When it comes to EDC multi-tools, two of the most trusted brand names are Leatherman and Gerber.
Many enthusiasts will swear allegiance to one brand or the other. In this Leatherman vs. Gerber showdown, I want to go beyond the brand name loyalty and get into the nitty-gritty details of which makes one better than the other.
My Personal Preference:
In some cases, Gerber models are better than comparable Leatherman models. However, in general, I prefer Leatherman multi-tools.
Compared to Gerber, Leatherman excels in design and craftsmanship. The no-questions-asked warranty is another reason to choose Leatherman.
Most of the complaints people have against Leatherman or Gerber is that, “the tool broke doing X, Y, or Z.”
Multi-tools must be used responsibly! Even the toughest multi-tool can’t be used as a crow bar!
You also need to take care of the tools so they don’t get rusty.
The bottom line? Don’t blame the manufacturer for breakage caused by improper use.
Origins and Location
Gerber got its start in 1930 in Portland, Oregon. However, Gerber is no longer American-owned. In 1987, the Finnish company Fiskars bought them.
Also from Oregon, Leatherman was founded in 1983. Even though they haven’t been around as long as Gerber, they have a solid reputation and are credited with creating a new niche market for multi-tools.
Where Are Leatherman and Gerber Tools Made?
Gerber: Many Gerber products are still made in Oregon. However, a lot of their cheaper models are made in China. The quality of these products reflects it!
Leatherman: The older Leatherman products were all made in the USA. Today, all Leatherman tools are assembled in the USA – but not all parts are necessarily made in the USA.
Approximately 5 out of an average 30 parts per tool are imported, then assembled in Oregon. Thus, a lot of newer Leatherman tools will not state “Made in the USA” on them.
Gerber: Within the USA, Gerber offers a limited lifetime warranty. Outside of the USA, the warranty is for 25 years. You’ll have to ship the tool along with proof of purchase to their shop in Oregon.
Because it is a limited warranty, Gerber won’t replace or fix tools which are damaged due to misuse or abuse. Most people are pleased with the Gerber warranty services though, and get their replacement or fixed tool back within about 2 weeks.
Leatherman: Leatherman offers a 25 year warranty on their products. This might not seem as good as Gerber’s limited lifetime warranty, but Leatherman is actually a lot more flexible.
Leatherman will either fix your multi-tool or replace it – no questions asked! You are supposed to submit proof of purchase when you send in your tool. However, they are very relaxed about this too.
According to owners who’ve taken Leatherman up on the warranty, the company never asked to see the receipt (though it would probably still be a good idea to keep it).
The customer service from Leatherman is great. You can expect to have your tool fixed or replaced within 7-21 days.
Obviously, this is going to vary depending on the specific tool in question. Both Leatherman and Gerber have had some products with design flaws. However, in general, Leatherman beats Gerber for design.
Compared to Gerber, Leatherman products are much more sleek. They are easier to hold in the hands, and the tools are more accessible.
Take, for example, the Gerber Suspension. It has a great pair of spring-loaded pliers – but the plier handles are really far apart when open. It makes it hard to get a good grip. Lots of Gerber products have slight design flaws like this.
Another design issue I have with Gerber is that, with many models, you have to open up the pliers to access the knife. If you don’t use the knife much, then this isn’t an issue. But if you want quick access to the knife, you’ll find the Gerber design annoying.
The one area where Gerber beats Leatherman is one-handed opening. The only Leatherman product which really lives up to one-handed opening is their OHT model.
Once again, I’d have to go with Leatherman for this. While Gerber does have some very good quality products, a lot of their cheaper tools are made in China. The knife edge gets dull quickly. The finish can rub off on your hands. Some of the pliers even have a bit of wobble in them.
Some Gerber products are gimmicky (their Bear Grylls line in particular comes to mind). The dinky scissors and flimsy saw are practically useless in a survival situation.
By contrast, Leatherman is much more consistent with its quality. Even the cheaper Leatherman multi-tools will hold up well. They don’t try to add gimmicky tools like Gerber does, so the tools included actually work for their intended purpose.
In general, Leatherman is pricier than Gerber. You can get a really cheap Gerber multi-tool from Wal-Mart for under $30. But you get what you pay for!
If we compare Leatherman and Gerber multi-tools by price range, you’ll find that Gerber charges similar prices for lower-quality products.
Remember, a multi-tool is only as good as it is useful to you. Make a list of what tools and features you actually need. Then look for the tool which fits these specs.
In general, I would go with a Leatherman multi-tool because of their consistent build quality, sleek design, and great warranty.
However, I would recommend a Gerber multi-tool (especially if one-handed opening is important for you) -- but only if it was a model made in the USA.
Leatherman vs. Gerber Comparisons
Both Leatherman and Gerber make a lot of different multi-tools. Here are some of the similar models and how they compare.
Leatherman Wave vs. Gerber Legend
Leatherman OHT vs. Gerber Center Drive
Leatherman Wingman vs. Gerber Diesel
Leatherman Skeletool vs. Gerber Crucial
Leatherman Super Tool 300 vs. Gerber Pro Scout
Leatherman Sidekick vs. Gerber Suspension