Owning a Leatherman multi-tool has long been a rite of passage along the journey to manhood. While there are plenty of other brands out there making their own version, the multi-tool is widely known as being a “Leatherman”. That’s the kind of impact the company has made on this part of the industry.
Aside from being an every day carry kind of tool, outdoor enthusiasts also prize carrying a Leatherman thanks to the variety of tasks it can accomplish – though something was missing from really allowing it to be a true survival tool. The Leatherman Signal steps up its game in for the outdoor crowd with several key features.
Let’s take a look at what the Leatherman Signal has to offer, piece by piece.
The enduring characteristic of Leatherman multi-tools has always been the butterfly opening style to the reveal the combination pliers. Three tools are built into one area starting with needle nose pliers. Moving further down (and assuming you have the clearance to use them) are standard gripping pliers.
The cutters that I’ve been used to on my Leatherman Super Tool (purchased way back in 2001) have been swapped out for replaceable 154CM carbide cutters. We’ve all tried it at some point – attempting to cut something too hard or thick left a nice little indentation in our cutters. Now if you go beyond the recommended wire, you can replace the cutters without replacing the tool. For regular wire, use the upper/middle portion of the cutters. Move down to their base for hard wire.
Not to be left out are two of the most popular Leatherman integrated tools – the knife and saw. The knife is a partially serrated 440HC (high carbon) clip point blade that can be opened with one hand. While one handed opening is a nice feature and works, it’s not a smooth as you’d expect from a stand alone folding knife.
The saw is presumably cut from the same 440HC steel as the knife, but it’s not specifically stated. Regardless, you get Leatherman’s typically excellent saw blade. Opening requires using your finger nail or other object to get in the tip groove. I’d like to a thumb hole cut in like the knife, assuming it wouldn’t affect the strength of the saw.
Both tools lock in place with a liner lock. The knife is secured in place while the tool is opened as pliers, preventing you from intentionally or accidentally deploying the blade while in use for other applications.
One of my favorite features of more recent Leatherman multi-tools has been the multi-bit driver. Flat head on one side, Phillips head on the opposite, and half the space to get both in there. This is a must have on any multi-tool simply because of the number of times it saves you having to go dig through your tool box to get one.
The bottle opener/can opener is another must have in my opinion. With our kitchen can opener taking a dump, the Leatherman Signal has been put on KP multiple times already. I know, I should just go buy another can opener, but I keep forgetting to put it on the list. Whether you need to crack open your favorite brew around the campfire or open a can for your evening rations, you’ll be glad this one made the cut.
There’s also an awl in there. Who uses an awl anyway? Honestly, I had to look up why this tool is useful. Despite it having a blunt edge, an awl is used for puncturing and the integrated hole for threading. In particular, leather workers use an awl for making holes in their work. That may come in pretty handy if you experience a belt or saddle failure out on the trail. It’ll work for just about any material you need to punch a hole in.
Survival and Outdoor Tools
This is where the Leatherman Signal makes its living in for the outdoor community. The most prominent tool is the ferrocerium rod/safety whistle combination. I have found the saw blade to produce the best results in getting a solid spray of sparks.
For both the whistle and ferro rod, true survival planners will want to consider these as a backup. There are simply better stand alone options out there. In the even that you need it, it’s absolutely capable of getting the job done. This tool is also replaceable should you wear down the rod or lose it in spite of its bright yellow color.
Opposite the ferro rod/whistle is a knife shapener. Again, you’ll want to consider this a backup option over a good hand held sharpener. When you’re out in the woods and realize your knife edge is dull or damaged, you’ll be able to work out an acceptable cutting surface until you can get it back to your main sharpener.
Finally, we reach the hammer. This is one of my favorite features. When you don’t have a hammer and need one, the options are pretty limited and none of them pretty. Tent stakes are a no-brainer for this tool, among other uses. A traditional hammer is still going to be more effective, but this works great as a backup plan.
You have several carry options with the Leatherman Signal. You can use the belt clip. I’m not as keen on this because of the weight. It’s not bad at all for a multi-tool, but EDC knife carriers will notice it. I prefer using the caribiner to clip it on my belt loop. It works well there, but if I really had things my way, I’d go with a nylon sheath.
Some people have complained about the Signal not staying closed when using the carabiner. If you look closely where the hammer and knife side meet, there is a tab that is used to lock the tool closed.
There is a curious engraving on the side of the tool with coordinates 45 North, 122 West. Leatherman’s headquarters does fall in that longitude and latitude, but it’s not exact. The confluence point is actually about 47 miles to the Southeast. Is it a general guide to get you to the Leatherman Group or does the point in the Oregon forest have special meaning to someone on the team? We’ll leave that to speculation for now, but I’m hoping there’s a good story attached.
As an all encompassing survival tool, I don’t think the Leatherman Signal is there yet. However, it carries the most useful tools we’re used to seeing from Leatherman and the survival tools included are great backups to supplement what you’re already carrying. What I like about them is that when you’re not in a situation where you’re planning to need a fire or signal for help, you have a pair of tools on board to prepare for the unexpected.
Leatherman Signal Specifications
- Closed Length: 4.5 in (11.43 cm)
- Weight: 7.5 oz (212.6 g)
- Blade Length: 2.73 in (6.93 cm)
- Warranty: 25 years
- Price: $99.85
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