If you have read any of my posts you know I have a harsh, love / hate relationship with multitools. I want to love them, I really do, but they really are so disappointing in the long run. Before you freak out, I own over 10 Leatherman, multiple no-name full size multitools and an original Swiss Tool. So, it’s not that I don’t have experience with them. I just feel they are a compromise in many situations.
The Leatherman Free T4 is a good looking multitool that try’s to take on a traditional Swiss Army knife…and fails. It’s big and bulky, but does have a few redeeming qualities to consider. Solidly built with a nice assortment of tools and a great warranty.
Why am I talking about this right now? To set the stage of my Review of the T4. I like Leatherman as a company and you can’t deny they make solid, dependable gear. Deep down, I wish I loved these full sized multitools more, but practically and functionally win the day for me. They are perfect in an emergency and if you have no other option. That’s why every vehicle I own has one, why I make the kids keep them in the dorm and why I give them often as gifts.
So when Leatherman released a few smaller, more paired down multitools a few years ago I was excited to check them out. Leatherman classifies these as “pocket sized” and sells two versions, the Leatherman Free T2 and the T4 and the T4 is what I am going to talk about today.
My purchase of the T4 was probably relatable to most of you…late night internet surfing. I came across a review on Backpacker and both testers had good stuff to say and there were a few other ones out there with high praise for the T4. But I was immediately skeptical, because we know that the bulk of online review sites aren’t very trustworthy. Why aren’t they trustworthy? The bulk of online reviews never actually have the item in hand such is the case with many of the T4 reviews I read. Why do I say that? Because so many testers omitted the biggest problem with the T4…it’s bulk!
I had the same issue when I bought a T2 at Lowe’s last year and returned it before I even left the parking lot. I want to be a Leatherman guy, but they don’t really strike a chord with me. Of all the Leathermans I own, the most real word, usable one is the Skeletool. Great pliers and a compact footprint.
Obviously, you don’t need to read further to know I don’t really recommend the T4, but let’s give it a fair shake and see if it has any redeeming qualities. My whole point in buying the Leatherman Free T4 is because I am working on a guide to the best pocket knives with scissors and the T4 has a pair of scissors!
As you read my thoughts on the T4, know that other reliable gear reviewers had similar complaints as me.
Todd Brogowski over at Task and Purpose had this to say: “Three things stand out as problematic with the Free T4: its bulkiness, the speed at which the blade dulls, and its price.”
Blake G. in an Amazon review left lengthy details but said this: “The downside is the T4 doesn’t “disappear in your pocket”. You know you have it. I cannot overstate how thick the T4 is. It’s worse than you think because the raw measurements don’t really convey how thick it feels. The boxy square corners make this feel thicker than a SAK of the same thickness.“
So we know it has a few flaws, but let’s keep going and dig into the details of the Leatherman Free T4.
Why Listen To Me?
First, I actually have the Leatherman Free T4 in my possession which is more than I can say about half of the reviewers out there. If you’re looking for a legit review of the Leatherman Free T4, make sure the site actually owned and used the tool. How can you tell? Real pictures.
Secondly, I love pocket knives and carry one everyday. I have owned hundreds of different knives and use them in real world applications like a mechanics shop, backpacking and of course as a weekend warrior. I can offer a grounded review and honest insight. On top of all of that, I bought the T4 with my own cash.
The Basics of the Leatherman T4
The T4 claims to have 12 tools on board and I guess I can agree, but the combo pry tool and medium screwdriver are the same thing, so I take some issues here.
The best thing going for the T4 is it’s “built” in Portland, OR. I assume they mean assembled with chinese parts, but I’m OK with that. At least they make the effort. It also comes with their 25 year warranty which really is one of the best product warranties out there.
The Leatherman website says the pocket knife blade is made from 420HC. Not a great steel, but it’s durable and can be sharpened easily, which is good because 420HC does wear quickly. I don’t mind the choice of steel here too much. I rather have a knife I can sharpen in the field easily and won’t chip under hard use.
As far as looks go, this guy does look pretty cool and I choose the blue anodized version. At the very least it will add some color to my Instagram reel. On the outside is a robust pocket clip that does work well. It’s easy to slip over your jeans right out of the box and doesn’t need to be loosened or messed with to get a good fit on your pants.
Now, some reviewers didn’t like the pocket clip at all. Over at Grit and Gear, Bill Kabitz complained; “The pocket clip. It has a limited belt size and/or pocket material needed to keep it secure. It fell off my belt a couple times while in my Jeep and sitting in a chair.”
The second big issue I have here is the weight. For the amount of tools on it, you would think it would be much lighter. It’s only 4.3 ozs, but with the big footprint it just all seems too much.
3 Tools deploy from the backside of the multitool and three from the otherside in addition to the slot where the tweezers are stored.
Another nice feature on the T4 is all the tools lock into place and are closed only after a small lever / button is depressed to unlock them. Having a locking blade is a nice touch and something you really don’t see on multitools.
The Leatherman Free T4 In Action
So the claim here by Leatherman is that all their FREE tools, a version they are calling frustration free, are supposed to be open one handed. In fact, this is the quote they have from the product feature section of their website:
“One-hand Operable Features Every feature on this tool can be opened and operated with one hand. This enables the user to keep the other hand free for situations that require multitasking or a free hand.”
Technically, I will agree with them. You can access all the tools with one hand, but it’s a chore. In the real world, opening anything other than the knife itself is a challenge. The knife has a deployment hole in the blade and is the first tool in line so your thumb rides right on it and it opens very similarly to other pocket knives.
But come on Leatherman, you have to be kidding me. The rest of the tools are one handed operation in the broadest sense of the term. Under real world use, you can not open any one tool alone, you have to pull back on the deployment tangs then when the tools are half open use one of your fingers to push the other ones back down. Leaving the one you need open.
I think Leatherman tried too hard here. The T4 should be advertised as a one hand knife with easily accessible tools. That’s not to say you can’t become proficient at using it, but you need to spend a lot of time getting there.
As for the individual tools, the knife cut well enough. It’s sharp out of the box and it cuts all the basic stuff I test a knife with; rope, wood, paracord, rubber hose, etc. The blade is only 2.2 inches, so this isn’t a hard use thing.
The scissors were OK. If you go slow, they cut paper with ease and will serve their purpose just fine. I love scissors on a multitool and that is one of the winning options here.
The rest of the tools are just like anything else you have come to expect. They work and overall, all of the T4 seems well constructed.
I mentioned above that I like the locking feature and that is true. But I sure don’t like unlocking the thing to fold the tools back into place. On the knife side the lock works fine. You can push the lever away from the blade and then fold down the knife with your index finger.
However on the flip side, the unlocking of the tools goes in the opposite direction and is on the other side of the tool. You can not close the scissors, the Phillips screwdriver or the awl easily one handed (assuming you are right handed). You really have to use two hands to fold the tool and actuate the lock with the other. This may not be a big deal to some and it might to others.
I did play around with this a lot and if you really try, you can get it closed one handed. But depending on how you do it, your fingers are in the way of the closing tool. I am sure there will be a Leatherman fanboy who will send me a nasty email and claim I am wrong. Hey, I am just telling you my opinion!
The T4 didn’t impress me out of the box and I wasn’t even looking forward to using it. Though like all tools I always give them a chance to change my mind. I carried the T4 for several days and also kept it on my desk.
It makes a great fidget tool and you can’t argue that all the claimed tool functions don’t do what they say. In the famous words of YouTuber Gideon’s Tactical, the Leatherman T4 just didn’t connect with me.
The T4 is well constructed and has an amazing warranty. I feel the $59 asking price is a little steep considering the overall effectiveness of the deployment and closing functions. For around $60 I would look more towards a Victorinox Pioneer which we reviewed here.
After I finished my notes for the review on the T4 I was staring at the tool on my desk feeling bad that I had been so harsh. Then I came to my senses and realized it’s just a poor design, and that’s not my fault.
When you really study the T4, it just seems like the designers could have made the overall thickness slimmer. There are thick plastic spacers on each side that cover the tools on the opposite side. Considering the height, I think the better way to go is to have the tools more on top of each other similar to a Swiss Army knife. It would slim it down and that would really be a game changer.
I want to jump back to the deployment of the additional tools for a second. If you drop the whole “one hand operation” phrase, getting at the other tools is definitely easier than a nail nick in a Swiss Army knife or other small multitool. My point of contention is with the whole ease of opening one handed.
Who Should Buy The Leatherman Free T4
If you’re a Leatherman nut, you will love it. Need a cool gift for a friend or co-worker, this is it. Want something different than a traditional Swiss Army knife, here you go.
Who Should Not Buy The Leatherman Free T4
If you are picky and have high expectations for your EDC gear, keep on driving. If you thought you were going to get a fantastic multitool in a compact footprint, you will be very unhappy.
Final Thoughts on The Leatherman Free T4
As stated, I really wanted to love the T4. I don’t like the locking mechanism or how tall the tools come out when you try to deploy them. I really don’t like how bulky it is so that is a deal killer. However, if you’re looking more for a glove box, tool box, or junk drawer knife that you can keep close at hand, then then you could do worse than the Leatherman Free T4
|420HC Knife||CLOSED LENGTH: 3.6 in | 9.3 cm|
|Spring-action Scissors||BLADE LENGTH: 2.2 in | 5.6 cm|
|Pry Tool||WEIGHT: 4.3 oz | 121.9 g|
|Package Opener||WIDTH: .96 in | 2.4 cm|
|Awl||OVERALL THICKNESS: .69 in | 1.8 cm|
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.