Timothy Leatherman first conceived this now-iconic multi-purpose tool while he and his wife traveled through Europe and the Middle East in 1975. Frustrated with numerous failed attempts to use a simple pocketknife to repair his repeatedly malfunctioning car, he was inspired to design a “Boy Scout knife with pliers.”
Armed with both a degree in mechanical engineering from Oregon State in 1970 and, a purpose, Leatherman began designing the “ultimate” tool. In 1980 he was awarded a patent for his Multiple Pocket Tool.
Over the years, the Leatherman company kept ahead in the design game with a continuous supply of novel and practical multi-tools, including an abundance of fun names for them such as Crunch, Flair, Surge, and Wave.
An aside: Did he use a Leatherman? was one of the first questions many asked when Aron Ralston—subject of the 2010 film 127 Hours —survived being trapped under an 800-pound boulder in a solo canyoneering accident. He literally amputated his arm with a pocket multi-tool, but no, it was not a Leatherman. The tool he used was a cheap imitation—actually a Chinese rip-off that his mother had tossed into a Christmas stocking on last-minute impulse.
For many over a certain age, the Swiss Army Knife has always been the ultimate outdoor tool. However, today’s new kid on the block offers many more options, and perhaps even a fresh change from from the past. Whether your preference is folding-knife based, or mutli-tool-with-pliers based, you now have the option of cleaning out that junk drawer once and for all.