Under the Radar

SHOT Show: Leatherman Reinvents the Multi-Tool

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Leatherman Tool Group has been the leading company in the multi-tool (a/k/a "pocketknife with pliers") category since they launched back in the '80s. They still make some of the best tools you can buy, but now you can walk into any hardware chain and see a bin full of cheap knockoffs that pretend do to the same job.

How does a company stay on top? It innovates and Leatherman is taking a bold shot at inventing a new category with its upcoming Tread, which announces itself as the world's first "wearable tool: and debuted this week at SHOT Show. Other, more traditional new Leatherman product announcements include the Signal (designed for outdoor activities), the Leap (aimed at kids) and the Rev (a budget-priced successor to the Wingman and the Sidekick).

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Tread, Tread with watch and the Signal

The Tread bracelet is inspired by the bicycle chain bracelet and the idea came to Leatherman president Ben Rivera after he was stopped by security at the Disneyland gates and told he couldn't bring his Skeletool into the park because it was a knife. He wanted to develop a way to carry tools everywhere and not encounter the same resistance again.

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Each link in the chain features two tools, including a cutting hook, hex drives, screwdrivers, box wrenches, and a carbide glass breaker. Even the clasp is functional with a bottle opener and #2 square drive. You can arrange the links in any sequence you want and the size is adjustable.

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The basic Tread will come in black ($200 retail) or stainless steel ($150) and will be on sale this summer. Leatherman is promising to create more link options for additional customization.

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There will be a watch version of the tread coming in the fall, called the QM1. No word yet on the final price; Leatherman is still finalizing the design and manufacturing partner.

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The Signal is specifically designed for hunting, fishing, hiking and camping and includes several of the expected Leatherman tools: pliers, can opener, saw, awl and removable pocket clip. You also get a hammer, replaceable wire cutters, diamond-coated file, and bit driver.

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The features that are unique to the Signal are the ferrocerium fire starter and whistle. The fire starter generated an impressive spark during the demo. The Signal goes on sale this summer with a suggested retail of $120.

The Leap retails for $54.00 and the Rev retails for $37.00. Both are available now. We'll try to have full reviews of the Tread, the Signal and other new Leatherman products as they become available throughout the year.

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