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Reviews > Knives > Multi-tools > Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool > Test Report by Richard Lyon
LEATHERMAN SIGNAL MULTITOOL
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report June 16, 2019
Field Report August 26, 2019
Long Term Report October 10, 2019
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 73 years oldINITIAL REPORT - June 16, 2019
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 210 lb (93 kg)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains
I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 feet (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Though always looking for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Many of my backcountry trips are focused on flyfishing opportunities.
The Signal multitool is new but its manufacturer is not. Since its founding more than thirty-five years ago Tim Leatherman's surname has almost become synonymous with multitools for everyday and backcountry use. If you need a pocket-sized tool for a particular outdoor activity, you can likely find it at Leatherman. The Signal has nineteen tools in a pocket-sized package. As shown in the photo to the right on the left arm, from top to bottom: hammer [straight edge at the top], 3/16 in [4.8 mm] box wrench [the hexagonal hole], 1/4 in [6.4 mm] box wrench [the front part of the top, just under the hammer], carabiner/bottle opener, and saw blade. On the right arm, top to bottom: can/bottle opener, large bit driver, awl with thread, knife. In the center, top to bottom: needlenose pliers, regular pliers, wire cutters, hard wire cutters [both wire cutters are replaceable], electrical crimpers [the tiny space between the two arms, just below the pliers' head]. Shown separately: right, sharpener [stored in the right arm] left, safety whistle and ferrocerium rod, the latter on the bottom [stored in the right arm] [Both are visible in the top photo.]. A powerhouse tool kit ingeniously set in something that will fit in your pocket. Or, if you prefer, clip on your belt - one arm has a clip for that purpose [visible in the top photo]; also the sheath has a belt loop.
The Signal is made of 420HC stainless steel and is available with arms in seven different colors. According to the website, it can also be customized with the buyer's images or patterns. Mine is in Aqua. A heavy-duty nylon sheath is included.
Manufacturer: Leatherman Tool Group, Inc., Portland, Oregon, Leatherman.com
Listed closed length: 4.5 in / 11.4 cm
Measured length: closed, 4.4 in [11.2 cm], extended in plier mode, 6.8 in [17.3 cm]
Listed weight: 7.5 oz / 213 g
Measured weight: Tool, 7.6 oz [215 g], sheath, 1.25 oz [35 g]
Warranty: "If it doesn't [give you many years of dependable service], we will gladly repair or replace it, at our discretion, with one of equal or greater value under our 25-year guarantee." Abuse and alterations are excluded.
MSRP: $119.95 US
TRYING IT OUT
Multitools are fun. I enjoyed playing with the Signal. I sampled the following tools:
Hammer - done with the tool closed up and my hand wrapped around it.
Screwdrivers - really neat. The bit driver comes with a Phillips bit mounted, which can be turned around to get a standard bit.
Ferrocerium rod - scraped against the straight underside of the saw blade for a spark.
Can/bottle opener, carabiner/bottle opener, knife, saw, both pliers, both wire cutters, whistle, and both box wrenches work the ways I intuited they would.
At first I couldn't figure out exactly how to detach the whistle and sharpener, or to replace the whistle. The printed instructions that accompanied the product, which are not specific to the Signal, use pictures rather than text and were not decipherable at first. But I eventually figured it out. That's my only complaint. I expect, however, that with practice these minor operations will become second nature.
The foldout tools on the left arm lock in place; an easily operated latch is used to return them to their storage cubbyholes. One very useful feature is that the saw and knife blades are accessible without having to open the tool. This can be done one-handed.
As has been true with every Leatherman product that I have owned over the years, all workmanship is sound and faultless. This product radiates solidity, strength, and utility.
FIELD REPORT - August 26, 2019
I have taken the Leatherman Signal on many day hikes, an overnight service trip in the Gallatin Range, and a four-day hut-to-hut excursion in the Transylvanian Alps, Romania. [The last of these was abbreviated by a minor injury and brutal weather conditions.] I've used the hammer, both screwdrivers, can and bottle opener, knife, saw, needlenose pliers, whistle, and hard wirecutter features of this functional multitool. A few of the more noteworthy and unusual applications are discussed below. Screwdrivers, can and bottle opener, knife, and whistle performed their respective tasks well and as expected, all on routine uses.
The hammer has been surprisingly useful around the house for tapping in picture hooks and small nails, and for gentle taps to dislodge sticky contents of small containers. In the backcountry it's stout enough for tent stakes in hard ground, but not for heavy-duty trail maintenance work on fence posts. The tool body is long enough to get a reliable grip for smaller targets, but the head is small, in my opinion too small for hard pounding. Despite this limitation I consider the hammer an ingenious and functional use of what otherwise might be wasted space.
Some of my trail work included removing and replacing barbed wire. The hard wire cutters performed the former task admirably. After a couple hours' use I noticed no degradation of sharpness or cutting ability, attesting to the durability of this feature.
The needlenose pliers were pressed into service as emergency forceps when I failed to include my regular pair in my flyfishing kit. In this capacity I used the tool to crimp the barbs on flies and to remove flies from the lips or mouth of fish that I landed. The tool's pliers were not as nuanced as standard fishing forceps but were certainly adequate. I plan to explore other fishing applications of the Signal in hopes of lightening my standard backcountry fishing box.
The saw works well on kindling and small knobs stobs [the "stump" remaining after lopping branches or brush]. It's important to avoid a pointed or jagged edge on cut brush, as they are capable of inflicting a nasty puncture upon a human appendage, and they are not something most people look for when hiking. As expected the saw is too small for log cutting.
My only complaint about this product's design is a lack of scissors, a feature on many multitools that I have owned or used. One of my mishaps in Romania was a blister that required several instances of patching with medicinal patches that I covered with moleskin. The knife sufficed for cutting both materials to size, but scissors would have allowed easier and more precise cutting.
As expected [see my Initial Report] I have become accustomed to accessing the various items on the Signal and have no further complaint on this score.
I haven't treated the tool with oil as I don't think that's been necessary. [I probably should do so as preventive maintenance.] There's a minor scratch or two but no loss of functionality. The Signal has upheld Leatherman's reputation [well-deserved in my long experience] for durability.
The pliers. A very useful backcountry tool.
The hammer. Many unexpected uses.
Strong and reliable.
LONG TERM REPORT - October 10, 2019
I could summarize this report as more of the same. The Signal has continued to perform admirably during the past two months. None of my earlier observations or opinions has changed, so this section will focus on new ones.
One glitch in testing was that the tool went missing just after a three-week visit by some helpful houseguests who pitched in on a number of chores around the property. Just after that I did a pair of backpacking trips and regrettably the Signal didn't accompany me. I did locate it upon my return and returned it to service on everyday tasks and a number of day hikes in the nearby Gallatin, Absaroka, and Bridger [pictured at left] mountains and fishing days.
General Usage. I store the Signal, in its sheath, in a hipbelt pocket on my day pack or backpack, a couple of times on my belt using the belt loop on everyday work days, or in a zippered pocket on my fishing vest. I like its size, which seems just right for all the tasks for which it is intended. While I have no worries about durability, those tasks don't extend to major construction or restoration. The hammer and saw exemplify this. I really like having the Signal for camp tasks such as pounding tent stakes, shaving kindling, removing roots and stobs, and tightening loose screws. It's not much larger than a simple penknife, which I'll always have a need for, and the accessories really come in handy. But I'm not about to abandon a full-size hammer or pliers for more substantial projects. This is a camp tool, and a really good one. [Side note: Leatherman does offer an array of multitools for heavier duty service, including a few called "full size."]
Features. I'll add the screwdrivers to my list of Likes in my Field Report. I've used both around the house and on hikes, and I expect increased opportunity to use them when skiing this winter. The knife is sharp and stout and has been useful in the camp kitchen, when it can be used to cut with either its point or cutting edge. Using the point allows for more careful cutting and less mess, and many trail knives I've owned don't work that way. I haven't used the whistle or fire starter, but I consider both to be useful and nearly mandatory in an emergency kit for any trip that's overnight or longer. Now I have them ready to hand if needed without adding two small pieces that are easy to lose.
While not strictly a feature, the color choice is a plus. A bright and non-earth tone color makes the tool easier to spot when I've set it down. A very practical design element.
I still wish the Signal included scissors, an item I use every hiking day for blister protection or treatment.
Summary. The Signal is a very cleverly designed and useful tool for the trail. I expect to use it for years to come.
My Test Report ends here. Thanks to Leatherman Tool Group and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.
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