One of the most common problem among frequent flyers is you’re often prevented from bringing certain items, such as utility knives, drills, pointed scissors, aboard the plane.
The Leatherman tool group claims to have solved this problem by creating a multi-tool bracelet that will clear airport security, which means you can have access to your favourite tools wherever you go.
With almost 24 years experience designing and manufacturing tools, president Ben Rivera says the Leatherman Tread — conceived from an awkward holiday experience — was designed specifically with travellers in mind.
“With product development I like to begin by identifying a problem I can solve. In this case, it was actually my own problem, which happened to be shared by a lot of other people,” Rivera told Business Insider.
“Since September 11, security agencies throughout the world don’t allow knives or Leatherman multi-purpose tools — because they contain knives — on aeroplanes.
“Just over two years ago, I was on a family vacation to Disneyland and I was trying to enter through the gates with a Leatherman tool and park security told me it was a weapon. I ended up having a little argument with them about it and they escorted me back to my hotel to make sure I did not bring my tool into the park.
“I spent the next four days thinking about what it would take to have my Leatherman tool, and most of its features, with me when I travel or go to Disneyland… and the Tread was born from that.”
The Tread is the world’s first wearable multi-tool but, as Rivera explains, coming up with the right design concept wasn’t an easy process.
“At first I struggled to design something that was comfortable to wear and easy to manufacture,” Rivera said.
Eventually Rivera gave up on the “easy to manufacture” approach, removing many of the constraints that were plaguing potential designs and used 3D printing to form the initial model.
“We ended up using a metal injection molding process to mold the different individual pieces, which is a pretty expensive way to make a product,” he said.
Manufacturing took a back seat to achieving the right aesthetic, weight, feel and functionality.
It’s got a bunch of cool — and practical — tools attached including Allen keys, wrenches, a bottle opener, screwdriver, a cutting hook, and various types of hex, socket and square drives.
It’s completely customisable, which means it can be rearranged to suit preference and wrist size. There’s also a removable time piece version featuring a shock and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal coating, ideal for adventurous travelers.
Best of all though, you can get it through airport security without any hassles.
“It conforms to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations in the United States which are, in most cases, more strict than any other places in the world,” Rivera said.
“I’ve been wearing a Tread myself for more than a year. Many people in our company have been wearing them for about six months and in the last two months we’ve had about 100 in circulation which have been through airports around the world hundreds of times and we haven’t had any instances where a gate agent has decided it’s an unsafe thing to take on a plane.”
Leatherman tools were popular in the 1980s and all the way up to the 2000s as something you would wear on your belt to be prepared for the expected and unexpected.
But as telephones became more popular and regulations became stricter, Rivera said it was increasingly challenging to convince people to carry a Leatherman tool with them.
“The Tread is designed to reach out to customers who used to carry a multi-purpose tool but aren’t doing it anymore because it’s unfashionable or they can’t take it to work or on their travels,” he said.
Wearables have been trending upwards lately — think the Apple Watch — and Rivera has been surprised by the interest from females and tech buffs inquiring about the Tread.
“Typically we don’t sell a lot of Leatherman tools to women, not because we don’t want to but because they perceive it’s a more masculine product, and they’re saying this is something that they could wear,” he said.
“We’re also finding that it appeals to techie, gadget people. Our other tools do too but this appeals in a different way… it’s more of an urban-type multi-purpose tool.”
When asked if the Tread would be popular in Australia, Rivera said there was interest from bikies, motocross riders, hipsters and police and law enforcement authorities.
“I think that people who are going out four-wheel driving, hunting or fishing are probably still going to want to carry a traditional Leatherman tool, a knife or a pair of pliers,” he said.
“But those same people at some point in time probably have to go back to the city and they’re not going to want to wear that tool on their belt.”
The Leatherman Tread will set you back $250, while the Tread QM1 (watch and bracelet), due in September this year, will retail at $740.
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