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Last updated: January 24, 2019
The Native has been a staple in Spyderco’s catalog since 1997. Back when I first got into pocket knives it struck me as a potentially excellent knife. It has great specs on paper. Lightweight, high quality blade steel (at a time when that wasn’t a given), a good useful size to get things done, and a surprisingly affordable price point. This knife sold for close to $50. But the previous generation Native also had a saber grind, toothy jimping, and pinned construction. A number of flaws that kept me from giving the knife my full endorsement.
Of course Spyderco being Spyderco, they haven’t rested on their laurels. Their most classic designs get updated and tweaked over the years, and the Native was no exception. The Native 5 is their latest in the series. Introduced in 2012, this 5th generation in the series benefits from a number of upgrades. They have also rolled the Native pattern out in a number of variations, including the covetable carbon fiber version Aaron reviewed.
This plastic handled version, dubbed the “lightweight”, is their simplest Native. But I happen to think it may be their best version of the Native yet. Let’s dive in to see what this Native 5 Lightweight is all about.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Spyderco Native has an overall length of 6.875″, a 3″ blade, a weight of 2.45 ounces, and is made in the USA. I happen to think this is a great knife for suburban daily carry. It’s a full size knife, but at less than 2.5 ounces you hardly notice it in the pocket. While the Dragonfly II gets the job done, the Native 5 gives you more options.
Speaking of the Dragonfly II, here is a size comparison:
These days the Native comes in a fully flat ground leaf shaped blade. The old deep hollow grind and swedge has been updated with something a little more modern and clean looking. It’s the kind of simple and elegant blade shape that works well for everything from carving up a block of cheese to breaking down boxes to preparing wood shavings for a bonfire.
Spyderco has released this knife in many different blade steels over the years. Mine happens to come in S35VN, which I believe is a fairly common offering for the Native 5. They offer these in everything from S30V to exotic steels including S110V and even Maxamet.
I like the S35VN version of the knife, as S35VN is so easy to maintain. It takes a nice edge and is easy to sharpen, while also exhibiting decent toughness and corrosion resistance. No steel is perfect, but S35VN is pretty damn good by most metrics.
In practice my knife has done everything I’ve asked it to. It is an excellent slicer. It can thinly slice fruit, zip through cardboard, and handles heavier duty chores as well. I’ve been maintaining the edge on my Spyderco Sharpmaker, and the knife stays razor sharp that way. This is a great “do everything” blade that will handle all the stuff you would expect a good EDC knife to handle. I have carried and used this knife extensively. It just works.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
The handle of the native is comprised of two injection molded linerless Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) handle pieces mated to a steel lock back and FRN backspacer. Everything is finished well and is secure. The old version of the Native had pinned construction, but this Native 5 comes with screw together construction. So you can take the knife apart if you would like to clean it. All said this handle is simple and utilitarian.
The handle of the Native 5 is big and boxy, providing you with a comfortable handle that fills the hand. There is a nice forward finger choil that is welcome on a good Spyderco. There is no lack of grip either. Between the bidirectional texturing, and the heavily jimped thumb ramp you are going to be hard pressed to find fault with the traction on this knife.
But personally I’ve never been that obsessive about traction. What I enjoy most about the ergonomics of the Native 5 is that none of the ergonomic features get in the way. Instead, everything has been applied with a deft hand. Subtly is the name of the game here, and the whole is the greater than the sum of its parts.
Once again, it’s kind of hard to explain what makes this handle so good, but at the end of the day it just works. This is a knife you will want to hold and use.
Lets turn to the pocket clip. This too has been worked over the years. What Spyderco has done is provided a secure spoon style clip with a unique 3 screw configuration. The base of the pocket clip straddles either the lanyard hole or the pivot, depending on whether you have the pocket clip placed for tip up or tip down carry. This is a “4 corners” clip, so you can configure the knife to carry tip up or down for left or right handed carry.
In practice this knife carries phenomenally. It’s a sub 2.5 ounce folder. You forget it’s there. While the pocket clip is not a deep carry clip, it’s still discreet, burying the majority of the handle. It also a secure clip with excellent spring retention. Not once has this knife fallen out of my pocket.
Lock and Deployment
For deployment we have the Spyderco thumb hole. No surprises there. What’s potentially surprising is this knife has no bearings or washers inside it. It’s all FRN. That would be a turn off for me, but honestly I didn’t know the knife didn’t have washers until I took it apart. It was smooth and I figured it had phosphor bronze washers or something in there. It doesn’t, but that’s OK because it doesn’t need them.
Here is a shot of the disassembled knife so you can see what I’m talking about:
The Native 5 comes with an adjustable pivot, a big upgrade over the old version of the knife that was pinned together. This is a bushing pivot. It works great, and the blade is perfectly centered.
Here is a size comparison with the Sage 1:
For lockup we have a lock back. It’s got a crisp snappy action that is satisfying to use. And there is no blade play in this knife. That is surprising when you consider it’s a plastic handle with no liners at all. Yet it’s a robust knife. Would I baton with it? No. Would I jab it into a tree and use it as a step ladder? No. But it has held up great after normal extended use.
Here is a parting shot with the Native 5 next to my Paramilitary 2:
Spyderco Native 5 Lightweight Review – Final Thoughts
The Native 5 is one of my favorite EDC knives. I even like it more than the Sage 1. Here’s why: it’s lighter than the Sage, has better pocket clip retention, I prefer the S35VN blade, and I think it’s a little more comfortable with the big plastic handles. The Native 5 has found it’s way into my permanent EDC rotation. It’s just an excellent knife and you don’t need to think very hard about carrying it. The blade is versatile and cuts well. The handle is comfortable. The pocket clip is great and the knife is so light you forget you are carrying it.
Spyderco offers this knife in a G-10 version with liners. Why you would pick that knife over this lightweight FRN version is beyond me. The G-10 version weighs over an ounce more. I’m sure it’s a great knife, but I don’t need to look any further than the FRN version. Maybe you have some harder use in mind for your pocket knife. But for most people I think they will find the Lightweight version to be plenty stout and rugged. This is a workhorse of a knife, and it’s great choice if you primarily use your knife to cut things.
The Native 5 Lightweight has my highest endorsement. This is an exceptional EDC knife. Buy it and enjoy it.
- AN IMPROVED CLASSIC - The Native model has been a mainstay of Spyderco's product line for years as a result of it's superior quality and affordability. The state of the art Native 5 is available in an array of handle choices and colors.
- USA-MADE - Spyderco takes tremendous pride in every knife we make, but the ones crafted in our Golden, Colorado factory are special because we invest a piece of ourselves in every USA-Made knife we create.
- LIGHT AND DURABLE - This Native 5 handle is fabricated with Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon. FRN is a polymer mixed with glass fiber that is injection molded and formed into a sleek textured handle, creating a lightweight yet high-strength knife handle.
- DEPENDABLE - If you are looking for control and precision, look no more. This knife features our PlainEdge grind which is known for creating a smooth and exact cut.
- HIGH-STRENGTH LOCK - The Back Lock mechanism is known for it's high-strength and ease of use. The locking system is positioned on the back of the handle.
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