Hands-on Gear Review

Leatherman Crunch Review

Leatherman Crunch
Top Pick Award
Price:  $110 List | $109.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Locking pliers, clever bit driver included
Cons:  Limited other features, must deploy pliers to access internal accessory tools
Bottom line:  Excellent locking pliers with a small selection of useful secondary tools; the Crunch’s value and utility is built around a primary, major attribute.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
Number of Functions:  8
Weight (ounces):  6.8 oz
Locking Tools?:  All
Manufacturer:   Leatherman

Our Verdict

There is basically no comparable product readily available on the market. Various manufacturers have attempted multi-tools based on locking pliers, but none have had the success that Leatherman has with the Crunch. If you will put the pliers of your multi-tool to any sort of serious or regular use and have limited use for other more specialized features, the Crunch is a worthy consideration. The locking pliers are truly more useful than any of the other tools in our test, but the other features are somewhat limited. This is a specialized, highly appealing tool. That is basically our definition of the Top Pick award we grant. The Crunch was an easy choice for this honor. For a more general purpose, high-quality product, the Editors Choice Leatherman Charge TTI is the cream of the crop. The Best Buy Leatherman Wave has a feature set remarkably similar to the Charge at about half the price (and therefore below the price of the Charge). You have great options for multi-tools "this day and age".


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter

Last Updated:
Saturday
June 24, 2017

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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 with locking pliers that perform better. 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.

Performance Comparison


Given the inherent compromises made by Leatherman in optimizing the locking pliers, the overall score of the Crunch isn't exceptionally notable. Four products in our test scored as well or better than the Crunch. These other tools feature pliers that aren't as useful, while the other attributes, and the sum of those features, are greater than on the Crunch.

When equipment fails deep in the wild  having good tools is crucial. Here  lead test editor and IFMGA Mountain Guide Jed Porter repairs a pair of tested AT ski boots in the high Tetons.
When equipment fails deep in the wild, having good tools is crucial. Here, lead test editor and IFMGA Mountain Guide Jed Porter repairs a pair of tested AT ski boots in the high Tetons.

Functions


The Crunch has the fewest functions of any product we reviewed this time around. 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. Even the diminutive Top Pick *Gerber Dime* has a set of functions greater than the Crunch. The tools on the Crunch are more useful than on the Dime, but the Dime has more. The Leatherman Squirt PS4 has more, and the Editors Choice Leatherman Charge TTI has more than twice as many.

The 1/4" bit driver is in the end of the handle. The same hole normally houses the pliers adjustment screw  shown here removed.
The 1/4" bit driver is in the end of the handle. The same hole normally houses the pliers adjustment screw, shown here removed.

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.

A phillips screwdriver bit in place in the driver.
A phillips screwdriver bit in place in the driver.

Ergonomics


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. In our review, only the Baladeo Locker and Leatherman Crunch have all the tools within the confines of the stowed pliers. All the rest 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 clear at first, but a blade obtained from the closed 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.

The blade of the Leatherman Crunch  on top  opens from within the pliers while the blade on the Gerber Bear Grylls opens from the outside. Note the difference in the blade's working edge relative to the bulk of the handle. The edge of the Gerber is handier than that on the Crunch.
The blade of the Leatherman Crunch, on top, opens from within the pliers while the blade on the Gerber Bear Grylls opens from the outside. Note the difference in the blade's working edge relative to the bulk of the handle. The edge of the Gerber is handier than that on the Crunch.

In many cases, this is not a big deal, but in certain circumstances, it can be a hindrance. The large blades on the Leatherman Charge TTI and Best Buy Leatherman Wave are both more readily accessed and have a greater "effective edge" given the blade's orientation relative to the handle.

The Crunch in an average adult male hand  for size comparison.
The Crunch in an average adult male hand, for size comparison.

Portability


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 like the Top Pick Gerber Dime and former award winner Leatherman Squirt PS4 are by far the most portable in our review. They are each 1/4 the size of the Crunch while having the same number and types of features. Additionally, each of these tools adds scissors. Now, none of the tools 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. The Editors' Choice Leatherman Charge TTI leads the full-size tool field in portability with smooth contours and carry options galore. It is large and heavy, but it has plenty of tools and can be carried in a sheath, loose in your pocket, with an optional pocket clip, or with a lanyard loop.

The Leatherman Crunch with included leather sheath.
The Leatherman Crunch with included leather sheath.

Construction Quality


The goal 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. The super smooth pivots of the SOG Pocket PowerPlier and the carefully chosen materials of the Editors' Choice Leatherman Charge TTI put these in the same league of the Crunch. Overall, the super slick Charge comes out ahead, while the SOG and Crunch end up tied. The SOG has better-built accessory tools, while the Crunch has more rugged pliers. Regarding construction quality, something like the Gerber Suspension is a horrible comparison (the Suspension isn't nearly as good) while the Baladeo Locker might as well be in a different category of product. The Baladeo has sloppy pivots, flexy pliers, and plastic parts vulnerable to damage and wear.

Best Applications


This is a craftsman's tool. For shop, tool-box, expedition, and automotive use, you cannot do better than the Crunch. It has hard-working features in a rugged package. It doesn't have the portability attributes and day-to-day features (like scissors and files and various openers) that we look for in an "every day carry" tool, but it excels in hard working environments.

Almost all the features of the Crunch  on display. Because of the locking mechanism  only one "arm" of the pliers is available for stowed tools.
Almost all the features of the Crunch, on display. Because of the locking mechanism, only one "arm" of the pliers is available for stowed tools.

Value


Only two tools we tested are more expensive than the Crunch. Both of 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.

Conclusion


Our Top Pick award goes to products that stand out in some particular way or for some specific application. For multi-tools, these award choices were easy. The tiny Gerber Dime is eminently portable. For what it does, the Dime is far easier to carry around than anything else in our review. The 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

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Most recent review: June 24, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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4 star: 100%  (1)
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