There’s one tool that’s been our go-to for a while now: the Leatherman Surge. Leatherman makes quite a wide range of multi-tools aimed at different groups of people, but it’s the Surge that we think suits hackers the most. It’s the largest of the ‘folding plier’-type Leathermans in terms of official tool-count, with 21 tools for cutting, poking, twisting, and turning all sorts of materials.
The pliers are the most obvious part of most Leathermans, and the Surge is no exception. Leatherman claim that they are both needlenose and regular pliers (and counts them twice in the 21 stated tools). This seems a bit of a stretch to us. In fact, including the wire cutter (with replaceable blades should they dull) and crimper parts of the pliers, they count for six of the 21 tools. In total there are ten ‘things’ that fold out from the main tool handle.
There are two knife blades (one serrated) that, as you would expect from a Leatherman, are razor-sharp and have kept their edge well through our use. A pair of scissors fold out from the handle to complete the Surge’s complement of smooth blades. All of these can be used comfortably with one hand and lock in place, so there’s no risk of accidental folding while in use.
There’s a T-Shank connector that comes with two attachments – a saw and a file. This is a standard connector that’s also used in some electric saws, so it’s possible to swap the blade out for one more appropriate for your use. Different types of wood and metal blades are available, but not all are the same length and some are too long to fold neatly back into the main handle.
The screwdrivers (three flat head and one Philips) are surprisingly useful for a fold-out tool, but are obviously not going to work in all circumstances. There’s also an awl (narrow, sharp tool with an eye in the middle) which is often overlooked but can be useful when you need to enlarge a hole in a soft material or leather.
Multi-tools can never match a full tool kit, but they’re about fitting the most possible power into the smallest possible space. We think the Surge offers the right compromises for most hackers – it’s small enough to fit in your pocket but still packs pliers, knives, and screwdrivers that are large enough to be useful when working on real projects. However, this convenience comes at an eye-watering price and it’s not much cheaper than a fully-equipped toolbox. If you find yourself out and about without tools frequently, it’s a great option. If you’re more workshop-based, it might be a little harder to justify the expense – after all, you can now get a 3D printer for the same price.
All of the most useful hand tools in a pocket-sized multi tool, but the Surge loses points for the price.