Baladeo Locker Review
Cons: Flexible hinges, rattly construction, tools open from within the closed pliers
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Baladeo Locker, at first glance, is your standard multi-tool. The brand is not a household name, and the tool's construction is nothing special. The features are functional but not flashy. It has, however, one attribute that is truly unique. Only one other tool has a standard 1/4" bit driver. The Locker and the Top Pick Leatherman Crunch are the only products we examined that feature this handy "tool". This simple socket allows this model to use a virtually infinite array of after-market bits. On top of that, and unlike the Crunch, Baladeo ships the Locker with a set of 11 useful bits to get you started. We wish that every other multi-tool integrated this aspect.
Once we scored all of the tools by our various metrics, weighted those scores against what users feel is important, and added the scores up, this multi-tool came out near the middle of the pack. It is below average but the score is basically the median score for the whole tested dataset. The Editors Choice Leatherman Charge TTI is far higher, but the Baladeo exceeds the overall rating of one of our Best Buy winners and one of our Top Pick winners.
Regarding integrated functions, this contender is nothing special. Our discerning count indicates eight tools built in. However, when one considers the 11 included external bits, and the possibility to customize with an infinite array of readily available 1/4 inch drive bits, the functionality shoots way up. When we look at only the integrated functions, we found this multi-tool comes equipped similarly to the minimalistic and tiny Leatherman Squirt PS4. Both have eight tools, but the Squirt is 1/4 the size of the Baladeo. The individual features of the Baladeo are far larger than those on the Squirt, but the number of tools is similar. This count of integrated functions, in the case of the Locker, tells just a fraction of the story. The Locker is infinitely customizable with add-on bits. The Squirt has no such option.
In terms of functions, the Baladeo is best compared to the Leatherman Crunch. These two tools are the only products we tested that come ready to receive 1/4 drive bits. The Baladeo edges ahead, in terms of functions score, because it comes with some of said bits, and the bit driver is readily accessible without any disassembly. To use the bit driver of the Leatherman one must remove a screw.
Two of our award winners also come with bit drivers, but the driver is a proprietary style. The Editors Choice Leatherman Charge TTI and Best Buy Leatherman Wave are both equipped with Leatherman's "flattened" bit driver. The Charge comes with an array of bits while the Wave only has one bit included. Both can be accessorized with additional bits, and both can be accessorized with an adapter that allows the user to employ standard 1/4 drive bits. With this aftermarket adapter, the Charge and Wave can, in a way, compete directly with the functionality of the Baladeo and Crunch. Nonetheless, for "plug and play" readiness and versatility, the Baladeo has distinct advantages.
We had mixed results in assessing the ergonomics of the Locker. On the plus side, the handle is largely rounded and the spring-loaded pliers assist in extended "wrenching". On the other hand, the internal tools require deploying the pliers, the overall profile is relatively bulky, and the plastic handles are more slippery than the competitors.
To achieve maximum grip pressure, we find that a fist is strongest as it approaches complete closure. The most powerful pliers, therefore, have a low profile in one's hand. As compared to plier-ergonomics leader, the SOG Pocket PowerPlier, the Locker is almost an inch larger in "pliers mode". To apply a given amount of pinching pressure, this contender is far more strenuous than the SOG, even before considering the mechanical advantage inherent in the PowerPlier's mechanical linkage.
With the Baladeo, we found ourselves wishing we could deploy at least the blade without opening the pliers. The Leatherman Wingman and Gerber Suspension, among others, both have entirely external blades that are deployed with one hand in one step. This attribute is quickly taking over the field and easily justifies any downsides.
Portability is mainly a function of weight and packed bulk. We also consider carry options and roundness of pocket profile (sharp edged tools, carried daily and loose in one's pocket, exert significant wear on one's clothing). In terms of weight and bulk, the Baladeo is right in the mix with the full-size tools in our review. The heaviest five of the 11 tools we assessed are clustered between 240 and 270g in mass. The Locker is right in that category at 246g; size-wise, it is larger than the others but is just a small percentage above average for this full-size subset.
The included sheath is nice (crucial if you wish to keep the tool and the set of included bits together) and the rounded plastic handles are easy on your pocket. There is no lanyard loop, nor is there a pocket clip. The Leatherman Charge TTI sets the standard for portability of the full-size multi-tool cohort, with an included sheath, optional pocket clip, optional lanyard loop, and mostly rounded external surfaces.
Short of destructive testing, it is difficult to get authoritative, repeatable, objective assessment of the construction quality and durability of multi tools. That being said, we have decades of experience beating up this sort of product, and we have learned to make fairly good, admittedly anecdotal, assessments of tools we use. Basically, we can tell a great deal about the quality of a tool by the hinge tightness. It is important to note the hinge tightness initially and after a period of normal use. There is a strong correlation between overall durability and the longevity of hinge tightness. Close hinge tolerances that stay close even after thousands of cycles are present on well built tools. Good multi tools have nearly rigid plier handles. SOG sets the bar for construction quality, with smooth, tight hinges and virtually flex-less handles, even with more moving parts and pivots than any other tools we tested. The Locker is not entirely special. To get the unique function set at a very reasonable price, this model clearly compromises quality. The handles flex and all hinges have play in them. The play has increased with use, far faster than any of the other tools in our review. For occasional use, this multi-tool will suffice, but if you anticipate daily rigorous use, you will do better with a different product.
The Locker is a great tool for carrying in your car or expedition tool kit. In these contexts, the additional bits and full-size functionality will be very appreciated. However, you will not use it daily and therefore the compromise in construction durability will not be a liability.
For the number of features you get, and the opportunity to fully customize the bit set, this is an excellent value. The construction quality is satisfactory for occasional use but will break down faster than the more expensive products.
Baladeo has a tough job here. They are an unheard of underdog running with the pros. Long time, specialized tool makers like SOG, Leatherman, Victorinox, and Gerber have and will lead this field for a long time. Baladeo makes an audacious entry, and does so with a successful angle. The product is affordable and functional, with the bit driver feature truly setting it apart.
— Jediah Porter