I have been a fan of Leatherman Multi-Tools since Tim Leatherman’s original multi-tool. That original tool was used so hard, it actually had to be replaced. Sure, I could have sent it back to Leatherman under their 25-year warranty, however karma prevailed and I happily slapped down another $40 for replacement. Over the years, I have purchased another dozen Leathermans and seem to have one stashed in every vehicle, pack, and tool drawer around the house.
By Major Pandemic
In the last five years, I have become a bit picky about what should be on a survival based multi-tool and what is just extra weight. I remember, some time ago, reviewing Leatherman’s then current lineup when the Sidekick and Rebar caught my eye. The primary reason was that they featured just the right combination of features in two distinctly different packages.
Fit, Finish, & Feel
From a spec and finish perspective, the two multi-tools are very similar. Leatherman’s typical high quality fit and finish is reflected in these solid stainless steel multi-tools. From a feel perspective, the intent of each tool is clear the moment you pick it up.
When comparing the Sidekick to the Rebar, the Rebar is a purpose built, hard use tool with thicker, stronger, longer tools, and a more substantial handle. The Sidekick is actually only .5-ounce lighter, but feels substantially lighter due to a more compact package. The Rebar gives you more substantial feeling full-sized locking tools. The Sidekick gives you a more compact package designed for more casual use, which can take the place of a pocketknife clipped to your pocket.
There are features I believe critical to a general survival multi-tool including locking knife blades, bottle opener, can opener, lanyard ring, standard screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, ruler, saw, small screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters, crimper, wire stripper, and file. These allow you to cut, fix, scavenge, and fabricate pretty much anything with the exception of something requiring an end mill and CNC machine—both the Rebar and Sidekick have these tools to some degree.
The mid-sized Sidekick really is a tool designed more for casual use with a overall size, tool size, and design that downsizes many of these tools into a package that is simple and easy to carry anytime and anywhere. The same quality and strength is there, however it is just in a slightly smaller package. The excellent feature of one-hand operation of the locking saw and knife blades in a feature I love on this tool, however it does generally make the sacrifice of a slightly bulkier tool. To prevent this on the Sidekick, Leatherman shortened man of the nested internal tools.
In some cases it does not make a difference, however on the file and serrated knife, you do lose just a little utility. To increase the utility an attached pocket clip for tip-down carry of the one-handed thumb-opening utility blade. Also included with the Leatherman Sidekick is a slipcase for an executive type carry and carabineer tool, which I did not find particularly useful other than as a nice add on to my key chain. One of the features I know some will be excited over is spring loaded plier jaws, however I am not a fan as a big use for me is using the pliers as a third hand to hold a piece of wire for soldering or to tie a fly. With a rubber band over the handles, I can still use the plier for that purpose.
The Rebar is back to a size and full-sized tool function of the original Leatherman but just a bit thicker for a few extra features. The Rebar is all about packing more into a more compact package. What impressed me about this tool was how much was packed into the tool from a size and weight perspective.
Added to the original Leatherman’s features are a serrated blade, saw, awl with eyelet for sewing, replaceable wire cutters in the plier jaws, and non-spring loaded plier jaws— all tools lock open. This is the Leatherman I wanted back when the original was introduced and addresses every shortcoming. This is by far my favorite of the general purpose Leatherman’s for survival use. Sure a few more gadgets would be handy, however for general-purpose survival, ounce-for-ounce this is a new favorite companion when I have real work to do.
The Sidekick and Rebar really should not be compared side to side as they have different intents. The Sidekick is the convenience tool, which I tend to carry all the time either clipped in my jeans or slipped into my zippered jacket pocket. Should I need a tool when unexpected, the Sidekick is there with enough tools to get the job done.
The Rebar doesn’t have a pocket clip, or one-handed operation and is not a “convenience tool,” but rather a workhorse type tool. Without a doubt both can take about the same abuse. However, I like the fact that each tool is full sized and locking which is a significant safety and practical feature when I know the multi-tool will see hard use.
For a tool to use daily and toss into your jeans, the Sidekick is a great choice. For a bug out bag, survival kit, or toolbox, I would pick the Rebar. You cannot go wrong with either… after all they are a Leatherman.
What’s your favorite Leatherman? Share it, or your favorite Leatherman moment, in the comment section.
Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. www.MajorPandemic.com