The Leatherman Skeletool CX multi-tool is designed to be light and compact enough to be a "carry-everywhere" tool. Only the most essential tools are included: knife, combined needlenose and regular pliers, dual wire cutter (for soft and hard wire), and a driver for screwdriver bits. The carabiner clip doubles as a bottle opener. The design is innovative, not only for the contoured handles and weight-lessening holes, but also for the ease with which all the tools can be accessed. The knife flips open with one hand. Two double-ended bits are included, but the driver accepts more; a compact 40-piece Leatherman driver bit kit (*Est. $12) is also available.
Reviews praise the Skeletool CX, along with the less expensive Skeletool (*Est. $45) as multi-tools that really get used, day in and day out, because they're easy to carry and include the most essential tools. The CX refers to carbon fiber; the Skeletool CX has carbon fiber inserts and an attractive handle decoration. More important, the Skeletool CX uses a better grade of stainless steel (154CM) for the knife blade.
Reviews of the Skeletool CX can be confusing because in 2009, Leatherman changed the blades -- the CX version is now the model that has a plain blade, not a combi blade that's partly serrated. Each blade version has advantages; people who like to sharpen their own knives prefer the plain blade. The serrated portion of the blade on the less expensive Skeletool can be useful, though, so it's a matter of personal preference.
Both Skeletool multi-tools share the same drawbacks: The bit driver is at the end of one handle, and if a bit doesn't lock in securely, it can fall out while carrying the multi-tool. Also, the pliers are thinner than on most multi-tools (to save weight), and though this can be an advantage in getting into a tight space, quite a few owners report having to return their Skeletools(for replacement under the 25-year warranty because the pliers broke under fairly light usage. If strong pliers are a priority, or you need two sizes of drivers or other tools (such as a file and saw), consider the fully-equipped Leatherman Charge TTi (*Est. $90), which weighs 3.2 ounces more.
We found expert reviews of the Skeletool CX and the similar Skeletool at Popular Mechanics, Toologics.com and Wired. In addition, we spotted around 300 owner-written reviews at Amazon.com, plus useful reviews at REI.com and Backcountry.com. Though most video reviews show the partially serrated blade, they're still useful for getting a good sense of how the Skeletool CX works.
This enthusiastic review covers both Leatherman Skeletool models, praising the compact, light selection of tools and the ease of access. Price is the only drawback noted. Separate comparison tests here also give top ranking to Leatherman compared with models by Gerber and Victorinox.
Review: Leatherman Skeletool: The Lightweight Multi-Tool You'll Actually Use, Erik Sofge, Oct. 1, 2009
Wired reviewer Chuck Cage recommends the Skeletool for its light weight, saying "this 5-ounce must-have positively radiates trail cred." He likes the way the carabiner doubles as a bottle opener as well as the way the knife blade flips open one-handed.
Review: Phantom Toolbox: Leatherman Skeletool, Chuck Cage, Nov. 2007
This single-product review of the Skeletool praises the way all the tools are easily accessible; you don't have to pry out any of the handles. It's also less bulky than other Leatherman multi-tools.
Review: The Leatherman Skeletool, June 2008
More than 300 owners review the Leatherman Skeletool CX here, giving it a high overall rating with much praise for the knife blade, tool selection and light weight. Only a small number are dissatisfied with it. The main complaint is that on at least some units, the pliers aren't strong.
Review: Leatherman 830850 Skeletool CX, Contributors to Amazon.com
More than three dozen owners rate and review the Skeletool CX here, though some refer to an older version; the current Skeletool CX has a plain blade rather than one that has serrations. A few owners complain about a defective bit holder or say that the pliers are weak; most owners praise the Skeletool's light weight and convenience.
Review: Leatherman Skeletool CX, Contributors to REI.com
The half-dozen or so owners reviewing the Skeletool CX here give it high praise as useful and easy to carry. The thinner pliers sometimes prove handier than thick ones, they say.
Review: Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-Tool, Contributors to Backcountry.com
This video demonstration by a knife retailer is slow but very detailed, so if you want to see every tool one at a time and how it's accessed -- this is worth watching. The blade in this video, though, is still the combi blade; the current CX comes with a plain blade.
Review: Leatherman Skeletool CX, "Bob", 2009