Hiking and mountaineering during the winter is an exciting and challenging endeavor. Tackling a mountain changes drastically when the trails are covered with snow and ice. Arming yourself with the very best ice axe while battling the icy climbs will ensure you stay safe and conquer your next mountain efficiently.
In our buying guide, we go over the very best ice axes on the market, and we’ll cover everything you need to consider while shopping around, so you can rest assured you have the knowledge to buy the best ice axe for you. The key features that dictate the quality of an axe include inspecting the length, weight, and material of your new ice axe.
How to Buy the Best Ice Axe
Get yourself mountain ready in our buying guide for the best ice axes.
One of the most important things to consider is the length of your new ice axe because this will ensure you can comfortably and efficiently use it out in the snow. Measurements are often noted in cm and measured from the tip to the end of the handle. A rule of thumb for choosing the best length of axe for you is that when you grip the head or blade of the axe and stand in a relaxed position, the end of the handle should reach your ankle or no more than an inch above it.
If you’re at home and shopping online, you can always stand holding a soft tape measure to find the distance between where your arms hang comfortably to the top of your ankles. You may need the help of a friend to find an accurate measurement.
The weight of your new ice axe usually correlates to the length and material of your axe and is another essential factor to keep in mind when searching for the best ice tool. The shorter the handle, typically the lighter the weight, and the reverse is true with a longer handle. If you’re planning on traveling or hiking long distances with your ice axe, a shorter handle or lighter weight may be right for you. These are also great for climbing steep terrains or for adventures that don’t require a lot of ice axe use.
A heavier or longer ice axe is ideal for those in need of something that can function as a snow anchor or for searching for crevasses in snowfields. A longer axe is not recommended for self-arrest, the technique of stopping a fall when climbers are not attached to safety ropes, because they are difficult to control and employ effectively. It’s recommended to avoid anything over 70 cm or 27.5 inches unless you’re tall enough to need it.
The actual heads and picks of ice axes are usually made of steel alloy for ultimate durability. However, the materials used for the shaft can vary. Often made from steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber, each material has its own set of pros and cons. Steel shafts will prove to be the most durable but also the heaviest, which isn’t a problem if you need something powerful enough to penetrate hard ice.
Aluminum is the lightest material that is ideal for general winter trekking, steep ascents, and glacier scrambling. Carbon fiber is not as common and a much more specialized material that boasts the pros of being both lightweight and extremely strong and durable. However, it is often costly in comparison to steel or aluminum. It’s an excellent option for experts on the hunt for an ice axe that does it all.
Top 10 Ice Axes
1. PETZL Summit EVO Ice Axe
The Summit EVO ice axe by Petzl is a lightweight tool that is perfect for classic mountaineering and various other alpine activities. It comes in two options for length of 52cm or 59cm (20.4in or 23.2in respectively), so you can find the best option for your height. Designed with a curved handle for terrain clearance and a sturdy aluminum shaft that makes it easy to carry, you can’t go wrong with the Summit EVO.
- Lightweight Aluminum Shaft.
- Curved handle designed for optimum clearance on steep and icy terrain.
- Length options in 52 cm and 59 cm.
- Aluminum shaft not as durable as other materials.
This product is best for classic mountaineering that requires a lightweight but powerful ice axe that is easy to trek with.
2. Black Diamond Raven Ice-Axe
Black Diamond’s Raven ice axe is built to be a lightweight and powerful tool that may very well save your life! It has a curved pick with very sharp teeth made to securely and safely aid in any self-arresting or sliding down an icy mountainside. It measures 60cm and weighs in at 15.9 oz or 452 g.
- Longer length for more power.
- Durable stainless steel head and spike.
- Minimalistic design without a rubber grip.
This product is best for mountaineers looking specifically for something designed for secure self-arresting.
3. CAMP USA - Cassin X-All Mountain Ice Tool
Camp USA knows that for winter sports enthusiasts, having an axe that can do it all saves a lot of stress. With their Cassin X-All mountain ice tool, you can tackle everything from multi-pitch ice fields, mixed routes, classic alpine ice and snow trails, and more. Constructed with a sharply curved handle and a pick with a carefully optimized angle, you can adapt to nearly any angle and terrain.
- Double pommel grip.
- Curved handle and an angled pick designed for a variety of terrains.
- Lightweight aluminum shaft and durable chromoly steel pick and spike.
- On the heavier side of ice axes weighing in at 21oz (1lb 5 oz).
This product is best for winter sports enthusiasts interested in an all-in-one ice axe that can handle a variety of alpine activities such as ice climbing and mountaineering.
4. Petzl Sum'tec
The Sum’tec ice axe by Petzl is a modular axe made for technical mountaineering in even the snowiest and iciest of terrains. It has a pick that has a tapered end for easy snow and ice penetration, as well as a steel spike at the end of the shaft for optimum support. The Trigrest hand rest allows the user to adjust their grip from hiking to climbing mode quickly and efficiently. The shaft is made from aluminum while the pick is made from steel.
- Interchangeable picks for easy adaptability to different climbing modes.
- Thoughtfully curved handle for efficient anchoring without sacrificing the ability to plant in the snow.
- Two hammer options.
- Only one length option, 55cm (21.6in).
This product is best for technical mountaineering and trekkers looking for an ice axe that can adapt to a variety of challenges.
5. Petzl Glacier
Specially designed for glacier travel and trekking, the Petzl Glacier ice axe boasts amazing anchoring qualities for both hard and soft ice so you can feel secure while trekking over glaciers. This particular axe is made with a steel pick and adze blade for reliable durability and an aluminum shaft for lightweight travel with a machine cut grip. The spike and pick also have holes in them so you can easily attach it to your bag with a carabiner or sling.
- Four length varieties; 50cm, 60cm, 68cm, 75cm.
- Comes with Petzl Linkin leash.
- Expertly designed for glacier travel.
- No rubber grip to reduce vibration.
This product is best for trekkers seeking a lightweight performance ice axe made especially for traversing glaciers.
6. Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe
The Black Diamond Raven Pro ice axe delivers a sturdy yet easy to carry design that comes in a variety of lengths from 50cm - 75cm so you can find the best length for you. The aluminum construction of the shaft makes it a very lightweight option, weighing in just over a pound, while the steel pick provides excellent durability and strength. It’s a great ice axe for winter mountaineering and is lighter than its predecessor, the Raven.
- Six length and weight options to choose from; 50cm, 55cm, 60cm, 65cm, 70cm, 75cm.
- 1-year manufacturer's warranty.
- Ergonomic steel head for precise aim.
- Straight handle so not as adept for every situation as other ice axes.
This product is best for casual winter mountaineering and for trekkers who don’t often self-arrest while hiking.
7. Camp USA Corsa Axe
The Corsa axe by Camp USA is touted as the lightest axe in the world, and reviewers rave about how insanely light it truly is while carrying it on long hikes. Constructed from forged aluminum, the pick and adze are sturdy and effective and work well for snow travel, self-arrest, and as an anchor. The spike is made from nylon, and the length totals 70cm.
- A reputation for being the ‘lightest ice axe in the world’ weighing in at only 281 grams (.62 lbs).
- Great for long haul trekking and backpacking.
- Snow gets stuck in the bottom of the axe.
- Not the strongest or most powerful axe.
This product is best for long haul trekkers who need an axe for snowy and icy steep climbs.
8. Trango Raptor Ice Tool with Removable Weights and Pick Covers
The Raptor ice tool is made to pierce even the hardest and thickest of ice with its strong steel pick. The shaft is a reverse curve that makes it great for ice climbing, and you can customize the weight with the included removable weights for optimum versatility for a weight of 575g or 640g. The grip is made from molded rubber and is guaranteed to be comfortable and durable while reducing fatigue.
- Strong pick that easily penetrates tough ice.
- Built with a molded grip that is comfortable and easy to hold.
- A reliable performance ice tool.
- A semi-unknown brand name.
This product is best for ice climbing and works well even in the steepest of terrains and the hardest of ice.
9. Black Diamond Venom Adze
The Venom Adze ice axe by Black Diamond is an exceptional ice tool that functions well for ski mountaineering, moderate snow climbs, and following glacier routes. The head is designed from stainless steel and can easily be switched out with any other Black Diamond picks so you can get even more out of your ice axe. The handle is made for swinging and is easy to choke up on while ascending steep climbs.
- Built with an interchangeable pick.
- An angled shaft that is incredibly ergonomic and easy to use.
- A sliding pommel or hook on the grip for easy choking up.
- Not the lightest option weighing in at 1lb 3 oz.
This product is best for tackling ski mountaineering as well as the toughest alpine climbs.
10. Omega Pacific Ice Mountain Axe
Omega Pacific delivers a classic and minimalistic ice axe that reviewers love. It’s strong, durable, and lightweight and a great option for budget shoppers on the hunt for an ice axe that can handle winter mountain climbing and ice. Made from lightweight but durable aircraft quality aluminum alloy, this ice axe won’t weigh you down.
- Great product for the very affordable price.
- Aircraft quality aluminum alloy shaft and a laser-cut steel head.
- Classic design and style without customary bells and whistles from new designs.
This product is best for hikers on a budget looking for a quality product that can handle winter mountain climbing and traversing ice.
The Best Ice Axe: Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe
Choosing the best ice axe for you can truly be a matter of life or death when you’re out in the wild, traversing ice and snow in the mountains. You want to make sure you hit the trails fully equipped with the best of the best when it comes to ice axes.
As discussed, you’ll want to take great care to find the best length for your body. By measuring the ideal handle length, from your hand to the top of your ankle, you’ll be able to effectively swing your ice axe with the right amount of power and precision you need out on the ice.
Finding an ice axe for your needs is also very important. There are specialized ice tools for everything, from classic mountaineering to glacier travel and even fast-paced ski mountaineering. Coming prepared with the ice axe made for your sport is another great way to ensure a safe and pleasurable experience out in the snow.