Perfect Thing

And why we can't live without it

My Dad's Secondhand Leatherman Is My Go-To Multitool

This discontinued model is still reliable decades later

The best gear is sometimes what someone’s given you. (Maren Larsen)
Photo: Maren Larsen leatherman

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This discontinued model is still reliable decades later

My dad gave me my first multitool when I left for college. I was moving 2,000 miles away, and in his mind, if there was one thing he could equip me with that would ensure survival in the years to come, it was a Leatherman.

This hand-me-down, a Leatherman PST II, came from my dad’s collection of half a dozen or so multitools. Unergonomic and rectangular, with a leather case that can conveniently and fashionably be worn on a belt (as I did when I was a park ranger and which my dad still does daily), it’s nearly as old as I am. The tool is neither fancy nor stylish, but I love it. 

My dad got this Leatherman when I was in kindergarten and he was working on the trail crew at Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado. Since I inherited it, I’ve used the Pocket Survival Tool for just about everything. It’s a must-have at any campsite (notably for making kindling and pounding in tent stakes), in my apartment (repairing jewelry and tightening laptop screws), and in my purse (you never know when you’ll need to snip off a tag or file a hangnail). No packing list is complete without it, even if I’m only packing my work bag. I also took it abroad when I studied in Spain in college, where I grossly (but successfully) misused it to open a bottle of cheap wine. You can accomplish most of these things with any multitool, but not just any tool can endure two generations of use with barely a scratch.

Looking up my model on the internet, I found one listed on Etsy as “vintage” and discovered that it has, sadly, been discontinued since 2004. If you want a similar multitool that’s still in production, the Leatherman Wingman would be my pick. It’s elegantly designed to include nearly all the PST II tools. If you’re looking for an upgrade, I suggest the brand’s Signal. All Leatherman multitools include a knife and some pliers, which are the implements I find myself using the most. New versions don’t come with the classic leather case anymore, unfortunately; you’ll have to make do with the nylon sheath instead.

My old tool and I know each other well, and it’s no worse for wear after what I’ve put it through. It’s no diamond engagement ring, but it is a family heirloom that I hope to pass on down the line.