For almost 40 years, the Leatherman Company has developed and sold high-quality multi-tool devices worldwide. Recently, the company released an updated version of their classic Leatherman Wave multi-tool called the Leatherman Wave Plus. It’s basically the same product plus a few key upgrades.

This article will break down and compare both devices and try to help you decide which tool might be best for you. If you’re interested in understanding the difference between Leatherman Wave vs Wave Plus, please read on.

What is a Leatherman Multi-tool?

A multi-tool is a small, handheld device that contains several miniature tools inside a single unit. Generally, a multi-tool is based on a set of pliers and has other fold-out tools connected to the handles. These additional tools can include knives, saws, files, screwdrivers, can and bottle openers, among others.

This convenient tool can be useful on camping trips or other outdoor adventures. Being out in the wilderness, you won’t always have access to your complete set of tools stored at home in your workshop or garage. This multi-tool offers you a wide variety of tools in a single, compact device.

Multi-tools are often made of stainless steel and other weather-resistant materials in order to remain functional in outdoor environments and adverse weather conditions. In short, a multi-tool is a durable, pocket-sized backup toolset.

Of course, it’s important to remember that multi-tools are not intended to replace a traditional toolset. Whenever possible, you want to use the correct, full-sized, specialized tool for the job. The value of the multi-tool is that it can serve as a replacement toolset in a pinch while being a lightweight, easy-to-carry unit.

About the Leatherman Company

While the market is filled with imitators, Leatherman is still considered the gold standard in terms of multi-tool development and production. Founded in 1983, the Leatherman Company began when a mechanical engineering student decided he needed a better pocket knife.

While multi-function pocket knives already existed, such as the Swiss Army Knife, Leatherman’s key innovation was building the tool around pliers rather than a knife. This created a sturdier and more useful tool, which quickly grew in popularity as an everyday carry item among outdoor enthusiasts, military personnel, and first responders.

Features of the Leatherman Wave

Redesigned in 2004, the classic Leatherman Wave has been the company’s best-selling product for years and is the most popular multi-tool on the market. The Wave has 17 tools including pliers, scissors, container openers, locking knives, files, screwdrivers, wire cutters, a ruler, and a saw. Yes, it can pretty much do everything!

A great design feature of the Wave is that all the tools can be opened and used with one hand. The entire concept behind a multi-tool is that it’s made to be used even in the harshest conditions. If you were in ideal conditions, you’d probably be back in your shop with a complete set of full-size tools.

Instead, you may find yourself in tough positions that require you to hold something with your other hand. In these cases, you can open and operate the wave using just one hand. Putting the priority of the customer first has always been one of Leatherman’s trademarks. 

The Wave is lightweight and small, at just 8.5 ounces and 3.9 inches long. This compact design means you can always carry it with you and be ready whenever you encounter any unplanned jobs. If it was too big or heavy, it would quickly become useless because nobody would carry it.

Finally, the Wave, like all Leatherman tools, is backed by a 25-year warranty. In the unlikely event your Wave fails or breaks, you can send it back to Leatherman and they will fix it for you. This assumes, of course, that you were using it properly when it broke.

One drawback of the Wave is that some models are made with a black oxide finish. While this finish prevents rust and certainly looks cool, some customers have complained that the black oxide tends to rub off on your hands during use. But, other customers said this didn’t happen to them. Either way, it’s something to keep in mind before purchasing.

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Leatherman
  • Model Number: 037447104497
  • Item Weight: ‎8.5 ounces
  • Product Dimensions: 3.9 x 1.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Knife Blade Length: 2.9 inches
  • Color: Stainless Steel, Black
  • Sheath: Black leather with Molle attachments
  • Warranty: 25 years
  • Tools Included: 17 (see below)

Tools Included

  1. Needle nose pliers
  2. Regular pliers
  3. Spring-action scissors
  4. Bottle opener
  5. Can opener
  6. Lock blade knife
  7. Serrated blade knife
  8. Saw
  9. Wood and metal file
  10. Diamond-coated file
  11. Small bit driver
  12. Large bit driver
  13. Medium flat screwdriver
  14. Hard-wire cutters
  15. Wire cutters
  16. Wire strippers
  17. 8-inch ruler
LEATHERMAN, Original Wave Multitool with Scissors and Eyeglass Screwdriver Bit, Black with Leather Sheath
  • READY FOR ANYTHING: The Wave is hands down our most popular multitool. With larger knives, longer wire cutters, and all-locking blades, the redesigned Wave is perfect for any job, adventure, or everyday task.
  • FIT MORE FUNCTIONALITY: The Wave is equipped with 17 tools, including knives, pliers, screwdrivers, a small bit driver for eyeglasses, wire cutters, a wire stripper, scissors, bottle and can openers, files, a saw, and a ruler.
  • LET'S BE PRACTICAL: Sometimes you only have one hand to spare. The Wave only requires one hand to open and use all the tools, even the ones that aren't accessible from the outside. And with all-locking blades, you can cut with confidence.
  • ALWAYS ON HAND: With its compact size and lightweight design, you can stash your Wave in your pocket and always have it when you need it.

Features of the Leatherman Wave Plus

Now, let’s take a look at the upgraded version of Leatherman’s classic Wave multi-tool, called the Wave Plus. This product still incorporates all 17 tools from the classic version, but features an additional electrical crimper.

The Wave Plus is also available in a black oxide coating, but supposedly the coating has been improved in the areas most susceptible to wear. If you decide to go with this finish, you will still get something rust-resistant while looking cool at the same time. In any case, unless you’re conducting secret missions, we recommend the stainless steel version.

Another great upgrade to the original multi-tool is the replaceable wire cutter blades. As wire cutters tend to dull quickly, the Wave Plus is designed to allow for easy blade replacement. To replace, simply screw off the dull blade, screw on the new one, and then your cutters are as good as new! But, remember to carry replacement blades with you if you’re doing a lot of wire cutting.

The Wave Plus features significant improvements that will help extend the life of the product almost indefinitely. With Leatherman already offering a 25-year warranty, they obviously have a lot of confidence that their products will stand the test of time. Adding the ability to replace parts on the multi-tool will easily extend the lifespan of the product even further!

The Wave Plus also now includes an electrical crimper. This tool can be used for smashing electrical wires and connectors together to create a tight bond. It can also be used to terminate wires that might be a safety hazard. As the Wave already included wire cutters and strippers, the inclusion of the crimper is a logical move.

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Leatherman
  • Model Number: 832531
  • Item Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Product Dimensions: 4.0 x 1.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Knife Blade Length: 2.9 inches
  • Color: Stainless Steel, Black
  • Sheath: Black leather with Molle attachment
  • Warranty: 25 years
  • Tools Included: 18 (see below)

Tools Included

  1. Needle nose pliers
  2. Regular pliers
  3. Spring-action scissors
  4. Bottle opener
  5. Can opener
  6. Lock blade knife
  7. Serrated blade knife
  8. Saw
  9. Wood and metal file
  10. Diamond-coated file
  11. Small bit driver
  12. Large bit driver
  13. Medium screwdriver
  14. Hard-wire cutters
  15. Wire cutters
  16. Wire strippers
  17. Electrical crimper
  18. 8-inch ruler
LEATHERMAN, Wave Plus Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters, Spring-Action Scissors and Nylon Sheath, Built in the USA, Stainless Steel
  • READY FOR ANYTHING: A fresh upgrade to our most popular multitool; Now includes premium replaceable wire cutters for tackling jobs tough, big and small for years to come
  • INSTANT TOOLKIT: Packs a quiver of 18 tools, including pliers, replaceable wire cutters, wire stripper, knives, saw, spring-action scissors, ruler, can & bottle openers, files and screwdrivers
  • OUR GUARANTEE: We’re proud to stand behind every product that leaves our factory in Portland, Oregon; That’s why we offer our 25-year warranty, so you can be confident your Leatherman lasts a lifetime
  • ONE-HAND OPENING: You only need one hand to open and use the compact Wave Plus, even the ones that aren't accessible from the outside

Comparing the Leatherman Wave vs Wave Plus

So, how are the Leatherman Wave and the Wave Plus different? Let’s take a look at how both products compare to help you figure out which one best suits you!

Generally, the Wave and the Wave Plus can be described as nearly identical. After all, the Wave has proven to be the most popular multi-tool in Leatherman’s product lineup, so there is no reason to start entirely from scratch.

The engineers at Leatherman had to carefully examine their flagship product to figure out how it can be improved without losing any of the features and benefits that made it so popular in the first place.

Companies have a long history of trying to upgrade an established favorite, only to have the whole thing blow up in their faces, such as the creation of New Coke. Leatherman didn’t want to make the same mistake.

To avoid this trap, Leatherman actually listened to their customers to figure out new improvements they could make to the product without sacrificing the original.

Tools & Function

The Wave Plus retains all the original tools with the exception of the electrical crimper and interchangeable wire cutter blades. It adds function without sacrificing anything, which makes it the superior version.

Also, the Wave Plus has the unique feature of allowing the user to open the knife blade without opening the pliers. On the classic Wave, users needed to open the pliers first before extending the knife blade. If you need the knife in an emergency, this extra step could waste critical time. The Wave Plus eliminates this issue by allowing the knife blade to open and lock independently.

Several other tools can also be opened independently since they’re positioned on the outside of the handles and easy to access. As is the case with most multi-tools, users need to open the pliers first before gaining access to the other tools. Leatherman realized that this was a waste of time and put unnecessary wear and tear on the pivot joint, so they adjusted accordingly.

Other than that, the toolset and function are the same between the two devices.

Size & Weight

The tradeoff for these improvements to the Wave Plus is a slightly larger size and heavier weight. Compared to the classic Wave, the Wave Plus is 2.7 ounces heavier. However, Leatherman felt confident that it was a small enough increase not to turn away potential customers.

At first, this might seem irrelevant, but for a worker, first responder, or extreme outdoor adventurer, every ounce counts. If you’re planning to climb K2, this extra weight might matter. For the rest of us, the extra weight is definitely worth the improved functionality.

The Wave Plus is also about 0.1 inches longer and 0.1 inches wider than the classic Wave. Unless you are planning on taking this product into space, this difference is irrelevant.

Quality & Design

The two versions of the Wave are very similar in design and are made from the same materials. Both are available in stainless steel or with a black oxide coating.

The knife blades are made from 420HC stainless steel, which is highly durable, rust-resistant, and can withstand repeated sharpening. Leatherman’s products and choice of materials were clearly designed for the long-haul.

Warranty

Both the Wave and the Wave Plus include Leatherman’s 25-year warranty. Although companies usually offer these kinds of generous warranties, you probably won’t need it. No company would offer a 25-year warranty if they didn’t believe the product was truly high-quality.

Besides, since Leatherman is constantly innovating and improving their products, they know you’ll want to upgrade your multi-tool long before your warranty expires.

Verdict

While the Wave Plus is not a huge upgrade over the Wave classic, it didn’t need to be. The Wave had already been a great product dominating the market. Instead, Leatherman wanted to focus on improving the product as much as possible without sacrificing the quality of the original.

We highly recommend either of these products, but it makes more sense to choose the Wave Plus. Unless the 2.7-ounce weight difference will be significant to you, the Wave Plus is clearly the best choice.

On the other hand, if you already own the classic Wave, there’s no pressure to upgrade to the Wave Plus. As described above, there are a handful of new features available on the Plus, but if they don’t meet any of your needs, there’s simply no reason to upgrade. The device you already have should last for years if you continue to maintain it and use it properly.

Final Word

If you’re trying to figure out the difference between the Leatherman Wave vs Wave Plus, we hope you found this article helpful. If you’re interested in other great content about survival gear and preparedness, feel free to check out the other articles on our site.

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