Leatherman Surge Review for 2020: Is this a Good Survival Multitool?

After comparing all of the various options for a survival multi-tool my search ended with the Leatherman Surge. I wanted a tool that had all the tools I wanted and would accomplish all the tasks that I demanded of it, with no frivolous bells and whistles. I’ve used the Surge as my EDC, for jobs around the house, but it has a designated place inside my bino harness where is proves to be an essential piece of kit.

Most people seem to gravitate towards either the Leatherman Wave or the Supertool but it is my opinion that they are overlooking the several unique features that make the Surge an outstanding choice for a Survival Multi-tool.

MULTITOOL DETAILS
  • Both blades, blade exchanger, and scissors accessible from the outside
  • Replaceable wire cutters
  • T-Shank jig saw blades can be used in the blade exchanger
Check Price on
Amazon.com

Leatherman Surge Review

Leatherman surge multitool review

The Surge is a stainless steel multi-tool with a similar design to several other mutli-tools in the Leatherman catalogue. Whereas in the past most of the tools were contained inside the multi tool the Surge has the capability to access several of them from the outside which is a fantastic feature.

Leatherman Surge Specs

  • Weight 12.5 ounces
  • Dimensions 4.5” x 1.5” x .75”
  • Nylon belt pouch
  • Includes a plastic sleeve to store the file/saw when not in the tool and a spare driver bit
  • Stainless steel construction

21 Tools

As with all multi-tools the manufacturer likes to play it fast and loose with the definition of what a ‘tool’ actually is. For example, engraved on the inside is a 9” ruler in both metric and imperial measurements which I would hardly call a ‘tool’. Also instead of calling the pliers a tool they separate the needle nose and regular pliers as two separate tools likewise with the wire cutters, strippers, and crimper even though they are all contained within the pliers of the Surge Leatherman lists 7 separate tools which I would define more as functions rather than individual tools.

Leatherman Surge review

Of the 21 tools I would say the only useless one is the ruler. I’ve tried to use it to measure various things and it just doesn’t lend itself to being user friendly, not to mention I usually forget it is even there. All of these tools with the exception of the pliers lock securely in place which is good for preventing accidents while using the Surge.

Complete list of tools in the Leatherman Surge are:

  1. Needle Nose Pliers
  2. Regular Pliers
  3. Replaceable Wire Cutters
  4. Replaceable Hard Wire Cutters
  5. Standard Wire Cutters
  6. Electrical Crimper
  7. Wire Stripper
  8. 420HC Plain Edge Knife
  9. 420HC Serrated Edge Knife
  10. Saw
  11. Scissors
  12. Awl
  13. Can Opener
  14. Bottle Opener
  15. Ruler
  16. Diamond File
  17. Metal/Wood File
  18. Blade Exchanger
  19. Bit Driver
  20. Large Screwdriver
  21. Small Screwdriver

The Pliers

Surge pliers review

This is the main event for this style of multi-tool and the pliers on the Surge are large enough to handle damn near any task that is thrown at it. Featuring needle nose and regular pliers with replaceable 154CM wire cutters, a wire stripper and an electrical crimper. These tools are accessed by folding open the multi-tool which exposes the pliers. They are not spring activated which for me was not an issue as I prefer the pliers on my multi-tools to not be spring-activated. The wire cutters and strippers work quite well as does the electrical crimper.

Tools on the Outside

I really like the fact that several tools can be accessed without opening the tool up. Both blades, can be opened one-handed with just the thumb but the position of the blades is optimized for a right-handed person to open them one-handed. I’ve tried and failed to open the blades one-handed with my left hand and since Leatherman does not offer a left-handed option anyone who is left-handed will be out of luck. Both the blade exchanger and the scissors do not appear to be designed for one-handed operation regardless of which hand dominance the user has.

Leatherman surge can carve wood

The knife blades are both made from 420HC stainless steel and are quite large for a multi-tool measuring in at 3 inches. The outside edge of the thumb loop on the serrated blade is textured to differentiate it from the plain edge blade simply by feel. They both came out of the box very sharp and have needed minimal maintenance to keep a keen edge on them. A lever lock secures the blades in place when open and holds them very securely.

The blade exchanger is a key feature for myself because it not only allows for switching between the file and saw being in the multi-tool, but the design of the blade exchanger allows for t-shank jigsaw blades to also be used in the tool increasing its versatility. This function expands the ability of the Surge to now also cut metals as well when using a bi-metal jigsaw blade.

The scissors were a massive selling point for myself and I find myself using them all the time, so much so that they are a make or break feature in any multi-tool I purchase. These scissors are a pretty decent size and spring loaded so they are very easy to use. There is no way to open them one handed and like the blades and blade exchanger the scissors are secured via a lever lock system.

Tools on the Inside

Inside the tool is the ever present ruler engraved into the interior surface in both imperial and metric. On one side is an awl and two flat head screwdrivers (one large and one small). On the other side is the driver bit holder and the can/bottle opener. The Surge comes with two driver bits which are not the hex style that you find in the hardware store they are a special style that is unique to Leatherman. The Surge comes with two driver bits one that has a #2 and #3 Robertson bit and the other comes with a Phillips bit and a small flat head.


Leatherman Surge Multi-Tool Pros and Cons

Pro’s

  • Both blades, blade exchanger, and scissors accessible from the outside
  • Replaceable wire cutters
  • Driver bit holder
  • All tools lock into place
  • File can be used independent of the tool
  • T-Shank jig saw blades can be used in the blade exchanger
  • 25 year warranty

Con’s

  • Heavier than most multi-tools
  • Not suitable for pocket carry

What the Customers Say

Customer reviews are generally positive with the only negatives I found being some quality control issues, the overall weight of the tool, its inability to be comfortably carried in a pocket and that the blade exchanger was difficult to open. Overall though it appears that the vast majority of customers are quite pleased with their purchase.

MULTITOOL DETAILS
  • Both blades, blade exchanger, and scissors accessible from the outside
  • Replaceable wire cutters
  • T-Shank jig saw blades can be used in the blade exchanger
Check Price on
Amazon.com

My Personal Experience with the Leatherman Surge

I’ve used the Surge for everything and there are three key features that sold me on this tool being my go to survival multi-tool. The blade exchanger, scissors and the replaceable wire cutters made my decision for me.

The Blade Exchanger

Leatherman surge open

This feature not only allows me to switch between the included saw and the file but also use t-shank jigsaw blades as well. This allows me to include some bi-metal jigsaw blades into my kit along with a spare wood blade or two. The file is both diamond and a metal/wood file which was very attractive to me because I can use the diamond file independent of the blade exchanger to touch up the edge on the knife blade or on any other blade I have with me.

The Scissors

I use these scissors way more than I thought I would. They are spring loaded which makes using them easy and their 3/4 of an inch cutting edge is more than sufficient for any task I have come across. It drives my wife nuts when I pull out my Leatherman Surge to use the scissors when doing the annual Christmas Present wrapping night.

Replaceable Wire Cutters

I’ve had a few multi-tools end up with gouged wire cutters due to either hard use or just plain getting worn out. The ability to replace the wire cutters was a big selling feature for me because I want my multi-tool to last a lifetime and replacing a hard use item like wire cutters will facilitate that.

Blades

Leatherman surge blade review

Both the blades were extremely sharp and I like the fact that the Surge comes with a full sized plain edge and serrated edge blades instead of a single combo blade. Even through a significant amount of use the edge on the blades have maintained their sharpness, which out of the box were extremely sharp. I can’t say how easy the blades are to sharpen because I’ve never let them get dull enough to require more than a quick touch up with a strop.

Saw

As for the saw blade that is included with the Surge my blade broke while cutting through some plywood. Until it broke though I did get some good use out of it and found the blade to cut very well. It was especially good for cutting notches for a variety of camp and bushcraft tasks. As with most multi-tool saw blades it is a bit short so technique will need to be adjusted to accommodate the short stroke. I will say though that the 25 year warranty did not cover the broken saw blade as Leatherman deemed it an accessory not part of the tool.

Other Tools

As for the other tools they all work quite well at their intended purposes. I’ve used the awl quite a bit and my only complaint would be it is a touch large but preforms well. The bottle/can opener works just as well as any other multi-tool bottle and can opener with nothing particularly special about it. Likewise for the various screwdrivers they all adequately preform their tasks as intended.


Must-Have Accessories for your Leatherman Surge

As I’ve mentioned already, a pack of T-Shank jigsaw blades is so useful that I would put them into the ‘must have’ category.

Depending on what type of work you intend on using the Surge for the bit kit and bit extender may be good accessories to pick up.

The only other accessory I’d suggest is a MOLLE sheath if you intend to attach it to a MOLLE panel, plate carrier, or pack.


FAQ’s About the Leatherman Surge

How Should the Surge be Cared For and Maintained?

The Surge is made from stainless steel which is corrosion resistant not rust proof, so it is always good practice to lightly oil the tool with an oil such as 3 in 1 oil or WD-40. The joints and pivot points should be lubricated with Teflon based lubricant so they continue to move freely. Any dirt or debris in the tool can be cleaned with water and soap, but any tough to clean substances such as paint or tar can be cleaned with mineral spirits. Always be sure to thoroughly dry, oil and lubricate your tool after cleaning.

Where is the Lanyard Loop?

I had to Google this as it was not obvious where this little feature was hiding. The lanyard loop is in the same slot as the blade exchanger. If you open the blade exchanger and look into the bottom of the slot you will see an out of place thin piece of metal. I used the end of the file to push this metal through to the outside, exposing the loop on the exterior of the tool. I then pushed through some gutted paracord to use as a lanyard. I had to use gutted paracord because the lanyard loop has a pretty narrow opening.

Is the Surge TSA compliant?

The Leatherman Surge is not TSA compliant due to the knife blades. It can however fly inside of checked luggage.


Verdict

The Leatherman Surge rides in my bino harness because it has all the tools I need for being out in the bush hunting, fishing, camping or bushcrafting. I love that the blade exchanger gives the functionality of being able to switch between the included saw and file while having the option to use a jigsaw blade as well. Having the file include both the a wood/metal side and a diamond side is great because I can use it to touch up any of my blades including my axe.

The Surge is probably one of the heaviest multi-tools out there but honestly I’ve never noticed the weight even when I have used it as my EDC. Overall, in my opinion the Leatherman Surge is the best survival multi-tool I have used and I’m confident it will serve me well for decades to come.

MULTITOOL DETAILS
  • Both blades, blade exchanger, and scissors accessible from the outside
  • Replaceable wire cutters
  • T-Shank jig saw blades can be used in the blade exchanger
Check Price on
Amazon.com


Michael Major
Written by Michael Major

Michael is a survivalist, traditional bowhunter, student of traditional and primitive skills, as well as a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. He is also a husband and father and makes his home in British Columbia, Canada. Read his full interview here. Read more of Michael's articles.

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