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Leatherman's multi-tool bracelet is 29 kinds of dysfunctional

Leatherman's multi-tool bracelet is 29 kinds of dysfunctional
Andrew Tarantola
Andrew Tarantola|@terrortola|September 5, 2015 12:30 PM

Hey guys, remember paracord bracelets? Those were cool for a hot second, right? I mean, strapping 20 feet of intricately woven, high-tensile rope to your wrist "just in case" seemed like such a good idea at the time. The trouble is that for an overwhelming majority of their wearers, those "just in case" moments never actually materialized and the bracelets simply became man jewelry for the Eddie Bauer crowd. Leatherman's new Tread tool-bracelet is just as bad, except instead of a length of rope you've convinced yourself you need, it's a ring of tiny, useless tools.

The Tread attempts to pack the versatility of a 29-tool set into a single $165 stainless steel bracelet ($220 for one with a black finish). Included are eight sizes of screwdriver (both flat and Phillips); six sizes of box wrench (and one oxygen tank wrench because you're clearly James Bond); eight types of hex drivers; a square driver; a socket driver; and various miscellany like a SIM card pick, cutting hook, carbide glass breaker and, of course, bottle opener. That's a lot of tools, to be sure, but there's a pretty severe size limit as to what you can use them on.

Remember that exercise bike desk from a few months back? Not one of the Tread's hex wrenches was large enough to fit around even the smallest of bolts. Same goes for my road bike: While some of the hex drivers did fit, I spent far more time looking for a properly sized tool than I did actually using it. And don't think you're going to be prying old screws and bolts out of anything with it. The design of the Tread relegates it to strictly light duty. The moment you add elbow grease, the bracelet links torque and twist.

The lack of a handle also severely limits the amount of force you can apply. Using the screwdrivers is especially infuriating. You can't set the head into the screw and simply twist in one direction. No, you've got to set the head, twist a half turn, pull away, reset the head, twist again and so on. So a task that takes 10 seconds with a regular screwdriver takes about 45 seconds with the Tread.

As a fashion accessory, the Tread also fell disappointingly short. With all of the tools attached, this thing is gigantic -- eight and a half inches around, all told, and weighing nearly six ounces. I found I could easily slide the Tread on and off my wrist without actually unbuckling the clasp. And I do not have small hands by any stretch of the imagination.

And while the Tread is adjustable, allowing the wearer to remove rarely used links and reduce the bracelet's circumference, you'll need a separate screwdriver to do so. A separate screwdriver. For your tool bracelet. Which features eight different screwdrivers. It's also quite jangly; oh man, does it make a lot of noise when worn. Of course, if you've just blown all that cash on a wearable toolbox to show off how rugged you are, the racket it makes might actually be more of a selling point. [Update: Turns out that small and firm flat object can be used to loosen the links, not just a screwdriver.]

In the end, you're left with a gaudy, expensive piece of man jewelry that can barely accomplish its own selling points. After a day of it constantly falling off my wrist, the Tread was relegated to the same backpack pocket where the rest of my tools reside. And if it's in a pocket instead of on your wrist, it's about as useful in a pinch as the paracord bracelet you replaced with it.

Gallery: Leatherman Tread | 7 Photos

Leatherman's multi-tool bracelet is 29 kinds of dysfunctional