Climbing Winter Sports

The 5 Best Ice Axe Reviews: Complete Buyer’s Guide

In this review guide we will help you narrow down the best options, comparing the highest rated ice axes on the market to find the best ice axe for you.

For any ice climber, beginner or expert, an ice axe is one of the most essential tools in a climber’s arsenal.

An ice axe is used to cut footholds into ice and has a head with one pointed and one flattened end. It also contains a spike at the foot of the device.

An ice axe is also used to self-arrest, which is to stop the climber from falling if they lose their footing. This reinforces the importance of the reliability needed in an ice axe.

A flimsy or unreliable ice axe can break, causing immense danger to the climber. Finding the best ice axe for the individual can be a daunting task as there are many different brands, models, shapes and sizes competing for the climber’s attention.

In this guide we will help you narrow down your options, comparing only the highest rated ice axes on the market to find the best ice axe for you.

Our 5 Best Ice Axe Tools

Product
Weight
Length
Material
Price
Black Diamond Raven
452 g
60 cm
Stainless Steel
Check Price
Black Diamond Raven Pro
377-422 g
55-70 cm
Stainless Steel
Check Price
Petzl Quark Ice Axe
550 g
50 cm
Stainless Steel
Check Price
Grivel G1 Ice Axe
468 g
66 cm
Carbon Steel (Forged Chromoly)
Check Price
Trango Raptor Ice Axe
575 g
48.9 cm
Stainless Steel
Check Price

1. Black Diamond Raven – The Perfect Ice Axe for the Best Price (Top Pick)

A fantastic Ice Axe, the Black Diamond Raven contains an anodized shaft built from lightweight, aircraft aluminum alloy to provide maximum strength. The stainless-steel head is one piece and is designed to be comfortable to grip while providing superb self-arrest.

The Black Diamond Raven has a well-earned reputation for ergonomics, providing the most comfortable grip an ice axe can offer. Ergonomics is an incredibly important factor when selecting an ice axe as you will be holding onto it tightly for long periods of time and relying on your grip. In this area, the Raven excels.

In durability, the Raven is peerless, standing up to even the roughest uses. It’s even been said that it can survive stress tests done on various materials and that it has helped carry three hundred-pound men up walls.

The most widely reviewed ice axe, the Raven stands out as the most popular and widely used as well.

Pros
  • Durable
  • Strong
  • Comfortable
Cons
  • A little noisy

2. Black Diamond Raven Pro – Better Features with Minimal Price Increase

Black Diamond’s Raven series truly stands out as the most widely used and reviewed ice axe on the market. For a minimal price increase, climbers can use the most competitive ice axe on the market.

The Raven Pro’s focus on functionality is apparent. However, this does mean it suffers in the area of aesthetic. The Raven Pro instead focuses on functionality, more than succeeding in that regard.

The redesigned head is made with the intention of providing a more aggressive pick and even more pristine ergonomics. In addition, the Raven Pro adds a larger hole for clipping a carabiner. Black Diamond has invested heavily in cutting weight without sacrificing strength.

The Raven Pro excels in its minimalistic design, swapping aesthetic for functionality. While being lightweight, the Pro does not suffer from any significant lack of cutting power. Once again, Black Diamond dominates the market on durability and ergonomics, making it the best choice for those looking to get into Ski Mountaineering.

Pros
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Slightly more slippery than axes with rubber grips
  • Not designed for intensive use on deep ice

3. Petzl Quark Ice Axe – The Lightweight Wonder

The Petzl Quark is designed for both vertical ice and mixed climbing. The balanced and smooth swing works together with the aggressive pick design to obtain the most ideal placements.

The area that sets the Quark apart from the other entries on this list is its trigger feature and customization.

This allows the climber to customize the grips by moving the trigger up or down depending on how the individual climber prefers to grip the axe.

Features of the Trango Raptor Ice Axe

The lightweight nature of the Quark can also be modified with the addition of pick weights, adding to the peerless customization found in the Quark, though with a lightweight design, durability can be a concern.

In extremely low temperatures, the pommel has been known to wear down over time, though for the most part remains a top pick.

The Petzl Quark is undoubtedly an excellent choice for mountaineers who are looking for something lightweight and customizable. In addition, beginning mountaineers may find this to be a great axe with minimal stick and peerless customizable grip.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Customizable
  • Comfortable
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Less durable than some of its peers
  • Without weights, can be a little too light
  • A little expensive

4. Grivel G1 Ice Axe – The Best Low cost & Simplistic Ice Axe

When first getting into mountaineering, ice or rock climbing, sometimes simple and clean will do just as well as top of the line models. The Grivel G1 serves this purpose, combining a simplistic design with competitive functionality.

The head is made with forged chromoly, making it much more durable than stainless steel for use in mountain applications. In using chromoly, Grivel proves that lightweight and durable are not contradictory.

Grooves cut into the pick make it easier and more comfortable to use while wearing gloves while keeping its durability and sharpness. This sets the G1 apart from many other top tier ice axes like the Black Diamond Raven in terms of pick grip. The grooves are large and defined enough to fit even more bulky gloves for climbing or larger hands.

For the price, the simplistic design of the Grivel G1 rewards the mountaineer with safety, durability, and a Lightweight tool that is perfect for self-arresting and scaling even the toughest surfaces. While it may not be as comfortable as a Black Diamond product, it more than makes up for it in just about every way imaginable.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
Cons
  • Less comfortable grip
  • Leash and Guard are harder to find/purchase (not sold in some other retailers)

5. Trango Raptor Ice Axe – An Ergonomic Masterpiece

The statement you will hear the most frequently in regards to the Trango Raptor is the unparalleled comfort and ergonomics when holding these excellent axes. The rubber grips combined with the weight and shape of the axe provides an excellent swing and even better gripping.

The ridged and serrated pick stands out from many competing axes on the market, providing an excellent grip on mixed route climbing.

The pick’s sharp and tapered shape helps to penetrate often hard to puncture ice.  The Raptor is built for use on even the steepest climbs, providing the most lightweight penetration a mountaineer could ask for.

More on the Trango Raptor Ice Axe

The downside to the Raptor is a lack of an attached hammer. There are also scenarios where the picks need to be sharpened out of the box prior to use as well as the head bolts tending to rust, though the head bolts can easily be replaced with stainless models at minimal cost.

The Trango Raptor stands out above the crowd in terms of sheer comfort and reliability for all surfaces. The Raptor is designed with the avid climber in mind and, in this, it truly excels.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Less durable
  • No attached hammer

Other Best Selling Options

Bestseller No. 1
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe, 70cm, Anodized Light Gray
  • Investment-cast, One-piece stainless steel head with a large hole for a carabiner
  • Pick's Curve and teeth engineered for secure self-arresting
  • Durable, aircraft-grade aluminum shaft
  • Cen-b Certified
Bestseller No. 2
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe with Grip, 65cm, Anodized Light Gray
  • Investment-cast, One-piece stainless steel head with a large hole for a carabiner
  • Pick's Curve and teeth engineered for secure self-arresting
  • Durable, aircraft-grade aluminum shaft
  • Comfortable, dual-density molded grip
  • Cen-b Certified
SaleBestseller No. 3
Grivel GZERO Axe 66 Black
  • Carbon steel blade
  • Ce Certified B rated
  • Weight 66cm: 425 grams/ 15 oz.
  • Sport Type: Climbing

How To Choose The RIGHT Ice Axe For Your Climbing Needs

What is The Difference Between a Basic Ice Axe and A Technical Ice Axe?

When you are a beginner to winter hiking and climbing the first thing you need to learn is the difference between a basic ice axe and a technical ice axe.

  • Technical Ice Axes – A technical ice axe is usually used for climbing high angle ice. They are typically shorter than a regular ice axe. Also the picks are at more of an acute angle, and mostly used with leashes.
  • Basic Ice Axes – A basic ice axe is used as a balance and safety tool when walking up or descending steep slopes. Additionally, an ice axe can be used as a self-arrest tool for stopping an expected fall and down slope slide.

Which Ice Axe is RIGHT for You?

A basic ice axe is different from a technical ice axe because they are longer, may or may not be used with leashes, and have a much less acute angle between the pick and the axe handle.

Another big difference between a regular ice axe and a technical ice axe is its strength rating. If the axe has a basic rating, you can identify this by a capital B with a circle around it. This rating means that the axe meets specific CE and UIAA norms for strength and durability, and it is suitable for a buried snow anchor or self-arrest.

You can find the rating of an ice axe stamped into the handle or head of an axe
You can find the rating of an ice axe stamped into the handle or head of an axe

A technical rating, is identified by a capital T with a circle around it means that the axe meets higher strength standards. These types of axes are suitable for vertical ice climbing or anything the requires hanging and holding your weight. 

You can find the rating of an ice axe stamped into the handle or head of an axe. Avoid ice axes that do not meet CE and UIAA standards.

What to Consider Before Buying an Ice Axe

All the ice axes covered in this article are superb choices and will provide excellent support and durability for any mountaineer or climbing enthusiast, both beginner and advanced.

However, the choice of ice axe to purchase will depend on the specific needs of the individual and factor of the climbs. Here are some factors that you should consider before purchasing your ice axe.

Size

The size of an ice axe reflects the distance from the tip of the axe to the top of the head. Ice axes are typically measured in centimeters and often come in size increments of 5cm from 50cm to 75cm. The best way to choose the size of your ice axe is dependent on your size or by your intended activity.

To determine the correct length of the axe for you based on your own size, hold the axe while standing relaxed. If you are standing fully upright with your hands at your sides, the spike of the axe should barely touch the ground.

To determine the correct length of the axe for you based on your intended activity, consider the factors. Axes less than 60cm are shorter, meaning they won’t offer much leverage and will not work optimally for self-arrest if you lose your footing.

However, tools over 70cm are considered too long for technical snow or ice climbing but are perfect for lower angle terrain.

Ice Axe in Use
Ice Axe in Use

Weight

For ski mountaineering and glacier travel, lightweight is an excellent feature to have due to increased speed and decreased weight.

However, lightweight axes are often less durable and have difficulty in penetrating hard ice in comparison to their heavier counterparts.

An axe with stainless steel is typically heavier but is also much more durable and better suited to most other climbing such as ice climbing, mountaineering, and mountain rescue.

CEN Ratings

The CEN (or Comité Européen de Normalisation) is a European group that develops and maintains equipment standards, utilizing a rating system. When shopping for an ice axe, you should see a CEN stamp or sticker with either a B or a T on it.

The B (basic) stamp designates that the axe is generally lighter and less expensive but also less durable. Axes marked with a B should NOT be used for technical climbing.

The T (technical) stamp designates that the axe is heavier, more expensive, and more durable. However, axes with a T stamp may also have differently rated picks and shafts. (i.e.: a CEN-T shaft with a CEN-B pick, making it better for penetrating pure ice).

Leashes

An ice axe leash is a strap that secures the axe to the climber’s wrist or harness. With the importance of ice axes as a safety tool, leashes are considered a must-have by many mountaineers.

Despite this, many climbers do choose to go without a leash in some cases, stating that leashes can cause a safety hazard by tethering a sharp tool to you if a fall should occur. There are also concerns as to pausing to switch wrists at each switchback, causing an impact to efficiency.

In the end, using a leash is up to the climber, and length is also up to preference rather than any necessarily set standard.

Transportation

In many cases, how you transport your ice axe is extremely important, especially when travelling on a plane. We’ll cover everything you need to know about transporting your ice axe from climb to climb.

There are several packs out there that include features that carry an ice axe or other ice tools. The packs have several axe loops near the bottom and a few straps near the top.

To utilize this feature, place it spike first into the bottom loop until the head of the axe is resting just atop the loop. Then, move the axe upwards and bind the shaft with the strap near the top.

When taking your ice axe on a trip where flying is necessary, keep in mind that the TSA states that you may not have an ice axe in your carry-on luggage. You must check your ice axe with checked luggage. In this case, cover all sharp points such as the pick, adze, and spike with either a pre-made protector or with a simple homemade sleeve made with cardboard and tape.

Enjoy Your Climbing Adventures with The Best Ice Axes!

Despite the Black Diamond Raven Pro being considered the premiere ice axe, the Black Diamond Raven itself is our top pick as it remains the most popular and highest rated among climbers of all kinds.

The Black Diamond Raven Pro is an elite ice axe with immense popularity and is easy to use, durable and comfortable.

The Petzl Quark is lightweight, customizable and has a well-earned reputation as an efficient ice axe for beginners and avid mountaineers alike.

The Grivel G1 is the best low-cost ice axe that keeps it simple while remaining competitive in the market.

The Trango Raptor is extremely versatile and comfortable, but suffers from a lack of durability, making the G1 the better ice axe for mountaineers on a budget.

Remember to keep in mind all factors you need to consider before purchasing, including: type of activity, height, weight, CE certification and traveling.

All these factors will help you choose the best ice axe to give you the safest and most efficient climb possible.

Adrienne

Adrienne is a traveller and blogger with many years experience of the outdoors life. An adrenaline junkie at heart she loves to try different sports and activities all year round. With a degree in journalism she combines her love of sports with writing here at BeActiveOutdoors.com Contact adrienne@beactiveoutdoors.com

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