The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Leatherman Free P4 Review

A classic multi-tool with a major usability twist
Leatherman Free P4
Photo: Leatherman
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Price:  $140 List | $139.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Easy tool and plier deployment, Leatherman pedigree
Cons:  No bit driver, magnets pick up metal grit
Manufacturer:   Leatherman
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 22, 2019
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 19
  • Functions - 40% 7
  • Construction Quality - 25% 8
  • Ergonomics - 20% 8
  • Portability - 15% 6

Our Verdict

The Leatherman Free P4 is a great, general-purpose multi-tool, with the latest and greatest in ergonomic function. If you are looking for your first multi-tool, and the basic feature-set of the Free P4 works for you, you can't do better than this one. If you have a similarly featured tool already, the ergonomic upgrades of the Leatherman Free aren't quite worth it. Top-end users, looking for all the bells and whistles, will have to wait for Leatherman to make a newer version of the Free. Without a bit driver, we just can't call the Free P4 "fully-featured."

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Pros Easy tool and plier deployment, Leatherman pedigreeSophisticated, comprehensiveCompact, light, with multiple carry options, smart, effective toolsComprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry optionsLarge, excellent construction, full-size functions, customizable
Cons No bit driver, magnets pick up metal gritHeavy, expensiveFew featuresProprietary bit driver, no pocket clip includedHeavy and large; limited portability. Proprietary bit driver
Bottom Line Typical feature set packaged in a fundamentally different hinged packageThe sky-high standard by which other multi tools are comparedClever and clean, with only a few tools, all of which are executed well for everyday carryAll you should need, with proven pedigree, at a forgiving priceThis tool pulls no punches: it optimizes for function at the cost of portability
Rating Categories Leatherman Free P4 Leatherman Charge+ TTi Leatherman Skeletool CX Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Surge
Functions (40%)
7
9
5
8
8
Construction Quality (25%)
8
9
9
8
9
Ergonomics (20%)
8
7
10
7
8
Portability (15%)
6
6
8
5
1
Specs Leatherman Free P4 Leatherman Charge+... Leatherman... Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Surge
Number of Functions 21 19 + bits 5 + bits 18 + bits 19 + bits
Weight (ounces) 8.8 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? All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers
Pliers Type Needlenose, regular 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 All Blades, saw, file Blade Blades, saw, file Blades, saw, file
Blades and Type 1 straight 1 serated 1 serrated gut hook type, 1 straight drop point 1 straight drop point 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 straight, 1 serrated
Scissors Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Number of screwdrivers 1 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? Yes 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? Wood Metal and wood No Yes Yes
Openers Bottle and can Can and bottle Bottle Can and bottle Can and bottle
Other important Features One-handed blades. Replacable wire-cutters Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper None Ruler Ruler, awl, wire stripper
Sheath Included? Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Other carry options Pocket , pocket clip Pocket clip, key ring Carabiner style clip, pocket clip Pocket Pocket
Closed dimensions (Length by thickness, in inches) 4.2 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) 6.5 in 6.2 in 6.2 in 6.3 in 7.1in
Open Overall Length (Primary blade deployed) (inches) 4.25 in 7 in 6.8 in 6.9 in 7.6 in
Length of Primary Blade Effective Edge (inches) 2.8 in 2.8 in 2.6 in 2.8in 3.1 in

Our Analysis and Test Results

Thanks to loosened hinge tolerances, all joints on the Free P4 move freely. Thanks to magnets and locking attributes, these spinning hinges don't come open when you don't want them to. It is the "loose" hinges that set this tool, and the entire "Free" line from Leatherman, apart from others. The tested tool deployed, from day 1, like a long-used, "broken-in" multi-tool, but stayed closed when you needed it to remain closed. In terms of ergonomics and usability, this offers an incremental improvement over some of the other options. In other ways, the Free P4 felt pretty…average. When Leatherman brings the "free" design to a set of features like those on their other award-winning multi-tools, we'll take notice. Until then, this is a great, while simultaneously average, multi-tool.

Performance Comparison


For some basic repairs, the Free P4 has what you need. Further, it...
For some basic repairs, the Free P4 has what you need. Further, it deploys fast and easy.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Functions


The Free P4 has a pretty typical feature set. We are especially pleased with the scissors and the two different knife blades (one straight, one serrated). As compared to other recent offerings, Leatherman separated the bottle and can opener on this tool. They also increased the size of the scissors as compared to their top of the line products. The file is smaller than we'd like to see. At this point in history, we really need to see a bit driver (and ideally a full-size, standard 1/4" bit driver) in a multi-tool for it to contend with the big dogs. The Free P4 doesn't have a bit driver. Watch out for it; we bet that one of the next products Leatherman releases is a full-functioned "Free" tool, with bit drivers, etc.

Carefully tuned blades are a hallmark of Leatherman Tools. The Free...
Carefully tuned blades are a hallmark of Leatherman Tools. The Free P4 has a blade like we've come to expect.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Construction Quality


This is a high-end multi-tool in some ways. The materials are proven, but it has also been proven that better materials can be integrated into a multi-tool. The pivot tolerances have changed none in our months of testing. None of the features have experienced any degradation. As a new product, and one with pretty innovative attributes, we are a little wary of the long-term durability. A couple of questions linger. Will the magnets lose their "charge"? How about the plier handle pivots? In order to pivot freely but lock in place when needed, the handle pivots are equipped with spring-loaded latches. The entire main pivot bushing moves in an enlarged hole, all under spring tension. This entire mechanism is hidden. We trust Leatherman's R and D but have to point out this unproven function in a very high-load part of the tool. Friction-style plier handle pivots (as on virtually all of our other tested tools) are known to provide lasting security. We don't know how the pivots of the Free P4 will hold up.

These are the main plier arm pivots. It took us close examination to...
These are the main plier arm pivots. It took us close examination to determine only roughly how they work. To explain the spring-loaded, oblong-holed pivot-and-latch arrangement is beyond our communication skills.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Ergonomics


It is in terms of ergonomics that the Free P4 really stands out. Rumor has it that Leatherman, with its generous warranty, receives thousands of returned and well-loved multi-tools each year. They receive each of these with instructions and requests. Apparently, according to the same rumors, a remarkably common request was that Leatherman not "fix" loose hinges on older, well-used tools. People wanted their broken screwdriver repaired, or the blade reconditioned but didn't want the hinges tightened. Users enjoyed the free hinging pivots of "broken-in" tools.

In response to this, again, according to web rumors and legend, Leatherman designed a whole line of tools with free-spinning pivots. Now, friction in the pivots of a multi-tool keeps it closed when not in use. To address this, Leatherman keeps the Free P4 and others in the line closed with magnets. All works as intended, and the easy deployment is appreciated. Is it "game-changing?" We don't think so. There are pros and cons to this design. Notably, the magnets pick up ferrous debris from work sites and pockets.

Further, in terms of ergonomics, we like that every single tool is accessible from the "outside." On the flip side, there is a perplexing and clumsy sharp protrusion on the plier handles. It seems absolutely unnecessary that this particular piece of metal protrudes as it does. It isn't enough to cause an injury, but it is a noticeable discomfort in most plier applications. With gloves on, the protrusion is unnoticeable.

This photo points out the odd and uncomfortable protrusion in the...
This photo points out the odd and uncomfortable protrusion in the plier handles. It isn't dangerous nor does it seem to affect the actual power output of the pliers in normal hands, but it is seemingly unnecessary and uncomfortable.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Portability


Size, weight, shape, and carry options combine to determine a multi tool's portability. The Free P4 is pretty average in dimensions. For the functions you get, its stature is typical. The externally-accessed tools mean that the closed, pocketed form is a little rough around the edges. The outside edge of each tool is exposed to your pocket. This can wear on your pants material and collects coins and other pocket detritus. Clipping the tool to the opening of your pocket, with the included clip, largely addresses this. It also keeps it up and in better reach. Finally, the included sheath is secure and low profile.

The heralded Free P4. We're excited by the possibilities, but don't...
The heralded Free P4. We're excited by the possibilities, but don't yet feel that Leatherman has maximized the potential.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Value


The Free innovations don't come "free." This is a very expensive tool. Its price tag approaches that of Leatherman's top of the line tools, but the materials and features lag behind those chart-toppers. As Leatherman amortizes the cost of innovation and broadens the line of "Free" tools, we hope the costs come down and the feature set and options increase.

In an expedition tool kit, the basic features of the Free P4 can...
In an expedition tool kit, the basic features of the Free P4 can mean the difference between post-holing and repairing broken snowshoes.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Conclusion


The Leatherman Free P4 came with great PR excitement and promising innovations. Indeed, the design upends decades of certain design limitations. As the "top of the line" Free tool, we wish the P4 came with a more sophisticated suite of features and materials.

Jediah Porter