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Choosing an ice axe can seem like a tough tax if you’re new to the ice. There are so many different options!
And, none of them are inherently better or worse, until you get on the ice.
However, we’re here to help you learn all that you need to know about purchasing an ice axe.
In case you’re new to mountaineering, we’ll give you some tips about choosing the best ice axe for beginners, and you’ll be on your way in no time.
What to know about choosing an ice axe
So, who needs an ice axe?
Many different outdoor sports require an ice axe!
For example, ice climbers, mixed cclimers, mountaineers and alpinestars all use ice axes for different reasons.
Before you take to the ice, you must think about why you will need an ice axe and how you plan to use it.
There are so many different options when it comes to ice axes.
Knowing your strengths and intended use will narrow the playing field and will help you choose an axe that will work well for your specific needs.
Before you begin shopping for an ice axe, here are some things to consider:
- How much weight are you willing to carry?
- What type of environment will you be working in?
- What will the axe need to do?
- How will you transport the axe?
- How strong are you?
- What size of axe best suits your body shape and build?
Ice Axe Components
Before you buy an ice axe, you need to know what you are looking for!
Let’s start by examining the basic components of an ice axe so you can understand the lingo. Most ice axes have all of these components, but you may find an outlier occasionally.
The pick is the sharp, pointy end of the axe that is often used to hand into ice or snow. You also use the pick during self-arrests.
When choosing a pick, look at the angle of the curve and the length from the shaft.
If you plan to use your axe for mountaineering, you will most likely want an axe with an angle between 60-70 degrees. However, for technical applications, an angle between 55-60 degrees may be more useful.
Instead of being a single component, the head is typically a combination of the pick, adze and carabiner hole.
The head is typically a steel alloy, chosen for strength and durability. This is where your specific needs for the ice axe come into play.
If you are planning to use the ice axe for rigorous ice climbing or for mixed climbing, you probably will not use the head. Rather, you may want to replace it with a hammer for more effective use.
Not only will this be more functional, it will also help you save weight for the items that you actually need.
The adze is the part of an ice axe that resembles a shovel. It’s often used to dig steps in the ice or snow and can grab more of the earth than any other part of the axe.
It’s also used in self belay functions as a good grip.
This versatile part of the axe can have many functions depending on the situation.
- Carabiner hole
Have you ever wondered how people carry an axe while ice climbing or hiking?
They use the carabiner hole!
You can attach the axe to your gear using this point of contact for easy transportation.
Often the largest part of the axe, the shaft is also known as the handle. It’s important that the shaft is comfortable to hold and use.
Depending on your size and needs, the shaft can be longer or shorter.
Shafts can be made of different materials such as aluminum, steel or carbon. Some shafts are covered in rubber for a more comfortable handle.
If not, you can always wear gloves when you use your axe to get a better grip.
Shafts can be either straight or curved. Straight shafts are typically better for mountaineering, while curved axes are more comfortable to swing.
How long should the shaft be?
This depends on your needs and size.
For uses where you will be holding the axe very close to your body, shorter shafts work better.
But, if you plan to hold the axe away from your body and swing, you will most likely want a longer shaft to give you more leverage and to distance yourself from the blow.
The larger you are in height and the longer your arms, the more suitable a longer shaft will feel.
People with shorter arms are generally more comfortable using an axe with a shorter shaft.
At the base of the shaft, you will find the spike. The spike is a sharpened end of the shaft that you can use to jab into ice, snow and earth.
The spike gives you leverage. Because it will penetrate deep into ice, it can help you balance as you walk or climb.
It functions similarly to a trekking pole.
Some axes do not incorporate a spike, opting instead for a lighter weight. Axes that do not use a spike are usually curved.
Or, they have a slanted end.
You may or may not want a spike depending on how you plan to use the axe.
If you do not plan to climb with your ice axe, you may find that it is more of a danger than a help.
Some climbing positions may call for you to hold the axe in the manner in which the spike would be pointed directly at your body, which is unsafe and risky.
If you plan to use the axe in this way, we recommend that you do not use a spike.
Best ice axe for beginners
There are a number of ice axe options that may work well for beginner use. It’s important to always consult an industry professional before using any new product.
Choosing the right ice axe can significantly benefit your outdoor experience. You should customize your decision based on the outdoor ice activities that you plan to undertake.
The following options may work well for your climbing and winter hiking safety needs.
Omega Pacific Ice Mountain Axe for Climbing, NiCroMo Head & Spike, 6061 Aircraft Alloy Aluminum Shaft
The Mountain Axe is made of only the best materials.
It tops the list in the construction category.
This ice axe is built to be strong and durable so that it can handle all of your rugged outdoor needs.
The handle is constructed with strong yet light aluminum, while the head is made of 4130 CrMo.
The aircraft quality 6061 T6 aluminum alloy can withstand any knock or scrape you will encounter. This axe is meant to be a workhorse!
The entire until weighs only 622 g (22 oz) and reaches 60 cm long. It’s a good size to use comfortably, but it will not feel super bulky and heavy to carry.
This ice axe is laser cut for additional support and strength. With a welded head and spikes that will remain in place, your axe is as tough as you are.
This product has the potential to be the most important tool in your mountaineering kit, and it’s well-prepared to take on rugged environments with you.
You can use this axe to chop steps, build bollards or snow anchors, assist with boot/axe belay and to self-arrest.
Since it’s so lightweight and portable, you can easily carry this axe anywhere you need to go.
You won’t even notice that it’s clipped to your pack!
This light, durable axe is great for traveling and transportation.
View at Amazon to learn more about how this ice axe may work for you.
Grivel G1 Axe
Another axe that you may want to consider is the Grivel G1 Axe.
It’s just as durable as Omega Pacific’s product, but it’s built slightly differently.
How is it made?
This axe is made using carbon steel that has been hot forged to give you the highest quality of strength and durability.
It’s constructed to last for years to come, and it’s engineered to take an absolute beating.
With an ergonomic head, this axe fits great in your hand and is awesome for work in snow fields and glaciers.
It’s sharp and strong, and it can take on any ice that the day brings.
The carbon steel aluminum spike will easily slice through the most dense ice and snow and can even stay strong against rocks and other hazards.
This product is also lightweight, despite its hefty capabilities.
Weighing in at a mere 468g, this axe will not be a burden to carry to your location.
This ice axe is best intended for mountaineering and is great for beginners due to its lightweight construction and ease of use.
It’s manufactured in the classic pick shape with a slight curve. With a natural rubber grip, you can easily keep a hold on this axe no matter how sore and cold your hands become in the elements.
It’s strong, it’s lightweight, and it’s designed to help you take on the winter outdoors.
View at Amazon for more information on how this ice axe may work for you.
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com