The Leatherman brand usually needs no introduction, especially among people, who like to deal with do-it-yourself business. Simply the multi-tool elite, founded by Tim Leatherman. The Legend. It has been 33 years since the first multi-tool hit the stores and the market went forward since then. Many other options appeared, including both prestigious well-known brands and China-made no-names sold in discount stores. Yet, all of that was begun by Leatherman, still leading the way and setting upcoming trends.
From the history book
The history is well known, but still worth mentioning. During the family trip across Europe in 1975 Tim Leatherman was equipped with Swiss Army Knife and a set of simple tools. He needed to use them multiple times for different repairs to keep his wheels rolling. As it is said, the need is a mother of all inventions, hence the idea of combining a Swiss Army Knife with pliers were born. Despite the fact that the idea got formed straight after returning to the USA, the project took off after eight long years. On July 5th 1983 the Leatherman Tool Group was established, releasing initial models of popular multi-tools.
In Leatherman offer one may find both general EDC (Every Day Carry) tools and specialized versions dedicated for mine-sweepers and shooters (mostly for AR weapon system, though). LM Multi-tools, apart from pliers also have a blade (or even two: plain and serrated, as in the Wave model), a bodkin, screwdrivers, a file, scissors and other functions, known from various other pocketknives. Among all LM multi-tools, everybody will find a model suitable for him or her. These are tools engineered perfectly in every inch. Leatherman is so sure for its products and that it gives a 25 years warranty on them. The most recent kid in this family is TREAD. A multi-tool different than the others.
TREAD – a multi-tool that can be taken everywhere
As it was with the first multi-tools, TREAD also has a history behind it that lead to it's creation. Blades and long tools present in classic multi-tools makes them being classified as dangerous tool by security services at the airports or during mass events. It means a lot of trouble for a person caught "red-handed". Ben Rivera, then a Leatherman's engineer (now its CEO) experienced such an embarrassing situation during a family trip to Disneyland. That's how the idea of "security friendly" multi-tool was born.
When first announcements appeared, the world was presented with an innovative gadget, which was stirring a lot of emotions and rising doubts regarding it's usefulness. All controversial issues are quickly made void when TREAD is placed on the user's wrist. Thanks to Militaria.pl, the Polish distributor of Leatherman products, we had a chance to experience it ourselves.
Aesthetics and usability
TREAD is available in two color versions. A black one covered with DLC (Diamond Like Coating) and a stainless steel one. The multi-tool consists of nine links profiled to fit the shape of ones wrist, a buckle and connectors manufactured from incredibly durable 17-4PH low-carbon stainless steel. The majority of them is 1/2" wide. One of them is thinner (1/4") and has the manufacturer's logo engraved on it. All of them are securely connected with screws and distances to facilitate free-float movement of the links.
It is wort mentioning, that for tightening and loosening the screws, a screwdriver is not needed. A coin is enough (according to manual it should be 1 US cent, in Polish conditions 1 to 20 gr coins are just fine).
The full bracelet has a circumference of 25.5 cm, the size of an average wrist. The majority of the users will probably feel like making the TREAD shorter. The Adjustment is done via removing an appropriate amount of links. It must be well-considered though, as the only way to shorter the circuit is to remove some of the tools. You can't have all the tools that you want. I had to give up on two hex keys and an oxygen bottle key.
TREAD is equipped mostly with keys, drivers and wrenches. The bracelet's tools consist of:
- 5 flat screwdrivers 1/4, 5/16, 1/8, 3/32 i 3/16 inch,
- 4 hex keys (imperial): 3/32, 1/8, 1/4, 3/16 inch
- 4 hex keys (metrical): 3, 4, 5, 6 mm
- 3 Philips drivers: #1-2, #1, #2
- 3 flat box wrenches (metrical): 6, 8, 10 mm
- 3 flat box wrenches (imperial): 3/8, 1/4, 3/16 inch
- 1 square driver #2 (in the fastener)
- a key for an oxygen bottle.
If this were not enough, the snap-on fastener is also a latch for mounting a bit holder. A curiosity (not stated in the manual) are the hidden in every second link (No. 4, 7, 10 and 12) sockets for extended bit guides. So it's easy to say that with the TREAD you can be prepared for almost any tightening and loosening of screws.
In the bracelet you will also find a bottle opener placed in the fastener. Right next to it is standard link No. 4 with a glass breaker equipped with a tungsten tip and safe blade for opening packages. Unfortunately, it does not work all that well and can tear the surface being cut. The blade can also be used as a car belt cutter.
As it befits a US made product, the Tread there is also a needle for removing SIM cards from iPhones/iPads. Nothing special and yet people who travel around the world should especially appreciate this function. It is worth noting that the needle can be multi-functional, although its integration into the links has certain limitations and, for example, makes it impossible to use it to reset our router. On another note, despite the high hardness of the steel used, we managed to bend it (and then straighten back again, which is nice) so be careful and do not put excessive force to it.
In case of link number 4 and probably the entire TREAD there is only one thing that surprised us. The ergonomics and the usefulness of the entire bracelet are impressive, therefore it is surprising that the internal surface of this part is not used. Maybe it will change in the future? It feels as if someone just forgot to add something.
All links and tools have numbers and function descriptions engraved on their inner side. If someone likes to read the manuals, it will certainly make it easier to use the bracelets as all the parts are clearly described there. In total, there are 10 functional parts and, after taking into account all the functionalities they offer, it turns out that we have 29 tools on the wrist! An interesting fact is that according to the manual there are 12 links (there are no numbers 3 and 5, also in the numbering of the links).
TREAD can also be used as a watch bracelet. There was even a dedicated LM watch for this purpose in a designed stage, but the idea was officially withdrawn. There have already appeared adapters for mounting watches on the market, made by other companies, such as the ChronoLink for selected Casio G-Shock models, and there are even models of watches to which the bracelet fits without adaptive links (we hope to review one of them in the near future). This, however, involves further functionality compromises. Link spacing without a connector is 22 mm, with a connector, 25 mm.
Does it work – facts, myths and doubts
Like any new invention, TREAD met with both enthusiastic and skeptical reception in the community. The first doubts concerned, of course, its functionality, and this issue can be surprising. TREAD came in handy when needing tools for an airsoft replica (unfortunately, it misses some of the allen keys and in some cases the tools are too short), at the shooting range, when repairing a bicycle, it came in handy doing things with a motorcycle, on a yacht, at home and in other situations when someone did not have the right screwdriver. As an experiment, it even came in handy when tuning the percussion. With TREAD and a EDU multi-tool, it turns out that it is more convenient and faster to use the bracelet. Of course, within certain rational limits. It does not fully replace the classic multi-tool, but in many situations it is a faster and a much more convenient competition for it.
TREAD is worn comfortably, similarly to a watch with a metal bracelet. Actually, the only situation when you need to take it off is to work on a laptop as it hurts and scratches the laptop's casing, in the same way as in the case of the above mentioned watches.
The 17-4PH steel used is characterized by high static and fatigue strength, which ensures the free use of the bracelet in various planes, at different angles, without the risk of bending it (except for the thin spike). We can easily loosen and tighten screws, regardless of the leverage used. Vertically, horizontally, with a double lever. TREAD works just fine. Here we will bust one of the myths. TREAD is used as a whole, without the need to remove the desired link.
The Achilles' heel of this device are the screw. You need to tighten them securely and it is best to use thread glue. After disassembling the entire bracelet, despite checking of each screw THREE TIMES, one still chose freedom. Here, however, we can count on the support of the people at Militaria.pl, who will send a new screw at once. Chronically distracted will not be left without support either but they will have to bare with a cost of about PLN 5. A lost screw is not subjected to a 25-year standard warranty for all Leathermen products.
For some owners, the choice of the stainless steel version was determined by the fear of the DLC coating becoming degraded over time. After almost 5 months of use, the bracelet is obviously showing some wear (for some, that's is a pro). In my opinion, the wear is aesthetic, not too much on the inside and on the outside the signs are negligible.
Tactical "respect shackle"
Is it worth it? For almost six months of using TREAD in various ways, I was constantly asking myself this question. In the US, from the perspective of the purchasing power of the US Dollat, it costs just over 200 PLN. In the Polish reality, however, it is more than four times as much and, at the same time, half of the minimum wage. The doubts, however, were quickly dispelled by other people who simply bought it. Because they could, because they wanted and are satisfied with the purchase. The answer is therefore, yes - yes, but it is undoubtedly an exclusive multi-tool. This is even suggested by the packaging, which is far from the "ordinary" Leatherman products and is closer to ones used in good watches. It should be treated not only as a tool, but also as a true piece of male jewelry. When you look at it in this way, it turns out that the purchase of TREAD ceases to be an extreme expense. It is also an ideal gift idea from friends or family and it is also worth remembering.
With its appearance, TREAD attracts the eyesight of a lot of people, both those well versed in the topic, as completely random ones met on the street. No doubt it is attractive and arouses interest. Personally, I was asked twice about its functionality and my impressions of it. Interestingly, even when looking closely, few people noticed the cleverly integrated tools. At first glance, it is a piece of solid, heavy (about 170 g in a full set) of male jewelry that will successfully add the charm in the field, in every day situations, as well as on more official occasions. If necessary, it will also save a situation, making the owner the hero of the moment. If someone decides to buy it, then he will certainly be satisfied, especially those interested in such gadgets.
We would like to thank Militaria.pl, Leatherman's representative in Poland,
for making this review possible