The Leatherman Tool Group was founded by Tim Leatherman in 1983. Since then it has gone on to release dozens of diverse multi-tools in almost as many configurations. Different colour options, steels, refinements and evolutions of existing types helps keep Leatherman at the forefront of product innovation when it comes to tools for the home handyman, qualified tradesman, backyard shed tinkerer and yes, even the outdoorsman.
The Leatherman Wingman model was released back in 2011 and quickly became one of the better sellers in the company’s line-up. Its success is simple to fathom. It’s not the biggest tool offered by this company, but it does contain more than enough implements for the average person to manage with. Think of this model as having most of the things you need without going to the extreme of having a lot of the things you don’t.
Please permit me to begin by running through the individual utensils of which it is comprised, what they’re good for and why they make sense. We’ll work out why this tool deserves a place in your hunting and camping pack and conclude with why it should be given consideration as well as examining how it suits you as a hunter.
The Wingman is a budget multi-tool featuring 14 separate and distinct devices, two of which are accessible from the outside of the tool when closed up. These are a pair of spring-loaded small scissors which are simple and functional plus a knife blade. The blade is 2.6″ or 6.6cm in length and made of 420 High Carbon stainless steel, as is the rest of the tool. As a blade material, 420HC is on the lower end of the spectrum. It is far from a premium super steel.
However, it is easy to sharpen and maintain. It won’t hold its edge forever, but it can be sharpened with relative ease and sustains its edge integrity more than long enough for the average user. The blade is partially serrated, giving you virtually two blades in one. An elongated thumbhole has been milled into the blade to offer single-handed opening. The scissors can also be opened single-handedly. Both the blade and the scissors lock into place with a liner lock mechanism which can be depressed by your thumb to unlock and close.
None of the other pieces found inside the Wingman actually lock. When deployed, they aren’t just ‘hanging free’, they are kept in place by tension and it does require pressure to move them back into their folded position.
Let’s open it! The most obvious instrument now visible are the pliers. These, unlike most other Leatherman pliers, are spring-loaded. The pliers offer needle-nose, regular and a set of wire cutters milled into the base where maximum torque can be applied. Larger models offer interchangeable replaceable wire cutters, but no such luxury exists on the Wingman. The wire cutters are of an anvil style, not an actual bypass cutter. This means that the two sides don’t truly close over each other to cut wire. In fact, they actually don’t contact.
However, they will cut wire deeply enough to permit you to ‘helicopter’ one end free. You could be forgiven for stating that this is a missed opportunity. I would concur. But let’s not forget that the Wingman, despite its many features and solid construction, is still not in the premium tool line-up from this manufacturer. In order to stay cost competitive at this price point, some sacrifices need to be made. The wire cutters work, they could just work a little better.
Milled into each side of the handles are recesses for other implements. When the Wingman is open these other parts can be accessed by either a nick milled into the bottom of each to catch your fingernail under, or, you can poke your little finger through the inside of the handle to push the accessories through far enough to be able to pull them out from the outside. Either way works. On one side we have a Phillips head screwdriver as well as a large flathead which is thick enough to use as a light pry bar. The end of this handle is slightly offset to one side, so if you fancy you are able to loop a thin lanyard through a hole milled into the end of it. If not, there’s a pocket clip on the other handle anyway. That’s a good feature as not all Leathermans come with a pocket clip as stock standard; various other models can have an after-market clip fitted to them.
On the other side there are three parts which fold out. The first is a can opener, which doubles as a bottle opener, which triples as a wire stripper. The middle folding component is a tiny file which tapers to a smaller finer flathead screwdriver. On the other side of the file is a petite ruler which offers both imperial and metric up to 1½” or 3.8cm. Yes, that’s short. They could have put a double cut file on the other side, but the file as is certainly useful. This was probably another feature to keep costs down.
The third and final feature on this side is a clever little box opener. A small blade mounted on an arm which can slice through cardboard boxes which have been taped, without going deep enough to cut whatever is inside. It also works just dandy on clamshell plastic packaging.
So, that’s the myriad of extras covered. Let’s look at this device from a hunter’s viewpoint. Why do you need a clamshell opener while out magpie goose hunting? You don’t. Can you skin a water buffalo with the scissors? Good luck. Do you need wire strippers while out targeting red deer? I’ll probably say no to that too.
However, what you do need is a lightweight, sturdy tool ready for use around camp. Who doesn’t like a cold beer after a 46-degree buffalo hunt? Opening canned food around camp is also a snap. The screwdrivers can be used for running repairs to and tightening scope mounts and rings. The pliers come in useful for lifting your boiling billy out of the fire. That little knife blade will work just fine for processing smaller animals such as hares, foxes and waterbirds as well as cutting up your meals. It will gut and scale fish with ease.
Although not designed for it, the top inside of the tool when opened can work as a makeshift electrical crimper in a pinch (excuse the pun). For those of us who camp with a few touches of luxury such as miniature fridges run off a deep cycle battery, this can be a big help. It’s not a dedicated bush crafting device, nor is it intended to replace an entire toolbox. Rather, it is an easy, very smooth operating, working and opening utensil which can cover most dramas when you need it to. It’s straightforward to operate and you’re not fighting with it every time you use it like with some larger multi-tools.
This tool is certainly adequate for its price point and what it is. Personally, I don’t see much need for the package opener. If you’re careful enough, the blade will suffice for this task. Perhaps a saw blade or something more useful could replace it. The wire cutters are functional, but they don’t cross over, which I see as a lost opportunity.
As for the tiny ruler on the other side of the file, in my mind, there’s not much of an excuse for having it there. Larger models have imperial and metric rulers enfaced onto the inside of the handles which measure a heck of a lot longer than 3.8cm. These centimetre and inch notches (with 1/10th increments) actually help with grip texture when you’re using the pliers.
The Wingman needs to be examined for what it is. It lacks some of the features of larger models. That’s just life, you get what you’re willing to pay for. This is a mid-range tool aimed at folk on a budget or those who wish to dip their toes into the world of multi-tools without spending a fortune. When looked at for that purpose and considering its price, it does offer good value and contains more than a few facets which will be helpful to the hunter around the campsite. Like everything from Leatherman, it’s backed by a full 25-year warranty. Leatherman has a service centre in Australia, so there’s no fear of having to send your tool to their headquarters in Oregon, US for repair or service.
I don’t think I know a single other hunter who doesn’t carry some sort of blade with them in the field. While I’d be lost without my Buck knives, having access to such a versatile, compact and light tool like the Wingman just makes sense. In fact, I was so pleased with the features of the Wingman for its price that I purchased it as a gift for my 13-year-old son. We both remain impressed.
At a glance
Model: Leatherman Wingman
Closed length: 3.8″ or 9.7cm
Open length: 6″ or 15.3cm
Weight: 198 grams
Material: 420 High Carbon stainless steel
Approx retail: Varies considerably but roughly $65-$80.