Today’s review is on the Native 5 Lightweight folding knife from Spyderco. But first, a little background history on the company. Spyderco was originally founded in 1976 by Sal and his wife Gail Glesser, who sold their knife sharpeners (the Tri-Angle Sharpmaker) at fairs and trade shows around the USA. In 1981, the Glessers moved to Golden, Colorado and introduced their first Spyderco knife, the Worker, to the world. While most of the knives being circulated on the market were slipjoint or thumbstud models, Spyderco wanted to try something different, innovative, and intuitive. The Worker was the culmination of that – pioneering the concept of a round hole in the blade for one-handed opening, a clip on the handle for carry a the top of the pocket, and optional serrated-edge blades for agressive cutting performance. Those features set the stage for a new age in the knife industry, and gave birth to what many believe to be the modern folding knife. Today Spyderco boasts a robust catalog, from folders of all shapes and sizes, to fixed blade knives, to kitchen cutlery, all while still paying homage to the Tri-Angle Sharpmaker (which, by the way, is still an awesome sharpening method after 42 years). Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive into what the Native is all about!
Since its original release in 1997, the Native has been a mainstay of the Spyderco product line. The design has evolved steadily over the years through Spyderco’s CQI (Constant Quality Improvement), reaching its current state of the art in 2012 with the release of the Native 5. The latest addition to the Native lineage is the Native 5 Lightweight, which combines the Native 5’s engineering refinements with the weight-saving advantages of an injection-molded fiberglass-reinforced-nylon (FRN) handle. Here are some specs on the knife:
Blade Length: 2.95″
Closed Length: 4″
Overall Length: 6-7/8″
Weight: 2.45 oz.
Made in Golden, Colorado, USA
As a comparison, I’ve measured it alongside my trusty Victorinox Spartan Swiss Army Knife:
If you know me by now, you know I really don’t like pulling punches, so I will say it like it is… I really like Spyderco knives! They have models to fit all shapes and sizes, and believe it or not, this was my first folding knife with quality steel. I was at the mall with my girlfriend picking out some work clothes and happend to pass by Bass Pro Shops on the way out, which had a few Spyderco models. I had initially picked out one named the Tenacious, but found it was a bit bulky and heavy for carrying around. Plus, I was actually looking for something made in the US with some good steel. At that time most knives worth a second look ran over $100, so I began to chat with one of the salesmen who showed me his G10 version of the Native 5. I was pretty surprised how it fit my hand really well, and to be honest, that thumb hole just looked so fresh! I thought about the knife a few days later and decided I’d head over to Going Gear in Smyrna, GA, where I was surprised to find they had a thinner lightweight model in the same steel, under $100 !!! Needless to say I kept the receipt under wraps for a few days as my girlfriend would have flipped over my spending so much money over a pocket knife, but thankfully times have changed. What hasn’t changed, in fact, is the lightweight Native 5 model is still taking up real estate in my pocket today. I’m actually carrying it right now.
What I Like About It: Sal Glesser, the man himself, designed the Native 5. This knife has a little bit of everything tucked inside of a sub 3-inch blade, which makes it legal to carry in most areas around North America. The Flat Ground, leaf-shaped Spear Point blade makes this an excellent utility knife for pretty much any task you put in its way. The FRN (Firberglass Reinforced Nylon) scales feel sturdy, and the bi-directional texturing improves your purchase of the knife (i.e. knife grip) and the aesthetics of the handle, with the signature Spyderco logo nestled in the middle. It is surprisingly simple to open one handed with either your strong or weak hand using the circular hole in the blade, and the back lock reassures you that the knife locks into place with an audible click, only to come loose when you choose to push the backlock down again. You can carry the knife with the tip up or down on either side, meaning no matter whether you are a left or right handed user, this will be a good option for you. Jimping is present in the front and back of the blade, where your index and thumb fingers contact metal, and rear where the swell of your palm wraps around the knife, providing a reassuring feeling that the knife will not slip out of your hand anytime soon. Weighing in at around 2.5 ounces, this nifty little package fits nicely in the pocket of your casual jeans, work slacks, or gym shorts. Spyderco has done a fantastic job when it comes to the heat-treatment of their knives, and as a result, the S35vn steel used in the Native 5 holds a sharp edge for an exceptional amount of time, whether you choose the plain, serrated, or combo setup. If the steel isn’t to your liking, for a smidgen (ok, maybe more than that) of extra cash you can snatch up the S110v model that holds its edge for what seems like EVER, or the Maxamet version that is a certified workhorse, or the practically rust-proof LC200n ‘Salt’ series Native. Speaking of steel, the etching on the USA-made blade is particularly unique, stating it was made in Golden, Colorado, USA, Earth. I mean, how awesome is that?
What I Don’t Like About It: It may seem like I’d give this knife a perfect score, but to be honest there are some things I really wish Spyderco could improve on with their future Native models. To start, while the extended handle grip has proven to be very ergonomic, you end up sacrificing blade length in order to accomodate your hand. I also have to ask… What the heck is going on with the pocket clip? They took the clip from the Tenacious and paired it with the Native, and unfortunately, it’s not good at all. It causes the knife to sit up high in the pocket, sticking out for everyone to see the blade you ar ekeeping in your pocket, and sometimes causing the knife to poke at you depending on how you are sitting down. I quickly switched mine out for an aftermarket deep carry clip that has since remedied this issue, but at an extra cost that could have been avoided with several of their other styles of pocket clips. And now on to the opening/closing of the blade itself. When disassembled (which is generally frowned upon by Spyderco, but no longer voids their warranty), you come to find that there are no washers (!!!) that help the pivot and centering of the knife itself. In other words, you better hope you keep a torx kit around, because this blade can, and will, begin to creep to one side or another with use, developing a slight bit of blade play from side to side. Now, while it can be done, this is not an easily ‘flickable’ model like the Manix 2, PM2, or Para 3 models due to the back lock. I am actually surprised they chose to go with a backlock on the lightweight model, as there are no liners whatsoever that reinforce the knife. This leaves you with a lock bred to be sturdy, a blade meant to be put to extended use, and a body comprised of fiberglass-reinforced nylon. I almost felt like I missed something… (looks in-between handles of Native) … nope. So while you have most of the equation of what ZT refers to as an overbuilt knife, you are stuck with a rather large achilles heel in the Nylon handles, which can deteriorate and break with hart use. As a point of fact, the cheaper Spyderco Delica with Japanese VG10 steel has partial steel liners and feels like it can take more punishment than this can.
Final Thoughts: In the end, with all of my pocket knives at my disposal, this actually gets picked up quite a bit. I don’t have to worry about it dulling quickly, and the size makes it just big enough to put in some work, but small enough to where it doesn’t appear as threatening to some people as other knives do. I regularly clip it onto my shorts when walking my dog, and occasionally adjust the pivot so that it is both centered and somewhat easy to flick open and close. And trust me on this one… if you can flick this knife, you can flick almost any Spyderco that opens with a thumbhole. Case in point, it’s a great knife and if you are looking for something lightweight, with great steel, that you can get a strudy grip with, you may want to consider this knife, all negative points considered. I truly believe that it’s worth overlooking some of its flaws, and for that reason, I both carry and recommend the Native. You can check out the model I carry available at Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2FnBcLR