the precise tips multiple times to grasp and remove tiny splinters.

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The plier’s teeth are aggressive and capable of holding the most ornery nuts.

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The replaceable wire-cutting jaws are superb, and it is easy to slice stranded wire without pinching. Closest to the fulcrum, the hard cutters had no trouble dissecting coat hangers and 10-gauge wire. At one point, a job foreman scolded me for using a Leatherman to strip wires until I showed him that with a light grip, the tool does an excellent job without nicking the conductors. It takes practice, but bravo Leatherman!

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An often overlooked feature is the crimping jaws. Like everything else, they do a better job than many dedicated tools.

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Leatherman includes a ballistic nylon belt sheath. The metal snap closes with a satisfying click, and there is storage inside for a bit kit and file/saw when they aren’t riding on the tool. I would have liked to see loops for horizontal belt carry, but plenty of options exist.

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For those who prefer pocket carry, a removable clip is available.Leatherman Surge 26

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Leatherman stands by their warranty and often provides new tools when a damaged one returns to their service center. They even professionally engraved a damaged PST before returning it. Amazing!

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What I like about the Leatherman Surge multi-tool

  • Impeccably manufactured
  • There are so many tools!
  • Heavy duty

What needs to be improved?

  • A strap for horizontal carry on the belt case would be great!

Final thoughts

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“Jack of all trades, master of none” is an often misquoted proverb credited to Benjamin Franklin. The correct version is, “Jack of all trades, master of one.” I can’t think of a better phrase to summarize my experience with Leatherman tools. In my experience, the quality of each implement is often better than that of standalone tools. In the past 40 years, I’ve crafted, tinkered, and repaired thousands of devices using only EDC gear, relieving countless production managers, stranded motorists, and one very thankful mom. Many have tried to usurp Leatherman’s place in my pocket, yet none have succeeded. If you need a heavy-duty, reliable tool, you can’t go wrong with the Leatherman Surge. Tim Leatherman and company, if you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your indelible contribution to society!

Price: $149.95 (Bit kit – $30.00, Pocket Clip – $6.00)
Where to buy: Surge – Leatherman, Amazon (Bit kit – Leatherman, Amazon, Pocket Clip – Leatherman)
Source: Leatherman provided a free sample for this review but did not provide input, guidance, or editing before it was published.

1 thought on “Leatherman Surge Multitool review – “Jack of all trades” tool excellence!”

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  2. Great review! I’ve had a ‘Wave’ for over 20 years (and will replace it with the Wave+ if it ever breaks). When I pursue a ‘task’ requiring tools and don’t know what I’ll need, the Wave is on my belt or in my pocket. I would say 9 out of 10 times, I don’t need anything else. And it’s the little design touches like ‘ribbing’ on the serrated blade that one can feel by touch to ensure the desired blade is being unfolded (I don’t see that on the surge?). A truly wonderful multi-tool.

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