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

Leatherman Surge Review

A large, heavy tool that does all you might need but is hard to carry around.
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Price:  $120 List | $119.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Large, excellent construction, full-size functions, customizable
Cons:  Heavy and large; limited portability. Proprietary bit driver.
Manufacturer:   Leatherman
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 17, 2019
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86
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 15
  • Functions - 40% 9
  • Ergonomics - 20% 10
  • Portability - 15% 3
  • Construction Quality - 25% 10

Our Verdict

The Leatherman Surge is heavy and large. It is nearly six times the weight of the Top Pick mini multi-tool, the Gerber Dime. With that additional mass and bulk, you get excellent functions and tools that work very well in action. Between uses, though, the Surge is difficult to carry around. Over 3/4 of a pound is a lot in your pocket or backpack or purse. This is for your basecamp tool kit or the glove box of your car.

Elsewhere in the Leatherman line are products that are nearly as serviceable and varied but carry much easier. For all-around use, the Leatherman Charge TTI definitely hits a better balance of portability and function than the Surge. The Surge is what you choose for maximum functionality in a just-barely-portable package.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Leatherman Surge
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award   
Price $119.95 at REI
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$169.44 at Amazon
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$99.90 at Amazon
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Pros Large, excellent construction, full-size functions, customizableSophisticated, comprehensiveComprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry optionsCompact, light, with multiple carry options, smart, effective toolsBeefy and large, great pliers leverage and blades, assisted opening and externally accessed
Cons Heavy and large; limited portability. Proprietary bit driver.Heavy, expensiveProprietary bit driver, no pocket clip includedFew featuresHeavy to carry, accessing non-blade tools is time consuming
Bottom Line A large, heavy tool that does all you might need but is hard to carry around.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 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.SOG has manufactured a no-holds-barred pliers-based multi tool for the hard user; it is so rugged and large that only the most committed users will justify the bulk and mass.
Rating Categories Leatherman Surge Leatherman Charge TTI Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Skeletool CX SOG PowerAssist
Functions (40%)
10
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9
10
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10
10
0
9
10
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7
10
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8
Ergonomics (20%)
10
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10
10
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8
10
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8
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9
Portability (15%)
10
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3
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8
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7
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9
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7
Construction Quality (25%)
10
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9
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6
Specs Leatherman Surge Leatherman Charge... Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman... SOG PowerAssist
Number of Functions 21 19 + bits 18 + bits 7 16
Weight (ounces) 12.2 oz. 14.3 oz with case 8.8 oz 8.5 oz. 9.5 oz with case 5oz 9.25 oz
Locking Tools? All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers
Pliers Type Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper Needlenose with wire cutters, crimper Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper Needlenose with 2 wire cutters Needlenose
Tools Accessible Without Deploying Pliers Blades, saw, file Blades, saw, file Blades, saw, file Blade Straight blade and serrated blade
Blades and Type 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 serrated gut hook type, 1 straight drop point 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 straight drop point 1 fully serrated, 1 straight edge
Scissors Yes Yes Yes No No
Number of screwdrivers 4 included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 1 integrated. Many bits included, with more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 5 included/integrated. More available aftermarket for proprietary driver 4 included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 4
File? 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 Yes
Saw? Yes Metal and wood Yes No No
Openers Can and bottle Can and bottle Can and bottle Bottle Bottle and can
Other important Features Ruler, awl, wire stripper Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper Ruler None "V-notch" cord and webbing cutter
Sheath Included? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Other carry options Pocket Pocket clip, key ring Pocket Carabiner style clip, pocket clip Pocket, lanyard hole
Closed dimensions (Length by thickness, in inches) 4.5 x 0.8 4 x 0.8 4 x 0.7 4.3 x 0.6 4.6 x 0.8
Open Length (Pliers) (inches) 7.1in 6.2 in 6.3 in 6.2 in 7 in
Open Overall Length (Primary blade deployed) (inches) 7.6 in 7 in 6.9 in 6.8 in 7.5 in
Length of Primary Blade Effective Edge (inches) 3.1 in 2.8 in 2.8in 2.6 in 2.7 in

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Surge is Leatherman's largest multi-tool. It is indeed giant. It weighs over 3/4 pound and has a main blade that is nearly as long as that on your typical full-size pocket knife. The pliers are super robust and sturdy. The scissors are larger even than those on a full-size swiss army knife. With this, large size utility increases but portability decreases. The result is a product that really only works for tool-box, vehicle, or belt carry. One can get an aftermarket pocket clip for this tool, but it will quickly wear out your pants if it doesn't pull them down first.

Performance Comparison


The Surge  with all its component parts. It can be accessorized with a pocket clip and additional proprietary Leatherman bits.
The Surge, with all its component parts. It can be accessorized with a pocket clip and additional proprietary Leatherman bits.

Functions


The variety of functions on the Surge is pretty standard for high-end multi-tools. With all the bulk, you had better hope the Surge would be comprehensive. You won't be disappointed. Of the tools included in multi-tools, the Surge basically has it all. Of course, we have our gripes and wishes. First, and this echos for nearly all Leatherman brand tools, we wish that the bit driver used standard 1/4" drive bits without an adapter. Given the layout of nearly every Leatherman tool, we don't see a good reason why they use the thinned-down proprietary bit format they use. Sale of accessories stands out as a possible reason. The Surge (and Charge and Wave+) could be rearranged to fit a full-size 1/4" bit driver in there with minimal "cost" to the bulk or selection of other tools. If you are Leatherman brand loyal and want a 1/4" bit driver, your only option is the Top Pick Leatherman Crunch.

To maximize the tool selection on the Surge  these two saws are interchangeable. Doing so requires a little effort  so it isn't a task you will tackle mid-project.
To maximize the tool selection on the Surge, these two saws are interchangeable. Doing so requires a little effort, so it isn't a task you will tackle mid-project.

Ergonomics


For routine and novel use the large size of the Surge is largely welcome. Larger tools, up to a point, are easier to use. In the case of the Surge, it only tips into the "too large" category in terms of the pliers-closed handle size. For extended whittling or other knife work, especially in small hands, the large profile of the mostly-closed tool is strenuous and slightly insecure. Otherwise, the large pliers and scissors are very nice to use. The scissors aren't as tight and clean to cut with as others, but they are large. The best scissors in our test are those on the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X. The scissors on the Best Buy Leatherman Wave+ and Editors' Choice Charge TTI are smaller, but tighter and smoother. The scissors of the Best Buy Leatherman Wingman are large like the Surge, and similar in tension and smoothness.

The Surge blade is great  but the handle is super bulky. Here a typical adult male hand (one that wears size L gloves  for reference) is maxed out by the Surge's size.
The Surge blade is great, but the handle is super bulky. Here a typical adult male hand (one that wears size L gloves, for reference) is maxed out by the Surge's size.

Portability


The flip side of large, easy to use tools is portability. It is basically too large and too heavy for daily carry. Only those that can and will wear a belt sheath will find the Surge to live handily on their person. Otherwise, it pretty much has to live in a toolbox or glove compartment or luggage for extended use. Of course, for short periods wearing it loose or pocket clipped (with the aftermarket Leatherman pocket clip) will work too.

Belt holster carry is the only reasonable and sustainable way to carry the large Surge with any regularity. If your life and community allow this  it is a handy option.
Belt holster carry is the only reasonable and sustainable way to carry the large Surge with any regularity. If your life and community allow this, it is a handy option.

Construction Quality


We expect excellent construction quality in Leatherman brand tools. The Surge is exactly what we would expect. Further, because of its large size and flouting of weight limits, the materials and tools are thick and stiff. Surge pivots and springs are as tight as those on the Editors' Choice Leatherman Charge TTI but the steel is even thicker and more robust.

For heavier work like bending sheet metal  the sturdy construction and large form-factor of the Surge is just the ticket.
For heavier work like bending sheet metal, the sturdy construction and large form-factor of the Surge is just the ticket.

Best Applications


This is the tool for frequent users and those that can carry the mass and bulk with little penalty. We like all the features and the carefully thought out ergonomics. The main drawback is in portability. Up past about 8 or 9 ounces routine carry is tough. Our Editors' Choice is right at that threshold and feels heavy in daily carry. The Surge weighs over 12 oz.

For extensive wiring  the replaceable wire cutter jaws of the Surge can be maintained to stay serviceable indefinitely.
For extensive wiring, the replaceable wire cutter jaws of the Surge can be maintained to stay serviceable indefinitely.

Value


For the quality and function, you will pay. The Surge is in the same price range as the Editors' Choice Charge TTI, but doesn't include the fancier materials and extra bits of the award winner. You pay for the size and mass and strength of the Surge.

For quick screwdriving tasks  the Surge is great. For more work like this  check out the Top Pick SOG Baton Q4.
For quick screwdriving tasks, the Surge is great. For more work like this, check out the Top Pick SOG Baton Q4.

Conclusion


The Leatherman Surge has a narrow appeal but fills an important niche. Like the SOG PowerAssist, it is heavy and large but very functional. "Portable tools" exist along a spectrum, with portability on one end and "tool-ability" at the other end. The Surge is nearly a full-function tool that is sort of portable. At the other end of the spectrum is something like the Top Pick Gerber Dime. The Dime is essentially a keychain decoration that does a few tasks for you.


Jediah Porter