Leatherman Wave+ Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry options
Cons: Proprietary bit driver, no pocket clip included
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Leatherman makes and sells multi-tools at many incremental steps along a long continuum. At the top of the heap is the Editors Choice Leatherman Charge TTI. The materials in the Charge are top notch while the feature set and included accessories are comprehensive. The differences are few but important. Below we'll elaborate on the differences. For now, know that the Wave does almost all that the Charge does, especially if you source some of the aftermarket accessories.
In some ways, the Wave+ has all the features you would want. There are pliers, scissors, wire cutters, two blades, two saws, a can/bottle opener, and a plethora of screwdriver options. The wire cutters are replaceable, the blades are good, and the screwdriver set is somewhat customizable. Using Leatherman's proprietary bit driver format, one can acquire almost all the driver bits you might desire. We wish that the bit driver was more readily compatible with 1/4" standard bits, but Leatherman has chosen to save some space (and sell more of their branded accessories) with the proprietary design. By our estimation, the one fixed flat-head screwdriver built into the Wave+ could be eliminated to make room for a full-sized 1/4" bit driver. This, plus making the pliers somehow lockable, would make the Wave/Charge family of multi-tools perfect. There is no such perfect multi-tool available, so we settle for one of the many excellent next tier options. The Wave+ has most of the features you could want at a pretty affordable price.
Upgrading from the Wave+ gets you better steel in the main blade, a cordage cutting hook on the back of the serrated blade, and many more bits. Otherwise, the Wave is exactly the same as Leatherman's current top of the line product. The feature set of the Best Buy Wave+ is about the same as that on the much larger Leatherman Surge. Our primary "function" wish with the Wave is that its bit driver should better accommodate standard 1/4" bits. Leatherman has its reasons for including its proprietary bit configuration, but we fear that those reasons are more business-oriented than practicality-based.
We've had absolutely no issues with the construction quality of the Wave+. All pivots are tight, and the overall build is stiff enough for all but the most stubborn of rusted tasks. The locks work reliably and the blades stay out of the way when using the pliers. And vice versa.
The Wave+ is built similarly to Leatherman's top of the line products. All are assembled with threaded fasteners (instead of rivets) and all have just the right amount of friction built into the various hinges. The Editors' Choice Charge uses better steel in its main blade, and titanium for the handle, but is otherwise the same as the Wave. The Leatherman Surge feels stronger than the Wave, if only because it is so much larger.
The Wave+ strikes a balance between size, weight, portability, and ergonomics. Some of the functions would be better if they were larger, but some would actually decline in functionality with increased size. For instance, when using the knife or saw blades, we wouldn't want the handle to be any larger. The pliers could be a little larger, and the handles are prone to pinching when there is something small between the pliers' jaws.
In terms of ergonomics, the Wave+ and the Charge are exactly the same. If anything, the smooth external plates of the Wave are a little more comfortable in some conditions than the texture on the Charge. The main ergonomic upgrade that could be made to the Wave+ would be for Leatherman to make a tool with the functions of the Wave and the hinges of the new "Free" series of products. For 2019 Leatherman came out with a line of multi tools that have free hinging pivots and tools are held closed with magnets and springs. Currently, the top of the line "Free" product has fewer features than the Wave. We are betting that there will be a Wave/Free hybrid that integrates the ergonomic advantages of the Free with the features of the Wave.
Anytime a multi-tool knife blade opens from "inside" the folded pliers handles, the working edge of the blade is in line with the center of said handle. Better ergonomics are available when the knife blades open from outside the closed pliers handles, as they do on this tool. The blade is both easier to deploy and better in use.
Leatherman ships the Wave+ with a simple nylon belt sheath. You can also purchase an aftermarket pocket clip and/or lanyard ring. At around 8 ounces, the Wave+ is pretty typical in mass for a full-function multi-tool. The external profile of the closed Wave is smooth and clean, catching minimally on your pocket or pocket contents.
A growing subset of multi tools come with integrated pocket clips. Most of our test team prefers this method of multi-tool carry. That the Wave+ can be configured this way is welcome and appreciated. Those that prefer belt holstering their multi-tool will dig the simple sheath that is included. Carried loose in your pocket the Wave+ is pretty smooth but heavier than you'd wish. Of course, some are even heavier. The biggest products in our test are half-again the mass of the Leatherman Wave+.
We can't think of another situation in which an OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice product has a sibling that is essentially the same, but 60% of the price. Most users will not notice the trade-offs in the Wave+ as compared to the Charge TTI. But everyone will notice saving $60.
There's no mystery why Leatherman indicates that the Wave+ is its best-selling multi-tool. It is nearly perfect, and the next step up is much more expensive. The Leatherman Wave+ is exceeded by a couple of products, but not by much. Both of the tools that score better, overall, than the Wave also cost quite a bit more. You can't do better than to purchase the Wave+ for all kinds of multi-tool applications. Whether in your expedition repair kit or in your every day pocket, the Wave+ is optimized and handy.
— Jediah Porter