- Buyer's Guide
Leatherman Free P2 Review
Announced near the end of January this year, the Leatherman Free line represents the most extensive product launch in the company’s 35-year history and the biggest introduction of new learning and technology since the original PST (Pocket Survival Tool).
My first multi-tool was a Wave that I purchased shortly after graduation and I really went all out, adding on the bit driver as well. For most of my twenties I carried a Micra on my keys and would replace it every five years or so when the color would wear away until I just had a bare metal tool left dangling on my keychain.
Through the years, Leatherman has always pushed the bar forward by introducing not just new toolsets but ways to interact with, carry, and use the tools. For example, the Skeletool pares down the traditional multi-tool to just a blade, bit driver, and pliers, and combines it with a carabiner for easy carrying. The Tread was developed when company president Ben Rivera was stopped entering an amusement park with his multi-tool. Now it’s offered as both a bracelet and attached to a steel watch.
The Free series is releasing in three stages, with the P2 and P4 elected to be the first out of the gate. I chose the P2 which is slightly smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the P4, for review. It trades a plain edge and saw blade for a combo blade but saves an ounce in weight and $20 in price.
It comes with 19 tools in total including pliers with replaceable wire cutters, spring-action scissors, and multiple screwdrivers. It measures 10.78 cm (4.25 in) in length and weighs 215.46 g (7.6 oz) and costs $120.
The toolset here is nothing new. You get the same reliable pliers and drivers that you see in other Leatherman tools. The keyword when it comes to the Free series is: access. Using a newly developed magnetic architecture, Leatherman has rid their tools of nail nicks. Instead of relying on friction and pressure to hold the pliers and tools in place.
Who It Suits
The Free P2 suits anyone who carries a multi-tool on a regular basis and wants really fast and easy access to the tools, especially the pliers, or may have dexterity problems that would make nail nicks problematic.
Who It Doesn’t
The Free P2 is an improvement over the traditional multi-tool but I wouldn’t say it’s a big enough change that your existing tool is rendered worthless. If you are happy with your tool, it doesn’t make sense to buy a new tool just for the magnetic feature.
The friction “lock” on a traditional Leatherman is quite stiff and non-linear. Anyone who has handled any of their full-sized tools knows what I am talking about. The opening is pretty smooth as you swing both handle arms around, then you feel some strong resistance you have to overcome. One side always breaks first, then comes the other side.
The Free P2 operates in a similar way except there is an initial magnetic lock to keep the handles from dangling apart. You can break this one-handed, swing the handle around butterfly-style, and lock the handles in place. Just like the regular tools, you still need to make that final squeeze to lock everything together. It is extremely easy and natural to deploy the pliers in this manner.
The second place where the magnets come into play is deploying the scale tools. As mentioned, nail nicks are gone. Instead you roll the meaty part of your thumb over the pivot area and the entire set of tools for that side swing up. Again, it’s magnetic force that is holding the tools secure and you need to apply enough force to break it. Once the set swings up, you pinch the specific tool you want and fully open it, and close the others back down.
Using magnets as a securing mechanism truly has to be experienced to be appreciated. Leatherman spent a lot of time figuring out the types, size and placement of the magnets so they do a good job of keeping the tools in place but also are easy to deploy. I think they really hit a nice balance as I’ve never had any issues with tools swinging open when they are not supposed to or any difficulty deploying a tool I wanted.
The Not So Good
I just have two small quibbles with the Free P2. First, opening the handle tools takes a little getting used to. You see, there is a main tool on each handle (combo blade, scissors) and they are meant to be deployed using built-in holes. However, they are inline with the other tools so if you are not paying attention and roll your thumb over the entire width of the pivot, the handle tool will stop you dead in your tracks. This took me a few days to get used to but when I am trying to quickly get at a tool, I don’t want to have to precisely position my thumb.
Second, I wish the P2 came with a plain edge instead of a combo edge. This is strictly a personal preference. I understand how a combo edge is their way of substituting for dedicated plain edge and saw blades.
Apple Macbook Pro 15″
At $120, the Leatherman Free P2 is priced $20 more than the Wave+ and exactly the same as a Signal. For me, it takes everything that Leatherman has excelled at – stainless steel Made in the USA construction, full-sized pliers with replaceable wirecutters, good ergonomics, a useful toolset – and improves the user experience immensely by replacing standard friction locks with magnets.
If you are looking for a full-sized multi-tool that is easy to deploy one-handed, with tools you can get to easily without having to struggle with nail nicks, I would highly recommend considering the Leatherman Free P2.