I’ve never really been that into knives and multitools. I own a few Opinels and have always taken my Opinel no8 (the outdoor knife) out with me as it’s light, small and because of its plastic handle needs less care than my wooden Opinels. So it was a little overwhelming to receive a Leatherman Signal Multitool to test. A Leatherman? Me? It feels a bit serious!
The Leatherman Signal is a stainless steel multitool. It boasts 19 tools, including most notably (for me) a saw, ferro rod, knife sharpener, emergency whistle and hammer and one-handed blade. When you hold it in your hand it feels quite substantial and hard to destroy – probably because it’s made of stainless steel.
I’ve popped a full list of its features at the bottom of this review, but if you’re more of a video person you might prefer this…
In all honesty, the concept of reviewing the Leatherman Signal was a little intimidating, partly because multitools are quite person and activity specific. Nonetheless I took my Opinel out of my bag and replaced it with the Leatherman, then waited for circumstance to reveal its place in my outdoor life.
Multitools can get quite fiddly, especially particularly portable (read small) ones, but most of the features of the Leatherman Signal can be accessed one-handed (I’ve tested this, it’s true) but this could be a bit challenge once your hands are cold. My only concern would be losing the independent pieces – the ferro rod, emergency whistle and sharpener – which can be separated from the knife. However these are available to buy online separately.
There were some areas of life and work where the Leatherman rarely left my bag at all. When it did it was mainly to cut cheese and tomatoes or to discuss emergency whistles – hardly stretching the powers of a not inexpensive multitool. These were often days out climbing and running. I could see the awl and pliers being helpful for kit repairs, but many things can be patched up with duct tape and zip ties if you’re only out for the day. Also the Leatherman Signal doesn’t feature scissors or a file, which you’re probably more likely to use when climbing.
However, the Leatherman Signal proved pretty indispensable for camp and vanlife. I spent much of May, July, August and September living in my car, during which I employed the Leatherman for no end of chores and tasks. The screwdriver with optional heads is a lovely addition for stove, car (interior) and kit repairs. Of course, a bottle opener/can opener is always useful and the awl even made an appearance. What has really set the Leatherman Signal apart for me is the saw and firelighter. They make this multitool a real asset for bushcraft and wilderness activities (work and play), and a great backup for failing piezo igniters.
As mentioned before, the Leatherman Signal is not a particularly inexpensive knife. It’s also the kind of knife that, when you hold it, feels satisfyingly well-made. It’s made to last (for example, the wire cutter blades are replaceable), so think of it as a considered long-term investment more than anything else.
Multitools are, by nature, hard to summarise. They will never be quite as perfect as the full-sized alternative item, but that’s not what they’re designed for. Leatherman describes the Signal as helping you to be ready for the expected (and unexpected), which is a pretty accurate description. It can’t cover everything and I certainly haven’t made use of every tool. However it is a pretty useful, functional and well-made piece of kit that covers a lot of bases when you’re away from civilization (or just sleeping in your car) for a while.
A go to bit of kit? It depends! For climbing days, running and cooking I will probably still be taking my Opinel no. 8. It’s simple, light and I much prefer chopping cheese with it. But for longer trips, bushcraft, group walking and residentials? The Leatherman has proved its worth and goes in the bag (or van) every time.
You can buy the Leatherman Signal here
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Leatherman Signal Features:
- Needlenose Pliers Perfect for holding small objects or using the pliers in tight, narrow spaces.
- Regular Pliers Conveniently hold and manipulate items.
- Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters Easily cut through regular and light-gauge wire with this replaceable, edge-retaining tool.
- Premium Replaceable Hard-wire Cutters Easily cut through electrical hard wires with this replaceable, edge-retaining tool.
- Wire Stripper Safely strip multiple gauges and types of wire.
- 420HC Combo Knife A knife made from 420HC stainless steel with a half straight and half serrated edge. This gives a choice: precise cuts using the plain section, or cutting through fibre and rougher material using the serrated area.
- Saw Quickly and easily saw through tough materials with this open-toothed tool.
- Hammer Hammer tent stakes, nails, or other things. A textured end reduces slippage.
- Awl w/ Thread Loop Puncture tough materials to create or enlarge holes and sew with the loop.
- Can Opener Safely and easily open canned goods in wilderness situations.
- Bottle Opener A tool that allows the user to pop the top on a favourite beverage.
- 1/4” Hex Bit Drive Insert a ¼” hex bit into this slot to customize your multi-tool.
- Bit Driver Easily switch out double-sided bits to customize your multi-tool.
- 1/4″ Box Wrench Tighten and loosen 1/4” hexagonal head nuts or bolts.
- Carabiner Securely clip the multi-tool to belt loops or straps and other non-load-bearing things.
- 3/16″ Box Wrench Tighten and loosen 3/16” hexagonal head nuts or bolts.
- Safety Whistle Attract help in an emergency situation.
- Ferrocerium Rod Quickly and easily create sparks to start fires.
- Diamond-coated Sharpener Precisely sharpen hard steel blades.
Beyond the Edge Ltd is based in the Peak District, easily reached by train from London and within easy travelling distance from Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and other Northern towns and cities.
We are one of the UKs most experienced providers of climbing, walking, scrambling, mountaineering and navigation training courses.
Most of our courses are run in the Peak District National Park which has some of the finest climbing, bouldering, walking and hiking in the world.