Leatherman Signal

In Review by Jawor | Leave a Comment

Leatherman Signal, the newest invention of the American multitool producer is the first tool intended for the enthusisasts of outdoor-survival activities. If I had to pick four words with which it could be described, they would be: a pocket survival kit.

Design

Scales

The scales were made from steel covered with a black DLC (diamond like coating) layer. The coating has worn off in a few places, but it is a typical effect of use. At first, the tool might appear to be somehow raw, but with more use Leatherman Signal turned out to be surprisingly comfortable, to which contributed such factors as the profile of scales and rounding of their edges.

Clip

On the side of the Signal there is a steel clip which secures the tool from falling out from your pockets. Should the need for it arise, the clip can be also easily detached.

Tools

The Leatherman Signal is composed features a variety of tools:

Blade

The seven-centimetre-long blade made from 420HC steel was equipped with a thumbhole for single-handed opening. The knife retains sharpness decently, although (obviously) it requires sharpening every once in a while. The combo profile of the blade can seem like a dubious choice, however, in this case this solution turned out to be quite useful. The short, serrated segment was indispensable while cutting ropes which the smooth (and sharpened) part of the blade couldn’t do. A liner lock prevents the blade from being accidentally closed.

Saw

The saw in the Leatherman Signal has ~6,5cm length, and it is opened with a small fingernail recess (which can be used even while wearing thin gloves) and can deal perfectly with cutting wood – e.g. medium-sized branches. Similarly to the blade, the saw is locked with a liner lock. Interestingly, the top edge of the saw wasn’t additionally grinded, and thanks to that it can be used as a striker to the attached flint (thus preventing us from using the main blade).

Flint

The flint in a plastic casing, which despite its short (~4,2cm) rod fulfils its role – it allows to start a fire. Despite its small size, it can be still used even while wearing thin gloves. Due to the thinness of the rod it should be treated as an emergency source of fire. The number of uses is increased thanks to the thoughtfully designed rod mounting, which can be turned allowing for an equal use from each side of the rod, but the number of uses still remains very limited.

Thanks to the clever design, the plastic casing of the flint features a small whistle which can be also used for signalisation in emergency situations.

Sharpener

A diamond sharpener with a medium gradation. Due to the small dimensions and size of the grain it is suitable for restoring the blade to “functional” sharpness (which is crucial while outdoors). Because of the size dictated by the overall design, the plastic grip can be held with only two fingers, though it is enough to sharpen a knife. Interestingly, the sharpener was profiled in a way, which allows also for sharpening of the serrated part of the blade.

Pliers

The massive pliers were equipped with replaceable wire cutters made from 154CM steel. Due to their size they will deal with difficult tasks (though performing a lot of simple tasks – e.g. cutting many thin wires – won’t be as comfortable as with pliers equipped with a spring).

Hammer

Hammer, which despite its inconspicuous size is suitable for planting tent stakes as well as crushing bricks.

Locking system

Additionally, in this part of the Signal there is a small locking system preventing any accidental opening of the tool (interestingly, this feature isn’t mentioned in the manual). It is the only element of the multitool, which stopped working as expected. As a result of breaking bricks, the locking system was dented lightly (approximately at a third of its length), due to which it can’t be fully locked up. It has no effect on use – while locked (as much as it is now possible) the Signal can be still opened with a bit of force, whilst not opening by itself. (However, if the damage would turn out to be problematic, it will be solved by Leatherman’s 25-year warranty.)

Carabiner

Next to the hammer two box wrench sockets were placed, a 1/4” one and a 3/16” one (on the other side) which can be also be used as a 1/4” hex bit driver.
Below, a carabiner was placed allowing to attach the Leatherman Signal tool to a loop or webbing. Thanks to its design, the carabiner can be also used as a bottle opener.

Within one of the arms of the Signal are the three remaining tools:

Awl

Similarly to the other inner tools it is locked with a back lock (which also holds the sharpener). It is the only internal tool which allows for closing the casing while using – with a deployed opener or screwdriver closing of the tool is made impossible by the hammer, therefore you have to operate with an incompletely folded multitool. It is not something uncomfortable or hindering work, but it is difficult not to mention it.

Bit driver

Next to the awl there is a bit driver, additionally included in the set are a flat-blade and a Phillips screwdriver tip. It is a comfortable solution, but due to the size of the screwdrivers from the set they won’t be able to reach all screws. (You could argue that a screwdriver isn’t the most outdoor tool, however, (similarly to wire cutters) it is one of the multitool’s elements which simply have to be present in a multitool 😉 ).

Can opener

A can opener with a wire stripper. It works.

Case

Included in the set there is also a simple, velcro-closed, nylon holster of questionable quality. I didn’t use it – I preferred carrying the Signal in my pockets using a clip.

Our thoughts

It cannot be denied, that the Leatherman Signal is a large and quite heavy multitool, whichisn’t very suitable for typical daily use due to its “specialist” set of tools. On the other hand, it wasn’t designed for it – it has to prove itself primarily in outdoor conditions, which it does wonderfully.

A knife, a hammer, a saw, an awl, a screwdriver. A set of tools most useful during activities happening away from civilisation. And when we add to it an emergency flint and a whistle, as well as a miniature sharpener we get a few emergency capabilities which could be useful during nearly any excursion.

On the other hand, if the Signal had to be used during longer trips, it could also use a pair of scissors. Without them it will be difficult even to cut your fingernails while through a (not necessarily) distant trail. In this aspect the Leatherman Charge performs better – it doesn’t have a flint, whistle or a sharpener, but in the wider array of tools are included scissors and a file (and a source of fire or a whistle should be still owned separately, so if you lose your multitool you won’t lose everything).

Moreover, considering the high price of the Signal it is strange, that the producer, Leatherman, didn’t install a blade made from better steel – e.g. 154CM. 420HC performs well, but at this price end you could expect something better…

Summary

Initially I had mixed feelings and I was under the impression, that the Signal is more of a cool (and expensive) gadget rather than a useful tool, however, while using it turned out that the new Leatherman tool has a lot to offer. The built-in set of tools makes it so the Signal performs very well during any sort of trips and shorter excursions. On the other hand, the size and a lack of scissors make it so, that it may not be the best choice for longer trips or “travelling around the world”. I don’t know however, whether it is a con, or rather a characteristic of a tool with a strongly outdoor profile and a limited space for tools, in which it would be difficult to fit in something else…

Special thanks to Militaria.pl, the Polish distributor of Leatherman, for giving us a chance to test the Leatherman Signal multitool!

~Jawor

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About the Author

Jawor

Hikes since he learnt to walk. Happy to spend hours discussing jackets, backpacks and other gear. Caver, diver and a leader of the Gear Insider project.

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