A multitool you can wear on your wrist? Neat! But, will it actually be useful as, you know, a tool? I don’t think so. This is manly wrist fashion, not a genuinely useful wearable.
For the last couple of years, braided lengths of paracord worn on your wrist have been a thing. The idea is that they enable you to easily carry 20 feet or more of the multipurpose rope with you anywhere, leaving you prepared to tie stuff up on a moment’s notice. Some even have clasps that double as a whistle or compass and, because paracord comes in such a huge variety of colors, you can choose a bracelet that best compliments your tactical cell phone holster or special edition German special forces boots or whatever.
But, while arming yourself with tools or materials (and hopefully the knowledge to use them effectively!) is an admirable goal, these paracord bracelets have become trendy man jewelry. Worn to signify to other manly men that you’re the kind of guy who has also come up with a zombie apocalypse survival plan and would love the opportunity to tell you about it. How often are you really surprised by a life or death situation that requires you to tie a few knots to save the day? Not that often, I’d suspect and, when you do, you can likely find another source of cordage that doesn’t require you to destroy your sweet bracelet to deal with it.
Enter the Leatherman Tread, a wearable multitool that packs 25 “tools” into one bracelet-cum-watchband. The company hasn’t detailed the function of each of the little metal bits and pieces yet, but looking at it I can see a bottle opener, a line cutter, a carbide glass breaker, box wrenches in a few different sizes and the remaining dozen or so tools appear to be various riffs on the flat driver.
That’s the start of the Tread’s problems — you rarely need more than one size of flat-head screw driver. What can be handy is one tiny Phillips (or Phillips compatible flathead) that’ll fit eyeglasses, then one substantial Phillips for actual screws. The Tread has two of the latter and zero of the former. But, even those two “real” Phillips drivers aren’t going to be much use.
Let’s say you’re out in the wilds of say, your cubicle, when you suddenly encounter a life or death situation involving a loose screw. Do you have time to remove and disassemble your wrist watch or bracelet in order to fix it? And, when you do, will that dinky little half-length bit actually be able to access the screw head? In any circumstance more recessed than a flush screw head with plenty of clear access for your closed fist to turn in, neither of the Tread’s two Phillips drivers will work.
It does appear as if some of the Tread’s tools will at least be partially accessible by simply removing the bracelet/watch and folding its band to “unfold” the tool you need. Others seem as if you might need to remove them from the band in order to use them. So, at best you’ve got a multitool that’ll be awkward to use and, at worst, one that requires disassembly before you can use it. Lost parts anyone?
The difference between a real tool and bullshit one is palpable. Compare the “Phillips Screwdriver” on this Gerber Shard to the real deal. I mostly use the Shard as a bottle opener and occasionally as a prybar, but am under no illusions that it’d ever be able to turn a screw and carry another tool that can.
Then there’s that dinky nature of the included tools. A carbide glass breaker, for instance, is a pretty useful thing to have on you. Car windows are pretty hard things to break and, if you’re either in an accident or need to rescue someone from one, then you may need to break a window. But, you still need to land several pretty solid blows on a window for a glass breaker to work. Will a watch band folded up awkwardly in your hand with the glass breaker protruding only minimally and on a hinge deliver enough of a blow to shatter safety glass? I’m skeptical of its ability to do so.
The entire use-case for small, easily carried tools like this one is that they can give you the capability to solve mechanical problems in a pinch. That may be breaking a window, undoing bolts or just tightening the hinge on your glasses. But most of the time, if you’re in a pinch, it’s real capability that’s going to get you out of it; a half-assed excuse for a tool that’s too small and flimsy to get the job done is just going to frustrate you.
And, the thing is, Leatherman already specializes in making genuinely capable tools that are incredibly easy to carry with you. The Leatherman Style PS that I carry as part of my keychain toolkit is small and light enough to go with you anywhere and, because it doesn’t have a knife blade, is even TSA compliant. It’s a genuinely useful, high quality, versatile tool that can delivery substantial capability everywhere from day-to-day home, office or automotive repairs to helping you respond to a genuine emergency. It’s only $20 and it’s twice the tool this watchband will ever be.
I carry that as part of a little too kit that fits on my keychain and includes the ability to see stuff when it’s dark, signal for help, pry stuff open, store and transfer data and, yes, fix things. And I use it to do those things often several times a day, it’s actually handy and it rides seamlessly in my pocket. That little tool kit is perfectly complemented by a quality, quick-deploying folding knife. The one I carry includes a carbide glass breaker on its pommel and here that feature is genuinely useful because the full-size knife handle turns the whole thing into a real hammer you can easily smash glass with. I know, I’ve done it.
It may hide in my pocket, failing to signal to other dudes that I’m a manly man, but it’s a real toolkit that can perform real work. The Leatherman Tread is not.
IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.