By Christopher Warden
Family camping season is now in full swing and rather than spending time alone in the woods practicing bushcraft skills and chasing whitetails, my weekends will be spent at campgrounds chasing my kids around the playground and pool and carving pot hooks while sitting under the awning of my camper. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need a good knife with me. I was looking for a knife that was just as capable cutting up steak and vegetables, as it was at fire prep, and one that required as little maintenance as possible. I decided to look to the Spyderco Proficient to fit the bill.
At first glance the Proficient, looks almost like a full flat grind Spyderco Bushcraft model, and rightfully so. Both Spyderco models were designed by wilderness expert Chris Claycomb of Bushcraft U.K. Both knives are 8.75 inches long, and have superbly contoured handles. They also share the ambidextrous black leather pouch sheath. This is where the obvious similarities end and the differences that make the Proficient stand out in the crowd become obvious.
Immediately I noticed the black space age solid carbon fiber scales. They are sleek, polished, and have a slight classic coke-bottle contour. Carbon fiber knife scales have a reputation as being light weight, strong, but also brittle with regards to impact resistance. The Proficient’s scales had a fair amount of heft to them, giving the blade a light and nimble feeling in the hand. Strong, you bet; brittle, not even a bit. While batoning wood for camp fires, the Proficient needed to be rescued a few times. With a well placed wallop on the tang and scales, she was free, none the worse for wear.
While the Spyderco Proficient’s bushcraft lineage is quite evident, it steps out of that comfort zone with its blade shape and design. It has a drop point blade, rather than a spear point, and a full flat grind, rather than a Scandinavian grind found in more traditional bushcraft blades. This blade shape in combination with the full flat grind make the Proficient well suited for many everyday and typical bush tasks. The Proficient has a v grind secondary bevel. I found it a little obtuse for making feather sticks, but serviceable, even on seasoned oak. The bevel was strong enough to hold up to pretty heavy batoning and indispensable in helping me harvest fat wood from a pine log. The tip, although thin and very pointy, was strong and made splitting kindling a breeze. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite knife for fire craft, but it was proficient (see what I did there.) Where this full flat grind and v bevel really shined were on those everyday tasks like breaking down cardboard boxes, opening toy packaging, cutting cordage, and food prep. The Spyderco Proficient made butterflying a whole chicken and trimming steaks fun and sliced onions so easy I didn’t even cry.
Another departure from its bushcraft roots is the use of stainless steel. Crucible Particle Metallurgy s90v is similar in toughness and corrosion resistance to 440c and D2, but has a much greater wear resistance. What that means for us average knife-a-holics is a tough steel that doesn’t need oiled all the time and has a long lasting keen edge. Over two months of use, I oiled and stropped the Proficient one time. Any food prep that I did for testing, blade clean up after was only done with soap and water, and to be quite honest sometimes not even at all. Onions and steaks that I have cut up with O1 tool steel blades in the past have almost instantly created a patina on the blade. The Spyderco Proficient looks just as pretty as the day it came out of the box.
Proficient, competent or skilled at doing something, is a pretty simple but explanatory name for this offering from Spyderco. Here are some considerations to keep in mind if you’re looking to pick one up for yourself. Stainless CPM s90v steel is definitely a little tougher to sharpen in the field than high carbon steels like O1 and 1095, so keep a strop or ceramic honing rod in your kit to keep that edge really keen. You’ll have some extra room since you might not need that can of oil. There is a plastic insert in the ambidextrous pouch style sheath, and I found it a bit tricky sheathing the Proficient several times while on my belt and trying to navigate my tactical muffin top (yes it’s a fat joke.) I overcame that problem by wearing the Proficient in a neck carry fashion by simply threading some paracord through two of the six grommet holes in the sheath. It is a little on the large side for knives that I like to neck carry, but still light enough that I didn’t find it uncomfortable. You just may want to remove the insert or add your own dangler attachment. With a four inch cutting edge and four and one half inch handle, it might be a bit on the small side if you have extra large hands.
If you’re looking to get your hands on a Spyderco Proficient head over to spyderco.com and check it out. Don’t let yourself have sticker shock with an MSRP of $489.95. It is a small king’s ransom, but expected for the up charge in carbon fiber scale material and CPM s90v stainless super steel. With a little practice of the ancient art of Google Fu, you can find a more reasonable price of $293.97 over on bladehq.com. For an all around low maintenance bushcraft and camp knife, check out the Spyderco Proficient, jack of all trades and master of some.
Visit www.spyderco.com fore more information on the Proficient.
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