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Leatherman Skeletool

photo: Leatherman Skeletool multi-tool

Specs

Price MSRP: $64.95
Current Retail: $64.95-$74.95
Historic Range: $29.98-$94.95
Reviewers Paid: $25.00-$70.00
Closed Length 4 in / 10 cm
Open Length 6.0 in / 15.24 cm
Blade Length 2.6 in / 6.60 cm
Weight 5.0 oz / 142 g
Width 1.24 in / 3.15 cm
Overall Thickness .52 in / 1.32 cm
Materials 420HC Stainless Steel
Tools 7—Needlenose Pliers / Regular Pliers / Hard-wire Cutters / Wire Cutters / 420HC Combo Knife / Carabiner/Bottle Opener / Large Bit Driver
Included Bits Phillips #1 & #2, Screwdriver 1/4" & 3/16"

Reviews

6 reviews
5-star:   3
4-star:   3
3-star:   0
2-star:   0
1-star:   0

A minimal approach to a multi-tool after years with the now-discontinued Leatherman Wave. I like that it’s lighter and less expensive. Definitely worth getting a case and extra driver bits. I wish it had one non-serrated blade. Very solid build quality.

Pros

  • Price
  • Simplicity
  • Versatility
  • Build quality

Cons

  • No non-serrated blade
  • No file

Leatherman’s Skeletool is a great option for people who wonder why they don’t use all the fold-out attachments on a multi-tool or Swiss Army knife. As with any simplified tool, there are certain options that people might miss; if so, look at Leatherman’s other, more tool-heavy options. Personally, though, there are very few situations where I miss having the extra tools.

For an extra $20, you can get the Skeletool CX. It’s a half-ounce lighter, the knife blade is not serrated, and the blade is made from 154cm, a premium type of stainless steel that should hold an edge a little better. The frame on the CX is plated with a darker coating.

The case showed below and the sets of extra drivers have to be purchased separately for all Leatherman multi-tools. 

A preliminary question may be, why carry a multi tool for hiking? It’s all about doing field repairs. Sometimes things we use for hiking break. Metal gets fatigued, screws unscrew, parts get jostled loose. Heck, sometimes your soles peel off your shoes.

I carry a few basic repair things on longer trips because stuff happens, and I think people who head out into the woods should be prepared to do a quick field repair and move on, rather than wrecking a trip or cell-phoning someone to pick up the pieces.

In addition to a multi-tool, I carry some duct tape, extra cord, baling wire, and a small sewing kit with nylon thread and a portable awl. I have fixed tents, packs, snowshoes, and rigged temporary repairs on all sorts of things.

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Side view that shows spring clip.
CDD40824-4387-408C-9A65-88F055960EB1.jpg
the other side, which shows where the knife blade and extra driver bit is stored.

What do you get with the Skeletool? Folding pliers with a smaller nose and an area to grip larger stuff, as well as a wire cutter and stripper. One fold-out blade that locks via a liner lock and has a partially-serrated blade; a bottle opener that doubles as a way to clip the tool to a belt loop; a spring clip if you prefer to carry it on a pocket; and a socket with two drivers, which are basic flat and Phillips head screw drivers. That’s it.

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The lone knife blade. Note it won’t accidentally fold up, you have to push the liner lock to do that. 
3F4A0AC7-D2DD-4AE8-A2C9-65CC2331F7EE.jpg
The pliers, with wire cutter and stripper near the joint. It’s a kind of stubby pair of pliers, but that seems to work well.  

What you don’t get: my venerable Leatherman Wave (now replaced by the Wave+) has four larger fold-out tools—serrated and non-serrated knife blades, a small toothed saw; and a file. I never used the saw and rarely used the file. I did use the straight and serrated blades often, and the lack of one tool with both options is the one omission that led me to dip below a five-star review  The old Wave also had multiple fold-out screwdrivers that have been replaced by the driver socket approach, a small fold-out pair of scissors, and a bottle/can opener; not included here.

Advantages: First, weight. The Skeletool weighs 5.5 ounces, not counting if you leave the extra driver set home; the Rebar is 6.7,  Wave+ is 8.5, the Charge+ 8.3-8.8 (there are a few versions of the Charge), Surge is 12.

Second, it’s sturdy and well-made. The pliers and joints have no play or looseness. The knife is sharp; I haven’t felt the need to sharpen it, though that would be a bit challenging for the serrated part of the blade. I think that in general, Leatherman has improved the joints on its tools across the board; my older one feels a fair bit less solid, though that’s after more than a decade of relatively regular use.

Third, versatility, though Leatherman’s adoption of the socket/driver system plays a big role in that. I purchased the extra drivers because they give you a lot more ability to fix things that you might not necessarily anticipate.

Fourth, simplicity. There is something to be said for avoiding overkill. I looked at Leatherman’s other options when I bought this, and they are fine tools. However, I know from experience that I wouldn’t use many of the tools and didn’t see the point of having all that stuff I wouldn’t use.

Finally, price. This cost about $60. 

5726711B-F09A-4860-AC87-9E07816469CD.jpg
Extra drivers. Easy to plug in, secure in the socket.  

Example: on a recent family trip, I did quite a bit of cycling. The cleats on my cycling shoes loosened up, making them hard to disengage from the pedals. The cleats attached to the sole with screws that need an Allen (hex) key to secure. The extra sockets include several sizes of Allen keys, so getting my cleats re-oriented and secured was was easy; I hadn’t brought my multiple sets of Allen keys with us. 

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The nylon case that came with the extra drivers. Big, wide strip of hook/loop keeps it shut, and it has a small grommeted drain hole.
EAA38324-D08A-473E-B015-D95190053291.jpg
Case with the tool and drivers inside.

Takeaways: I like this tool and probably would have liked the slightly upgraded CX version too; i figured one blade that’s half straight, half serrated would be better than no serrated blade at all. I have always felt plier multi-tools are a good item to have around and take on trips, and I was very pleased with how this tool improved on my older Leatherman. 

Experience

About 8 months of use, more for home projects than trips due to COVID restrictions.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $60

About the Author

Andrew Friedman is a New Hampshire native who loves the Presidentials and spent his college summers guiding trips in the Adirondack High Peaks. He loved introducing his children to hiking and the outdoors. In addition to New England and the Adirondacks, he has hiked the shores of the Great Lakes, the Tetons, a number of California's state and national parks, the Albanian Alps, and trails in India, Asia, and the Middle East. Andrew logged his first review on Trailspace in 2007 and joined the Trailspace Review Corps in 2011. Andrew lives and works in the DC metro area.

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Great review and product info (as usual), Andrew!


2 months ago
Michael -Survival Intuition

Andrew let me 1st congratulate you on such a detailed, thorough review. I am someone that owns a heck of a lot of pliers, but they are mostly needle nose styles of different sizes angles and thickness. As for me other then plumbing, auto-mechanics, and bike repair I personally barely ever use regular pliers, only specialty ones. My question for you is what in particular do you use those pliers for? like what jobs or tasks that you do often enough to get a replacement Leatherman? and again great job on the review


2 months ago
andrew f.

- electrical issues, bending, stripping, cutting wire. Changing outlets and switches, wiring our house for some electronics, like from the exterior cable/fiber box to the router or to a hard to access cable box.

-any repairs when I don’t have access to my full set of tools. I have used them for bicycle brake and shifter lines, tighten garage doors nuts,, repairs to snowshoes and backpacks.(pushing an awl through thick nylon webbing), I use baling wire for some repairs and repetitive yard tasks for example, they’re great for cutting and bending that. .



The older pair got used a lot to cut hardened wire, probably why the joints loosened up. I ended up getting a dedicated wire cutting and stripping tool


2 months ago
Michael -Survival Intuition

Andrew, my background prior (and during) College where i studied Engineering and Physics, was in electronic & appliance repair and apprenticing Electrician.
I beg of you to only use insulated Electrician's hand tools whenever you are working on house wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers and outlets and fixtures. I cannot begin to express how many times I thought a circuit was off only to learn when i double checked it that it was hot (live) or a junction box that had live wires next to the ones that i had turned off on circuit breaker. I have even seen breakers "pop" into on position. Not to mention some of those DIY electrical workers that may have worked on your home prior to you acquiring it that may have jury-rigged a junction box or outlet or backward wiring.

You can buy insulated pliers, wire strippers and screwdrivers online, at local hardware stores or places like home depot that can handle the juice and insulated so that you wont get electrocuted. I usually have 3 voltage detectors on every job 2 Flukes (high and low voltage testers that glow if near a live wire) and a multimeter also known as a Volt/Ohm meter. I use the Multimeter to manually test the circuit i am working on and the 2 flukes to check near bye wires for either high or low voltage, while still using insulated tools

When i started working on electricity i remember being kicked half way across the room after touching a live circuit. I was knocked so hard it was as if I called Mike Tyson a sissy and got knocked out.
With regard to the rest of the odd jobs that you use your multi-tool for I think that's great that you found a go to tool to handle your daily repair tasks and again great review of this Multi-tool. Oh and Andrew I truly enjoy reading your reviews and forums and thank you for all that you have posted


2 months ago

It is the minimalist approach to multi-tools and sticks with just the basic tools one tends to use versus all the extras that may never get used.

Pros

  • Functions as if the primary tool is a knife, while still providing pliers

Cons

  • It is heavy for a pocket knife

This is a good compromise between a pocket knife a multi-pupose tool. I like that that knife opens similar to a pocket knife with one hand versus having to open the tool to access the knife component.

This has replaced my regular pocket knife as an everyday carry. It has proven very handy when I need a screwdriver or pliers and I do not have to carry a bulky multi-purpose tool. 

I would rate it 5 stars if they had made use of the "holes" to lighten the weight by making them useful as wrenches for standard bolts and nuts.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $25

I own two of these bad boys. I lost the first one, and had to buy a second one to replace the first. A year later I found the lost one in my basement couch. That pretty much says it all about this tool, so valuable I had to have it in my life.

What I love about this tool is that I can clip it to my pants pocket like a pocket knife, but then it also has the pliers, screwdrivers, and functionality of a Leatherman while not being as heavy other Leathermen. My life and work dictate the need for a lightweight tool that has all these functions.

I do have a few negatives on this guy.

I've bent the pocket clips on both of these knives easily. I clip it to my pocket and then the clip would get stuck on something while I was working and bend. That stinks. I've had to take the clips off and re-bend them. I hope you read this, Leatherman.

The philips head strips under heavy use. Maybe I work it too hard, maybe a stiffer metal. Just a suggestion. The Skeletool is no different than my Leatherman Supertool in that the wire cutters on the pliers did not take much use to become marred. I guess all Leatherman wire cutters should only be used to cut thinner wire.

All those harsh negatives being said, I still have a Skeletool in my pocket all day, everyday.

Ebay was the cheapest place to buy a Skeletool.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $60-ish

I've owned this tool for over a year now. I actually used it to re-do half of my new kitchen. Whenever the electric drill would run out of juice the Skeletool was always there.

I've owned Swiss Army knives and Benchmade knives. They're all fine and serve a purpose. Honestly, this product just does it all. It has everything you need and nothing you don't which is one of things that I couldn't understand with Swiss Army. How much crap can they put in there that you don't use?

The pliers are fantastic. Wire cutters too. I wouldn't call the knife itself anything spectacular but it's sharp and does the job. Overall 4.5 stars due to the knife getting a little dull but I'm a hard rater.

Price Paid: Can't remember

I recently have purchased the Skeletool to use and an everyday knife. It has blown me away! So simple, so light, nothing I don't need.

Super skinny, it slips into my pocket with ease and I forget it's there! Always useful, always handy...there are just too many wonderful things to write about it!!!!

I use my Wave for camping and around the house, but everywhere else it's my Skeletool baby!

-pirate

Price Paid: $70

There's not a day that doesn't go by that I don't use this multi tool. Outdoors, around the apartment, in the office, in the data center. I use this everywhere.

It's very lightweight and very sturdy. The pliers are the part I use the least, but they have been handy in a pinch.

I'm sure I'll have to send it back to Leatherman to get a new blade in several years as I sharpen it down from overuse.

Price Paid: $65

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