Sunday, June 26, 2011

Leatherman Serac S3 Review

I have always been curious about the Leatherman Serac S3. It seemed like a simple, yet robust design with a lot of features that I really like in a flashlight. After I did a commentary about the light, found here, I came into a bit of unexpected cash, and bought one. Here it is on my slate slab background (which makes for easier and interesting macro shots):


I have been carrying it now for a while, and used it exclusively on a recent trip out of state. I have also let my infant son play with it and he beat it to smithereens. He would put it in his mouth, he would drag it along pavement, he would use it to tap baby-Morse code on heating elements in the airport, he used it to play a game of dropsy that lasted about an hour. In other words he did to this light what I would never do on purpose. The light wasn't expensive and I really bought it to test, so I wasn't overly concerned. Surprisingly, given this torture test, it held up very well.

Check the original article, linked above, for the product page, street price, and reviews. Amazon reviews are good. It has an average of 4.84 stars, with 45 reviews, 40 of which are 5 star reviews.

Design: 2

The Serac comes from a tool company. It looks more like a tool than a piece of tactical gear. It has a two-toned appearance with a stainless steel bezel and a HAIII aluminum body. It has a clever pocket clip that can be removed without tools (tool-less changes have become ALL the rage in power tools; Jacobs chucks are so passe). It has a responsive clicky. It is small without being fiddly. The design is simple and effective. No bullshit.

Fit and Finish: 2

Surprisingly from a badge swap light made for a multitool company, this little sucker is nice. The threads slide well, the bulb is nicely centered. Everything is well made and the materials are quite nice.

Grip: 2

The light is just the right size. Again, there is some magic ratio of length to diameter in EDC lights and this one hits it dead on. There is no knurling, but the hex body tube and the clip give you plenty of grip, even in the rain, which this light went through on my recent trip (had to go the hospital in the middle of the night during a rainstorm and it worked very well; see flashlights ARE useful).

Carry: 0

Okay, so here is the thing--the beautiful, elegant, well-designed clip has failed three times. Once it failed when I had the light in my jeans and twisted the clip on accident. The light did not come out of my pocket, but the wire clip got dislodged from its channel at the end of the light. It did go back into place easy enough. One accident, okay, everything can fail once under weird conditions. But then after the game of dropsy with my son the clip came out again, this time marking up the end of the light a bit. See the scratches to the right of the wire clip in this picture:


The marks to the left were dust and fine debirs from the slate piece. So how you rate the clip? It works, it is inconspicuous, it can be changed to multiple directions, and it can do this or be removed entirely without tools. But in extreme situations it can and has come apart. In the end, for all its cool factor and potential, the clip fails.

Output: 2

The light is a bit old coming out about two years ago and being discontinued a year later. The output, thus, isn't up to snuff with the newest and greatest bleeding edge emitters, but it is still plenty bright with a good low, medium, and high, even if the high doesn't burn paper.

Runtime: 2

Again, the light's age is a limitation, but the runtimes are plenty good, especially on low. They aren't Muyshondt Aeon great, but then again nothing is.

Beam Type: 2

This is a nice balance between throw and flood, a perfect compromise for a EDC light. It has more throw than a keychain light, but not as much as a dedicated thrower. Good job with the head and the reflector.

Beam Quality: 2

The beam quality is excellent with no artifacts and very little shape distortion, as the beam is nice and round. The hotspot is big enough and the spill is usefully bright.

UI: 2

And here it is--a model UI for all flashlights other than the Haiku. As I recounted here, the UI is just about perfect. The three settings are nicely chosen and easily accessible without the need to pass through useless strobe and beacon modes. Plus you can half press to jump up in brightness without the light ever going out. Great UI.

Hands Free: 1

So the tailcap doesn't lay completely, perfectly flat. See here:


That makes the light wobble ever so slightly when tailstanding. It still can do it, it just seems a little intoxicated. The clip does a very good job as an anti-roll device.

Overall Score: 17 out of 20

When you look at all of the lights out there with weird and crazy UIs, all the lights with ridiculously complex body tubes, and all the lights with goofy clips and lanyards you wonder, after using this little gem, how things got so unnecessarily complicated. The UI is simple enough. The light is bright and runs long enough. Why make things more complicated than they need to be? So you can incorporate "new" "features" as part of a scheme of planned obsolescence, probably. The clip can be something of a bust when you really push it, but other than that, this is a great little single cell EDC light.


  1. Nice review Tony. Looks like a decent light, simple and effective, although for $50 kind of on the spendy side.

  2. If it sold for retail, $50, then it would be a different issue. I got mine for $33 shipped from an amazon partner. They can be found for $39 pretty readily, still.

  3. I have the S2, runs off a AAA battery and the clip has been more reliable since it has a wider base. It's not terribly bright, but I end up carrying it a lot because it's slim and easy to carry, plus if I lose it or damage it I'm not overly disappointed. I don't know that I'd buy one again, but at the price I got it for (around $24), I'll use it until it fails. Makes a good backup light in my briefcase as well, since I can easily find AAA's around the office if it runs out during use. ($0.02) ;)