Choosing the right ice saws or axes is a really important part of preparing for a climb. These hand tools don’t just affect the quality of your ice climb or how much fun you have while you’re up there. Having the best ice pick and the right grip can be the difference between life and death if you lose your footing and have to self-arrest.

Regardless of your skill level, when choosing an ice axe and blade or other ice tool, there are a few factors you need to consider. First, make sure you have a high-quality ice pick. Next, you need an effective adze, especially if you’re going to be doing steep, icy climbs. Lastly, consider the size. Choose one long enough that it’s easy for you to swing and manipulate. Weight is important, too. You don’t want to have to carry around something that’s too heavy.

We chose a range of options when considering the best ice axes. Here, you’ll find some that are ideal for beginners and some appropriate for more technical climbs.

1. Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe

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If you’re in the market for a lightweight ice axe, the Black Diamond Raven Pro is definitely worth considering. Furthermore, if you’re counting your ounces and trying to keep it light, this might be one that you can’t live without. It offers exceptional all-around performance thanks to the strong and durable aluminum shaft and one-piece stainless steel ergonomic head. The adze is curved to allow you to swing more naturally.

This axe has an aggressive ice pick and even has a large hole for a carabiner. Its super sleek and somewhat simple design lends it a polished, classic look. Keep in mind that this ice axe has a straight shaft. Whether you like a straight shaft or a curved one is personal preference but this can affect self-arresting for some climbers.

This is a great choice for more general climbing that isn’t too steep or complex. It’s also a good choice for beginning climbers who aren’t attempting climbs that are too intense and getting used to the mechanics and equipment involved in mountaineering.

2. Petzl Summit

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For a basic axe with an ice pick that’s a good pick for steeper terrain, the Summit from Petzl has the perfect design. The pick itself is thin at the tip for solid use in ice and wider in the middle to get a better purchase when climbing in soft snow. The forged stainless steel head performs well when anchoring. Plus, the stainless steel spike stays strong and gets a good grip on rock.

The anodized aluminum shaft is lightweight and curved, giving you more clearance when climbing and more leverage in case of a self-arrest. It also has a textured rubber coated handle that helps you get a solid grip plus insulates the shaft from getting too cold while it’s exposed to the elements. The rubber coating extends up the entire shaft so you’ll always have a firm place to grab onto.

3. Petzl Glacier Literide Axe

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For a more technical choice, try the Petzl Glacier Literide Axe. It’s made to be great at everything, from cutting steps to anchoring to penetrating ice and hard snow. The shaft has a handle carved into it to provide added grip then you’re making more technical climbs. You can get a good hold on the top of the shaft, too, if you need extra support. There are also 2 holes for attaching a carabiner or sling if you need to.

The handle is made from anodized aluminum so it’s lightweight and resists rusting. You won’t be weighed down by it because it weighs only 320 grams. It’s also only 50 cm in length so it’s easy to attach to your pack and carry if you aren’t using it. When you are using it, you’ll find the toothed steel pick to be very effective. It’s thinner at the tip for good penetration and the adze has an edge designed to make quick work of any steps you need to cut.

4. GRIVEL Nepal Self-Arrest Axe with Leash

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Another great choice for a basic ice axe, this one is great for classic climbs or treks. It’s also great for beginners and an ideal one to learn with. The head is made of carbon steel and has an inclined pick. It’s also slightly curved which gives you some extra clearance and more leverage in the event of self-arrest. Teeth cover half of its length for effective grip. It’s easy to take along with your gear since it weighs only 16.9 oz and is available in a few different lengths: 58 cm, 66 cm, and 74 cm.

One reason this axe is so recommended is because of its strength. What makes it so strong? The way it’s forged. The body and pick are hot drop-forged in one piece. Then, the adze is welded into the design. Not only does this method make it strong, it makes it extra durable, too. To make it even more long-lasting, then handle is coated with red epoxy-based paint. It also comes with a leash attached.

5. Camp Neve Ice Axe

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Camp has been around for a long time. The company itself started in 1889 and they made their first ice axe in 1920. Their products are made in Premana, a small Italian mountain village that’s located just outside the Swiss border in the pre-Alps. An amazing and perfect place to perfect the tools needed to climb.

The Neve Ice Axe is great for general mountaineering and moderate climbs. The curved adze has a very aggressive curve that can break through even the hardest ice for carving stairs or digging anchors. The design is also great for self-arresting should you be faced with it. The steel ice pick grabs forcefully and firmly when you lose your footing. The bottom spike is easily able to break through hard-packed snow. This one also comes with a built-in leash but it’s removable if you don’t like them. Plus, there are carabiner holes at both the head and the spike.