When you need a multi tool that can stand up to hard use day after day you go to the heavy duty category. For Leatherman, that means the Surge. Sitting firmly in the heavyweight division, the Surge aims to be the multi tool handymen, contractors, and others who work with their hands proudly wear on their belts.
Today’s Leatherman Surge review will cover the basic tool loadout, its build quality, as well as our thoughts on its overall usefulness. We’ll find out if this has the staying power to be a champ or if it’s just another contender.
- 1 Leatherman Surge Overview
- 2 Leatherman Surge Tools
- 3 Leatherman Surge Review
- 4 Leatherman Surge accessories and extras
- 5 Leatherman Surge Vs Comparable tools
- 6 Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Leatherman Surge
Leatherman Surge Overview
The Leatherman Surge was introduced in 2005 and redesigned in 2013. It’s decidedly heavy for a multi tool, weighing in at 12.5 oz at just 4.5 inches in length. At first glance you can tell the Surge was built to last. The tools are larger and more robust than you’d find on many other full sized multi tools and the handles themselves seem thicker as well.
The Surge packs 21 tools into very tight quarters and is one of the most ‘jack of all trades’ multi tools we’ve seen. This is the multi tool you take when you know you need a toolbox but just can’t fit it in your back pocket. Leatherman is clearly swinging for the fences with this beast of a tool, let’s find out how well they did.
Leatherman Surge Tools
The Surge has a very traditional tool loadout for a multi tool, with a few modern tweaks. Leatherman took pains to make the most breakable and consumable parts easily and inexpensively replaceable. For a tool designed to be used everyday by folks who work hard, this is an excellent feature to have. It also has a nice mix of internal and external access tools to maximize the available tool space.
One thing we love is that all the tools on the Surge are locking. Many multi tools, even full sized ones, neglect this feature to cut costs and save on weight. In our opinion this is one feature that should be mandatory on any high quality multi tool.
Pliers, Wire Cutters and Crimpers
There are both needlenose and regular pliers on the Leatherman Surge and we can say with confidence that they didn’t skimp on this tool. The pliers are well aligned, provide firm purchase, and the large size of the Surge really lets you apply torque on whatever you’re grabbing. Word of warning though, if you’re accustomed to using a smaller tool it can take some practice to get used to the sheer size of the Surge.
The wire cutters make use of Leatherman’s excellent removable design. They combine regular, hard wire, and stranded cutters all in one. The stranded cutters in particular work very well, adding a small circular opening that lets you cleanly cut the wire without crushing the delicate inner strands. We’re big fans of replaceable tool parts, and Leatherman has done an excellent job designing these.
The wire crimper on the Surge is located at the joint below the pliers. It does a good enough job crimping wires up to a reasonable thickness and is relatively easy to get used to using.
There are two knife blades on the Surge, a clip point smooth blade and a serrated blade with a very steep modified sheepsfoot style. These are both made of 420HC stainless steel and come from the factory quite sharp. 420HC is a good material for most multi tool blades as it holds an edge well but is still easy to sharpen.
As you would expect given the Surge’s heavy duty design both of these blades are a bit longer and larger than you would find on another multi tool. Each comes in at about 3.1 inches long and work very well for their intended purposes. The serrated blade in particular is great at sawing through things like rope, rubber tubing, cordage, and styrofoam. We usually find ourselves carrying a folding knife in addition to a multi tool, but the blades on the Surge are large enough to make that unnecessary.
The scissors on the Surge are quite a bit larger than those you find on most multi tools. They can’t take the place of a full size pair of kitchen or fabric shears but they do a great job cutting paper, fishing line, twine, and even thick plastic packaging. We’ve had trouble before with spring action scissors breaking their springs but the one on the Surge has so far held up great to frequent use.
Saw, Diamond Coated/Wood/Metal File and Blade Exchanger
The Surge comes with a double sided file and saw attached to a blade exchanger. Instead of a traditional saw blade and separate file Leatherman has put a blade exchanger system in place to allow you to switch out your saw blades. Saws and files are just behind wire cutters as the most frequently worn out tools on a multi tool.
The file attachment has a metal/wood file on one side and a diamond coated file on the other. The standard file does as good a job as any at filing rough edges off pipes, sheet steel, cut wood, and other materials. The diamond file is an excellent addition to Leatherman’s tool lineup. It allows you to quickly touch up the edge on your other tools. It does a good job putting a field edge on axes, knives, and other tools but we wouldn’t recommend you use it as your sole sharpening tool.
The saw on the Surge cuts well but has more give than a standard saw blade. This is understandable given how thin it is but we think Leatherman gets a pass on this one given the benefits of a replaceable saw blade on a heavy duty utility tool.
Screwdrivers and Bit Driver
There are three screwdrivers on the Surge, two traditional drivers and an exchangeable bit driver. The traditional screwdrivers are both flathead and come in a large and small size. These are well made and do a good job turning a screw. You can use the larger blade for light prying but we wouldn’t recommend you push it.
The bit driver uses Leatherman’s proprietary 3/16 bit fitting instead of the standard ¼. We’re never fans of proprietary systems on multi tools but Leatherman does at least offer you a workaround. More on that in the accessories section.
Wire Stripper, Bottle and Can Opener
The bottle and can opener on the Leatherman Surge uses the classic design familiar to multi tool and swiss army knife users. It has a nice sharp blade that easily goes through cans and opens glass bottles well.
There is also a small wire stripper notch on the edge of the can opener tool. It does a good enough job at cutting through the coating on a wire but is somewhat fiddly to work with. In our experience the knife blade works just as well as the wire stripper and gives you a lot more blade to work on to boot.
Awl w/ Thread Loop and Ruler
The last two tools on the Surge are also the ones most people only use as an afterthought. The Surge has an awl with a threaded loop that allows you to punch through leather and other materials. It has a nice rounded edge and is significantly thicker than the main knife blade. If you aren’t sure how to use an awl, check out our previous article about them.
The ruler runs along the edges of both handles and measures 8 inches or 19 centimeters. It’s useful for measuring screws, small wooden cuts, and other small scale projects.
Leatherman Surge Review
Leatherman took everything they’ve learned over decades in the multi tool business and combined it in the Surge. It’s a tool that won’t let you down, no matter what kind of abuse you put it through. The knives are larger and sturdier. The pliers are some of the best we’ve ever seen in a multi tool. Everything about it has been taken to 11. Unfortunately, this may be it’s only real downside. The Surge is simply too much tool for a lot of people.
The Surge is a heavy duty tool for people who have heavy duty needs. It has excellent tools, a great set of replaceable pieces and is built to very high standards. It’s also a large, high dollar, and very heavy tool, especially when compared to its closest competitors.
Leatherman Surge Pros – Things We Liked
- Excellent build quality
- Lots of tools
- Replaceable wire cutters
- Tool exchanger saw/file system
- Large knife blades
- All lockable tools
- Extremely useful pliers
- Seriously rugged
Leatherman Surge Cons – Things We Didn’t Like
- Kind of pricey
- Could be too much for most EDCer’s
Who’s The Leatherman Surge For?
The Leatherman Surge is designed for people who work hard every day. It’s built for contractors, miners, loggers, and folks who need a full tool box on their belt at all times. It’s been over engineered to stand up to that kind of use and abuse over the long term.
If you just need a multi tool to turn the occasional screw or do a little adjustment on your car the Surge might be too much for you. At just over ¾ of a pound you can definitely feel it on your belt. Unless you need a tool with this level of performance and durability you’ll probably want to look at a different multi tool.
Leatherman Surge accessories and extras
We’re firmly of the opinion that any tool can be made better with the addition of accessories. The Leatherman Surge provides more opportunities for this than most multi tools. Here’s a basic overview of the most common Surge accessories, consumable parts, and add ons.
Sheath / Holster / Pouch – The Surge comes standard with a black nylon belt holster. If you prefer that old school look you can also purchase a handsome leather sheath from Leatherman. Both work well but be sure your belt is cinched tight. The weight of the Surge makes it drag on your pants unless you’re careful.
Bit Kit/Extender – One of the best accessories you can get for a Leatherman tool is the bit kit and bit extender set. The Surge includes a single double ended bit out of the box. The bit kit adds several more in various sizes but the bit extender is the real game changer. Not only does it give you more room to work with but it allows your Surge to accept standard ¼ inch bits.
Pocket Clip – There are both pocket clips and lanyards rings available for the Surge, though we doubt most people will be using the clip. The Surge comes in over at ¾ of a pound and even the best quality pocket clip has a tendency to fail at containing that much weight. The lanyard ring is a great add on for a tool like the Surge. It allows you to keep it from dropping into mud, water, and other environmental hazards while using it.
Replacement Parts – Both the wire cutters and the saw/file blades are consumable and replaceable parts on the Surge. Some people like to portray this as a cash grab by multi tool companies but we think it’s a great move overall. These are some of the first parts likely to wear out on your multi tool. It’s much easier and more cost effective to replace the parts than to replace or repair the tool.
Different Colors – The Surge is available in two color options: Stainless steel and black oxide. This one basically comes down to your style sensibilities. Both finishes provide excellent protection against corrosion and damage, though the black oxide does show scratches a bit more than the stainless.
There is also a special edition Silver & Black Surge available. It’s basically a combination of the two available color choices in a stylish tool.
Leatherman Surge Vs Comparable tools
The Leatherman Surge is an excellent multi tool, but it does have a lot of competition. Keep reading below to find out how the Surge compares to other popular multi tools.
Surge Vs Wave+
The Wave+ is Leatherman’s flagship multi tool. In a lot of ways it’s the more everyday version of the Surge. It has an almost identical tool loadout but comes in at half the Surge’s weight. Both multi tools are almost the same price but everything about the Wave+ is just a little less robust and rugged than the Surge.
Don’t get us wrong, the Wave+ is an excellent multi tool. It just doesn’t have the same heavy duty design that the Surge does. If you’re looking for a very high quality everyday carry tool the Wave+ won’t let you down.
Surge Vs Rebar
The Rebar could best be described as Leatherman’s entry level full size tool. It’s usually about half the price of the Surge but has a similar design philosophy. You can immediately see the differences when you compare the two. The Rebar doesn’t have a bit driver and only has internal access tools. All in all it’s a good tool, but it just can’t stand up to the overall quality and utility of the Surge.
If you’re looking for a great tool on a budget, the Rebar is a great option.
Surge Vs Wingman
The Leatherman Wingman is a full size multi tool designed to allow anyone to try out multi tools without making a big investment. It’s an attractive tool with a useful set of 14 tools. It definitely can’t compare to the Surge in tool quality, build quality, or just general quality but at less than half the price of the Surge you can’t really expect it to.
The Wingman isn’t really in the same league as the Surge. The Surge is a heavy duty tool built to the highest possible standards. The Wingman is an entry level tool that provides a useful set of tools without breaking your budget.
Surge Vs Charge
The Charge, and especially the Charge TTI, is Leatherman’s top of the line general purpose multi tool. It has an excellent set of tools including a bit driver, removable cutters, and external opening knives, saw, and file. It’s about the same size as the Surge but weighs considerably less.
If you need a heavy duty tool to put up with hard use daily, go for the Surge. If you’re just looking for one of the best EDC multi tools on the market you should check out the Charge.
Surge Vs Super Tool 300
The Super Tool 300 is the current incarnation of Leatherman’s original heavy duty multi tool, the Super Tool. It has a good mix of basic tools, removable wire cutters, and a lot of the functionality of the Surge. It costs a bit less than the Surge but provides most of the same utility.
The Super Tool 300 is a great tool but definitely can’t compare to the Surge’s rugged build quality. This redesigned classic is a great tool but probably won’t do as well as the Surge in heavy use.
Surge Vs Signal
Leatherman released the Signal with a single purpose in mind, wilderness survival. It has a removable sharpener/fire starter and all the included tools are designed around camping, hiking, and bushcrafting. It provides a lot of useful features and is an excellent tool to have when you’re out in the backcountry. It’s also significantly lighter than the Surge, an important consideration when you’re talking about hiking and camping.
These tools can’t really be compared. They’re both great tools, but neither fulfills the same needs the other would. If you’re an outdoorsman, go with the signal. If you need a heavy duty building tool, check out the Surge.
Surge Vs MUT
The MUT is another narrow purpose multi tool from Leatherman. It’s built specifically with firearm maintenance in mind, specifically the M4/M16/AR15. It has all the tools you’d need to field strip and work on your rifle and includes some nice features to get the job done.
Unless you frequently find yourself needing to scour out carbon buildup you probably won’t find much use out of the MUT. For general purposes, go with the Surge.
Surge Vs OHT
The Leatherman OHT is a uniquely designed multi tool that allows you to use every tool on it, including the pliers, with one hand. The pliers slide out the top through a locking mechanism and are spring action for easy release. All tools can be quickly flipped out from the external access handles. It’s a neat design that works well, but overall the OHT isn’t as sturdy as the Surge.
For people who frequently find themselves in need of a third hand the OHT is a great little tool. For folks who need a tool that can take a beating and keep going the Surge is the way to go.
Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Leatherman Surge
The Leatherman Surge is undeniably one of the best multi tools on the market today. It’s extraordinarily well built, packed with useful tools, and combines all of Leatherman’s newest and best innovations into one tool. It does have some downsides though. The Surge is a beast of a tool. It’s big, it’s heavy, and it might be too much tool for a lot of people.
For many EDCer’s and everyday multi tool enthusiasts the Surge is simply overkill. For those that find themselves in need of a tool that won’t quit no matter how hard you work it, the Leatherman Surge is an excellent choice.