You are here:--Best Leatherman For Backpacking

Best Leatherman For Backpacking

How To Choose The Best Leatherman Multitool for Backpacking

A good knife or multitool is a necessity for any backpacker. Going into unknown conditions, you need to be prepared for anything you might come across in the back country. Instead of jamming your pack full of things you might not need, you can pick up a lightweight Leatherman for just a couple of ounces and eliminate a bunch of redundant gear.

This is a comparison of the best Leatherman multitools on the market today so you can choose the best one for your next adventure. If you don't want to read the whole guide you can just see our quick compare chart below.

Top Choice
Leatherman - Squirt PS4 Multitool, Red
Leatherman 831488 Style PS Multitool, Black
Leatherman - Surge Multitool, Black with Premium Nylon Sheath (FFP)
Leatherman - Skeletool Multitool, Stainless Steel
Model
Leatherman Squirt
Leatherman PS
Leatherman Surge
Leatherman Skeletool
Current Price
$34.95
$29.95
from $104.91
$49.05
Weight
1.9 oz
1.6 oz
12.5 oz
5.1 oz
Number of Tools
9
8
21
7
Top Choice
Leatherman - Squirt PS4 Multitool, Red
Model
Leatherman Squirt
Current Price
$34.95
Weight
1.9 oz
Number of Tools
9
View on Amazon
Leatherman 831488 Style PS Multitool, Black
Model
Leatherman PS
Current Price
$29.95
Weight
1.6 oz
Number of Tools
8
View on Amazon
Leatherman - Surge Multitool, Black with Premium Nylon Sheath (FFP)
Model
Leatherman Surge
Current Price
from $104.91
Weight
12.5 oz
Number of Tools
21
View on Amazon
Leatherman - Skeletool Multitool, Stainless Steel
Model
Leatherman Skeletool
Current Price
$49.05
Weight
5.1 oz
Number of Tools
7
View on Amazon

Last update on 2018-07-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Why You Should Trust Me

I am a backpacking fanatic.  I live in Michigan and have backpacked the Manistee River and Manitou Island. I flew out to Colorado last year and spent a week in the Rawah Wilderness and this year I'm going out to backpack in Grand Teton. 

Whenever I get a chance to get out in the wilderness I take it and I've been able to field test a ton of gear over the years.

Standing at 13,000 feet in the Rawah Wilderness


In front of beautiful Lake Michigan off the east shore of North Manitou Island

I've spent hundreds of hours reading reviews and first hand testimonies from other backpackers on what they liked and didn't like about every piece of gear.

I hate when I buy a crappy piece of backpacking gear only to upgrade later; I like to buy the right gear from the beginning and not have to worry about it breaking down or wearing out in 6 months.


Top Choice - Leatherman Squirt

The Leatherman Squirt is our top pick for backpackers looking for a lightweight multitool that won't break the bank and comes with all of the tools you'd expect.


The Squirt has an incredibly small form factor and weighs just under 2 ounces so you'll barely notice it's there.


Despite it's small size, the Squirt packs in 9 tools which will cover 99% of your needs in the back country.

Current Price:

$34.95

"Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Gearsignal.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product."

Outside of the big 3 (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad), most of the stuff you bring backpacking is an 'extra'. Leatherman multitools definitely fall into that category. You can get by fine without them but they're really nice to have in certain situations.

Whenever you're thinking about adding an 'extra' to your pack, you have to think about whether or not it's worth the weight. Without carefully scrutinizing every item you decide to bring with you, you could quickly end up with a 50+ lb pack which can make for a miserable trip.

Since the Leatherman Squirt weighs just 1.9 ounces, it's an easy choice to bring it along on your next backpacking trip. You'll be hard pressed to find a multitool that weighs less than the Squirt while packing in all of the same features.

But since the Squirt is so lightweight, it must be missing some features right? Nope. Leatherman managed to pack in 9 different tools in the Squirt, they are:

  1. Spring action needlenose pliers
  2. Spring action regular pliers
  3. Spring action wire cutter
  4. 420HC stainless steel knife
  5. Spring action scissors
  6. Flathead and Phillips screwdrivers
  7. Bottle opener
  8. Metal file
  9. Medium screwdriver

Some of the larger multitools come with additional features like saw blades, can openers and rulers. You probably won't need any of those in the back country so the Squirt is a pretty solid backpacking tool and you won't find yourself missing any features.

But the Squirt isn't without it's flaws. In order to get the weight down to 2 ounces, Leatherman had to pack all of the tools in together super tight. It's pretty tricky to get some of the tools extended out, especially if you have short fingernails.

One other thing to watch out for is the spring action pliers and scissors. Spring action tools are nice because they're easier on your hands when you're using them. You don't have to open the tool after you're done cutting/holding something, they just bounce open so they're ready for your next cut.

But with this spring action feature you add another point of failure. Over time these springs will wear down and become less springy until eventually they give out. Depending on how hard you are on the Squirt, this could be anywhere form a few months to several years. 


Runner Up - Leatherman PS

The Leatherman PS is similar to the Squirt but it doesn't have a knife blade.


The PS weighs a little less than the Squirt and only packs 8 tools instead of the 9 you'll find on the Squirt.


It does weigh a little less but giving up the knife is a big deal unless you carry a separate knife, which means you'll be back to carrying more weight than if you just got the Squirt.

Current Price:

$29.95

"Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Gearsignal.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product."

When I stumbled across the Leatherman PS it looked like it would give the Squirt a run for it's money. It weighs less (just a fraction of an ounce, but still) and costs less. What's not to love?

That is until you unfold the PS and try to find the knife. There isn't one! I could probably give up the nail file or bottle opener when I'm backpacking, but I couldn't go hiking without a knife. Knives are just too useful in a ton of scenarios for me to give them up. I would never buy a dedicated multitool for backpacking if it didn't have a knife.

So if you're going to buy the Leatherman PS, you'll need to get a separate knife. My personal carry is the Opinel N8 which weighs 2.4 ounces and is a much better knife than you'll find on any multitool.

Here's a run down and a diagram of all the tools included in the Leatherman PS:

  1. Spring action needlenose pliers
  2. Spring action regular pliers
  3. Spring action wire cutter
  4. Spring action scissors
  5. Flathead and Phillips screwdrivers
  6. Tweezers
  7. Metal file
  8. Bottle Opener

Maximum Utility - Leatherman Surge

The Leatherman Surge is freaking huge. It's got 21 tools but it weighs 13 ounces. The Surge has every tool you could possibly need.


It's not the best backpacking multitool but this list wouldn't be complete without it.  If you have some weight to spare, the Surge might be worth looking into.

Current Price:

from $104.91

"Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Gearsignal.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product."

The Leatherman Surge is the multitool most people think of when they hear the word "Leatherman". It's huge, it has a ton of tools, and it can probably replace half of your toolbox. 

The Surge comes with every feature you could possibly need in a multitool but for backpacking it's probably overkill.  Some of the extra features you'll find in the Surge include a wire stripper, an 8 inch ruler, several screwdrivers, a metal file, and a diamond coated file. 

I mock some of these extra tools but the Surge is much more useful around the house than either the Squirt or the PS. They're pretty stripped down multitools that are optimized around weight. The Surge is a full on Leatherman that's beefy and strong and perfect for working around the house.

Here's a full breakdown of the tools on the Surge:

  1. Needlenose pliers
  2. Regular pliers
  3. Wire cutters
  4. Hard-wire cutters
  5. Stranded-wire cutters
  6. Electrical crimper
  7. Wire stripper
  8. 420HC Knife
  9. 420HC Serrated Knife
  10. Saw
  11. Spring-action scissors
  12. Awl with thread loop
  13. 8 inch ruler
  14. Can opener
  15. Bottle opener


16. Wood/Metal file

17. Diamond coated file

18. Blade exchanger

19. Large bit driver

20. Large screwdriver

21. Small screwdriver


Jack of All Trades - Leatherman Skeletool

The Leatherman Skeletool rounds out the pack, featuring a lightweight design in a large, easy to handle package.


The Skeletool only weighs 5 ounces but it's much larger than the Squirt. This makes it easy to use with 1 hand. The tools flip out easily and it has a large knife blade which is useful when backpacking.

Current Price:

$49.05

"Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Gearsignal.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product."

Last but not least, the Leatherman Skeletool rounds out our top picks for backpacking multitools. The Skeletool features the full size design like the Leatherman Surge, but weighs less than half as much. Coming in at 5 ounces, the Skeletool is able to save weight by shaving down every part of the multitool. You can see the large holes in the knife blade and the handles of the multitool which reduce weight without sacrificing durability.

The Skeletool is great if you are OK carrying 5 ounces instead of 2 ounces that you'd get with the Squirt. Since it's a full size multitool it's much easier to handle and feels safer in your hand. You never feel like it's going to jump out of your hand and make you accidentally cut yourself. Sometimes the small multitools are difficult to handle because they're so incredibly small.

The Skeletool packs 7 different tools inside:

  1. Needle nose pliers
  2. Regular pliers
  3. Hard-wire cutters
  4. Wire cutters
  5. Serrated knife blade
  6. Carabiner and bottle opener
  7. Large bit driver

Wrap Up

Leatherman makes fantastic multitools and they're the leader in the space. There are a lot of other options on the market but if you're looking for quality products with long warranties, you can't beat Leatherman.

For backpackers looking to save weight, the Squirt and the Skeletool are both viable options.

If you're looking for a multitool you can use at home and on the trail and you don't mind the extra weight, the Leatherman Surge could be a good alternative.

Here's a comparison of the 4 options side by side just in case you forgot.

Top Choice
Leatherman - Squirt PS4 Multitool, Red
Leatherman 831488 Style PS Multitool, Black
Leatherman - Surge Multitool, Black with Premium Nylon Sheath (FFP)
Leatherman - Skeletool Multitool, Stainless Steel
Model
Leatherman Squirt
Leatherman PS
Leatherman Surge
Leatherman Skeletool
Current Price
$34.95
$29.95
from $104.91
$49.05
Weight
1.9 oz
1.6 oz
12.5 oz
5.1 oz
Number of Tools
9
8
21
7
Top Choice
Leatherman - Squirt PS4 Multitool, Red
Model
Leatherman Squirt
Current Price
$34.95
Weight
1.9 oz
Number of Tools
9
View on Amazon
Leatherman 831488 Style PS Multitool, Black
Model
Leatherman PS
Current Price
$29.95
Weight
1.6 oz
Number of Tools
8
View on Amazon
Leatherman - Surge Multitool, Black with Premium Nylon Sheath (FFP)
Model
Leatherman Surge
Current Price
from $104.91
Weight
12.5 oz
Number of Tools
21
View on Amazon
Leatherman - Skeletool Multitool, Stainless Steel
Model
Leatherman Skeletool
Current Price
$49.05
Weight
5.1 oz
Number of Tools
7
View on Amazon

Last update on 2018-07-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

By | 2018-06-22T20:59:28+00:00 June 22nd, 2018|Categories: Reviews|Comments Off on Best Leatherman For Backpacking

About the Author: