At SHOT Show this year, I ran into Ethan Becker at the Ka-Bar booth. Becker’s not getting any younger and any sighting, for a Beckerhead like myself, is a privilege. I’d just been walking by, but I stopped to shake his hand–a bit of hero worship on my part.
See I’m the type to get all weak in the knees over an athlete, but I’ll damn-well shake the hand of the man who designed the BK2. This is my knife, and it has been for year. I review a lot of outdoor gear, but when I really get out and go–off the grid, this is the knife on my belt.
At SHOT, Becker was, as he is wont to do, talking. The man can tell a good story. And when someone like Becker gets to imparting wisdom, I tend to soak it in. I’d asked about one his later Becker designs–one built out of thinner blade stock, and why he’d moved away from the .25″ stock that made his knives infamous.
In what I’d consider to be characteristic humility, he shrugged it off. “Back then” he said–referring to the BK2 and others, “I was afraid my knives were going to break.”
I wouldn’t be were I am now–writing this review–if his knives broke. I may not be here now if his knives broke. Ethan Becker designs some epic hard-use knives.
I am one of a large cult following of collectors, though these aren’t the typical landed-gentry types that shelve their collections in pristine safes. These are devotees. And many of us are devoted to the Becker BK2 Campanion.
See, it is a camp knife and a loyal companion. A Campanion. This is the type of knife Boy Scouts would have written hiking songs about 100 years ago, and it would have lived up to every bit of the hyperbole.
The Becker BK2 Campanion’s Form
I’m a student of knives. And I learned a valuable lesson years ago when talking to a Marine who I respect deeply. He had an opinion on over-built, long, heavy knives. And it wasn’t positive.
I’m paraphrasing, but his argument went something like this. Heavy gear gets ditched, fast, by soldiers and Marines. They’re too heavy to carry, extra, and often find their way into the hands of your enemies.
The BK2 is bordering on too heavy. This knife weighs one pound, naked. That’s not light for a knife with a 5.25″ blade. But look at the width: .25″. This is a sharpened pry bar.
The overall length is just over 10 inches, so this isn’t going to strike anyone as a cliché fighting knife (most of which have 7 inches of blade). This is more about the tasks of life outside the fight.
The 1095 Cro-Van comes in with a Rockwell hardness of 56+/-. That’s hard, but not in the super brittle region that makes some slicers so razor-sharp.
Sharpening 1095 is easy enough, even in the field—and even after the edge has been abused by digging or splitting up kindling.
And the handle shape is really comfortable. This is part of what defines the Beckers. They all feel solid and fill the hand, but they don’t wear in hot spots—not even after a long session of skinning.
These knives are meant to work. And that’s not always the case these days. Too many blades are designed so that their Features and Benefits list reads like something made by Tesla. They’re too fancy, too precious, or (worst of all) too expensive to use.
Not the BK2. There’s nothing precious about this knife.
That said, if I were to hear tomorrow that the knife was leaving Becker’s line and no longer going to be made, I’d snap up a couple, just in case. I take this one into the wild knowing that I can replace it if I have to.
And I beat the ever-loving shit out of this blade. I pry with it. I hammer with it. It is a tool.
This is my go-to whenever I am out someplace that might require all of my skills. Though it is heavy, I carry it on every hunt. It has been to the Subway in Zion National Park, and is often on my belt when I’m canoeing in the Boundary Waters or on the Buffalo in Arkansas. It gets wet and has rusted up a time or two, but steel wool knocks that back.
The Becker BK2 Campanion Sheath
It wouldn’t be a survival knife, in the traditional sense, without a sheath and a way to carry some extra stuff. But I’m past the point of needing a few feet of fishing line and some strike-anywhere matches (which is all I thought I needed when I was 10—see the Taiwan special above).
Most of what would be required to survive is in your head, though. A good knife has more application in daily chores around camp than it does in any active survival situation.
Still, I’m a kid at heart. So any knife that allows me to add an Altoid tin for extra storage is a win. I think the pouch on this is actually made by ESEE. But it fits this sheath nicely.
You could even keep a spare tin of actual Altoids in there.
I’ve not had a problem with the sheath, really, apart from it holding in moisture. It drains water, but in humid environments that may not be enough to dry out the inside. As I mentioned earlier, or alluded to, this knife has been swimming a time or two. Turn over your canoe or swim a section of flooded creek in a cayon and you will need to dry it out properly.
I’m not a big fan of the snap. It isn’t there for holding the knife in the sheath so much as it is to keep the knife from bending down, away from the hip. There’s almost as much steel in the handle as there is in the blade—maybe more—and this can result in the knife pitching away from your body, which is annoying if you’re hiking.
The platform is adaptable, though. It could easily be modified to be worn on a vest or on a bag. And, because of its short length, it would even make a good option for horizontal belt carry.
To change up carry styles, all you need is a clip that will fit these standard dimensions. Because the Beckers are so popular, a ton of independent craftsmen are out there making add-ons and new options. It is like a cult.
I hate eyelet rivets. They are functional, though. These all can be used to pass through the bolts and nuts for add-ons.
And if plastic isn’t your thing, which is common in the Bushcraft community where the BK2 really holds a place of honor, there are leather sheaths available. Many of those who are serious about their Becker mods will strip off the finish from the blade, too, as well as customing sheaths and replacing scale materials.
Finding a Becker BK2
Ka-Bar is currently producing the Becker knives, including this one. While some of them have come and gone, the BK2 has stuck around. For good reason.
The price is reasonable–typically under $140. Sometimes well under. Few of the Becker designs have stayed in production this long, though–so if you have interest in this one, or in any of the ones they produce, snag them. Otherwise you’ll have to hit the secondary market, and finding ones in good condition is not easy.
Is there a shortcoming to the Campanion?
Weight is an issue, yes. This isn’t a one-knife solution, either. Keep that in mind.
This is a knife that will double as a hatchet. It carries easily enough—but better on a belt than in a pack. And it isn’t going to do the delicate work. Peeling apples? Removing splinters? No.
But that’s it. Everything else is easier.
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