We'll start this review with an assumption or two.
The first assumption is that the reader already recognizes the value of a well-designed and well-constructed multitool. That seems easy. Whether one goes back to the original Leatherman (19xx) or back further to the little red Swiss army knife, there's been little dispute that life goes better with the right tool in one's hand.
To paraphrase Leatherman's website, "The right tool for what you need…and you will need it."
The second assumption is that the reader has some familiarity with the basic Leatherman and the basic Swiss army knife. Since this review will focus on what's different about the Wave, you may wish to take out your current multitool or SAK to follow along.
Finally, it's important to note one other trend, a trend limited to the Emergency Responder markets, cops, firefighters, EMT's, etc. This trend was started by Spyderco, and is a trend towards easily accessible and one-hand-operable rescue knives. Call them clip-its, clip-knives, whatever, they all involve having immediate one-handed access to a blade to cut through seatbelts, clothing, whatever's in the way of a rescue or treatment. We'll call them "rescue knives".
Now, back to the Wave. The Wave is the newest concept in these related trends. It's also the most complicated and close to the heaviest. The Wave is basically a fully decked-out multitool, married to a rescue knife.
Inside the Wave is the latest and greatest of tool kits by the master of the genre, Tim Leatherman. It has the screwdrivers, scissors, openers, and - of course - the full size pliers/cutters. Everything that makes the original Leatherman so useful. The screwdrivers really drive screws, the pliers really crank, and the scissors really cut. Unlike the venerable Swiss army knife, these are truly "tool grade".
Then comes the difference. Accessible from the outside of the tool are the four cutting blades. Two of them, the serrated seatbelt blade and the smooth drop point blade, are quite easily operated one-handed and lock open. Both of these qualifications are necessary to qualify the tool as a rescue knife. The other two, the diamond file and the saw are easily accessible, but not one-handed. Nor do they lock.
Another big change from the original Leatherman is that the handles are actually comfortable to use. Whether it was the PST, the Super, the Mini, or whichever, the sharp edges of the handle always made it hard to really crank down. Buck stole away a lot of users simply because their tool practically caressed the hand. Well, the Wave solves that for the Leatherman line. The Wave isn't quite the sensuous experience of the BuckTool (okay, I'm a tool guy, I get excited by this stuff), but at least it's a quantum leap in use comfort.
Add these features together, and the tool seems custom designed for backcountry ski patrol. Whether it's immediate access to a cutting blade for the OEC mantra "go to skin", to cut loose ski retaining straps, or access to the full tool kit for the more leisurely repair of stripped telemark binding screws - this tool was made for us.
Then there's the durability. Try as I might, I can not destroy a Leatherman product. I tried all my destructive testing methods: clamping it in a bench vise, dousing it in white gas and lighting it, dropping it in seawater. I'm convinced it will happily function well into the third millenium.
Okay, it's not perfect. At 8 oz., it's stated weight, the Wave is heavier than a standard Leatherman PST II (5 oz.) plus a Spyderco Delica (2 oz.). Also, the two one-handed blades are not marked, so you could open the drop blade when you really need the serrated blade. Finally, the Wave does not work with the Leatherman Tool Adapter (ed. as of March 2000, an adapter is available) , which means you still might need to carry a specialized bit driver for the pozidrive and torx screws.
There's also no corkscrew, so keep the Swiss army knife for the patrol party afterward. (or the soon to be released leatherman flair with a wine-waiter type corkscrew and a cocktail fork for those smoked oysters. -ed)
Still, it's a heck of deal for the tool-minded ski patroller. Check it out at www.leatherman.com and see for yourself.