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Black Diamond Raven Review

   
Best Buy Award

Ice Axes

  • Currently 3.6/5
Overall avg rating 3.6 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: January 8, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $72 - $80 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, Great price, okay adze performance, head is easy to clip
Cons:  Little on the heavy side, Doesn't penetrate hard ice well, below average steep snow performance.
Best Uses:  General mountaineering, moderate snow routes
User Rating:     
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 (4.3 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (3/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ January 8, 2014  
Overview
This is a popular ice axe because of its good general mountaineering abilities and excellent price and is the winner of our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy Award. Along with the rest of the Black Diamond Raven family, it is super comfortable to hold whether carrying in self-arrest or self-belay position. It was average in self-arresting but performs poorly in steeper or more complex terrain because of its wider, laser cut pick. If you love this axe but want to save 2.5 ounces, check out the Black Diamond Raven Pro. Or consider the Petzl Glacier which is 4 ounces lighter and climbs steep snow and self-arrests better.

Check out our complete Ice Axe review to see how the Raven compared to all of the products we tested.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison



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Credit: Steve

Self-Arresting


The Black Diamond Raven preformed average to slightly below average in our side-by-side self-arrest comparison. In softer snow its wider pick helped gather snow to more effectively slow us down; however, when in firmer conditions the Raven struggled to grab a "bite" compared to many of the other ice axes we tested. The Raven features a straight shaft which is fine for self arresting but our testers across the board preferred the additional leverage that a slightly curved shaft provides. We thought the Raven didn't self-arrest as nicely as the Petzl Summit, Petzl Glacier, or the Grivel Evolution but did self-arrest better than the all aluminum CAMP Corsa. We did think all of the ice axes in the Raven family performed about the same in our side-by-side testing.

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The Black Diamond Raven
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Steep Ice and Snow Climbing Performance


This is one category where the Raven really struggled compared to most other ice axes on the market. The Raven features a very wide, not-very-aggressive pick that climbs steep snow poorly. It was fine when the snow was soft and any ice would do, but when swinging into ice the Raven was noticeably less secure. Even compared to the similarly shaped and similarly priced, Petzl Glacier the Raven was below average. This is another category where the entire line of Raven Ice axes struggled compared to most other ice axes we tested.

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The Black Diamond Raven
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Use As Improvised Anchor


The Black Diamond Raven is CEN-B rated and works well in a "T-Slot or deadman for crevasse rescue. The whole in the top of its head is great for clipping most carabiners and easily accommodates a sling. The spike is well designed and helps assist the Raven to be driven vertically for self anchoring or as a back up while belaying on snow.

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The Black Diamond Raven
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Adze Performance


The Ravens adze was okay for hacking out icy tent platforms and chopping steps. Its adze didn't penetrating firmer snow or ice as well as most other ice axes we tested including the similarly priced Petzl Glacier or Grivel G1. When it was super firm we had to work noticeably harder to chop the same about of ice away with the Raven. In softer snow while digging T-slots for crevasse rescue the Raven preformed average to above average and could get the job done.
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Showing the Spike of a Black Diamond Raven.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Comfort to carry


The comfort to carry category is where the Raven really shines and it was the most comfortable ice axe to carry in either the self-arrest (pick backward) or the self belay position (pick forward). While other ice axes were hardly uncomfortable the Raven was easily the best. We also felt that the Raven line of ice axes along with the Petzl Glacier and Glacier Litride were the most comfortable to carry for folks with smaller hands.

Weight


At 16.1 ounces the Black Diamond Raven is heavier than average compared to ice axes on the market and in our review. For $20 you can get the lighter Petzl Glacier or Black Diamond Raven Pro. The Raven is super heavy, but its on the heavier side of ice axes out there.

Best Applications, Value and the Bottom Line


The Raven is best for generally mountaineering because its comfortable to carry for long periods of time and is good enough at what most general mountaineers need their ice axe for. If climbers are willing to spend an extra $20 we would the Petzl Glacier which is 4 ounces lighter and features a better preforming pick. If You aspire to climb steeper or more complex routes consider the general mountaineering axes the Petzl Summit and the Grivel Evolution or if a lot of steeper alpine ice routes are in your future then check out the Petzl Sum'tec or the Black Diamond Venom.

Other Versions and Accessories


The Black Diamond Raven Pro slightly lighter version that still features a Spike
The Black Diamond Raven Ultra is 4 ounces lighter and does not feature a spike.

Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 8, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 4
  • 5
 (4.3)

100% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 25%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (2)
3 star: 25%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jul 9, 2011 - 02:32am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Basic ice axe. Really cannot go wrong with this, if you think you have, then you are overthinking it for general mountaineering/slogging.


Slog on!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Sep 26, 2010 - 03:57pm
 
SteveW · Climber · The state of confusion
For a light axe, it did the trick on the West Rib of Denali.
Much better than the Raven Pro--it had enough heft to dig
out a tent platform from water ice where the Pro model just
bounced off.
Like my piolet, I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China,
or all the Sierra Nevada Pale I could drink. . .
hee hee hee. . .
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   Apr 7, 2010 - 03:35am
White Lightning · Climber · Seattle, WA
I agree that it gets the job done….and it can take a beating. I carry a lighter axe for alpine rock climbs…but the Raven is my work horse.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 10, 2010 - 01:48am
le_bruce · Climber · Oakland, CA
Has gotten the job done for me, and the price is right.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe
Credit: Steve
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