Leatherman multi tools have long held a soft spot in the hearts of outdoorsy types and bushcrafters. The company is looking to take this relationship to the next level with the Signal, their first tool specifically designed for wilderness survival and backcountry camping.
Packing an impressive lineup of 19 tools, the Leatherman Signal might be The Tool to carry when you’re hiking, camping, or exploring. Our Leatherman Signal review will give you an overview of the tools in the Signal and let you know if this is a must have or just another sales gimmick.
Leatherman Signal Overview
The Leatherman Signal is one of the newest tools from the company, released in 2015. It was conceived as a survival/camping specific offering to add to Leatherman’s already impressive lineup of multi tools. It includes many of the standard tools you expect to find on a quality multi tool with the addition of a few wilderness focused items.
As far as form factor goes the Signal is pretty standard for full size multi tools. It comes in at 4.5 inches long folded and weighs about 7.5 oz. Many people automatically dismiss anything with a ‘survival’ tag on it. In the Signal’s case this would definitely be a mistake. Leatherman has applied their decades of experience in manufacturing and tool design to create something that’s actually pretty special.
Leatherman Signal Tools
The Signal is advertised as having 19 tools. This includes a nice combination of traditional tools and some wilderness specific twists designed to make it stand out. A standard butterfly open design, the Signal allows one handed opening of both the saw and knife blade without unfolding it. It also includes an awl with thread hole, bottle opener, can opener, plus a Leatherman bit driver.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Signal is the ability to remove some of the tools before use. These are a diamond file knife sharpener and combination ferrocerium rod/whistle. This gives you the ability to sharpen the knife blade of the Signal and then use it to spark a fire.
Pliers and Wire Cutters
The pliers on the Signal are only available with a needle nose point. You can see Leatherman’s attention to detail in them as they come to a very nice point and fit together perfectly. We found them to do a great job at grabbing hold of small objects like a stuck fish hook or embedded tent stake. They of course also have a serviceable regular plier point below the needle nose.
The overall design of the Signal’s frame really allows you to apply torque comfortably. Too many multi tools we review have knobby edges or weird geometries that make the pliers less capable than they should be.
The wire cutters use the latest removable metal blades and work very well for their intended purpose. They bite cleanly through light coated and uncoated wire, but don’t expect to be able to muscle your way through anything above about 12 awg.
Knife Blade and Diamond-coated Sharpener
The knife blade on the Signal is a combination blade with half straight and half serrated edge. It’s just under three inches long and has the modified sheepshead blade profile used on the Leatherman Wingman. It’s made using 420HC stainless steel and we noticed that it seemed a bit thicker than some of Leatherman’s other knife blades and works well for heavy tasks. It comes sharp from the factory and is easy to maintain.
Many modern multi tools include a diamond file but Leatherman has taken this a step further and actually put in a removable diamond sharpener. The benefit to this is that the Signal has the capability to sharpen itself. We found the sharpener to be serviceable for keeping an edge in the field but not precise or large enough for a real tear down sharpening.
The saw on the Signal is pretty standard as far as Leatherman tools go. It has a nice set of large teeth in a good cutting profile and cuts unidirectionally. This helps prevent it from getting stuck when you’re trying to saw through larger limbs. It works well at cutting through plastic pipes and does a great job of separating limbs of about two inches.
Hammer, Box Wrench, Bottle Opener and Carabiner
One of the most interesting features of the Leatherman Signal is the inclusion of a ridged hammer on one side of the frame. It gives you a reinforced point to strike down on and was actually pretty useful. We’ll admit, this ended up being one of our favorite features of the Signal. It isn’t much good for nails, but if you need to drive in a tent stake or knock a small wedge you can’t beat it. If a hammer is an important item for you then read our best hammer multi tool guide.
The bottle opener and carabiner are all of one piece. They both work well for their intended purpose and look sharp while doing it. If you often find yourself opening carabiners by accident you’ll be relieved to know Leatherman included a locking function on the Signal that works very well.
A really useful feature of the Signal is the box wrench built into the hammer surface. It allows you to turn 3/16 and ¼ inch hexagonal bolts or screws but will also accept screw bit. This is where we really found it to shine. You can apply significantly more torque this way to break loose stuck screws.
Safety Whistle and Ferrocerium Rod
The most survival specific part of the Signal, the bright yellow survival whistle and ferrocerium rod are pretty much only useful in an emergency. The whistle is very loud and could be heard at pretty long distances. The ferrocerium rod is small but produces copious sparks when struck with the back of the saw.
A lot of people look at things like this as a gimmick, but we found them to be genuinely useful. If you forget your lighter out on a camping trip having this fire starter with you is a godsend.
Awl, Wire Stripper, and Can Opener
The can opener attachment on the Leatherman Signal is pretty much identical to those on their other tools. It’s a classic design that works well and Leatherman took care in making it. The wire stripper notch on its base works well enough but the knife blade is just about as functional.
We really like the awl on the Signal. If you find yourself needing to add a notch to your belt or do some backwoods tailoring you won’t be disappointed in this little tool. It punches right through leather, thin wood, and other materials and the thread hole does a great job of pulling thread through with it.
We’ve been big fans of the industry push to replace traditional screwdrivers with bit drivers. It just makes sense. Leatherman doesn’t disappoint with the driver on the Signal. It comes standard with a double sided flat/phillips head bit in Leatherman’s proprietary bit size. The included bit will also fit right into the box wrench to really torque down on a stuck screw.
Leatherman Signal Review
Most of the survival tools we’ve seen before felt like a sales tactic. They’re either gaudy, cheaply made, or look way too ‘Tacticool’. The Leatherman Signal doesn’t fall into any of these categories. It looks just like any other multi tool. It’s only after you open it up and start to explore the tools Leatherman included that you see how well it combines everyday utility with valuable survival basics. The tool loadout will cover most of the standard needs a multi tool user has. It will turn screws and bolts, cut things, saw things, and open cans and bottles.
It’s the more survival specific stuff that really makes the Signal stand out. The two removable tools are made of yellow plastic and slot into the side of the tool’s handles. By all rights they should feel flimsy and you should constantly worry about them falling out. We had none of these reservations with the Signal. The plastic used is sturdy, the tools themselves work pretty well, and they both lock into place securely.
Is this the only thing you’ll need to survive in the wilderness? Definitely not. But it is a useful tool to have when out in the bush or in your office.
Leatherman Signal Pros – Things We Liked
- Excellent build quality
- Standard tools are well made and highly functional
- Hammer and box wrench combo
- Sturdiness of the knife
- Awl works well
- Leatherman 25 year warranty
Leatherman Signal Cons – Things We Didn’t Like
- Proprietary bit size
- Sharpener isn’t good enough for permanent use
- No pocket clip options
- Ferrocerium rod quickly wears out
Who’s The Leatherman Signal For?
The Leatherman Signal is designed with the outdoorsman, EDC enthusiast, and general preparedness minded individual in mind. The tools inside it are excellent for everyday tasks but definitely have a survival twist to their design.
If you’re just looking for the best multi tool for your money, look elsewhere. If you frequently find yourself in the backcountry or want to be prepared ‘just in case’, the Leatherman Signal could be the multi tool for you.
Leatherman Signal accessories and extras
Multi tools can always be made better with the addition of clips, sheaths, and add-ons right? The Signal is no exception, offering a variety of basic improvements and consumable replacements straight from Leatherman.
Sheath / Holster / Pouch – The Signal comes standard with a blade nylon belt sheath. It holds it well and sits firmly on your belt but isn’t quite as attractive as Leatherman’s old school leather pouches.
Bit Kit – The bit kit is a real game changer for Leatherman multi tools. It includes a variety of useful bits but also comes with an extender arm that allows your multi tool to accept standard ¼ inch bits. If you’re anything like us you probably have a drawer in your tool box filled to the brim with leftover bits from Christmas gifts, old tools, and broken screwdriver sets. The extender lets you put these to good use.
Pocket Clip – At the moment Leatherman doesn’t offer any compatible pocket clip for the Signal. This is honestly one of our biggest gripes about the tool. Belt carry works well and the included carabiner will even let it dangle from your belt loops, but some people just really like keeping their tools in their pockets.
Replacement Parts – Leatherman covers all their products with a 25 warranty and will absolutely honor it. If you should have your multi tool fail because of a defect get in touch with them, they’ll do their best to make it right.
One of the few downsides we saw with the Signal was the speed with which the ferrocerium rod was used up. Leatherman responded to this and offers affordable replacements that pop right in.
Different Colors – The Signal is available in three different colors/finishes. These are stainless steel, black DLC, and a very handsome black and tan. The handles are either black or tan in every configuration but the tools can be either black or stainless.
Leatherman Signal Vs Comparable tools
The Leatherman Signal is a great multi tool, but how does it compare to its biggest competitors? Keep reading our Leatherman Signal review to find out.
|Top Top||LEATHERMAN, Signal Camping Multitool with Fire Starter, Hammer and Emergency Whistle, Stainless Steel with Nylon Sheath||Prime||Buy on Amazon|
|Top Top||LEATHERMAN, Wave Plus Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters, Spring-Action Scissors and Nylon Sheath, Built in the USA, Stainless Steel||Prime||Buy on Amazon|
|Top Top||LEATHERMAN, MUT Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters and Firearm Tools, Black with MOLLE Brown Sheath||Prime||Buy on Amazon|
|Top Top||LEATHERMAN, Skeletool Lightweight Multitool with Combo Knife and Bottle Opener, Stainless Steel||Prime||Buy on Amazon|
|Top Top||LEATHERMAN - Surge Multitool, Stainless Steel with Nylon Sheath||Prime||Buy on Amazon|
|Top Top||LEATHERMAN, Charge Plus TTi Titanium Multitool with Scissors and Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters, Stainless Steel, Built in the USA||Prime||Buy on Amazon|
Signal Vs Wave+
The Leatherman Wave+ is the company’s current flagship multi tool. It has excellent tools in an attractive package at a price point very similar to the Signal’s. All of its tools lock open and several major tools are one handed opening, something we’re always a fan of.
This one basically comes down to what you’re looking for in a multi tool. The Wave+ offers a few more tools, in very useful configurations, than the Signal does but the Signal has all those neat wilderness features. If you’re just looking for a high quality EDC multi tool go with the Wave+. If you’re more preparedness minded, check out the Signal.
Signal Vs MUT
The Leatherman MUT has a very similar body design to the Signal but a vastly different tool loadout. The MUT is designed specifically as a companion tool to soldiers, law enforcement, and firearms enthusiasts who frequently use an M4/M16/AR15. Both tools are part of a recent trend at Leatherman towards creating more task-specific multi tools.
If you need to clean and adjust your rifle the MUT is an excellent tool to have on hand. Otherwise, go with the Signal.
Read our Leatherman MUT review
Signal Vs Skeletool
The Skeletool is a stripped down, lightweight multi tool designed to go everywhere with you. It has about half the total tools of the Signal and weighs significantly less. It’s a great little tool, but it definitely doesn’t provide the same kind of backwoods utility the Signal does.
The Skeletool is great to keep clipped to your backpack or work bag, but it doesn’t really compete directly with the Signal as far as features goes. Read our Leatherman Skeletool review.
Signal Vs Surge
The Surge is kind of like the Leatherman Wave+’s big brother. It has most of the same tools just in a bigger, heavier duty package. It was built to put up with hard use over a long period of time. It’s a great multi tool for builders, contractors, and others who frequently find themselves needing an extra sturdy tool during their daily job.
The Surge is a great tool, but like most of the tools on this list it lacks the survival specific features that make the Signal work so well. It’s also a lot heavier than the Signal, not something you want to be lugging around in the backcountry.
Signal Vs Charge TTI
The Charge TTI is Leatherman’s top of the line multi tool offering and arguably one of the best multi tools on the market today. It’s highly corrosion resistant, lightweight, and has an excellent loadout of high quality tools. It’s also almost twice as expensive as the Signal.
The Charge TTI is undeniably nicer than the Signal, but they can’t really be said to be direct competitors. The Signal is tailor made for wilderness survival and the tools it offers for this task can’t be matched even by a multi tool as excellent as the Charge TTI.
Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Leatherman Signal
In what we hope is a continuing trend towards purpose specific multi tools, Leatherman has done a great job with their first survival oriented tool. The Leatherman Signal combines useful traditional tools with well thought out survival additions. All of these features were put together with Leatherman’s signature craftsmanship and attention to detail.
If you’re looking for a way to combine several parts of your EDC into one, the Leatherman Signal is an excellent way to do it.
Let us know what you think of our Leatherman Signal review in the comments section, or add any information you think our readers should know before buying one.
Rating: 4.7 Stars Out of 5.0