Leatherman Wave+ Review: This 18-in-1 Tool Will Free Up Your Toolbox

Updated: Dec. 04, 2023

The Leatherman Wave+ is legendary for a reason. Its superior craftsmanship and seemingly endless functions make it a must-have.

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When it comes to making tools that can effortlessly handle a wide array of tasks, Leatherman has been setting the standard for a quarter of a century. The company’s most popular multi-tool—the Leatherman Wave+—has long been the go-to choice for adventurers, outdoor lovers, DIYers and construction pros looking for a reliable, portable, all-in-one solution. Its design is so genius, in fact, that it’s part of the permanent collection at the Modern Museum of Art in New York City!

Here’s what you need to know about the iconic tool’s most recent iteration, the Leatherman Wave+.

What is the Leatherman Wave+?

Leatherman Wave folded upAllison Robicelli for Family Handyman

The Leatherman Wave+ is a multi-tool that combines 18 tools in one compact, easy-to-carry device. It features a one-handed opening mechanism, which allows quick access to any tool while on the job. A locking mechanism ensures that each tool remains securely in place while being used, providing safety and stability. The Leatherman Wave+ comes in a rugged nylon sheath for storage and transport, and has a built-in lanyard ring for secure attachment to your personal belongings.

Like all Leatherman products, the Wave+ is famous for its superior craftsmanship and durability. Made from 420HC stainless steel, 440C stainless steel and black oxide, this multi-tool is built to deliver optimal performance in all sorts of conditions. It’s also made to last, and is backed with a 25-year warranty.

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Leatherman Wave+ Features

The Leatherman Wave+ is a compact at just 4 inches long when closed and less than 1 inch in thickness. You might not think it’s possible to fit 18 different tools into such a small package, but Leatherman makes it happen. The Wave+ includes the following tools:

  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Regular pliers
  • Premium replaceable wire cutters
  • Premium replaceable hard-wire cutters
  • Electrical crimper
  • Wire stripper
  • 420HC knife
  • 420HC serrated knife
  • Saw
  • Spring-action scissors
  • Ruler
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Wood/metal file
  • Diamond-coated file
  • Large bit driver
  • Small bit driver
  • Medium screwdriver

The Wave+ features a one-handed opening mechanism, which makes certain tools, like the pliers and wire cutters, easily accessible with a simple flick of the wrist. However, most of the Wave’s other tools are tucked inside its handles and might require two hands to open. Once you’ve accessed the tool you need, a locking mechanism springs into place to make sure it stays put during use, so you can get the job done quickly and safely.

The wire cutters of the Wave+ are replaceable, which means you can easily swap them out if they become dull or damaged, extending the lifespan of your multi-tool. The compact size and lightweight construction make it easy to carry and handle, so it’s a more practical alternative to lugging around a heavy toolbox. It also includes a puncture-proof nylon sheath for storage.

How We Tested It

Leatherman Wave next to caseAllison Robicelli for Family Handyman

The moment I removed the Leatherman Wave+ from the box, it was immediately clear why this multi-tool costs what it does. The quality is simply impeccable, made with top-grade stainless steel and an ingenious design. At 8.5 ounces, it may feel a bit heavy in your pocket or your belt loop, but I have no problem with heft if it means that every single of one of its 18 tools actually works. When closed, the Wave+ is a mere 4 inches long and 1 inch wide, and cramming that many functional tools into such a small package is one hell of an engineering feat.

The multi-tool’s serrated saw blade and sharp knife can be easily access with a simple slide of the thumb, but to access any of the Wave+’s other 16 features, you’ll need to use two hands. You might struggle with opening and configuring the tools if you have limited mobility or difficulty seeing up close, so keep that in mind before you start any project where you might be using it. It’s better to have your multi-tool open and ready for action than to find yourself struggling to free the spring-loaded scissors right when you need them the most.

Once you’ve correctly positioned a tool, it automatically locks itself into place, and firmly so. No matter how I used this tool—sawing small pieces of wood, screwing together furniture, bending and crimping wire—its parts didn’t budge even a bit. And when tools go away, they stay away. No more worrying about being cut with an errant blade when using pliers, or getting poked with a screwdriver head when trying to open a can.

Different sets of teeth on the pliers let them function as multiple tools—the needle-nose section at the tip has medium teeth for gripping small objects, the large teeth in the center can tightly tackle nuts and bolts and at the base are flat wire cutters that can be easily replaced whenever they dull. The handle is comfortable to hold, making it easy to get a good grip and put some weight behind your work.

The only tool of the 18 I found to be lacking was the ruler, which is the least offensive place for the Wave+ to go wrong. The accuracy of the ruler depends entirely on correct positioning, and as the markings run down the two adjustable handles, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to measure anything with absolute certainty. If you need an eyeball measurement in a pinch, it’ll do, but if accuracy is important, grab a tape measure.

Pros

  • Outstanding quality
  • 18 tools in one small package
  • Made of nearly indestructible stainless steel
  • Tools firmly lock in place
  • Compact and easy to carry along
  • Performs small tasks without compromise

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Most tools need two hands to access

FAQ

Does the TSA allow Leatherman multi-tools?

According to the TSA website, you are not allowed to travel with any multi-tools with knives in your carry-on luggage, which includes the Leatherman Wave+. If you want to bring a multi-tool along with you on your travels, it needs to be packed in checked luggage. Multi-tools that do not have knives and have scissors that are less than 4 inches long are permissible in carry-on bags.

Is Leatherman made in the USA?

Leatherman products are proudly made in the USA. The company has been producing all of its tools in Portland, Oregon since it was founded in 1983 by Tim Leatherman. (Yes, that’s his real name!)

What Other Reviewers Had to Say

Five-star reviewer, Shane M. Mckavanagh, says the Leatherman Wave+ is the “only multi-tool worth the money,” writing, “I got my first Leatherman Wave in 2010, I believe. Up until the day I lost it, I used it daily. I felt lost without it. You don’t realize how versatile this tool is until you have used one. It’s not overly heavy or cumbersome, and it doesn’t have a bunch of useless tools like some other brands. I love the Wave and if I ever lose this one, you better believe I will be buying another the same day.”

“I am blown away with how great the craftsmanship is on this mechanical piece of art,” raves verified purchaser, W. Jobe. “It is durable, versatile and great to look at. I care about the knife, pliers, scissors and can opener. I feel prepared anywhere I go now. I love the way the knives are easily accessible on the outer portion of the Wave. I love the heft it has. Purchase this!!! If you’re a man and a son, you need this!!”

Product Comparison

The Leatherman Wave+ is new, improved version of the original Leatherman Wave. One significant enhancement in the Wave+ is the inclusion of replaceable wire cutters, which can easily be swapped out if they become dull or damaged. The construction materials have been upgraded to a higher grade of premium stainless steel, which not only makes it more durable, but also improves the quality of the Wave+’s many blades. They’re now made with 154CM stainless steel, which is known for excellent edge retention, keeping your blades sharper for longer.

Unlike its predecessor, the Wave+ includes an upgraded, replaceable wire cutter system, an electrical crimper tool and spring-action scissors. Its retractable blades now include thumbholes, making them easier to open. Additionally, rounded edges make the upgraded Wave+ easier to hold and handle than the original.

Final Verdict

If you’re in the market for a multi-tool, you cannot do any better than the Leatherman Wave+. Even if you’re not handy, it’s a smart addition to your glove compartment, backpack or junk drawer. If you’re tight on space, it takes up a lot less room than a bulky toolbox.

Where to Buy the Leatherman Wave+

Fhm Ecomm Leatherman Wave 18 In 1 Leatherman.comvia merchant

The Leatherman Wave+ retails for $120 and comes with a 25-year warranty. You can buy this beloved multi-tool directly from the Leatherman website, Amazon and Backcountry. We have a feeling you’re going to want one for your workbench, car, desk and wherever else you might need the legendary multi-tool of all multi-tools.

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