The Leatherman Tread is a multitool that you wear on your wrist. Nice! But does it work as well as a tool as it does manly wrist jewellery? I put it to work around the house and on my bike to find out.
What is It?
While visiting Disneyland with his family, Leatherman president Ben Rivera was stopped by security for carrying a normal multitool. Park officials made a huge deal out of it, escorting the head of an American tool company all the way back to his hotel room to make sure he got rid of it. After, Rivera felt ill-prepared.
“I knew there had to be another way to carry my tools with me that would be accepted by security,” Rivera says. So, he set about designing a bracelet that would carry much of the usefulness of a multitool, just in a less scary package.
The Tread packs 29 different tools into its nine links and watch-like clasp. The latter includes a bottle opener.
To use the tools, you remove the bracelet, select the bit you want to employ, then fold the rest back into a clumpy handle.
Where any other tool company would make such a device out of cheap, fragile cast steel, Leatherman has employed an expensive injection-molded process to make each individual link from 17-4 stainless steel. Not only does the tool feel substantial and strong, but it should hold up to abuse, too. It comes with Leatherman’s 25-year guarantee. Within that time, they’ll repair or replace it if it breaks.
Who’s it For?
That’s a difficult question. The Tread is being sold at £140 for the naked version seen here and £190 for the black anodised version.
That’s pricey, particularly when you consider that the Leatherman Style PS packs pliers, scissors and other handy features the Tread doesn’t have into a keychain-friendly package for around £27.
So, the Tread is as much a fashion statement as it is a response to a genuine problem. Hey world, I’m useful!
Rugged, overbuilt and packed full of handy features. The essence of the tool is utilitarian, but with smooth curves and well-integrated tools that curve to follow the circumference of your wrist to avoid catching stuff, it’s actually fairly elegant too.
And no space on the Tread is left function free. Every link but one carries three tools, while that single, 1/4-inch adjustment link wears two flat drivers. Even the space in between the tools is used, housing a hexagonal cutout that’ll accept Leatherman’s own bit set.
With each link holding so much function, you’ll have to spend time pondering which to lose as you size the Thread down to fit your wrist. I had to remove two 1/2-inch links to get it to fit. Unless you’re a gorilla, you’ll have to lose at least one, and maybe as many as three.
You already know if you like the tool’s style. I think it’s maybe a little too OTT for my tastes, but that’ll probably change as the Tread wears in and gains some patina.
On first look, I assumed that the diminutive, half-length Phillips bits would be fairly useless. Turns out they’ll turn a screw just fine and, so far, show no signs of rounding off. But, they will only reach a screw that’s flush, no deeper.
Each bit is also curved inwards slightly, tracing the bracelet’s circumference. This makes it easy and comfortable to wear — I’ve got it on as a type and it’s presenting no trouble — but that also means they protrude from the “handle” at an angle.
To use them, you fold the bracelet so that the tool you want pokes out. the resulting clump of links is far from being the best handle in the world and combines with the angle of the tools to exacerbate the far-from-straight angle at which they protrude from your grip. Fine for a quick, dirty repair, but far from the real, ergonomically friendly, efficient tools you have in your garage
I frequently grab my Style PS for much larger jobs than it’s designed to handle; it’s just a great tool that works better than it should. The Tread will tighten a loose screw or open a beer, but you’ll still be reaching for the real deal if you have real work to perform.
Additionally, that clump of links has a tendency to tangle as you squeeze it together in your hand. The clasp, if left open, will work itself through other links under pressure, then become snagged on those bits, requiring you to unscrew a screw or two to untangle it. That’s pretty frustrating, especially if you’re trying to complete an urgent or rushed job in a hurry, which is exactly the use case for this thing.
The screws that hold the links together are designed to perfectly fit a penny. You’re definitely going to want to keep one of those in your coin pockets or wallet at all times, in order to deal with these tangles.
- The strong, hard steel is a good choice, giving you tools that shouldn’t wear out overly quickly. That may not be the best news for soft screw heads, but again this isn’t a tool designed for regular use. The function of the bits will be there, should you need them in an emergency.
- This thing is substantial and heavy, bespeaking function and quality. It feels great on your wrist.
- The included tool set is well thought out and gives broad functionality. From hex wrenches, box wrenches and drivers to the SIM-pick, line cutter and carbide glass breaker, Leatherman has really endowed the Tread with an intelligent and well-chosen level of capability for quick repairs and emergencies. You’re never going to cut a seatbelt with the dinky little line cutter, but it worked its way through paracord without undue effort. The carbide glass breaker is a great thing to have during travel, allowing you to easily smash safety glass.
- Wears almost silently. You won’t give up your location with it if you’re trying to be sneaky.
- No space is left function-free.
The Tread doesn’t include a flat driver small enough to adjust the screws on glasses. The Style PS’s is perfect.
- While it is a useful device, it still falls well behind the function of a real multitool, even a small one like that Style PS. Pliers are just useful things to have.
- The tangles are frustrating and unexpected. This is a tool for quick-and-dirty jobs. Pausing to take the thing apart and put it back together is fairly easy, but not something you can really accomplish on the fly due to the need to mind small, easily lost screws.
- The angled tools and angled handle make using the tools frustrating and awkward. Fine for quick jobs in the field, but for anything over a few seconds of work, you’re going to want the real deal.
Should You Buy It?
Do you own a paracord bracelet and neck knife? Does your watch have a compass on it? Do you hide handcuff keys in your shoes? If you really like the idea of wearing a multitool, then the Tread is genuinely useful. So long as that use is small, quick jobs.
The rest of you who just need a tool you can carry everywhere, even on planes, will be better served by sticking the much cheaper, more useful Leatherman Style PS on your keychain.
£190 would be a tough pill to swallow if airport security ever decides to confiscate your Tread. While it may include no blade and fall within size requirements, airport security — particularly in other countries — often doesn’t play by its own rules. I lose one or two Styles to security a year, typically in Spanish speaking countries. I could not justify losing even one Tread.
This article originally appeared on Indefinitely Wild, Gizmodo's blog on adventure travel and the gear that gets us there