Leatherman Signal Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Versatile and comprehensive outdoor tool kit
Cons: Specialized components, independent parts can get lost
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|Pros||Versatile and comprehensive outdoor tool kit||Compact, light, with multiple carry options, smart, effective tools||Comprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry options||Excellent bit driver, big blade, scissors, fast-action pliers||Inexpensive and well-made, spring-loaded pliers, scissors, pocket clip, one-handed blade|
|Cons||Specialized components, independent parts can get lost||Few features||Proprietary bit driver, no pocket clip included||Rattly construction, bulky and heavy, serrated blade section||Hybrid straight/serrated blade, squashed Phillips driver, short main blade|
|Bottom Line||A purpose-built, specialized tool for outdoor adventure and wilderness survival, while also serving purpose around the house||A multi-tool that optimizes ergonomics and portability by reducing the tool set to the most important ones for daily use and carry||A full-function tool from a great manufacturer at a reasonable price||A large, full-function multi-tool that includes a top notch bit driver and nice storage via its carry sheath||A budget tool with real value and function, this model is compact with a feature set that does much of what you want and little that you don't|
|Rating Categories||Leatherman Signal||Leatherman Skeletoo...||Leatherman Wave+||Gerber Center-Drive...||Leatherman Wingman|
|Construction Quality (25%)|
|Specs||Leatherman Signal||Leatherman Skeletoo...||Leatherman Wave+||Gerber Center-Drive...||Leatherman Wingman|
|Number of functions||17||5 + bits||18 + bits||16 + bits||10|
|Weight (ounces)||7.6 oz, 8.7 oz with sheath||5.0 oz||8.5 oz, 9.5 oz with case||9.9 oz, 14.4 oz with case and bits.||6.8 oz, 7.8 oz with sheath|
|Locking tools?||All but pliers||All but pliers||All but pliers||All but pliers||Scissors and blade|
|Pliers type||Needle nose, regular||Needlenose with 2 wire cutters||Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper||Spring-loaded pliers||Spring-loaded regular and needlenose|
|Tools accessible without deploying pliers||Primary blade, saw, sharpener||Blade||Blades, saw, file||Primary blade, bit driver||Blade and scissors|
|Blades and type||1 hybrid straight/serrated||1 straight drop point||1 straight, 1 serrated||1 hybrid straight/serrated||1 hybrid serrated/straight drop point|
|Number of screwdrivers||2 included. More available aftermarket for proprietary driver. Even more availalbe aftermarket for limited-function, standard 1/4 inch driver socket.||4 included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver||5 included/integrated. More available aftermarket for proprietary driver||14 incuded. Infinitely more available as aftermarket bits||3|
|File?||No||No||Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file||Yes||Yes|
|Openers||Can, bottle||Bottle||Can and bottle||Can, bottle||Can, bottle, and a unique box opener|
|Other important features||Knife sharpener, ferro spark striking rod, whistle, 1/4 inch socket.||None||Ruler||One-handed blade. Replacable wire-cutters||Very small ruler|
|Other carry options||Pocket, Pocket clip, carabiner clip||Carabiner style clip, pocket clip||Pocket, Pocket clip|
|Closed dimensions (Length by thickness, in inches)||4.5 x 0.6||4.3 x 0.6||4 x 0.7||4.8 x 1||3.8 x 0.7|
|Open length (pliers, in inches)||6.8 in||6.2 in||6.3 in||6.4 in||6.2 in|
|Open overall length (primary blade deployed, in inches)||7.1 in||6.8 in||6.9 in||7.8 in||6.4 in|
|Length of primary blade effective edge (inches)||2.6 in||2.6 in||2.8in||2.9 in||2.4 in|
Our Analysis and Test Results
This model is a purpose-built outdoorsperson's multi-tool. People often use multi-tools in the outdoors, but this one is fully tailor-made for outdoor adventures. One could even call it a survival tool. Notable special outdoor features include a firestarter, signal whistle, and tent stake hammer. The inclusion of a detachable sharpener also points to the self-reliant sort of customer.
Leatherman claims their Signal has 19 functions. That is admirably close to actual functionality (sometimes claimed functions are minimally useful or minimally different from one another; not so with the Signal). The absolute number of functions and discernment of counted functions is just one part of the equation. In the case of the Signal, there are functions included that are truly unique from any other options on the market. No multi-tool that we know of includes a sharpener, whistle, and fire-starter sparker.
The "normal" functions that Leatherman includes are useful and carefully chosen. The saw is great for woodcraft. There are two bit drivers—one for Leatherman's proprietary "squashed" 1/4 inch drive and one (with limited-utility 90-degree orientation) in standard 1/4 drive dimensions. An awl with a needle-type "eye" is handy for repairing shoes and other hearty textiles. The can opener doubles as a bottle opener.
We do have a few features-related wishes. Couldn't the standard 1/4 inch driver be turned 90 degrees from where it is to be more useful? That would allow omission of the squashed bit driver and make room for the inclusion of scissors. Finally, make the blade of excellent steel (Leatherman's 154CM steel blade on some other tools they produce is amazing) and eliminate the serrated section. With a sharpener built-in, the full edge could be regularly tuned up, even in the field.
Ergonomically, the Signal is on par with average current multi-tools. The outside-opening blade is crucial. The rounded pliers' handles are non-negotiable now too. The combo whistle/ferro-striker rod is a little fiddly to get in and out. Other multi-tool pliers are a little less prone to pinching than those on the Signal. However, we had no actual pinching issues with the Signal.
Leatherman's Signal is fairly average in size and bulk. For the features it packs in, it could actually be considered relatively small. Further, it is quite nice that Leatherman gives you great carry options. They send it with an included pocket clip and a sturdy belt holster. Built right in is a carabiner-style clip for carrying too. Finally, the external contours of the Signal are not super smooth, but they are unlikely badly damage your pockets or other carrying containers, as some rough-edged tools we've tested can.
Construction quality of the Signal seems to meet the high expectations we have come to have of Leatherman equipment. We had no issues with the construction of the Signal. The removable parts are different than those on other tools. Few other tools have removable parts like the Signal does. These parts are largely made of plastic and click into the main Signal body in a somewhat unconfidence-inspiring fashion. Again, we have had no problems with it, but the fiddly systems for securing fully independent parts aren't something we are accustomed to assessing on a multi-tool.
This is not a cheap piece of equipment. That being said, for its function and application, and understanding that it will last a long time, its value will be realized in the long run. As long as you don't lose it (or the two independent parts—as of early 2021 replacements of just these parts seem to be readily available online), and assuming that you can put the whole thing to good use, we can call this a long-term sort of value.
The Leatherman Signal is truly unique. Its niche of potential users is similarly unique, and perhaps quite small. Preppers and survivalists honing their bushcraft will like the idea of it, but few will ever require all the survival and outdoor attributes of the Signal. If your multi-tool use will mainly be day-to-day, consider something else. If you will be out in the wild, extensively and significantly, the Signal is a nice bit of kit.
— Jediah Porter