Survival Toolbox - The Leatherman Sidekick Multi-Tool
Having some basic tools with you in a survival situation is a must; and multi-tools provide a variety of tool options in a small portable package. I was looking for a reliable, compact, and affordable model that had the basic tools one might need in an emergency. The Leatherman Sidekick met my criteria so I decided to give one a try.
While there are an abundance of multi-tools on the market there are few quality choices for a good full sized multi-tool in the under $50 category. While there are options as low as $10 dollars, I wanted something dependable when called upon. My search quickly came down to two options both from Leatherman, the Sidekick and the Wingman. While these two multi-tools are nearly identical, the Sidekick features a saw instead of the fold out scissors found on the Wingman; I decided a saw might be a nice addition so I choose the Sidekick. Note the Wingman does not come with accessories listed below.
The Sidekick came packaged in a bright yellow and black Leatherman box; opening the box revealed the Sidekick, a metal carabineer, leather carrying pouch, and a user guide. The carabineer can be attached to the leather pouch to carry the Sidekick, and also features a bottle opener. Their user guide provided a description of all the tools on the unit which seems elementary but is actually a good idea. I have seen more than one person complain about the crappy saw on their multi-tool only to be told it was a fish scaler.
One of the main reasons many people carry this style of multi tool is for the pliers. The pliers on the Sidekick are kind of a hybrid setup; they have the shape and look of needle nose pliers, while the middle of the jaws has a circular indention that more resemble traditional style pliers. This Leatherman has spring loaded jaws which keep them in the open position which aids in one handed use. At the base of the pliers there is a built in set of wire cutters which I feel is a good feature to have on a survival tool.
Knife and Saw
One of the first things to grab my attention about the Sidekick was that both the saw and knife blade were isolated on the outside of the handle pieces; this allows you to access either without opening the whole tool. Furthermore, once opened both the knife and saw blade are secured into place by a linear lock like you find on many pocket knives; this provides a positive and sturdy lock up of the blades. While the knife wasn’t up to the quality of a good pocket knife blade it was usable unlike many multi tools I have seen. The saw has an aggressive row of sharp teeth and work very well on variuos wood samples I tested and might possibly work for bone.
Left Side - Inside
When looking at the Sidekick opened from the top with the logo facing you, the left side contains a lanyard ring, bottle/can opener, file, medium flat screwdriver, ruler, and serrate knife blade all on the inside. These inside blades don’t lock but do cam over center to stay solidly open. Digging the blades out can be a little difficult, but by pushing through a little window cut out underneath the handle you can easily get them out. The ruler, flat blade screwdriver, and file all share the same blade; and the bottle opener and can opener is also a dual function blade.
Right Side - Inside
Again looking down from above with Leatherman opened and logo facing up; the right side of the tool contains only a large flat blade screwdriver and one of the Phillips head screw drivers that is pretty flat but has the four blades of a Phillips head screwdriver. Like the left side these blades don’t really lock, but they cam over center and keep the desired blade opened. Again these blades can be a little tricky to access from the top, but a gentle push through the cut out on the bottom side of the tool will get the blades high enough to access without trouble.
One of the first things I noticed about the Sidekick was that the corners on the gripping surfaces had been rounded off compared to the original Leatherman from years ago; which were known to be tough on the hands when applying pressure. The next thing that caught my eye was the pocket clip on the Sidekick, you can carry it like a pocket knife if you wish or undo the screw that holds the clip on and remove it if you prefer. Next, I was impressed by the linear lock system on the outside saw and knife blades which lock up those blades tight and greatly reduce the chance of these blades getting accidentally folded on your fingers.
I was a little disappointed that there was some side to side slack in the tool which appears to be from a slightly loose fit at the base of the jaws of the pliers were the two sides connect; however, this did not seem to affect performance. My only other major complaint was about the include leather carrying pouch and carabineer carry system. While both the pouch and carabineer seem well made, I think it is a poor way to carry a multi-tool; fortunately I found the pocket clip very handy and a good way to pack the Sidekick.
I have had my Leatherman Sidekick for a couple months now and have been able to give most of the tools adequate testing; thus far my impression of this multi-tool is very favorable. While there are certainly more advanced and feature rich multi-tools on the market, I think the Leatherman Sidekick offers a good balance of affordability and usefulness. As mentioned earlier there is a lack of quality multi-tool options in the under $50 price range; however, I feel the Sidekick is one of the few quality options available at a budget price as they are currently selling for about $35 online. While, it doesn’t have every possible tool for every imaginable task, this Leatherman does have the main tools that you are most likely to use in an emergency situation or in your everyday life. Those looking to save a little money might conside the Leatherman Wingman ($29) which has small scissors instead of a saw blade; while those looking for a higher end full feature multi tool might consider the Leatherman Wave ($79).