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It was almost 10 months ago that I reported on Leathermans new One-Handed Tool (OHT) which I suggested would be coming soon. Their arrival into the market place took a lot longer than I hoped and expected, largely because the US (among others) military were buying them up faster than Leatherman could make them. At the time I suggested that it just might serve equally well for kayak fishing as it would combative applications and I had very good reason for saying so. That reason is belied in it’s rather fitting name – total one-handed operation. Check out the Leatherman OHT Models Here.
For almost a couple of decades there has been an age old debate on which is the better brand of multitool – Leatherman or Gerber. For true accuracy this debate really has to be broken down to model vs model, though one of the most common claims made has been that Leatherman make the better quality tool. My experience confirms this; during my near-decade-long tenure working in outdoor recreation stores I had the opportunity to sell both. We would sell more than twice as many Leathermans, but get more than twice as many Gerbers back that were faulty or broken. You do the math. That’s not to say Gerber multitools are rubbish though – they’re not… its just that Leatherman are better quality.
However, several Gerber models have had one trick up their sleeve that has served them well, which is flick-out pliers. For quite some time this made them very popular with military and law-enforcement operatives that found that fast and easy access pliers was the most sought after trait. On the other hand, many models of Leatherman tools have featured one-handed operation of blades, and in some cases saws and files also. So for many users it was really just a question of which tools were needed and used the most: blades or pliers.
Not so long ago Gerber’s patent on flick-out pliers expired, leaving the door wide open for Leatherman to step up and offer something comparable. Not only have they achieved that with the OHT, but they have raised the bar by creating a tool that offers one-hand operation on everything. When I first found out about this I became giddy with excitement and ordered one immediately. It took almost a year for it to arrive and I’m pleased to say that I finally have it. And yes… I dig it.
For the past couple of years my kayak fishing multi-tool of choice has been Leatherman’s Skeletool. It’s a great little number, which I was attracted to for several reasons. Its compact and lightweight, featuring a pocket clip and carabina (both of which are great for fast and simple attaching to a PFD vest) as well as very high quality pliers and one-handed opening blade. It’s primary con (for kayak fishing application) however, is that two hands are really required to access the pliers easily. This is a real buggar when you’re holding a fish in one hand and trying to open up the pliers to de-hook it with the other. I’ve found myself in this situation numerous times. I’d go as far to say that I’ve needed to access the pliers just as many times as I have had the blade, and those instances that I’ve needed the pliers have often been more critical. So this is why I loved the concept of the OHT.
It’s impossible to not be comparing the OHT to a Gerber tool so I’ll just come right out and say it – not only does the flick-out action of the Leatherman feel more Tony-Stark-Iron-Man-like than a Gerber, the quality and precision of the pliers is better than anything I’ve seen offered by Gerber as well. They offer the same standard of engineering I’ve come to expect from Leatherman in a semi needle-node form factor that is ideal when it comes to de-hooking fish. The wire cutters (replaceable) are superb, which although not quite up to the task of cutting fine braided line (I use blades for this anyway), are ideal for snipping mono and leader line. The spring action of the handles feels really nice and unlike many models of Gerber, do not present the risk of causing blood blisters in the hand if the pliers slip their grip from whatever they are holding (this is a common complaint from several Gerber multi tool models).
The full specs of the OHT tool are listed below and a quick perusal will impress by the sheer amount of them. A really nice touch by Leatherman was to add diagrams that are molded into the handle scales to show which side of each handle contains whatever tool. Very clever indeed, and more appreciated than I was expecting.
Unfortunately, unlike the Skeletool (which will remain my tool of choice for my day job for reasons I’m about to mention) it is devoid of any kind of handy attachment features, such as pocket clip or carabina. This means that it really has to be stowed in a pocket or it’s pouch, which is very military-spec in form and function. In some ways it is probably a good thing for me to be storing it in a pouch because it will suffer less contact with salt water than my Skeletool did. Even though it is built from stainless steel, much like every other multi-tool on the planet, surface rust can and will become a problem if not padantically treated with a high quality lubricant like Inox. I’ve attached the pouch to the shoulder strap of my PFD, which should see it both accessible and relatively high and dry.
It’s also quite a bit larger and heavier than the Skeletool, which is unfortunate but not unexpected. This is a small price to pay considering how many tools are packed into it, most of which I can see being used on the kayak at some point, be it for de-hooking and gutting fish, cutting line, field repairs on the kayak, or any number of applications around camp on expedition.
So in a nutshell, I’m really very impressed with Leathermans OHT and I know it’s going to shape us well as an obligatory tool for kayak fishing. Worth the wait? Yes… I believe it is. Thanks to my mates at Maclean Outdoors for sending it down to me.