Leatherman’s new Sidekick and Wingman multi-tools are lower-priced “entry-level” tools aimed at first-time multi-tool buyers and users looking for a backup tool. The Sidekick is priced at $40, and the Wingman at $30, which seems pretty reasonable, especially with the tools being made in the USA.
2013 Price Update: Sidekick is ~$30, Wingman ~$25
I was able to get my hands on a Sidekick sample to review, and tried to be as comprehensive as possible. If I left anything out, or if you have any questions, leave a comment below.
When the Sidekick sample arrived, the first thing I did was look it over to see where Leatherman may have cut costs. After all, this is a “value-priced” tool, right? After a good few minutes of scrutiny, I could not find anything that screamed out “compromised quality.”
The Sidekick feels solid and well-built. It weighs in at 7.0 oz, and is 3.8″ long when closed. Both handles open smoothly to present the pliers, and the knife blade and tools deploy just as fluidly. Inner tools lock in place with a with a satisfying and reassuring click.
Leatherman knew exactly what they were doing when they designed the Sidekick and Wingman tools. “Entry-level” is an appropriate description, but only in regard to the tools’ low price point, not their quality. Once the target audience, first-time multi-tool buyers and those upgrading from generic import models, get a taste for Leatherman quality, they’re definitely going to be hankering for more.
Leatherman Sidekick Knife Blade
The liner-lock plain-edge knife blade is 2.6″ long and made from 420HC steel. Its usable cutting edge is actually about 1/4″ shorter than its stated length, but that’s not a big deal. For comparative reference, the Sidekick’s blade is slightly shorter and thinner than the one on Leatherman’s Skeletool. While the knife blade can be deployed with one hand via its elongated thumb-hole, I find it easier and more comfortable to use two hands.
Update: Loosening the pivot machine screw ever so slightly with a T10 Torx driver improves the ease at which the knife can be deployed one-handed. I didn’t like how loose this made the knife feel, so I tightened it back up. Loosening the blade is not recommended.
With use, opening the knife one-handed does seem to be getting easier, or it at least it seems to be getting easier.
The combination pliers have a spring-action, and are quite nice to use. Both the regular and needlenose gripping zones are grooved well with no visible burs or defects. The edges of the tool’s handles are rounded and provide a comfortable grip even when squeezing them tightly.
The wire-cutter is comprised of two triangular cutting edges that meet at the center (forming an X shape). They’re not very sharpened (nor should they be given the design), so they tend to crush smaller wires before cutting them, and require more effort to cut through thicker wires and nylon cable ties. Still, they’re functional and get the job done.
Saw Blade and Inner Tools
- wood-cutting saw (liner lock): sleek and appealing design, well-sharpened teeth, and performs as well as the saws on Leatherman’s higher-priced tools
- short serrated knife: usable length, nothing to complain or write home about
- 1-3/16″ ruler (part of a 3-in-1 tool): could be handy, but may be a bit short
- small screwdriver (located at tip of ruler): great size and shape, works well
- metal file (opposite face of ruler): too short for rapid material removal, but good for emergency deburring
- can opener & bottle opener: can opener could be sharper/more pointed, but works well enough
- v-groove wire stripper (side of bottle opener): comes in handy in a pinch, and is sharper than anticipated
- Phillips screwdriver: 3-dimensional (!!) and works very, very well (I only tested it on non-damaged screws)
- large slotted screwdriver: wider than I typically use, but may work well for light prying tasks
Inner Tool Latching Mechanism
The inner tools snap into place by a slip-joint-like mechanism that can be described as a spring-steel cam-action latching detent mechanism. There’s no manual lever that must be pressed to unlocked the tools as with some other Leatherman multi-tools. To close and return a tool back into the handle you simply need to apply a bit of pressure to overcome the spring tension. While not quite as secure as a positive-locking system, the detent stop works very well in holding tools straight.
Carry Methods & Accessories
You can wear or carry the Sidekick via its removable belt/pocket clip (which looks to fit up to ~1-3/4″ belts), lanyard loop, or leather pouch. The leather pouch has two grommets which can accommodate the included mini-carabiner, or similarly sized accessory or keychain carabiners.
Speaking of which, the included mini-carabiner is actually quite nice in itself, and features a bottle opener and 1/4″ hex wrench. It’s a neat accessory that I really hope Leatherman will decide to sell separately in the future.
Leatherman describes the Sidekick and Wingman multi-tools as “entry-level,” but they’re certainly designed and built far better than this suggests. I am quite impressed with the Sidekick’s design and how well it performs, and definitely recommend it.
If you’re looking for your first multi-tool, are fed-up with the cheap flimsy one you bought (or were given as a gift), or are looking for a backup for a larger or higher-end tool, you should definitely consider giving the Sidekick or Wingman a try.
The Wingman is quite similar to the Sidekick, and features a partially serrated and plain edge combination blade instead of the Sidekick’s plain blade, scissors instead of the Sidekick’s wood-cutting saw, and a “package-opener” hook instead of a serrated knife. The Wingman also lacks the Sidekick’s leather pouch and carabiner accessory.
Check out our Sidekick vs. Wingman comparison for more details about these differences.
Thank you to Leatherman for providing the sample for this review unconditionally. Review samples are typically returned, donated, or in some cases retained for further testing or benchmark and comparison purposes.