Entry Level Multi Tools: Leatherman Wingman vs Sidekick


Leatherman launched the Wingman and Sidekick as entry level full-size multi tools that were about half the price of a Wave back in 2011. Both tools pack 14 quality tools into a frame that is easy to pocket carry with the included clip or use the sheath that comes with the Sidekick. Leatherman puts their engineering and quality into all of their products, including these entry level tools.

Wingman
Sidekick

Both the Wingman and Sidekick have spring-loaded pliers with forged v-cutter style wire cutters. The Wingman features large scissors and a combo edge knife that are both accessible from the outside with one hand. Inside tools are can/bottle opener, wire stripper, small/medium flatheads, Phillips driver, ruler, file, and a package opener. The Sidekick replaces the scissors with a saw, trades the package opener for a small serrated knife blade, and adds a lanyard ring and carabiner – all the other tools are identical.

For the money you can afford to have one in your tackle box, hunting kit and the glovebox of all your vehicles and not worry too much if they get lost or ‘grow legs’. However the design is showing its age and at current prices they are not the great value they once were. The handle scales are thinner than other models and the fit and finish is good but not as nice as the Leatherman Wave+. The Wingman and Sidekick don’t have the top of the line materials or build quality but they get the job done.

Today we are reviewing the features, build quality, and utility of the Leatherman Wingman and Sidekick multi tools.

Specifications: Leatherman Wingman vs Sidekick

FeatureLeatherman
Wingman
Leatherman
Sidekick
Size
L x W x H
3.8 x 1.4 x 0.7 in3.8 x 1.4 x 0.7 in
Weight7 oz7 oz
One Hand ToolsKnife Blade
Scissors
Knife Blade
Saw
Main Knife
Blade Length
2.4 in2.4 in
Main Blade StyleClip Point
Combo Edge
Clip point
Straight edge
Straight Edge Length1.2 in2.4 in
Serrated Edge Length1.2 inn/a
Blade Steel420HC420HC
Pliers Thickness
(Base – Tip)
0.28 – 0.10 in0.28 – 0.10 in
Pliers Reach2.3 in2.3 in
Jaw Opening1.48 in1.48 in
Jaw Length1.25 in1.25 in
Jaw Width1.0 in1.0 in
Scissors Blade Length0.95 inn/a
Wire CuttersV-cutter styleV-cutter style
Phillips Driver#2#2
Flat DriversSmall & MediumSmall & Medium
OpenersCan/Bottle openerCan/Bottle opener
FileCoarse 1.5 inCoarse 1.5 in
Other ToolsPackage Opener
Wire Stripper
Ruler: 1.2 in
Lanyard Ring
Serrated Blade
Carabiner
Ruler: 1.2 in
Design Date20112011

Knife Length: Measured as length of sharpened edge
Pliers Reach: Measured from the pliers tip to the shoulders of the handle
Jaw Opening: Measured at pliers tip at max extension
Jaw Length: Measured from wire cutters to pliers tip
Jaw Width: Measured at widest point with jaws fully closed
Scissors Blade Length: Length of sharpened edge measured with jaws at 90°
See our Test Procedures for full details.

Pick up the Wingman or Sidekick and I immediately notice the difference compared to other modern Leatherman multitools. They have a good heft and feel sturdy, but are not as refined as other tools like the Wave+.

Wingman
Sidekick

Leatherman rounded the corners of the working surfaces in contact with your hands but there are some noticeably rough edges. Similarly, when you unfold the pliers the handles are rounded over but the rough finish and thinner stainless steel used in construction make them less comfortable to hold.

The knife blade is setup for one-handed opening using your right thumb, the secondary tool also opens one-handed with your left thumb. Both lock in place with liner locks that hold securely and release cleanly with a press of your thumb. It takes a little getting use to folding the knife blade toward your thumb when it is still on the release, but with a little coordination there is no risk of cutting yourself.

Because of how the pliers fold into the handles, all tools on the inside of the handles must be shorter to make room. Each tool has a thumbnail hook for opening but we found it easier to simply push them open from the back, especially since they all clump together and come out at once.

Wingman
Sidekick

One handle holds the Phillips and medium flat head screwdriver tips while the other handle has the can/bottle opener with wire stripper, ruler, wood/metal file, small flat head screwdriver, and package opener. These tools have a slip joint with a spring detent but do not lock open.

Leatherman truly engineers their multitools with careful thought into every design element. With the Wingman and Sidekick they managed to reduce the manufacturing cost while keeping the utility. The tools also make efficient use of available space, nearly every tool serves multiple functions to minimize weight and added bulk.

Leatherman Wingman Product Description

WINGMAN® One of our top-rated multi-tools combines spring-action pliers, scissors and 12 other indispensable tools.

The Leatherman Wingman is just that: your go-to tool for projects around the house, on the job, or at the campsite. A great, lightweight, pocket-sized, stainless steel tool; the Wingman features an outside-accessible, one-hand opening blade and redesigned spring-action jaws. With plenty of handy tools, and backed by a team of designers, assemblers, and manufacturing crew from Portland, Oregon, this is one amazing value. Covered by the Leatherman 25-year warranty.

Leatherman Wingman

Leatherman Wingman Tool List

The Wingman comes with all of the standard multi tool functions:
3. Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
4. Spring-action Regular Pliers
6. Wire Cutters, spring action
13. 420HC Combo Knife
15. Spring-action Scissors
18. Wood/Metal File
22. Phillips Screwdriver
23. Medium Screwdriver

24. Small Screwdriver
28. Package Opener
30. Ruler (1.5 in | 3.8 cm)
32. Wire Stripper
33. Can/Bottle Opener
Features:
• Locking Blade
• Replaceable pocket clip
• Outside-accessible one-hand opening knife blade

Leatherman Sidekick Product Description

SIDEKICK® A pocket-sized multi-tool with spring-action pliers, a saw, two knife blades, openers and more.

A great choice for first-time users, the original Portland, Oregon multi-tool manufacturer is making you your very own Sidekick. This handy pocket-sized tool has all the features you need to get your project done, at a fraction of the cost. The handy, outside-accessible blades mean you can open the knife with just one hand and rounded handles make getting a grip around their spring-action jaws easy and very comfortable. Stainless steel and backed by a 25-year warranty; first choice, or handy second backup, you can’t beat the value of the Sidekick. Sheath and Carabiner included.

Leatherman Sidekick

Leatherman Sidekick Tool List

The Sidekick comes with 12 tools and 16 functions:
3.  Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
4.  Spring-action Regular Pliers
6.  Wire Cutters, spring action
13. 420HC Knife
15. Serrated Knife Blade
16. Saw
18. Wood/Metal File
22. Phillips Screwdriver
23. Medium Screwdriver
24. Small Screwdriver
27. Carabiner Tool
29. Hex Bit Driver
30. Ruler (1.5 in | 3.8 cm)

31. Lanyard Ring
32. Wire Stripper
33. Can/Bottle Opener
Features:
• Locking Blade
• Outside-accessible one-hand opening knife blade
• Sheath and carabiner included

Knife Blades

It is no surprise that Leatherman uses their standard 420HC steel for the knife blade on their entry level multi tools, it is proven and gets the job done. Straight from the box the blade deploys smoothly with the large thumb hole and liner locks hold it open securely. The blade position on the handle means you can only open it with your right thumb, sorry lefties.

Wingman vs Sidekick Knife Blade: Leatherman used their normal clip-point blade style on both tools. The Wingman has a hybrid edge with a straight edge on the front half of the blade and the bottom half serrated. The Sidekick has a straight edge for the entire blade.

Sidekick Knife Blade:

Wingman Additional Blade: Leatherman also included a package opener on the Wingman. The package opener is a small sharpened hook used for opening boxes and plastic clamshells. We appreciated the added safety over using the main knife blade. Plastic clamshells are a blight on society but the blade makes them easier to deal with.

Sidekick Additional Blade: For the Sidekick, Leatherman replaced the package opener with a small serrated knife blade. The blade works well enough, but its location inside the handles means that you really must want to use it instead of the main blade.

Pliers and Wire Cutters

Wingman and Sidekick Pliers: Unfolding the butterfly handles opens the pliers and we notice these do not have the Leatherman stamp near the pivot. If the pliers are lower cost, they still have Leatherman quality with precise alignment all the way to the tip. Different from most full-size multitools, the pliers on the Wingman and Sidekick are spring action.

Pliers are the heart of any multitool and these are well made with a smooth movement and the tip of the jaws meet together properly – they are 9/32 in wide tapering to a 3/32 in tip over the last 3/4 in. The spring action works well and we haven’t experienced any binding or roughness, even after using the Wingman and Sidekick in dirty, sandy environments with lots of small grit.

Wingman
Sidekick

Wingman and Sidekick Wire Cutters: The Sidekick uses v-cutter style wire cutters designed for soft wire, we cut 14 AWG Romex wire comfortably. Even though it does not have a hard wire cutter there is a rounded cutout near the pliers that worked to cut some small nails. For a medium duty multitool the pliers are very serviceable and the spring action gives them a leg up on competitors.

Scissors and Saw

Leatherman Wingman: Scissors At first look, the spring-action scissors are reminiscent of those found on Swiss Army knives, but the spring mechanism is much stiffer when engaged. We were able to cut 12 sheets of paper before the jaws started to separate and bend the paper between the blades rather than cut it. Overall the scissors function, but the stiff spring makes them uncomfortable to use beyond a handful of cuts.

Leatherman Sidekick: Saw The saw is a standard offering from Leatherman. With an aggressive tooth pattern it cuts through wood and hard plastic quickly and easily if you plan to use the Sidekick in the outdoors.

Screwdrivers

Wingman and Sidekick Screwdrivers: The Wingman and Sidekick are economy tools and the screwdrivers are standard offerings. The medium screwdriver and Phillips screwdriver have 1 1/4 inch shanks for average reach and effectiveness. The small flat-blade screwdriver is at the tip of the file which means that access to any recessed screw will be impossible. 

Additional Tools

File, Ruler, Can/Bottle Opener and Wire Stripper

File and Ruler: With only slightly more than an inch of surface, the wood/metal file is of limited use. The single cut file has aggressive teeth and is only suitable for rough work. Also of limited use is the 1 1/2 inch long ruler on the opposite side, but hey – at least it does have inch and cm markings.

Can/Bottle Opener and Wire Stripper: Leatherman uses a combination can and bottle opener to save space on several of their multitools. While serviceable, if you are a frequent user of the bottle opener you will find it annoying. The blade necessary for opening cans can also penetrate bottle caps if you are not careful but this is easily avoided with a little technique. 

The wire stripper is a sharpened v-notch cut into the shaft of the can/bottle opener tool. Simply press the wire into the notch and rotate the tool around. This scores the insulation or you can continue and cut it completely. Then use the edge of the wire stripper to pull of the insulation from the wire. Easy and effective.

Pocket Clip and Sheath

At 3.8 inches and 7.0 ounces these tools are easy to pocket carry in jeans. We don’t understand why Leatherman sells the Sidekick with a belt sheath and a pocket clip but ships the Wingman with just a pocket clip. The pocket clip hold the tool securely in the corner of my pocket and grips securely.

Wingman
Sidekick

Weakpoints

Leatherman looked for ways to reduce production costs on the Sidekick and stamped the body from a thinner sheet metal than their premium tools. The thinner steel combined with some almost-sharp edges makes it less comfortable to use and I could feel the handles flex under load.

The tools folded into the handles can be difficult to open. Leatherman didn’t put spacers between the tools so they clump together and all come out at once. The thumb hooks sit flush or below the handles so its usually easier to push them thru from the back to get them started.

The Wingman and Sidekick share a design weakness with all multi tools that have the tools folded inside the handles you have to open the handles, unfold the tool, then refold the handles to use the tool, and reverse the process when you are done. All of the steps are just inconvenient and this dated design is left behind by new tools on the market.

The final weakpoint is that the tools stored inside the handle do not lock open. They have a strong slip joint spring and never closed on our fingers but locking tools are popular for a reason.

Variants of the Wingman and Sidekick

The Leatherman Wingman and Sidekick have the exact same design except for some tool differences, from first glance you can’t tell them apart except for the name embossed into the sheet metal. Both tools are still on their first revision although there have been some special edition versions and Leatherman also offers combination packages with a sheath and Lenser LED flashlight for the Wingman.

Leatherman used a straight edge for the main blade on the Sidekick instead of the combination blade on the Wingman. Additionally, the Sidekick replaces the package opener with a small serrated knife blade and has a saw blade instead of scissors.

Both tools come with a pocket clip and the Sidekick also come with a belt sheath and carabiner tool.

  • MPN Number 831426 Wingman
  • MPN Number 831429 Sidekick
  • MPN Number 832464 Wingman Limited Edition Black & Silver (retired)

Our Hands-on Review of the Leatherman Wingman

The box opener is handy if you already have the tool open or plan to open many boxes, but because it is not accessible without opening the handles we found ourselves just using the knife blade in most cases.

The Leatherman Wingman is just that: your go-to tool for projects around the house, on the job, or at the campsite. A great stainless steel tool multi tool; the Wingman features an outside-accessible, one-hand opening blade and newly-designed spring-action jaws. With plenty of handy tools, and backed by Leatherman’s 25 year warranty, this is one amazing value.

We appreciate Leatherman’s dedication to quality tools and their entry level models are no exception.

Advantage to Leatherman Wingman

The Leatherman Wingman is just that – your go-to multi tool for projects around the house or on the job. Leatherman features spring action pliers and keeps the tools you use most frequently on the outside for easy access – namely the knife blade and scissors. With its combo blade the Wingman has every tool on the Sidekick except the saw, probably the least used tool for most people.

The knife blade and scissors are the only tools on the Wingman that lock in place, but during use we found our thumb would naturally rest on the unlock mechanism for the knife blade. No accidents yet, but accidental closing injuries are a painful lesson that we don’t want to repeat.

With plenty of handy tools, and backed by Leatherman’s 25 year warranty, this was one amazing value when it launched for around $30 in 2011. At current retail prices around $60 the value is not present for these dated designs, you are better served looking for a used Wave+ on eBay.

Advantage to Leatherman Sidekick

Most users will get better use out of the Wingman, but the Sidekick does have two key advantages for certain situations: it has a saw and comes with a sheath standard. If you know you will be using your multitool in the outdoors and need to have a saw, then get the Sidekick. Both the Wingman and Sidekick come with a pocket clip because that is how most users will carry it, but if you know you want a sheath then save the extra expense and get the Sidekick.

Dan Sawyer

I'm the guy behind Multi Tool Mountain. I grew up in Wisconsin with a love for the outdoors. I currently live in Texas with my family where DIY home improvement projects keep my and my multi tools busy.

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