Leatherman Sidekick Review
« on: December 07, 2011, 02:32:31 AM »
No pictures yet, but this one will be going on the Main Site shortly:
Released in 2011 the Sidekick and its sister model the Wingman were Leatherman’s answer to Bog Box Store tools. The concept was simple- use less expensive materials than previous models and produce some decent tools at a (relatively) low price. The Sidekick, initially priced at $39.99 was the more expensive of the two models, and while the tools themselves are almost identical, the SideKick includes a few extras that the Wingman doesn’t include.
Despite its low price, the Sidekick is still a Leatherman in practice as well as name. It’s built in the same factory in Oregon as the rest of Leatherman’s lineup, by the same people that build the other tools. That is about where the similarity ends though, as it has very few similarities to Leathermans mid or high end offerings- or indeed even the other budget priced models like the Freestyle.
The Sidekick is indeed a full sized and featured multitool unlike the Freestyle and Skeletool series that skimp on functions or the Juice series that tries to pack features into a small model. It features full sized pliers (more on those in a moment), a pocket clip and outside mounted, one handed opening saw and main blade. The blade is the same blade found on the Skeletool and Freestyle models, although is a standard 440 series steel. The saw is a decent size, but I feel with a little bit of effort it could have been made about a quarter inch longer, and with a wood saw, length is important.
Getting back to the pliers for a moment- Leatherman has re-engineered their standard plier head for these models and there are a few firsts for them here. Most obvious perhaps is that the pliers are sprung, which means that when you release the pressure on the handles they open on their own. The spring is internal, and so should be just about impossible to break, unlike many cheaper off brand multitools, where the spring is mounted on the outside. I don’t care for sprung pliers, but a lot of folks like them so that really is a personal preference, and while that is a negative point in my mind, I won’t count it against the tool for the sake of this review.
The other original idea on the pliers is that they are anvil style cutters instead of the more common (and LM standard) bypass cutters. This means that the points of the cutters come down and stop point to point, while the bypass style overlap like the blades on scissors. Given the amount of warranty claims Leatherman likely gets because of damaged cutters resulting from people trying to cut wire too heavy for the cutters, I can certainly understand this change- especially given the ultra low cost of these tools (compared to the rest of Leatherman’s line) and the fact that they still carry the full 25 year warranty.
Inside the Sidekick the tools are a bit sparse, but a little better thought out than many tools- Leatherman or otherwise. One side has a flathead driver and a Phillips driver while the other has a short serrated blade, small file with ruler on the backside and a small screwdriver tip and a combination can and bottle opener with a small wire stripper notch. There’s also a folding lanyard ring that is similar to the ones found on the Fuse and Blast, which I find too large and flimsy to be overly useful. The screwdrivers are great, solidly built and with significant reach. The serrated blade is nice for small tasks. The file is a bit short to really be useful for much, as is the ruler on the flip side. It’s only good if you want to measure very tiny things. The can and bottle opener works well enough as a can opener, but really stinks as a bottle opener as it tends to pierce the cap instead of lifting it.
To justify the extra ten dollars over the cost of the Wingman, Leatherman also includes a suede slip sheath and a carabiner with the Sidekick. The carabiner is of special note as it has a ¼” wrench and a bottle opener fashioned into it, which is great as the can/bottle opener on the Sidekick itself is largely ineffective as I mentioned above. The carabiner is now available on its own as well. The slip sheath really doesn’t appeal to me much, but it is well made and should protect the Sidekick from getting scratched by other things in your pocket.
Overall the tools on the Sidekick are a good selection, and it represents one of the best values in the multitool industry. The folded sheet metal handles do look a bit cheap, but looks are really not important in a good tool- for the most part anyway. In this case there’s a decorative hole in the handle opposite the pivot point of the saw. Given it’s placement it could easily be mistaken for the opening hole on the blade as I have done many times. It is somewhat frustrating to grab the tool without looking at it, feel where the hole is and be unable to open the blade since you are holding it “backwards.” If this hole served a purpose I’d be a little more accepting of it, but since it is merely decorative, I have to count this as a flaw in this tool.
• Good Tool Selection
• “Decorative” hole in handle is detrimental
• Combination opener virtually useless on bottles
• File and ruler too short for any real use