Mountaineering can get thrilling when you haul right kind of gear with you!
Best Ice ax is one such versatile piece of equipment that aids mountaineering, trekking, and hiking.
Intended to use as a walking stick, an ice axe helps you steady yourself as you descend or ascend mountain terrains. Its versatile design lets you use it to chop out steps into snow or build an anchor for self-arresting when you trip during the slide.
With varieties of features and uses, selecting your best ice axe can be a bit overwhelming.
Following are Top 5 best ice ax reviews, each offering something for every skill level. Whether you are a pro mountaineer or just an amateur, you are sure to find your ideal ice ax for the intended purpose.
Let’s dive into the in-depth reviews:
Name of the Ice Axe
-Head & Pick: Heat-treated steel-Shaft: Aluminum 7075
|-Head & Spike: Stainless steel
|-Head & Pick: Hardened steel-Shaft: Aluminum
|–Head & Spike: Stainless steel
-Pick: Chromoly steel
|-Head: Hot-forged steel
Reviews of the Best Ice Axes
PETZL – Summit EVOPETZL Summit EVO
Petzl has launched one of the best ice axe for mountaineers going on technical and classic glacier routes. And, they’ve called it Summit EVO!
Delivering excellent penetration performance, the Petzl Summit EVO is an improved and better version of the original Petzl Summit Ice axe.
Summit EVO has to be your go-to gear for all kinds of alpine trips, as its design is mainly intended for classic mountaineering.
Waterjet-formed tube and curved axe head are what makes it so comfortable to hold and effortless to carry.
The head is well-balanced and forged to favor anchoring.
At the tip, the pick is kept thin for better anchoring in hard ice. And, it becomes wider at the shaft for better hooking in soft snow.
Teeth on the top part of pick allow for solid anchoring.
Head and pick are crafted from hot-forged steel to make it hard-wearing and reliable.
Steel adze, on the other hand, acts as a comfortable support surface. Edges of adze make it optimal for chopping out stairs. Additionally, its tilted design helps you direct the axe correctly into snow (during piolet-cane mode).
Sharp spike at the bottom is made of stainless steel so that you can plunge into hard snowy terrains.
Head and pick, both have holes to clip carabiners. This allows for quick and hassle-free anchoring.
Curved shaft is made from lightweight aluminum, and further features anodized coating for enhanced protection.
Ergonomically designed shaft features straight bottom for precise plunging into icy terrains. Whereas, a slight curve at the top offers good clearance when climbing technical terrains.
Rubber grip at the bottom of the shaft is designed for a comfortable grip throughout your climb.
Weight and Length
Petzl Summit EVO comes in various length options viz. 52 cm, 59 cm, and 66 cm. The weight of Summit EVO models ranges from 400 grams up to 450 grams, depending on the length selected.
Head of the ax is quite heavy. Thus, Summit EVO is ideal for steep terrains.
Many mountaineers agree to the fact that Summit EVO does not feel too heavy, despite its grip handle. And, also that the head is quite well-balanced with a bit of swing to it. That’s how optimal it is for complex climbs!
Few users think that grip provides excellent accuracy and control over the ax. Also, the curved design of shaft works amazingly well for classic and technical terrains.
Overall, users say that it’s great as a “piolet,” and also fairly good as a “tech.”
Things we liked
- Anodized aluminum shaft
- Ergonomic grip provides better control and precision
- Ideal for steep terrains and self-arrest
- Holes at top and bottom for carabiner
- Robust pick and adze
Things we didn’t like
- No wrist strap
With CEN-B rating, Petzl Summit EVO is a perfect choice for general mountaineering but works okay for technical climbs. Whether you’re a pro mountaineer or a hiker, Summit EVO is one of the best ice axe you’ll find for self-arresting as well as to climb steep terrains.
The best part is that Petzl backs it with 3 years of warranty.
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe – Best Budget Ice AxeBlack Diamond Raven Ice Axe
Black Diamond Raven strikes a perfect balance between being lightweight yet robust enough to be a mountaineer’s piolet.
Simplistic design and low price are what makes it one of the best ice axes for alpine climbs.
Aircraft-grade aluminum is lightweight but does not compromise on quality.
One-piece, investment-cast head has been shaped from stainless steel to showcase durability. It has a large hole to attach a carabiner.
Curvy design of the pick is engineered for accurate self-arresting. Whereas it’s sharp point and serrated teeth allow better penetration into the snow.
On the opposite side, there’s a built-in adze for belaying or digging out seats or steps. Adze also acts as a firm grip while climbing.
Raven flaunts a classic design and solid construction, which Black Diamond brand is substantially famous for!
The shaft is comfortable to hold in all types of positions, be it belay, self-arrest or carrying position.
Available in 7 different sizes, starting from 55 cm up to 90 cm, you are sure to find your ideal Black Diamond Raven.
Though it’s a little heavier, it is still quite reliable for general mountaineering.
This Black Diamond ice ax can be used as a walking ax for easy plunging into icy terrain. It also self-arrests in emergencies.
Sharp spike at the bottom ensures precise penetration into the snow and also supports you if you happen to stumble.
Both, the shaft and pick have B rating. Thus, Black Diamond Raven is not suitable for climbing very steep terrains.
The pick is wide in design. Moreover, it offers a big clearance angle which is not desirable for steep slopes.
Black Diamond Raven is quite popular amongst mountaineers and hikers, mainly for its excellent performance for such a low price. As per users, its steel spike and aluminum shaft work perfectly together as a good cane.
On the negative side, some think that its high clearance tires you out quickly on steep slopes.
Things we liked
- Well-designed pick for self-arresting
- Adze for belaying
- Hole to attach a carabiner
- Cen-b Safety Certified
- Comfortable to carry in any position
- Available in 7 different sizes
- Best ice ax for classic mountaineering
Things we didn’t like
- Poor performance on steeper slopes
At such an awesome price- Black Diamond Raven excels when used for general mountaineering, trekking, and hiking. Although it is heavy, it self-arrests well, but performs unsatisfactorily on steep ice.
Overall, Black Diamond Raven Ice ax is an entry-level, piolet-style tool that best works as an anchor, cane, and descent. The main highlight is that it is low-priced, without skimping on quality.
Camp Neve Ice PickCamp Neve Ice Pick
Camp Neve Ice Pick is another affordable option for all those amateurs out there on a tight budget
Owing to its great functionality, it is one of the best low-budget mountaineering axes by far. Simple design and sturdy build are some of its high points.
Crafted from robust chromoly steel head and aluminum shaft, Camp Neve is quite comfortable to carry.
The shaft comes already equipped with a sliding leash. That is so you can affix it to your wrist, or tie into climbing harness instead.
Bottom of the ax features a sharp symmetrical spike for smooth plunging into ice, while you hold it at the head.
Camp Neve features 65 cm shaft length, yet it is one of the lightest ice axes in the review with just 425 grams weight.
Head and Pick Design
Head of Camp Neve features nice and wide pick, just the right amount of angle for self-arresting.
Big clearance angle on pick hinders its performance on steep slopes, but it works well for low-angle slopes.
The durable adze is made from forged steel, so it is reliable for cutting steps into ice and snow.
Both head and spike are designed with carabiner holes to add to its convenience level.
Mountaineers have loved Camp Neve for its low price and robust performance. Even after years of use, the metal does not seem to wear off whatsoever, say users.
Also, few users have liked the included leash, and it can be easily removed as well.
Things we liked
- Affordable price
- Best ice ax for self-arresting
- Includes a sliding leash
- Durable steel construction
- Carabiner holes
Things we didn’t like
- Not good for steep terrains
- Paint might come off after repeated use
Camp Neve is a well-designed ice ax, suitable for hiking, trekking, and general mountaineering.
Its low price and lightweight design are what makes it stand out from the competition. To conclude, it is a great choice for low-angle slopes, but not so great for steep terrains.
Black Diamond Venom Ice AxeBlack Diamond Venom Adze
Another ingeniously designed ice ax to feature “curved” shaft is this Black Diamond Venom.
Unlike others, Venom excels on steeper slopes and complex terrains. Thereby, blurring the gap between an ice tool and an ice ax.
Though priced on a higher side, Black Diamond Venom delivers exceptional performance on classic as well as challenging routes, whichever involves overhead swinging. Not to mention, it is comfortable to carry despite being heavy.
Black Diamond offers Venom in two options: either with a hammer or adze. So, it is hybrid in every which way.
Best thing is that you can combine both these options for topnotch performance on frozen steep and complex terrains.
Hybrid Ice ax
Black Diamond has meticulously designed Venom with classic piolet functionality and technical precision of an ice tool. Thus, making it one of the best hybrid ice ax to exist out there.
Thanks to its asymmetrical shaft and precisely weighted head, Venom performs quite well and self-arrests securely.
Venom comes integrated with an adze and perfect interchangeable pick. Adze version is extremely comfortable to use in cane mode.
Thin shaft and a sharp spike at the bottom offer good penetration into frozen surfaces. Head design favors anchoring, and the included leash works as an effective tether.
The shaft of the Venom is crafted from aluminum for effortless carrying.
Stainless steel head of Venom is integrated with a fully interchangeable pick. Essentially, this pick design is compatible with all Black Diamond Picks. It is made out of light and sturdy chromoly steel that favors self-arresting.
Asymmetrical shaft and integrated grip allow easy plunging and security when using it as an ice tool.
Just slide the FlickLock pommel, and you get an adjustable grip for better choke up on the steep slope.
Since the head is little heavier, the Venom performs exceptionally well on steep slopes when held at the shaft. Aggressive clearance angle on the pick further adds to its functionality on steeper terrains.
Black Diamond Venom is designed for technical ski mountaineering, steep alpine climbs, and classic mountaineering altogether, as per users.
One of them mentions how Adze variant feels comfortable to carry, thanks to the handle grip and well-weighted head.
According to a reviewer, you can use Venom for basic mountaineering, but it might be an overkill and too heavier of such general routes, seeing its high price. You need to look for another average ice ax if your use is not performance-oriented.
Things we liked
- Cen-B Certified
- Technical precision and classic piolet function combined
- Molded, Secure handle grip
- Great for steep slopes
- Good self-arresting
- 3 size options: 50 cm, 57 cm, 64 cm
Things we didn’t like
- High price
Black Diamond Venom combines classic piolet function with technical accuracy looked-for in an ice tool. It is one of the high-end ice axes to excel in performance, even on steeper slopes.
Adze version is best for general mountaineering, glacier traveling and hiking. Whereas, the hammer version works perfectly for climbing technical terrains.
Nevertheless, it’s a great hybrid tool for the price!
Grivel G1 Plus AxeGrivel G1 Plus Axe
The Grivel G1 Plus Axe is another straight-shafted tool designed originally for general mountaineering.
It offers a good rubber grip for security and is relatively comfortable to carry, all credits to the lightweight body.
One-piece, Hot-forged steel carbon head is what strengthens G1 Plus and offers longevity. Such a design allows for strong chopping power and permanent penetration.
The ergonomically designed head is comfortable to hold, even as you ascend snowfields and glaciers.
Carbon steel Spike at the end of G1 Plus is so you can plunge into hard snow or ice.
Lightweight aluminum shaft balances G1 Plus very well.
Rounded, wide shovel is what prevents mountaineers from injuries. Whereas, negatively curved pick allows great self-arresting.
Considering all factors, G1 Plus Axe would work best for general mountaineering and high altitude treks. It offers excellent strength while being lightweight.
Use it as a Deadman, an anchor or in a T-slot.
One of the users mentions how Grivel G1 Plus is the best backpacking ax and is ideal for basic mountaineering. Many have liked how comfortable it is to carry, has cool aesthetics and is impressively lightweight.
On the downside, there were few complaints about the hole on G1 being difficult to clip to.
Things we liked
- Head is precisely-weighted and offers strength
- Rubber grip
- Ergonomically designed pick for self-arresting
- Ideal for basic mountaineering
- Affordably priced
Things we didn’t like
- Does not work with just any carabiner, the hole is constricted
Grivel G1 Plus is mainly designed for self-arresting and is not suitable for climbing steep slopes. Full pick and its non-aggressive angle deter its performance on steeper terrains.
Integrated adze and the sharp spike at the bottom adds to its versatility. All in all, Grivel G1 is great for mountaineers and hikers going on glacier travels and icy trails.
Ice Axes Buying Guide
Choosing your best ice ax depends on the type of activity you’ll engage in, the angle of terrain and conditions of your travel. Most ice axes are intended for self-arresting, while few of them are good for anchoring.
Below are a few factors you need to consider before opting for an ice ax:
The shaft of ice axes is usually made from aluminum, steel and carbon fibers.
- Steel and aluminum are stronger and better than carbon fibers. Out of this, aluminum ice axes are lightweight and cost-effective, while steel is heavy and durable to endure rough conditions.
- Carbon fiber shafts are expensive and even lighter in weight. Hence, they are preferred as climbing ice ax. Whereas, steel and aluminum materials are great as mountaineering/hiking ice axes.
High-priced, premium ice axes are crafted from titanium alloys for excellent strength. Mountaineering and climbing ice axes mostly come with steelhead for that necessary strength and weight.
Climbing ice axes are shorter, to offer better support. Whereas, those used for general mountaineering and hiking feature long shafts.
Almost all ice axes in this review are offered in various length options. You need to choose the one that suits your height. If your height is less than 5.6 ft., opt for an ice ax up to 50 cm. For people taller than 6 feet, go for an ax ranging between 55 cm to 65 cm. People over 6’4”, look for an ax with 60 cm to 70 cm length.
Note that, longer shafts are highly capable of breaking through the ice with much ease than short axes. But, it will also be unwieldy with big clearance angle during climbs. If you are going to use your ice ax as a cane, don’t opt for a long model.
Lightweight ice axes are recommended for hiking, trekking, general mountaineering, and glacier traveling. Whereas, heavier ice axes are much desirable for technical ice climbs. Heavyweight design of axe is what allows you to hook the pick into the snow firmly, while you climb steep terrains. Lighter axes perform poorly on technical terrains, as they lack heft while swinging.
Curve and Teeth of the Blade
Out of different ax head types, most ice axes feature curved head. That is, so they take up less space and enhance the amount of leverage when you plunge into the snow.
Teeth on the climbing pick of ice axes are of different shapes and sizes. Larger teeth are capable of providing a stronghold when plunged into ice. But, initial breaking through the ice will be harder as compared to small-toothed pick.
Shape of Shaft
The straight shaft is easy to use as a cane. Whereas, the curved rod provides correct plunging and easy swinging into the snow.
The curved shaft has more technical precision. Hence, they perform well for self- arrests and provide better swinging clearance. Generally speaking, curved shafts are intended for steep terrains.
Adze can be used for digging out a snow cave and carve out steps and platforms. It can also be used to clear space for digging a bollard or build a tent.
If you are planning on doing these things, look for ice axes featuring well-designed adze.
Climbing axes mostly come with a hammer instead of the adze. Whereas, technical ice tool features just a pick on one end.
There are three different variations of Ice ax picks, each recognized by their curve. Most ice axes are designed with positive, classic curve. The downward curve is what aids firm self-arresting and better performance on steep slopes.
The neutral curve on pick looks straight out with no downward turn whatsoever. Such a design is good for self-arrests but performs poorly for climbing. The reverse curve is what’s most looked-for when going on technical and complex climbs. The reverse curve allows easy pick removal, thereby saving your strength. But, such ice climbing picks provide bumpy self-arresting.
If you want to switch between picks or are afraid of it wearing out, choose an ice ax with interchangeable picks.
In cane mode, the spike is used to drive the ice ax through the tough, icy surface. But on soft snow, spike holds less significance.
Spike is a feature you must look for when you’re planning on wandering through glacier routes.
Ice axes not intended for cane mode won’t have a spike at the end.
- Comfortable hold
How easy and comfortable it is easy to carry the ice ax holds great significance. When used in cane mode, the head of your best ice ax must be comfortable to hold.
For climbing and swinging, well-balanced head, correct shaft length, and curved shaft design are factors that provide comfort.
Q. What is the use of an ice ax?
Ice ax mimics a hammer, with a head, long shaft and a sharp spike at the end. It helps you maintain balance, just like a trekking pole.
The head of the ax is integrated with an adze and pick. The pick is for self-arresting and hooking into ice, whenever you want to stop a slide. Adze, on the other hand, is flatter and can be used to cut out steps.
Overall, it is an extremely functional and must-have gear for alpine climbs, hiking, trekking, mountaineering, ice, and mixed climbing adventures.
Q. What is the difference between an ice tool and ice ax?
Ice ax is intended towards general mountaineering, hiking, trekking, and glacier travel. Mostly, it comes with a straight-shaped shaft and simplistic head design.
Ice tool features technical precision and is specialized for complex ice climbing. It features curved shaft and sharp pick with a modified adze.
Q. What does the term “self-arresting” mean?
When you trip or fall, mountaineer needs to jam their ice ax into the snow at chest height. That is to slow down and ultimately stop their slide right away.
This whole process is called “self-arresting,” which every mountaineer needs to master to save their lives.
The Final Word
If you are an active mountaineer who likes to explore the different mountain and alpine terrains, make sure you carry your best ice ax that is technical and hefty enough to aid you in tough situations.
For easy-going basic mountaineering, consider low-priced, straight-shafted ice axes.
But, which one is best for technical as well as classic mountaineering?
We find that Petzl Summit EVO is the best ice ax, both for technical and fundamental climbs.
Lightweight design and hefty curved head make it ideal for anchoring in hard ice. While Steel adze and sharp spike add to its versatility.
Curved shaft of Summit EVO is ergonomically designed to aid precise plunging into the snow and offers good clearance angle on technical terrains.
Rubber grip, two holes for carabiner, various length options and three years of warranty are additional perks of Summit EVO!