The Best Ice Axes Reviewed for 2018

man scaling cliff face

I’m more likely to use for self-arrest than scaling a cliff, but it shows how important and versatile this tool is.

There are some pieces of outdoor gear that are all but impossible to ignore or forget (like a giant family tent), but then there are small pieces of equipment that can be easy to overlook but are no less important. An ice axe (also spelled as ice ax) is one of those outdoor tools. Whether you are a regular scaling some questionable areas, an ultralight hiker on a thru-hike needing to make sure you can make your way safely through a frozen or cold pass, anytime you’re looking at slick footing and major potential falls, you want to have an ice ax ready and also know how to use them.

This is one of those areas where you definitely don’t skimp. Whether you are looking to make sure the blade takes hold when you need to self-arrest or if you are an avid climber and plan to scale that wall of icy rock that is calling your name, you need to have solid gear. As always, make sure your gear is specific to the individual needs you’re going to run into – what’s perfect for one person might not be suitable for a different outdoor activity or challenging area and that’s NOT something you want to find out while in the field.

So read on, and see our choices for some of the best ice axes currently out there on Amazon. Enjoy!

Top Rated Ice Axes

There are some very good ice axes out there, and that’s a good thing because this is one product that shouldn’t have any cheap or “inexpensive” options. When you’re talking about a piece of outdoor equipment that can save your life, or cost you it if that equipment fails, then you want to make sure you’re only looking at the top notch choices in the field.

With that in mind, take a look at this quite impressive assortment of ice ax options and make sure to be safe when adventuring out there!

The Ice AxBrief Description

Black Diamond Silver Raven Pro Ice Axe
Top ice ax, truly professional design.

Black Diamond Raven Ice Ax
Popular standard ice ax from Raven.

Omega Pacific Mountain Axe
Excellent easy to spot option.

Grivel G Zero Ice Axe
Top option from Grivel.

Petzl GLACIER Ice Axe
Very good reliable design.

Grivel G1 Ax
Very solid option.

PETZL Glacier LiteRide Ice Axe
Incredible up and coming design.

silver ice axBlack Diamond Raven Pro Ice Ax Reviewed

Consistently appearing as one of the highest rated ice axes on Amazon, the Raven Pro ice ax from Black Diamond is an impressive piece of equipment. Featuring a lightweight aluminum shaft with a one one-piece stainless steel head on top, this ice ax is built to be both lightweight and deliver heavy duty results.

There is a large hole at the base for a carabiner, and comes in six sizes (50 cm, 55 cm, 60 cm, 65 cm, 70 cm, 75 cm,) so you can adjust to your needs based on height, size, and use.

Most encouraging, the many reviewers coming from individuals who have used this ax in the field have raved about how well it has worked, in some cases for years! Whether self-arresting, carving out steps in the snow and ice, or creating that all important support while hiking and trekking, this is a very high quality ice ax that gets the job done.

From Mt. Whitney to Mt. Rainer and dozens of other alpine locations, there are many examples from satisfied users who swear by the quality and construction of this particular ice ax. Many serious alpiners believe it is definitely worth the extra cost to get the pro version of this climber’s ax.

silver black diamond ice axBlack Diamond Raven Ice Ax

This is the standard version of the Black Diamond ice ax that comes in #1 on our list. While many of the spaces after that #1 spot are up for debate (read: fluid and likely to shift in the future), this is a solid choice that has its large share of fans, as well. Available in 7 sizes starting at 55 cm and moving up in increments of 5 to 90 cm, there are plenty of options when it comes to finding the right sized ice ax for you.

The pick’s curve and teeth are designed to be both efficient and effective when it comes to self arrest, and the construction is more than solid, including the same classic design that this company is known for.

This is one of the most popular ice axes online, and it has been used by both backpackers/ultra light thru hikers as well as climbers to take on challenging trails or slopes. Tried and true, it’s a remarkable piece of equipment that is kept to a high standard.

While a little bit heavier than the pro style, it still remains a very popular option, although in especially frigid conditions, some people have recommended wrapping a little bit of duck tape at the bottom for a better grip as well as removing some of the cold.

blue and black ice axOmega Pacific Mountain Axe

The Omega Pacific mountain axe is a heavy duty aluminum climbing ax that looks good, is easy to spot against the ice and snow, and is available in five main sizes.

Those sizes are:

  • 23.62 in
  • 25.59 in
  • 27.56 in
  • 29.53 in
  • 31.5 in

Although available in many sizes, the 60 cm (23.62) in particular seems popular but keep in mind you will want one in a size that you’re comfortable with since you are the one who has to use it.

This is one of the heavier ice axes out there, but that is in comparison to other options and those extra ounces aren’t going to be a problem for most people although for ultralight hikers looking at a long distance trek they will have to look at making this work.

The reviews up to this point are strongly positive overall and this is a solid options that most outdoor enthusiasts will be happy with.

ice ax with belt loopGrivel G Zero Ice Axe

One of two Grivel models of ice ax to make this list, this Italy based manufacturer makes a very solid ice ax that sticks out against the snow, provides a strong and reliable option for climbers, and has an attached leash to give you more options for keeping it attached and close on hand when needed, or looped around the arm to avoiding dropping it.

If you feel overwhelmed by choices at times the good news is that the G Zero only comes in three sizes to choose from: 58 cm, 66 cm, or 74 cm.

The one piece head means more strength for less weight, and the ergonomic design means less stress on your hands, wrists, and forearms while using this ice ax. This also comes with a blade cover that is also removable.

This is a quality ax with a lot going for it, and although it hasn’t caught on in mass yet, the reviews behind this snow ax from a small but passionately supportive group speaks well to how it has performed in the mountains and in the wild.

This is an outstanding option that will fulfill most outdoor needs.

silver glacier ice axPetzl GLACIER Ice Axe

Petzl is a name that many climbers are very much aware of, and if the quality of their ice ax designs are any indication of how the rest of their gear performs, then it isn’t hard to see why.

Currently offered in three sizes (60 cm, 68 cm, & 75 cm), the GLACIER ice axes from Petzl have a strong reputation for excellent anchoring performance not just in snow, not just in ice, but in both. This snow ax features a high quality steel head as well as a spike at the bottom, making it easier to punch a solid grip in when using the snow ax to hike through a gnarly area of oversnowed or iced over trail.

Lightweight yet strong, the design gets further bonus for having holes in the head and the spike to allow multiple options for clipping in a carabiner or even a sling, based on whatever your preference is.

A handle is cut into the shift to give better grip and use with technical ice, and it includes a special leash to make sure this stays close. Aside from the steel head, the shaft is made with anodized aluminum and this tool is machined for a truly amazing grip and full design.

This is a very well designed ice ax that takes its potential use on or around glaciers in particular very seriously, and was created and manufactured accordingly.

ice ax and leash against white backgroundGrivel G1 Ice Axe Reviewed

And here is the second entry by Grivel on our list of the top rated ice axes currently available on Amazon. Keeping up with that reputation for solid design and the all important in the field functionality, the G1 definitely holds its own against the competition and offers plenty that the right outdoor enthusiast will love.

This is a very light ice ax that keeps the needs of ultralight trekkers in mind, delivering on its promise of offering maximum strength without adding extra ounce to the pack.

A favorite of several ultralighters, this design is what many refer to as a “classic neutral pick” and has an ergonomic design that will help you stay comfortable no matter how much you need to use the ax. Minimizing stress is huge whether you’re scaling an ice wall, carefully traversing a glacier, or using it as a hiking staff/support in case you need it out for self arrest.

A natural rubber grip is a nice touch. While there is space for a leash, it’s important to note that the leash is sold separately from the main ice ax itself.

Important to note: Although the picture made available for selling this model shows it with a leash attached, this is a separate accessory that is sold separately.

blue and silver ice axPETZL Glacier LiteRide Ice Axe

Right off the bat – this is a design we can see continuing to shoot up to the top of this list as long as the quality manufacturing remains steady and good reports continue to roll in. Made in France, the high quality LITERIDE model features high-quality steel and is the type of versatile tool that you really want when you’re out in the wild.

This steel pick is designed to do it all: cut steps, penetrate hard snow, anchor, and self-arrest. The handle is made from a very special anodized aluminum to help prevent rusting from taking place after extended uses.

This ice ax weighs a mere 320 grams, making it incredibly light and the type of ice ax that many ultralight backpackers tackling the PCT or other challenging trails will appreciate.

This ice ax only comes in one size currently and is 50 cm in length, which for some people could potentially be a drawback, especially if you are much more comfortable with using longer ice axes.

The holes in the spike and carabiner give a couple options for attaching the ice ax to yourself with a sling, making transportation that much easier. Early reviews on this ice ax are fantastic and if the smaller size isn’t an issue with you then this is a great option.

Ice Axe FAQ

Q: What is self-arrest?

A: Self-arrest is the term for when a person falls and jams their ice ax into the ice at chest height, slowing and eventually stopping their slide. This is a necessary technique to learn and one that can be the difference between life and death.

Q: Why do people hike with the axes out of their bag?

A: An ice ax doesn’t do you any good if it is on your side or in your pack when you start sliding down a mountain. Plus if your feet slip out from under you, proper technique means your ice ax will be in the right position to immediately start self-arrest.

Q: How do I know what size of ice ax to purchase?

A: As a general rule of thumb while holding your ax down at your side, the bottom should reach around your ankle. In snowy conditions this allows you to use it as a walking stick and have it out for self arrest.

As a general rule of thumb 65 cm is usually good for up to 5’8″ while a 70 cm ax is good for up to 6’2.” This is a general rule of thumb and will vary from climber to climber or hiker to hiker.

Q: Aren’t leashes a dangerous way to carry an ice ax?

A: Depends on the type of climbing you’re doing, the type of fall you’re most likely to have, and whether or not and part of the blade is covered. These are important life-saving tools to have – using them properly and carrying them properly based on your specific situation is up to you to figure out and practice accordingly.

Q: Why would hikers need an ice ax?

A: Talk to any PCT hiker about the highest altitude passes in the Sierra Nevadas or take a look on YouTube for self-arrest videos and it’s not hard to figure out.

Some Final Thoughts…

Make sure to practice in a relatively safe place to get used to marching, hiking, and properly using your ice ax while making your way up trail in addition to learning how to self-arrest. These are skills that you may never need, but they can save you from severe injury or even death. You want this to become a tool you’re 100% comfortable with and you want to be able to leap into self-arrest on instinct.

Video on how to self arrest with ice ax

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