Leatherman Crunch Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Locking pliers, clever bit driver included
Cons: Limited other features, must deploy pliers to access internal accessory tools
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This model is the only multi-tool in our review in which the pliers lock. Among the sort of tasks one can perform with multi-tool pliers, we cannot think of any that aren't better with locking. The locking function of the Crunch makes these the best pliers we tested. Now, pliers are only one tool in a multi-tool, and to make them locking, as you'll see below, requires significant compromises in other areas. If you use the pliers extensively, these compromises may be worth it. If you use the attributes of a multi-tool more equally, one of the other products we tested is likely a better choice. Because of the inherent compromises made by Leatherman in optimizing the locking pliers, the overall score of the Crunch isn't exceptionally notable.
The Crunch has relatively few functions. We are ok with that because the utility of the pliers is head-and-shoulders above that on the other tools in our test. There is a serrated blade, a few screwdrivers, a bottle opener, and a file. The sneakiest feature, one that easily escapes notice in one's initial examination, of the Crunch is its integrated 1/4" bit driver. This socket is accessed by removing the plier's lock screw and accepts any of the virtually infinite number of after-market bits made for this format.
This set of features is easily exceeded in scope by virtually all of the tools in our review. Again, you will not choose this tool for its feature count. You will choose it because of the pliers, and because you can have some other rudimentary tools in the handle.
No tools in our review, however, have pliers that are as useful and vigorous as the lock-jaw version around which the Crunch is built. We've said it before, and will say it again, but the pliers of the Crunch lead the pack and are the best in our entire review.
The goal of most of these multi-tool manufacturers is to make pliers that are at least very close to the function of dedicated products and then add in other features to the handle that have been compromised as little as possible. Multi-tool pliers, in most cases, are roughly 80% as effective as dedicated pliers while, say, the knife blades are about 70% as effective as the blades on dedicated pocket knives. The locking pliers of the Crunch as compared to dedicated locking pliers are equal. A user takes on minimal compromise in choosing the Crunch over dedicated locking pliers. This is a testament to the construction quality and attention to detail on the Crunch. Now, the other tools on the Crunch are less effective than those on competitors, but the pliers remain class-leading. This is largely a function of the excellent construction quality Leatherman delivers.
Because of the construction quality, and subsequent utility of the locking pliers, the Crunch gets relatively high marks in this category. However, the small knife blade and small, rough-hewn other tools bring down the mark.
Multi-tools built around standard pliers have been around for many decades. Those tools have become refined over the years in a variety of ways. The primary refinements have come in ergonomics. Models built around locking pliers are newer, with fewer ergonomic refinements. The Crunch is less refined regarding the ergonomics than its competitors. First, all the tools require deploying the pliers first. Next, there are more exposed metal edges on the Crunch than on the others. Finally, the bit driver is handy, but to use it requires removing the locking pliers adjustment screw entirely. We are thankful for the locking aspect of the non-pliers tools and, once set up, the bit driver is handy, and one can generate more than enough leverage.
It is easy to see the primary advantage of externally-accessed tools on a multi-tool. The Leatherman Crunch has all the tools within the confines of the stowed pliers. Most of the rest we tested have at least some of the tools accessible without activating the pliers. This makes for faster and smoother access to these functions. Also, and this one isn't as obvious at first, but a blade obtained from the stowed pliers is more useful than one accessed from within. When the blade is opened without deploying the pliers, its cutting edge faces away from the bulk of the handle, leaving less of the handle to interfere with the cutting task. Accessed from within the plier handles, as on the Crunch, the blade faces into the middle of the handle once in use.
In many cases, this is not a big deal, but in certain circumstances, it can be a hindrance. The large blades on the other top scoring multi tools are more readily accessed and have a greater "effective edge" given the blade's orientation relative to the handle.
On a tool of this utility, portability is a minor concern. Given the specialized, pliers-centric design of the Crunch, it is unlikely to be the "everyday carry" choice of many consumers. It is a tool-box or automobile product and, as such, portability is less of a concern. Our rankings are weighted for the bulk of users that are looking for a multi-tool to keep on their person. For those folks, smooth contours, multiple carry options, and maximum utility-to-size are important. By this metric, the Crunch is not that portable. You can only carry it in a sheath or loose in your pocket. When loose in your pocket, the rougher edges of the metal construction will cause accelerated wear to your clothing.
The tiny "keychain" style tools are by far the most portable in our review. They are generally 1/4 the size of the Crunch while having the same number and types of features. Additionally, some of these tiny tools add scissors. Now, none of the functions on the tiny tools are nearly as useful as any of those on the Crunch, but they can be with you all the time. Better comparisons to the Crunch are in the larger tools.
Only a few tools we tested are more expensive than the Crunch. These other tools have far more features and even more polished construction. However, with the locking pliers, the Crunch is in a class of its own. If you dig the locking pliers, the price is almost irrelevant. If, however, like many users, this doesn't matter (not that it shouldn't matter… virtually all plier tasks are better done with lockers) to you, the additional cost and limited everyday carry utility will not be worth it. We can't say this is a high-value product.
The Leatherman Crunch is unique in its own way. The locking pliers, as detailed extensively above, are truly more useful than the pliers on any other tool we investigated. Therefore, the Crunch easily stands out.
— Jediah Porter