Value Multi Tools: Leatherman Wingman vs Gerber Suspension


Both the Leatherman Wingman and the Gerber Suspension are budget-priced multi tools for their brands. Gerber launched the Suspension in 2005 and when Leatherman launched the Wingman in 2011 they were both $30-40. Since then, the Suspension has held steady while the Wingman (and its brother the Sidekick) have increased to the $60 range.

Leatherman wins again with their low-priced Wingman and Sidekick models. Choose the scissors, package opener, and combo blade on the Wingman or pick the Sidekick for a saw, straight edge main blade, and small serrated blade because both of them are better than the Suspension. The redesigned Suspension-NXT doesn’t fare any better.

Leatherman Wingman: Pick up the Wingman and we immediately notice the difference compared to other modern Leatherman multitools. The Wingman has a good heft and feels sturdy, but is not as refined as their other tools like the Wave+. 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 it less comfortable to hold.

The 2.4 inch clip point blade on the Wingman opens one-handed and has a combo edge with 1.3 in of straight edge and 1.1 in of serrations. The scissors are also outside accessible on the other handle. Both the knife blade and scissors lock open and the liner locks hold securely while still being easy to close. The other tools on the Wingman are inside the handles and do not lock open, although the slip joint is strong and holds firm.

Gerber Suspension: Gerber packages the Suspension with a sheath because it is too heavy and bulky to carry with a pocket clip like the Wingman. The Gerber Suspension design is showing its age, despite being larger than the Wingman or Sidekick, its tools are smaller and less capable. The Suspension is a very thick multi tool at 0.9 inches compared to the Wingman, which is noticeably thinner at 0.7 inches.

The pliers are the only tool on the Suspension that require you to open the handles, all the other tools are outside accessible and lock securely with Gerber’s Saf.T.Plus system. Even though the tools don’t clump together, the thumb catches are below the surface of the handle and are not easy to open if you keep your nails trimmed.

Specifications: Leatherman Wingman vs Gerber Suspension

FeatureLeatherman
Wingman
Gerber
Suspension
Size
L x W x H
3.8 x 1.4 x 0.7 in3.9 x 1.9 x 0.9 in
Weight7 oz10.2 oz
Knife Length2.4 in 1.9 in
Blade StyleClip Point
Combo Edge
Wharncliffe/Sheepsfoot
Straight/Serrated Blades
Blade Steel420HCUnlisted
Pliers Thickness
(Base – Tip)
0.28 – 0.10 in0.29 – 0.10 in
Pliers Reach2.3 in2.25 in
Jaw Opening1.48 in1.17 in
Jaw Length1.25 in1.29 in
Jaw Width1.0 in1.0 in
Wire CuttersV-cutter styleV-cutter style
Phillips Driver#2#2
Flat DriversSmall & MediumSmall & Medium
FileCoarse 1.5 inNone
OpenersCan/Bottle OpenerCan/Bottle Openers
Scissors Blade Length0.95 in0.6 in
Other ToolsPackage Opener
Wire Stripper
Ruler: 1.2 in
Lanyard Ring
Saw: 1.8 in
Design Date20112005

Knife Length: Measured as length of sharpened edge (mfg specs frequently include the unsharpened ricasso)
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°

Leatherman Wingman Tool List

3.  Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
4.  Spring-action Regular Pliers
6.  Wire Cutters, spring action
13. 420HC Knife
15. Scissors
18. Wood/Metal File
22. Phillips Screwdriver

23. Medium Screwdriver
24. Small Screwdriver
28. Package Opener
30. Ruler
32. Wire Stripper
33. Can/Bottle Opener

Gerber Suspension Tool List

1.  Spring-loaded Needlenose Pliers
2.  Spring-action Regular Pliers
3.  Wire Cutters, spring action
4. Saf.T.Plus tool lock
5. Fine edge blade
6. Large flathead
7. Cross driver
8. Saw

9. Can opener
10. Small flathead
11. Scissor
12. Serrated blade
13. Lanyard
14. Saf.T.Plus tool lock
15. Bottle opener

Gerber doesn’t publish key information on their website about their multi tools. The specifications for the Suspension do not list the blade steel and they don’t even provide the blade length for the knives or saw. However, Leatherman also has some issues by overstating the blade length by including the ricasso (2.6 in per Leatherman and we measured 2.4 in of sharpened length).

The Suspension and Sidekick both have dedicated lanyard rings, but if you need to attach a wrist strap to the Wingman you can thread a thin cord through the holes in the frame at the end of the handle without interfering with the tools.

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 truly engineers their multitools with careful thought into every design element. With the Wingman and Sidekick Leatherman managed to reduce the manufacturing costs 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.

Because of how the pliers fold into the handles, the tools on the inside 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. 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.

Gerber Suspension Product Description

Suspension® A field-tested classic that never disappoints, the Suspension is the benchmark tool of convenience and durability. The easily accessed butterfly design features spring-loaded pliers and a lightweight frame for long days and tired hands. With 12 other tools, you’re always ready.
Strong yet lightweight, the Suspension Multi-Plier offers the durability of stainless steel construction along with an aluminum butterfly-opening handle that’s inspired by the precision engineering of Portland, Oregon’s famous suspension bridges. Like those time-tested iron bridges, this tool is designed to deliver the down-and-dirty performance that you demand from your tools.
But performance isn’t everything. The tool’s unique suspension-style handle sits comfortably in your hand, giving it a well-balanced feel. Compact enough to satisfy the most demanding minimalists, and cool enough for any gadget guy or girl, the Suspension Multi-Plier offers a sleek, streamlined design that will look as good as it performs.

Gerber Suspension

Just like the Wingman, the Suspension has design has limited space to fit other tools around the pliers. With the Wingman, Leatherman utilized all the space to maximize their tools length but with the Suspension, Gerber left empty space inside the handle instead of the lengthening their tools to make them more capable.

We like that all tools are outside accessible on the Suspension, but even with the thumb hooks they can be difficult to open. One handle holds the straight edge knife, saw, medium flathead, and Phillips screwdriver, while the other handle has the serrated blade, scissors, can/bottle openers, and small flathead driver.

Pliers and Wire Cutters

Leatherman Wingman: 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.

Gerber Suspension: The pliers on the Suspension unfold smoothly with firm slip joints and spring-action jaws. The large handles are comfortable and easy to control. We noticed a small amount of slop in the pliers pivot that creates 1/32″ misalignment at the tip.

Wingman vs Suspension – Pliers: Despite some minor differences in the dimensions, the only significant difference was in how far the pliers open. The Wingman can grasp items a full 0.30 inches wider than the Suspension (1.48 vs 1.17 inches) at full extension. For medium-duty multi tools both pliers are very capable and the spring-action makes them more comfortable to use than other models.

Wingman vs Suspension – Wire Cutters: The wire cutters are nearly identical between the Wingman and Suspension. Both utilize v-cutter blades that we used to cut through 10 AWG copper wire without difficult. Both have a cutout section near the pivot joint for cutting hard wire, limited only by your hand strength and comfort.

Knife Blades

Gerber Suspension: We like that Gerber gave us two 1.9 inch knife blades on the Suspension, both with one-hand access using a thumb stud (but only if you are right handed, we didn’t have enough finger strength to use the trick for lefties). We like the Wharncliffe design on the straight edge blade and the sheepsfoot design for the serrated blade – both designs match well with what each blade is meant to cut. The Saf.T.Plus locks hold the blade securely even under pressure.

Leatherman Wingman: It is no surprise that Leatherman uses their standard 420HC steel for the knife blade on the Sidekick. 420HC stainless steel is proven and gets the job done. Leatherman’s 2.4 inch clip-point blade has a hybrid edge with a standard straight edge on the front half of the blade and the bottom half serrated. 

Straight from the box the blade deploys smoothly with the large thumb hole and liner locks hold it open securely. The blade is positioned on the handle for right handed users, but the large thumb hole and smooth action makes it easy for lefties to push the blade open with their left fingers.

Wingman vs Suspension – Knife Blade: When I’m carrying a full-size multi tool I want to be confident I have enough tool to handle most situations. With the blade on the Wingman I feel prepared, the Suspension leaves me wanting more. Leatherman put the blade outside the handle box which allows for the extra length. In Gerber’s design the knife blade and slip joint springs compete for space within the handle and this limits the blade length.

Screwdrivers

Wingman vs Suspension – Screwdrivers: Both tools are economy models and the screwdrivers are standard offerings. As you can see from the photos the screwdrivers are very similar between the Wingman and Suspension. The Suspension has slightly longer reach for the medium flathead and Phillips drivers but is slightly shorter for the small flathead. With the Wingman, the small flathead screwdriver on the end of the file which can limit access to recessed screws.

However, the Wingman separates from the Suspension when you look at the Phillips driver and how it performs. The shaft of the Phillips screwdriver on the Wingman is a beefy 0.125 inches thick, compared to just 0.088 inches on the Suspension. The ‘2D’ Phillips heads found on multi tools are always a compromise but thickness of the shaft on the Wingman balances it nicely. The large head grabs the screw better and we were able to remove stubborn screws that resisted the Suspension.

Scissors

Gerber Suspension: I was shocked to see the small size of the scissors on the Suspension. Not only do they look comical, with only 0.6 inch long blades these scissors are beaten by the Leatherman Squirt keychain tool. The spring looks flimsy and the scissors fold away by straightening the handles to 180° instead of simply closing them.

Leatherman Wingman: By contrast, the scissors on the Wingman have nearly 1″ long blades and are readily accessible on the outside of the handles.

Wingman vs Suspension – Scissors: Gerber brought a toy to a scissors fight and this one is no contest. The Suspension scissors are adequate for trimming threads and other small jobs, but the Wingman scissors are much more capable and useful. Using the Wingman we cut through zip ties and paracord without difficulty but the Suspension scissors could only nibble away.

Can/Bottle Openers and Wire Stripper

Wingman vs Suspension – Can and Bottle Openers: Both tools use a combination tool for their openers but they are different styles. Leatherman uses their standard design that combines both features into a single tool to save space. 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, even after opening a couple dozen bottlecaps we still occasionally have the point poke a hole.

The Suspension tool looks funky, rather than combine the functions into one tool Gerber put their tools on top of each other. The design looks strange but works fine on both cans and bottles and gets the edge over the Wingman.

Wingman vs Suspension – Wire Stripper: The wire stripper on the Sidekick 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. Gerber didn’t include a wire stripper on the Suspension so the Wingman wins by default.

Saw

Sidekick vs Suspension – Saw: Gerber included a saw on the Suspension but it is only 1.8 inches long and not suitable for cutting anything larger than a twig in emergency situations. Leatherman makes you choose – in order to get a saw you need to get the Sidekick model and give up the scissors on the Wingman. However, you get a capable saw on the Sidekick with 2.4 inches of cutting teeth and one-hand opening.

File, Package Opener, and Ruler

Gerber didn’t put any of these tools on the Suspension so this is just about the capabilities of the Wingman.

Leatherman Wingman – File & Ruler: The Wingman file isn’t the worst multi tool file (that would be the Dime), but it is outclassed by another keychain multi tool – the Squirt. With only slightly more than an inch of surface, the single cut wood/metal file is of limited use – as is the 1 1/2 inch long ruler on the opposite side.

Leatherman Wingman – Package Opener: Package openers are one of our favorite tools, it seems like my family is always getting deliveries and I cringe when I see how they use scissors to get them open. Now I just open the package opener on the Wingman and hand it to them. It still has a sharp edge but the motion is much more natural and controlled than a knife blade or scissors.

Quality Issues

Gerber Suspension Problems: Even new out of the box our Suspension has issues where the Saf.T.Plus system does not engage securely every time and we are less confident about long-term reliability after seeing the spring that moves the latch. The spring is buried deep inside the handle and about 3/16 inches wide. Even if the spring itself doesn’t fail, the lock is prone to sticking from any grit or pocket lint is the mechanism.

Also notice the thickness of the spacers on the Suspension, they are huuge … although they are effective to keep the tools from clumping together.

Leatherman Wingman/Sidekick Problems: Leatherman looked for ways to reduce production costs on the Sidekick and Wingman so they 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 we could feel the handles flex under load. All of the tools inside the handle clump together and can be difficult to open.

In order to use the tools inside the handle you need to unfold the handle, open the clump of tools, put away the ones you don’t want, and then refold the handles. This process seems quick, but it quickly gets annoying especially when switching tools. These dated design elements on the Wingman and Sidekick are left behind by the new multi tools on the market.

By cramming tools inside the handles they share space with the pliers and this can cause jams. The tools need to be either fully open or folded completely otherwise the pliers can get stuck beside the tools. Usually the pliers will push them out of the way but when they do get stuck it’s not easy to free the pliers.

Variants of the Leatherman Wingman

The Leatherman Wingman and the Sidekick have different names but share the same frame and most of the tools are identical. The Sidekick has a non-serrated main blade, replaces the scissors with a saw blade, and swaps the package opener with a small serrated knife blade. Additionally, the Sidekick comes packaged with a belt sheath and carabiner tool while the Wingman comes with a pocket clip.

  • Leatherman Product #831429 Sidekick
  • Leatherman Product #831426 Wingman

We don’t understand why Leatherman sells the Sidekick with a belt sheath but put a pocket clip on the Wingman. At 3.8 inches when folded and 7.0 oz these multi tools are in the sweet spot where both carry options are available. Both the sheath and the pocket clip are available to purchase if you want to switch your Wingman to sheath carry or Sidekick to pocket carry.

Variants of the Gerber Suspension

The original Suspension from 2005 is still in production today with no changes. Gerber launched the Suspenion-NXT in 2018 that was inspired by the original but is really a separate design.

  • Gerber Product #22-01471 Suspension
  • Gerber Product #30-001364 Suspension-NXT
  • Gerber Product #30-001777 Suspension-NXT Black

Advantage to Gerber Suspension

The Gerber Suspension brings additional tools within its large frame and you can’t get the same configuration with the Wingman/Sidekick tools. If you need a multi tool that has separate straight edge and serrated knife blades, has both a saw and scissors, and you can live with the limited capabilities of the short tools, then consider the Suspension. Everyone else should decide which Leatherman model fits their needs best.

Advantage to Leatherman Wingman and Sidekick

The Leatherman Wingman multi tool keeps the tools you use most frequently on the outside for easy access – namely the knife blade and scissors. Right-handed users will appreciate the one-handed opening of the knife blade (sorry lefties); once opened the 420HC steel blade with lower half serrated is a joy to use.

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.

The Wingman comes with a pocket clip and not a belt sheath; at 7.0 oz, 3.8 inches long and 1.2 inch thick on the main body (not including the width of the belt clip and rivets) its on the upper end of what can be comfortable for pocket carry. It was fine for jeans but we could feel the weight when we wore shorts.

The box opener on the Wingman (short serrated knife on the Sidekick) 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.

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 0.28 inches thick tapering to a 0.10 inch tip that can fit into tight spaces. The spring action works well and we haven’t experienced any binding or roughness, even after using the Wingman in a dirty, sandy environment with lots of small grit. Pinch-type wire cutters are effective for cutting copper wire and other soft metals and the hard wire cutout works effectively for regular wire.

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, the Wingman and Sidekick are great value buys if you can find them on sale.

Budget Multi Tools vs Standard

The Leatherman Wingman outclasses the Gerber Suspension but at a higher starting price. As the price keeps going up it is becoming more and more difficult to recommend the Wingman considering all the features and functions you give up compared to the Wave.

Buying quality tools greatly improves your experience when using them. This goes double for multi tools because they are compromises to start with and quality materials and engineering design make a big impact. As the saying goes Buy once, Cry once and get a multi tool that you will want to carry.

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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