Leatherman Wave – The Best Multi Tool for Daily Life

Leatherman multi-tools are not usually associated with first aid in the medical sense, but in this case, I had to write about it because it is such a useful little tool kit that has been making my life easier for years.

Since the original Swiss Army knife, multi-tools have been popular, with compact designs and a wide variety of uses. Although the Swiss thought of the idea first, Leatherman has made dramatic design improvements, bringing the technology into the modern day. Leatherman designs and makes all their products in the USA, and their multi tools are extremely high quality with intuitive functions.

One of Leatherman’s most popular items is the Leatherman Wave. Its all-around utility, high quality, and relatively low cost make it one of the best multi tools on the market today.

Leatherman is able to pack so much utility into a limited variety of tools because the designers focused on simple common actions. Other brands, like Victorinox Swiss Army knives, have a specific, specialized tool for every job, but the Leatherman design understands that we only need several different basic tools for the things we do every day.

We need to grasp things, cut things, open things, pry things, smooth things, and measure things. No matter which multi-tool you buy, it should provide these functions. When picking out a multi tool, ask yourself “WHAT do I need to grasp, cut, open, etc?” If the answer is “I don’t know, lots of stuff.” Then the Wave is what you’re looking for.

The Leatherman Wave

The first thing that you will notice about the Wave is the weight. It is almost as heavy as a solid block of metal with the same dimensions because every bit of space is packed with tools.

The next thing is that these tools have high tolerances with no wiggle or play in them. The Leatherman Wave tools lock open but use friction to stay closed instead of locking, and it works fine. There is not much chance of anything opening by itself, but I also have not had any problems opening the tools with my fingernails.

When the multi tool is closed there are no sharp pieces sticking out to catch or poke holes in clothing.

Specifications

  • Folded dimensions: 4” x .75” x 1.25” (10cm x 1.9cm x 3.2cm)
  • Main blade length: 2.9” (7.37cm)
  • Weight: 8.5oz (241g)

Leatherman Wave Tools

Leatherman and other brands make a variety of multi-tools that can be confusing to navigate if you are not sure what you need. While cheaper and more specialized options are available, the Leatherman Wave is the best all-around tool for most people. It has a great selection of common tools and none of the odd-looking ones that you never use.

  1. Straight Blade
    1. Non-serrated
    2. Double-sided bevel
    3. Locks open
  2. Serrated Blade
    1. Good for cutting food with a skin
    2. Single sided bevel for evenly slicing food
    3. Textured outer edge for easy distinction by touch
    4. Locks open
  3. Wood Saw
    1. 3 inch (7.5 cm) blade
    2. Only for cutting wood no metal
    3. Cannot be sharpened at home
    4. Locks open
  4. File
    1. Has both fine and coarse grain flat sides
    2. The thin edge is coarse and can be used to cut metal in a pinch
    3. Made from hardened tool steel, not stainless, so it can rust.
    4. Is NOT detachable, so you cannot sharpen your Leatherman Wave’s knife blades with your Leatherman Wave’s file.
    5. Locks open
  5. Pliers
    1. Come with thick and thin gauge wire cutters
    2. These are not spring loaded, so you will have to use two hands to open it.
    3. Does not lock
  6. Large Screw Driver
    1. Great for use with most normal size screws in appliances/life
    2. Can be used extended for screws in tighter spots or closed for screws that require more force
    3. Does NOT have much reach for screws that are inset
    4. Is reversible for use with both Philips and flathead screws
    5. Locks open
  7. Small Screw Driver
    1. Great for screws in phones, glasses, and small electronics
    2. Longer reach for inset screws
    3. Reversible for use with both Philips and flathead screws
    4. Locks open
  8. Scissors
    1. Spring loaded for one-handed use
    2. Good for string, paper, fishing line, and okay for light cloth
    3. Too small for heavy use
    4. Locks open
  9. Pry Bar
    1. Prevents you from breaking your flathead screwdriver opening a paint can
    2. Has sharp as opposed to rounded edges for digging/scrapping
    3. Locks open
  10. Can Opener/Bottle Opener/Wire Stripper
    1. Pretty standard can/bottle opener
    2. At the base of the can opener is a wire stripper that is easy to miss if you do not know it is there.
    3. Locks open
  11. Ruler
    1. Has both centimeters and inches
    2. For accurate measurements push both sides of the ruler together (pliers = closed)
    3. The zero point is all the way at the end of the handle
    4. Total length from tip to tip is 8 inches (20.3 cm)

Tools the Leatherman Wave Lacks

Although I have been using the Leatherman Wave for years and recommend both the tool and the company to everyone who asks, it does lack a few tools that many users might want.

  1. Cork Screw
    1. Although most of us have one in our kitchen, I have been stuck without on a couple occasions. Without a corkscrew, a bottle of wine is pretty tough to open.
  2. Removable File
    1. A removable file on the Leatherman Wave would let you sharpen the knife blades or remove burs etc. Some other models like the Leatherman Surge do have this feature.
  3. Leather Punch/Awl
    1. Personally, I have never had a use for this, especially because a screw driver and knife should work just fine for basic punching purposes, but I have read that some people use it regularly.

    Leatherman vs Victorinox

    Swiss Army knives are probably the most popular and prominent multi-tool on the market because they were the first multi-tool, but many of the tools on the Swiss Army knife are outdated or poorly designed.

    Victorinox approaches multi-tools with a more-is-better attitude, but a good multi tool is one that packs the most utility into the most convenient package. Every tool on the Leatherman Wave is well designed and fills a wide variety of different functions with no redundant or unnecessary pieces.

    Tips

    1. I use the straight blade for everything, then when I am cutting food or need a factory-sharpened edge I use the serrated blade. That way the serrated blade is always clean and sharp.
    2. The Leatherman Wave has a pocket clip that can be purchased separately if you do not want to wear it on your belt.
    3. Leatherman has a 25-year warranty on the Wave and most of their other products. Send it back for a replacement or sharpening when it needs fixed. I did this with one of my knives, and it was an extremely easy process.

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    About Peter Oldani - Author of Inside First Aid

    About the author

    Peter Oldani graduated college with a B.S. in biomedical engineering, worked as an EMT to gain hands on experience in emergency medicine and completed active shooter training as part of New York State’s initiative to prepare civilian organizations for disaster response.