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

Leatherman Wave+ Review

A full-function tool from a great manufacturer at a reasonable price.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $100 List | $99.90 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry options
Cons:  Proprietary bit driver, no pocket clip included
Manufacturer:   Leatherman
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 17, 2019
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85
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 15
  • Functions - 40% 9
  • Ergonomics - 20% 8
  • Portability - 15% 7
  • Construction Quality - 25% 9

Our Verdict

Leatherman claims their Wave+ tool is their best selling product. This is with good reason. For the most part, it contains all the same features as the top-of-the-line Editors' Choice Leatherman Charge TTI at half the price. The materials are less flashy on the Wave, one of the blades is significantly different and Leatherman ships the Wave+ with minimal accessories while outfitting the Charge TTI with all the bells and whistles. Otherwise, though, the Wave+ is the same. The innovative external access to the blades and saws are the same, as is the presence of Leatherman's proprietary bit driver. The scissors of the Wave are tight and handy, and the ergonomics are on point. No tool that scores this high is as affordable. The value of the Wave+ earns it our Best Buy Award.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Leatherman Wave+
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $99.90 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$169.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$119.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$79.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$61.50 at Amazon
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Pros Comprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry optionsSophisticated, comprehensiveLarge, excellent construction, full-size functions, customizableCompact, light, with multiple carry options, smart, effective toolsBeefy and large, great pliers leverage and blades, assisted opening and externally accessed
Cons Proprietary bit driver, no pocket clip includedHeavy, expensiveHeavy and large; limited portability. Proprietary bit driver.Few featuresHeavy to carry, accessing non-blade tools is time consuming
Bottom Line A full-function tool from a great manufacturer at a reasonable price.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 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 Wave+ Leatherman Charge TTI Leatherman Surge Leatherman Skeletool CX SOG PowerAssist
Functions (40%)
10
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9
10
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10
10
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9
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7
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8
Ergonomics (20%)
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Portability (15%)
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7
Construction Quality (25%)
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Specs Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Charge... Leatherman Surge Leatherman... SOG PowerAssist
Number of Functions 18 + bits 19 + bits 21 7 16
Weight (ounces) 8.5 oz. 9.5 oz with case 8.8 oz 12.2 oz. 14.3 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 5 included/integrated. More available aftermarket for proprietary driver 1 integrated. Many bits included, with more available aftermarket for proprietary driver 4 included, 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 Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper Ruler, awl, wire stripper 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 x 0.7 4 x 0.8 4.5 x 0.8 4.3 x 0.6 4.6 x 0.8
Open Length (Pliers) (inches) 6.3 in 6.2 in 7.1in 6.2 in 7 in
Open Overall Length (Primary blade deployed) (inches) 6.9 in 7 in 7.6 in 6.8 in 7.5 in
Length of Primary Blade Effective Edge (inches) 2.8in 2.8 in 3.1 in 2.6 in 2.7 in

Our Analysis and Test Results

Leatherman makes 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.

Performance Comparison


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.

The Leatherman Wave+  as sold. Upgrade with a couple of accessories and you have nearly everything that's great about the Editors' Choice  all at a lower price.
The Leatherman Wave+, as sold. Upgrade with a couple of accessories and you have nearly everything that's great about the Editors' Choice, all at a lower price.

Functions


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.


As compared to the Editors' Choice Leatherman Charge TTI, the Wave+ is pretty similarly equipped. The Charge has better steel in its main blade, a cordage cutting hook on the back of the serrated blade, and comes with many more bits than the Wave. Otherwise, they are exactly the same. The feature set of the Best Buy Wave+ is about the same as that on the much larger Leatherman Surge.

Leatherman pliers do the job almost as well as dedicated pliers. Here  the Wave+ on a camper-improvement project.
Leatherman pliers do the job almost as well as dedicated pliers. Here, the Wave+ on a camper-improvement project.

Ergonomics


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 Leatherman Surge pliers are more handy and stronger, but the knife blades suffer on the Surge; the meaty handles require large hands for maximum pressure. As compared to the Top Pick Leatherman Crunch, the Wave pliers are less useful but the Wave blade orientation is much better.

One-handed  externally accessed blades are the only way to go on a high-end multi-tool now. Even budget options are including this excellent feature.
One-handed, externally accessed blades are the only way to go on a high-end multi-tool now. Even budget options are including this excellent feature.

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.

These four functions are accessible from the outside of the closed Wave+ pliers
These four functions are accessible from the outside of the closed Wave+ pliers

Portability


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.


Only the Charge TTI, Best Buy Leatherman Wingman, Leatherman Skeletool, and Gerber Crucial 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, the Leatherman Surge is even heavier. The Surge is half again the mass of the Wave+, clocking in at over 3/4 pound!

The Leatherman Wave+ comes with a belt sheath  but it is even better carried (in our opinion) with an aftermarket pocket clip.
The Leatherman Wave+ comes with a belt sheath, but it is even better carried (in our opinion) with an aftermarket pocket clip.

Construction Quality


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 the Charge and the Surge, both also from Leatherman. 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 overall feel of the Wave is similar to that of the Victorinox SwissTool and greatly exceeds the quality of the Best Buy Stanley 12-in-1.

Though small  the Wave+ scissors are handy  tight  and will cut anything the knife blade isn't suitable for.
Though small, the Wave+ scissors are handy, tight, and will cut anything the knife blade isn't suitable for.

Best Applications


We can't think of who shouldn't own the Leatherman Wave+. Of course, the Charge is better, but if you can afford the Charge, why not buy a Wave also? For your car or toolbox?

The proprietary bit driver on the Wave+ comes with one two-ended bit but can be accessorized with many more options.
The proprietary bit driver on the Wave+ comes with one two-ended bit but can be accessorized with many more options.

Value


We can't think of another situation in which an 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.

Conclusion


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.


Jediah Porter