Choosing the Best Lightweight Ice Ax for your Winter Expedition

November 8, 2018

Climbing, descending, or traversing snow-covered slopes requires an ice ax that’s not just sturdy, but lightweight. But with so many ice axes on the market, it can be difficult to choosing one that fits your winter expedition needs. Here’s a rundown of some of your best options.

Black Diamond Raven Pro

If you’re looking for a lightweight all-purpose ice ax, it’s hard to beat the Black Diamond Raven Pro ($109). Weighing a mere 13 to 15 ounces depending on length (available in 50 – 75 cm lengths), this classic model has been an industry standard now for more than decade and one of my standard gear recommendations for years.

But what if you are looking for something lighter still? Something to keep mostly lashed to your pack for those just-in-case moments on winter outings? One obvious thing that affects weight is ice ax length, which should be chosen based on your intended use, not how light you want your ice ax to be. (As a rule of thumb, most people will want an ax between 55 and 70 centimeters in length for general mountaineering use, depending on their height. Shorter axes are better and easier to use in steeper terrain.)

Using the weight of the Raven Pro as a benchmark, here are a few other models that jumped out at me that come in lengths of 50 cm or longer.

Camp Corsa

The all-aluminum Camp Corsa ($119) claims to be the lightest ice ax in the world. Given that it weighs only 7.2 ounces (50 cm length), they may well be right. (Also available in 60 cm and 70 cm lengths.) It’s ultralight, all-aluminum construction won’t provide you with extreme durability or strength—and I doubt the rounded adze would hold up to much serious ice-chopping—but it should be more than sufficient for occasional use.

Petzl Glacier Literide

The Petzl Glacier Literide (11 ounces, 50 cm, $99) is the littler, lighter weight sibling of the Petzl Glacier, which is essentially Petzl’s Raven Pro equivalent (12 to 14 ounces; 60, 68, and 75 cm lengths, $99). The steel ax head and pick on both is less comfortable to grip than the Raven Pro, but does offer two larger and easier-to-use holes for attaching a leash or clipping a sling.

Kong Dhino Lite

The Kong Dhino Lite is an Italian-made, 10-ounce ultralight option available in a 50 cm length. It shaves grams by using an aluminum alloy for the ax and pick, which reduces strength, and by eliminating the spike at the bottom of the handle. Hard to find in the US, though Amazon has it ($84).



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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.