Havalon Evolve Review
Cons: Flexible blade, only two bits included, slightly bulky
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|Price||$68.59 at Amazon||$169.95 at REI||$79.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Interchangeable blade, carry options, one-handed blade deployment||Sophisticated, comprehensive||Compact, light, with multiple carry options, smart, effective tools||Comprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry options||Large, excellent construction, full-size functions, customizable|
|Cons||Flexible blade, only two bits included, slightly bulky||Heavy, expensive||Few features||Proprietary bit driver, no pocket clip included||Heavy and large; limited portability. Proprietary bit driver|
|Bottom Line||A solid tool with an interchangeable blade that really sets it apart from all the competitors||The sky-high standard by which other multi tools are compared||Clever and clean, with only a few tools, all of which are executed well for everyday carry||All you should need, with proven pedigree, at a forgiving price||This tool pulls no punches: it optimizes for function at the cost of portability|
|Rating Categories||Havalon Evolve||Leatherman Charge+ TTi||Leatherman Skeletool CX||Leatherman Wave+||Leatherman Surge|
|Construction Quality (25%)|
|Specs||Havalon Evolve||Leatherman Charge+...||Leatherman...||Leatherman Wave+||Leatherman Surge|
|Number of Functions||6 + bits||19 + bits||5 + bits||18 + bits||19 + bits|
|Weight (ounces)||6.6 oz||8.8 oz||5.0 oz||8.5 oz. 9.5 oz with case||12.2 oz. 14.3 oz with case|
|Locking Tools?||Blade||All but pliers||All but pliers||All but pliers||All but pliers|
|Pliers Type||Mid-size, with wire cutter and stripper||Needlenose with wire cutters, crimper||Needlenose with 2 wire cutters||Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper||Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper|
|Tools Accessible Without Deploying Pliers||Blade||Blades, saw, file||Blade||Blades, saw, file||Blades, saw, file|
|Blades and Type||1 interchangeable "scalpel" style||1 serrated gut hook type, 1 straight drop point||1 straight drop point||1 straight, 1 serrated||1 straight, 1 serrated|
|Number of screwdrivers||2 incuded. Infinitely more available as aftermarket bits||1 integrated. Many bits included, with more available aftermarket for proprietary driver||4 included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver||5 included/integrated. More available aftermarket for proprietary driver||4 included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver|
|File?||No||Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file||No||Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file||Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file|
|Saw?||No||Metal and wood||No||Yes||Yes|
|Openers||Bottle||Can and bottle||Bottle||Can and bottle||Can and bottle|
|Other important Features||Bit storage||Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper||None||Ruler||Ruler, awl, wire stripper|
|Other carry options||Pocket clip||Pocket clip, key ring||Carabiner style clip, pocket clip|
|Closed dimensions (Length by thickness, in inches)||4.4 x 0.7||4 x 0.8||4.3 x 0.6||4 x 0.7||4.5 x 0.8|
|Open Length (Pliers) (inches)||6.2 in||6.2 in||6.2 in||6.3 in||7.1in|
|Open Overall Length (Primary blade deployed) (inches)||7.3 in||7 in||6.8 in||6.9 in||7.6 in|
|Length of Primary Blade Effective Edge (inches)||2.2 in||2.8 in||2.6 in||2.8in||3.1 in|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Evolve multi-tool is the only tool we have tested that has an interchangeable main cutting blade. Like their innovative game-dressing pocket knives, Havalon has designed the Evolv to use scalpel style blades. One can change the blades mid-task to always have a razor-like cutting edge. The rest of the tool is fairly standard, in a minimalist, full-size fashion. There are pliers, a bit driver, a "gut hook", and a few different carry options.
Interestingly, as multi-tools specialize and "evolve" (pardon the wordplay…), they often include fewer features. A good multi-tool is not a "bigger is better" sort of situation. The Evolve is good. We recommend it. But it has surprisingly few features. Those that are included are all useful. Innovative even. As noted above, the main blade is truly unique. Beyond that, there are simple, mid-sized pliers with good wire cutting jaws and one size of wire stripper. There is a standard 1/4" bit driver and a hunting-specific gut hook. The gut hook can also be used to cut string and cord. Finally, one can swap in a saw blade, suitable for wood and bone, in place of the main blade. One can do this mid-task if need be.
The bit driver allows nearly infinite customization. Otherwise, this is a pretty minimalist multi-tool. A hand full of tools is basic, in the grand scheme of things. The good news is that each tool is optimized for nearly maximum function.
When we look at ergonomics of a multi-tool we examine, first and foremost, the readiness of the main blade and the pinch potential of the pliers. A main blade that can be opened with one hand and without deploying any of the other functions first is essentially crucial anymore to a high scoring tool. The Evolve has such a main blade. We can say the same about pinching pliers. Plier handles that get too close together in use are essentially useless. The Evolve plier handles don't pinch in most or all use.
For the number of tools included, the Evolve is pretty large and heavy. The bulk and mass make for a usable, sturdy tool, but it is noticed when you aren't using it. We like that you can carry this tool pocket clipped. This is nearing universality with multi-tools but isn't quite there yet. There are still new tools released that won't clip to a pocket. We're glad its an option on the Evolve. We're also thankful for mostly smooth outer edges. This is easier on your pocket fabrics. Cleverly, the tool has a built-in sleeve to store one or two more 1/4 inch bits, depending on their length. For the price, it wouldn't be wrong for Havalon to have included a couple more common size bits.
The Evolve comes with a number of mandatory extra parts. Mainly, there are the extra scalpel blades. These are inherent in the design and appeal. The best way to swap them in and out is with the plastic clamshell tool that Havalon includes with purchase. Finally, there is another clamshell case with the Evolve that holds a pair of matching saw blades. To really maximize function of the Evolve one wants all those extra parts at least somewhere nearby. Havalon ships the tool with a zippered case that holds all these parts. If needed, it also holds the tool itself. It's a bit of a Tetris game to get it all in there, but it works.
For their first multi-tool, Havalon has done an impressive job with the Evolve. Its construction is tight with the right amount of friction in the various pivots. The plier jaws meet cleanly and closely. All the tools hinge smoothly and the blade locks open. Our primary issue is with the blade. To be interchangeable and so well suited to fine tasks the blade is very thin. This makes it flexible and flimsy in heavier tasks. For game dressing, you might not notice the flex in the blade, but for everything else, you likely will. A multi-tool like this will definitely be carried in everyday fashion. It wouldn't take much for Havalon to produce a multi-tool just like the Evolve but with a traditional fixed blade (for more robust tasks) in addition to the interchangeable blade. How about replacing the fixed gut hook with a fixed blade and including one of their gut hook attachments for the interchangeable blade system? That would be a win-win; more features and greater function in day-to-day use.
For what you get, and compared to competitors, the Evolve isn't cheap. You pay a premium for the innovation and engineering behind the interchangeable blade system. If you want that sort of edge integrity, you'll readily justify the expense.
In a field dominated by some big players, a newcomer is both welcome and bold. This newcomer stands out for the truly unique form and function. You should check it out if the interchangeable blades appeal to you.
— Jediah Porter