Best Ice Axe

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Petzl Summit Evo
Test Winner: Petzl Summit Evo
Amazon Link
If you have ever dreamed of exploring Mount Shasta’s ice-covered mountain tops and looking over the incredibly blue and beautiful Lake Shasta, you will need a lot more than just your will and dedication. You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of suggested gear, but each piece is incredibly important and could save your life. One of what we consider to be the most important items to bring with you is an ice axe. A good axe can help you navigate your way through snowy passes, achieve balance, assist you in descending or ascending slopes, and even for protection while camping out in the middle of nowhere. The colder months are fast approaching, and it’s time to break out your ice gear and clothing such as winter jackets and see what you’re missing or what needs replacing.

Standout Picks

Petzl Summit Evo
The Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe is probably the best choice overall when it comes to mountaineering through rough terrain and heavy snows. The curved axe head and handle make for an ice axe that is comfortable to hold, easy to carry, and still have enough weight to keep you safe while traveling through the mountains.
Amazon Link
$129.95
Backcountry Link
$139.95
See Deal
Gear Coop
$139.95
See Deal
Petzl Glacier Literide
The second entry on our list also comes from the people at Petzl, and it was a tough call between the two top choices provided. While the first place one because of its durability and hefty design, the Petzl Glacier Literide easily takes second based on its ultra-light nature and quality design overall.
Amazon Link
Backcountry Link
$89.95
See Deal
Gear Coop
$89.95
See Deal
Black Diamond Raven
The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe offers a lightweight alternative to some of the heavier and more cumbersome ice axes available on the market today. Designed to be easily used by most mountain enthusiasts, and to function quite well in a number of environments, this is a great all-around choice for your next ice axe.
Petzl Quark Ice Tool
It’s hard to say whether or not this particular tool can technically be classified as an ice axe because it is so much more than that. There is no denying the usefulness and overall technical design of the Petzl Quark Hammer Tool in any situation. Designed to puncture hard ice and to swing easily in even the most extreme of climbing situations, this is one technical ice axe that can easily save the day.
Grivel G Zero
If you’re looking for an ice axe that is truly simple and lightweight, but still can easily get the job done, one that really should be taken into consideration is the Grivel G-Zero Ice Axe. Not only is it designed for alpine pursuits, but it features a one-piece axe head that provides a great deal of strength without too much added weight.
Petzl Gully
If you’re looking for an expedition worthy ice axe, you may just have found what you need in the Grivel Air Tech Evolution Ice Axe. Not only is it a great choice for general mountaineering, but the overall design makes it easy to use, and it also features some significant stopping power in a small package.
Amazon Link
$103.86
Backcountry Link
$169.95
See Deal
Grivel Nepal Self-Arrest
Designed with the weekend mountaineer in mind, the Grivel Nepal Self-Arrest Ice Axe is one that is perfect for trekking, snow climbs, and overall enjoyment of the mountainous areas.
Grivel G1
This next product on our list is, once again, from the Grivel brand and is no stranger to being used in a wide array of climbing environments. It’s lightweight, well built, and features a neutral clearance and curvature to keep things simple and straightforward.
Camp USA Neve
If you’re looking for a decent all-around ice axe that is suitable for a beginner ice climber but still can be easily used by veterans alike, our ninth pick is a great one to consider.
Camp USA Corsa
The Camp USA Corsa Ice Axe rounds out our list, but it is by no means something to be tossed away. It is not only one of the lightest ice axes we’ve come across, but it is also fairly sturdy and is suited for low angled glacier travel, making it a fairly unique entry on this list.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Durability

Check the CEN rating to determine durability. The CEN rating refers to a rating gain a pickaxe for ice by the ComEuropeanpeen de Normalisation concerning the overall quality and usefulness of the axes for ice for certain situations. A typical rating will either consist of a “B” or basic rating or a “T” or technical rating. A “B” rating is more suited for less strenuous and less technical climbs. They are usually much lighter, less expensive, and are also typically less durable. An ice pickaxe that is marked with a “T” however is tested to be strong enough and durable enough to work on technical climbs and to be used for self-arresting measures.

Weight

Depending on how much you are carrying with you during your expedition, the overall weight of each item can play a very important part overall. The weight of the axes for ice is no exception to this. When it comes to weight, quality axes for ice will be heavy enough to help stop you and your equipment from falling during a self-arrest, but also light enough to not become a significant burden for those that are carrying the pickaxe itself.

Most axes for ice weigh somewhere between 200 and 400 grams or between 0.4 and 0.8 pounds. Needing to make sure you are able to carry this axe on your belt or back is important when it comes to it being lightweight and easily portable.

Size

The general rule of thumb when it comes to the best pickaxe for the individual is that they should be able to hold the head comfortably in their hand while standing relaxed, and have the spike, or lower end of the pickaxe just barely touching the ground. This allows the ice pickaxe to be both used as a climbing pickaxe and as a type of trekking pole when warranted.

In addition to your size, another factor to consider when choosing the proper length of the pickaxe is the intended use of the ice pickaxe. Typically speaking, axes for ice that have a length of fewer than 60 centimeters, or about 24 inches are usually designed for more technical climbing but don’t offer much leverage or stopping power. Those axes of ice that are 70 centimeters (about 28 inches) are fantastic for low angled terrain, and cross-country travel, but aren’t well suited for more technical climbs.

Use

When determining the best axe for your needs, the most important thing to consider is the pick, or as some would call it, the business end of the head of the ice axe. This is what is used to perform a self-arrest, and to aid in climbing or mountaineering tasks. The curvature as is expected refers to the amount of bend, or curve the pick has in relation to the shaft. Generally speaking, the smaller the angle, the more suited the axe is for technical climbs. Usually, the curvature angle of the more technical picks ranges between 55 and 60 degrees, while ones with a greater angle, such as 65 to 70 degrees are usually reserved for general mountaineering purposes.

The clearance of a pick refers to whether or not the curvature angle is positive or negative in regards to the shaft of the pickaxe as it is measured against the ground surface or snow. In most cases, modern axes have a positive clearance, but there are a few out there that have been designed to highlight a negative one. While both a positive or negative clearance will work to help stop you from sliding further, ones that have a neutral or negative clearance will often skim across the surface of the snow and ice and require more force for penetration. Those with a positive clearance will often pull into a surface, making self-arresting a much easier task.

Top 10 Picks

1. Petzl Summit Evo

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$129.95
Backcountry Link
$139.95
See Deal
Gear Coop
$139.95
See Deal
Petzl Summit Evo
Amazon Link

The Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe is probably the best choice overall when it comes to mountaineering through rough terrain and heavy snows. The curved axe head and handle make for an ice axe that is comfortable to hold, easy to carry, and still have enough weight to keep you safe while traveling through the mountains.

Read more

Durability
The shaft is created from high-quality lightweight aluminum with an anodized coating for added protection. The curvature of the shaft is ergonomic in design and significantly aids in the repeated use of the ice ax for anchoring and climbing purposes. While the curved design can be problematic for some self-arrest situations, overall the design serves well.

Weight
Generally speaking, this ice axe weighs about 14.8 ounces, with a good majority of the weight being found in the head area for added striking power and anchoring ability. So found the ice axe to be a little on the heavy side overall, but for most people and situations it worked quite well indeed.

Size
This ice axe comes in a fairly good range of sizes, including 52-centimeters, 59-centimeters, and 66-centimeters in length. Therefore, finding one that fits your body size and chosen activity type should not be too much of a hassle. This ice axe features positive clearance and a relatively small curvature angle, which makes this example a fantastic choice for making a quick stop or self-arrest in both firm and softer snows.

Use
This particular ice axe has a “B” rating, which makes it ideal for general mountaineering, but not entirely suitable for more technical climbs.

Summary
If you’re looking for an ice axe that is easy to use and designed for comfort, but still able to handle emergencies when things go decidedly south, the Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe is definitely one to consider. While some found the curved design and overall weight a slight hindrance, most people found this particular ice axe to be more than what was needed.

Amazon Link
$129.95
Backcountry Link
$139.95
See Deal
Gear Coop
$139.95
See Deal

2. Petzl Glacier Literide

Where to buy
Petzl Glacier Literide
Amazon Link

The second entry on our list also comes from the people at Petzl, and it was a tough call between the two top choices provided. While the first place one because of its durability and hefty design, the Petzl Glacier Literide easily takes second based on its ultra-light nature and quality design overall.

Read more

Durability
The straight shaft design is fairly simple but does feature a built-in handle, which makes using it for self-arrest purposes fairly easy, especially in colder weather conditions. It is also short overall and features a sharpened spike at the end, which can also double as a temporary anchoring point if necessary. While it doesn’t quite have the anchoring power of our top choice, it’s still a viable option for most safety issues.

Weight
Along with its smaller size, the Petzl Glacier Literide Axe is also one of the lightest we’ve come across. It weighs a mere 320 grams in total or just over 0.70 pounds. While its lightweight nature does have a few advantages overall, it does pose a bit of a problem especially when it comes to anchoring heavier people or objects.

Size
This is one of the shortest ice axes on the list, measuring only about 50 centimeters in total length from axe head to spike tip. While it most likely won’t work well as a makeshift trekking pole, the shorter design does make transportation and carrying a bit easier overall.

Use
This ice axe is rated for basic use, and really shouldn’t be used during more technical climbs and harder environments. This ice axe features a positive clearance and smaller curvature overall, which aids immensely in the act of self-arrest and use in both firm and softer snows.

Summary
If you’re looking for a very lightweight ice axe that is still useful for a typical climbing environment that is not too technical or as a back-up, the Petzl Glacier Literide Ice Axe is certainly one to have in your view.

Amazon Link
Backcountry Link
$89.95
See Deal
Gear Coop
$89.95
See Deal

3. Black Diamond Raven

Black Diamond Raven
Amazon Link

The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe offers a lightweight alternative to some of the heavier and more cumbersome ice axes available on the market today. Designed to be easily used by most mountain enthusiasts, and to function quite well in a number of environments, this is a great all-around choice for your next ice axe.

Read more

Durability
The shaft is straight, and relatively long, making this particular ice axe well suited for use as a mountain trekking staff or as a walking stick in low elevation terrain. It is fairly lightweight as well, and can be easily carried in most situations, although the length does make swinging it time and time again a bit cumbersome overall.

Weight
The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe weighs about 14 ounces overall, so it’s not exactly the lightest out there, but it certainly won’t be a burden even if you’re traveling with a lot of equipment. However, because of its lighter nature, it’s stopping and anchoring power leaves a little bit to be desired overall.

Size
This particular ice axe can come in a fairly good range of sizes, from 55 centimeters to 75 centimeters at 5-centimeter intervals. The likelihood of finding one that fits your body and activity level is pretty good overall.

Use
This ice axe falls clearly into the basic category, although it does have uses on more technical climbs, such as using it for belay purposes and as an improvised anchor during rescue missions. While we certainly wouldn’t recommend that you use it for your only ice axe on technical climbs, it can certainly serve well as a back-up.

The curvature angle of the pick end of the axe head is relatively small, but larger than those found in more technical ice axes. It does feature a positive angle, though, which makes a self-arrest possible with this instrument, although one certainly shouldn’t expect a fast stop, but more of a gradual slow down.

Summary
The Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe offers a very good all-around ice axe experience, and most people find that for their purposes this axe is hard to beat. While we certainly would have liked to see a curved handle and a technical rating, all in all, this is not a bad choice for mountaineering in general.

4. Petzl Quark Ice Tool

Where to buy
Petzl Quark Ice Tool
Amazon Link

It’s hard to say whether or not this particular tool can technically be classified as an ice axe because it is so much more than that. There is no denying the usefulness and overall technical design of the Petzl Quark Hammer Tool in any situation. Designed to puncture hard ice and to swing easily in even the most extreme of climbing situations, this is one technical ice axe that can easily save the day.

Read more

Durability
The shaft is comparatively short, so using it for trekking purposes is really not an option. However, the curved design does make for a powerful impact when swinging. The handles at the base are designed to maximize grip and are even removable if so desired.

Weight
This particular ice axe weighs a fairly hefty 550 grams, but it’s still smaller and more versatile than quite a few other ice axes on the market today.

Size
The length is approximately 50 centimeters from bottom to tip, so this is a relatively small ice axe. It can easily be carried on your person, tied to a belt, or carried in a small backpack until needed.

Use
This particular ice axe clearly falls into the “T” or technical category and is designed for vertical ice climbing, and crevice climbing where tight quarters are the name of the game. This tool features both a reverse acute angle for curvature and a very positive clearance, which makes it ideal for swinging into harder substances like ice, frozen ground or even rock. This ice tool is specifically designed for technical climbing, and can easily be used to quickly self-arrest if necessary.

Summary
If you enjoy going to extremes in your ice climbing adventures, having a quality technical ice axe that you can rely on is essential. Thankfully, this entry from Petzl can easily meet that requirement. While it’s not a great choice for the average climber, if you like to climb ice sheets or frozen waterfalls, this is likely to become an essential tool.

5. Grivel G Zero

Where to buy
Grivel G Zero
Amazon Link

If you’re looking for an ice axe that is truly simple and lightweight, but still can easily get the job done, one that really should be taken into consideration is the Grivel G-Zero Ice Axe. Not only is it designed for alpine pursuits, but it features a one-piece axe head that provides a great deal of strength without too much added weight.

Read more

Durability
The shaft of this ice axe is straight with rounded edges for a fairly comfortable grip, and the end of it features a good-sized spike for use for added stability and traction on mountainous terrain.

Weight
The weight can vary slightly based on the length, of course, but for the most part, this ice axe weighs about 15 ounces, which makes it fairly lightweight. While it doesn’t really provide a great deal of anchoring or stopping power, for general use in mountaineering and alpine environments, it is more than suitable.

Size
There are three basic lengths available for this particular ice axe, namely 58 centimeters, 66 centimeters, and 74 centimeters. All three appear to be comfortable lengths to allow this item to be used as a trekking pole when needed.

Use
This ice axe is rated for basic or type “B” use, and is really not suitable for more technical climbing. Unlike many of the others on this list, this particular ice axe doesn’t feature a positive or negative clearance, but rather a neutral one, meaning that the angle between the pick end and the surface when struck is actually very close to zero. The curvature angle is also a little on the larger size, which makes this one great for general mountaineering and hiking through rough terrain, but not really suitable for technical climbing.

Summary
If you want an ice axe that is both lightweight and relatively durable for the next time you climb into the foothills of a mountainous region, this entry from Grivel is a pretty good one to have along. While we wouldn’t trust it completely to do a self-arrest, it can certainly be an aid when hiking through more treacherous terrain.

6. Petzl Gully

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$103.86
Backcountry Link
$169.95
See Deal
Petzl Gully
Amazon Link

If you’re looking for an expedition worthy ice axe, you may just have found what you need in the Grivel Air Tech Evolution Ice Axe. Not only is it a great choice for general mountaineering, but the overall design makes it easy to use, and it also features some significant stopping power in a small package.

Read more

Durability
The shaft is slightly curved near the axe head and is constructed of aluminum, to maintain its lightweight. The pick is tapered and forged out of steel for added strength and durability and for deeper penetration. The bottom portion of the handle has horizontal grooves for easier handling and control.

Weight
Perhaps the best feature of this axe is its weight. This axe weighs in at only .617-pounds or 280-grams. This 45cm axe also features a beveled spike, making it easy to store inside your backpack and safer to attach outside your bag.

Size
The length of the entire ice axe is only 45cm long. And while the shorter length may be seen as a disadvantage to some, for the most part, the length isn’t a hindrance to most people.

Use
For the price point, this ice axe falls squarely into the technical rating and has significant punching power and the ability to make quick arrests on a moment’s notice. If you’re working through some terrain that is a bit unstable, this is definitely a great choice for an ice axe.

This particular ice axe features a relatively gentle curvature to the pick and positive clearance, making it usable as both a mountaineering pick and as a self-arrest tool when needed. With this particular ice axe, a type of balance has been found between general use and technical merit that works quite well.

Summary
The Petzl Gully Ice Axe is a solid, technically sound ice axe that is fairly comfortable to hold and use. While some might find the fact that the picks are non-replaceable a turnoff, this ice axe is a great choice to have around at all times because of its small size and portability.

Amazon Link
$103.86
Backcountry Link
$169.95
See Deal

7. Grivel Nepal Self-Arrest

Where to buy
Grivel Nepal Self-Arrest
Amazon Link

Designed with the weekend mountaineer in mind, the Grivel Nepal Self-Arrest Ice Axe is one that is perfect for trekking, snow climbs, and overall enjoyment of the mountainous areas.

Read more

Durability
The shaft is made from carbon steel and features a slight curve to it that isn’t quite ergonomically friendly but is still quite noticeable for those who prefer to have a straight shaft. While it can easily be used as a trekking aid, quite a few customers found the overall shaft design to be somewhat cumbersome.

Weight
The weight is approximately 16.9 ounces, which makes this ice axe a little on the heavier side. The added weight certainly aids in the stopping power that it possesses, but the overall design makes it easier to perform a slow-down instead of a full out arrest in most cases.

Size
The length of this particular ice axe can vary between 58, 66 and 74 centimeters, so finding one that suits your body and style of climbing should be fairly easy.

Use
This ice axe is rated for basic use, but can easily be used as a backup even on more technical climbs. We simply wouldn’t trust it to stop more than two hundred pounds of force when necessary. This ice axe features a negative clearance and a fairly shallow curvature, which aids in helping a person to slow down and stop when necessary.

Summary
The Grivel Nepal Self Arrest Axe provides a reasonable ice axe that can easily be used in a wide range of non-technical climbing and mountaineering situations. While it’s not ideal for technical use, for most climbers, this is more than adequate for mountaineering or an alpine adventure.

8. Grivel G1

Where to buy
Grivel G1
Amazon Link

This next product on our list is, once again, from the Grivel brand and is no stranger to being used in a wide array of climbing environments. It’s lightweight, well built, and features a neutral clearance and curvature to keep things simple and straightforward.

Read more

Durability
The shaft is straight, making it less than ideal for the very steep inclines where every added bit of force is an asset in the swing, but for the most part, this ice axe serves very well as both a pick and a stopping tool. The rubberized grip on the handle makes it easy to keep a firm hold, and the Ergal 7075 aluminum materials make for a fairly lightweight ice axe, given its dimensions.

Weight
The weight of the ice axe is about 1.2 pounds, which does make it a little heavy on the lightweight side of things, but again, the balance is quite good, and few people experienced significant fatigue during its use.

Size
The overall length of this ice axe can vary between 58, 66 and 74 centimeters. While the weight may fluctuate according to the amount of material used, this ice axe appears to be fairly well balanced and can be used for trekking purposes if needed.

Use
This ice axe features a “B” or basic rating, which means that it can easily be used for non-technical climbing, mountaineering, and to stop a moderate amount of weight. While we certainly would use a backup ice axe as a partner to this one, in most cases, it can be used as a primary tool.

As stated earlier, the pick and axe head on this particular ice axe features a more neutral design that is well suited for a wide range of uses and environments. While it may not be the best we’ve seen at self-arrest, if you’re looking for a tool that you can use on ice, snow, frozen ground or even rock, this is certainly a viable option.

Summary
The Grivel G-1 Axe provides a strong, yet relatively lightweight ice axe that can be used in a number of climbing and hiking situations, including mountaineering, and some gentle slope climbing. While we wouldn’t suggest using it on more vertical or steeper faces, for the majority of climbs, this is a good choice to have around.

9. Camp USA Neve

Where to buy
Camp USA Neve
Amazon Link

If you’re looking for a decent all-around ice axe that is suitable for a beginner ice climber but still can be easily used by veterans alike, our ninth pick is a great one to consider.

Read more

Durability
The shaft is straight but tapers slightly in the middle to allow for an easier grip at a key swing point for the axe. In addition, the shaft is made from lightweight aluminum that is still sturdy enough to be used as an anchor and support when needed.

Weight
This ice axe averages about 17.1 ounces in weight, which makes it fairly heavy overall. While the heft does allow it to provide great stopping power and anchoring ability, it can also cause a bit of fatigue over time.

Size
The length of this ice axe can vary between 57, 65 and 80 centimeters in length. These lengths are slightly longer than average, which can add a bit more force to a person’s natural swing. Conversely, though, it can be awkward to carry on the person, depending on the amount of equipment used.

Use
This ice axe is rated for basic use, and does so superbly. While we wouldn’t necessarily use it on very steep climbs or vertical ascents, for most mountaineering needs, this one is certainly a great option.

The curvature of the axe head on this example is fairly shallow, almost bordering on straight, which makes it fairly versatile. The clearance is positive, so it can still easily be used for anchoring and self-arresting purposes. In fact, this particular ice axe is one of the best we’ve seen at self-arrest that we’ve seen. Add to that the CC4U wear indicator, and a user can easily see when the pick is no longer safe to use.

Summary
If you’re a beginner ice climber or know someone who is, the Camp Neve Ice Axe is a great overall choice. It’s fairly comfortable to use, has great stopping power, and is extremely durable as well. The only disadvantages that we could see were the overall weight and the fact that a leash is attached to the handle, and not the axe head itself.

10. Camp USA Corsa

Where to buy
Camp USA Corsa
Amazon Link

The Camp USA Corsa Ice Axe rounds out our list, but it is by no means something to be tossed away. It is not only one of the lightest ice axes we’ve come across, but it is also fairly sturdy and is suited for low angled glacier travel, making it a fairly unique entry on this list.

Read more

Durability
The shaft is straight and extremely light. Made from lightweight aluminum material, it is difficult to remember that it is being carried on your person until the time that it is needed. It’s very comfortable to grip and use as well.

Weight
This is by far one of the lightest ice axes that we’ve ever seen. It weighs just 7.2 ounces, making it extremely comfortable to use and carry.

Size
This ice axe comes in three different sizes, namely 50 centimeters, 60 centimeters, and 70 centimeters.

Use
This ice axe is suitable for general use and is specially designed for use on low relief glacier travel, or for self-arrest on gentle slopes with moderately packed snow. The curvature on this particular ice axe is fairly shallow, and the clearance is slightly positive compared to a neutral surface. Its ability to stop someone is established, as its ability to be used as an anchoring point, to some extent.

Summary
If you’re looking for a backup ice axe that is suitable for general mountaineering, especially in snowy and icy conditions, the Camp Corsa is definitely one to consider. Extremely lightweight, and yet durable, this ice axe is a great one to have while traveling across a glacier.

Sources

  1. Angela Duff, The Best Ice Axes for Hiking and General Mountaineering in 2019, Article
  2. Will Harris, 6 Of The Best: Ice Axes, Trekking Site
  3. M.W Bryne, Cold Cuts: The 6 Best Ice Axes, Buying Guide