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

Leatherman Free P4 Review

A classic multi-tool with a major usability twist.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $140 List | $139.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
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
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
75
OVERALL
SCORE


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

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 Top-end users, looking for all the bells and whistles, will have to wait for Leatherman to make a newer version of the Free.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."


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Leatherman Free P4
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $139.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$167.00 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$119.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$99.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$79.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
75
100
0
83
100
0
76
100
0
75
100
0
74
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Easy tool and plier deployment, Leatherman pedigreeSophisticated, comprehensiveLarge, excellent construction, full-size functions, customizableComprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry optionsCompact, light, with multiple carry options, smart, effective tools
Cons No bit driver, magnets pick up metal gritHeavy, expensiveHeavy and large; limited portability. Proprietary bit driver.Proprietary bit driver, no pocket clip includedFew features
Bottom Line A classic multi-tool with a major usability twist.As a top of the line product, Leatherman has equipped the Charge TTI with every imaginable tool, organized and optimized for compact function; in an extravagant move, they have wrapped it in Titanium.A large, heavy tool that does all you might need but is hard to carry around.A full-function tool from a great manufacturer at a reasonable price.A multi tool that optimizes ergonomics and portability at the expense of the feature count.
Rating Categories Leatherman Free P4 Leatherman Charge TTI Leatherman Surge Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Skeletool CX
Functions (40%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
6
Construction Quality (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Ergonomics (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
Portability (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
2
10
0
6
10
0
8
Specs Leatherman Free P4 Leatherman Charge... Leatherman Surge Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman...
Number of Functions 21 19 + bits 21 18 + bits 7
Weight (ounces) 8.8 oz 8.8 oz 12.2 oz. 14.3 oz with case 8.5 oz. 9.5 oz with case 5.0 oz
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, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper Needlenose with 2 wire cutters
Tools Accessible Without Deploying Pliers All Blades, saw, file Blades, saw, file Blades, saw, file Blade
Blades and Type 1 straight 1 serated 1 serrated gut hook type, 1 straight drop point 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 straight drop point
Scissors Yes Yes Yes Yes No
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 Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file No
Saw? Wood Metal and wood Yes Yes No
Openers Bottle and can Can and bottle Can and bottle Can and bottle Bottle
Other important Features One-handed blades. Replacable wire-cutters Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper Ruler, awl, wire stripper Ruler None
Sheath Included? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Other carry options Pocket , pocket clip Pocket clip, key ring Pocket Pocket Carabiner style clip, pocket clip
Closed dimensions (Length by thickness, in inches) 4.2 x 0.7 4 x 0.8 4.5 x 0.8 4 x 0.7 4.3 x 0.6
Open Length (Pliers) (inches) 6.5 in 6.2 in 7.1in 6.3 in 6.2 in
Open Overall Length (Primary blade deployed) (inches) 4.25 in 7 in 7.6 in 6.9 in 6.8 in
Length of Primary Blade Effective Edge (inches) 2.8 in 2.8 in 3.1 in 2.8in 2.6 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 deploys fast and easy.
For some basic repairs, the Free P4 has what you need. Further, it deploys fast and easy.

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

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 determine only roughly how they work. To explain the spring-loaded  oblong-holed pivot-and-latch arrangement is beyond our communication skills.
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.

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 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.
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.

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

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

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