Hands-on Gear Review

Compare ice ax ratings side-by-side >

Black Diamond Raven Ultra Review

   
Top Pick Award

Ice Axes

  • Currently 4.0/5
Overall avg rating 4.0 of 5 based on 1 review. Most recent review: January 19, 2010
Street Price:   $110 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, comfortable to hold, curable head.
Cons:  Spike isn't as effective and wears out quickly.
Best Uses:  Through-hiking, ski mountaineering, adventure racing, moderate snow and glacier climbs.
User Rating:       (0.0 of 5) based on 0 reviews
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ January 19, 2010  
Overview
This lightweight ice axe is extremely versatile; it offers all the benefits of a steel head with much less weight than traditional axes. It is tough enough to hammer pickets and chop steps as well as do most of the general mountaineering axes I tested. It self-arrested smoothly and was extremely pleasant to carry. Like many ultralight axes it lacks a true spike, which provides slightly less security while walking. It does have a steel insert, which is an improvement over the rest of the ultralight axes in this review. Black Diamond updated the pick design of this axe for 2009 and slightly improved its steep snow and ice climbing ability. Also, in 2009 they started anodizing the shaft before painting it, which saved a few grams. The Raven Ultra is an excellent choice for ski mountaineering, basic snow routes and early season backpacking. It is a possible choice for other other mountaineering applications.

For ski mountaineering and more moderate snow climbing, this is a great selection. The Raven's steel pick is fantastic at self-arresting and it has one of the best performing adzes. It was the most comfortable axe to hold and comes in multiple sizes. For adventure racing and backpackers who carry an ice axe "just in case," you could get a lighter ice axe with the CAMP Corsa. The Petzl Snowracer is also worth considering because it scored almost as well but costs $30 less than the Raven Ultra. But any climber who wants to save weight without sacrificing versatility and a well-performing adze, the Raven Ultra is hard to beat.

Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >

  • Photos
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge


OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
This is the lightest ice axe tested with a steel head. The only lighter axes were the Petzl Snow Walker and the CAMP Corsa, which have less durable aluminum heads. It is more versatile than many of the other ultralight models. The adze moved firm snow and ice with astonishing ease, especially for such a light axe, and was the best performer in the ultralight category. The adze dug T-slots and chopped steps sensationally and performed similarly to the Petzl Snow Racer and far better than the CAMP Corsa. The holes in the middle of the head and in the adze made for great snow anchor building options. The newly designed pick made the Raven Ultra slightly above average in steeper snow and ice situations. It far out performed the CAMP Corsa and handled nearly as well as the Petzl Snowracer. The holes in the head of the Raven Ultra where some of the easiest and best to clip; they fit nearly any size carabiner. Along with the rest of Black Diamond Raven family, I loved the comfort of the head for holding in any position. It was the most comfortable axe tested.

Dislikes
Unlike many other semi-spikeless models, the Raven Ultra has an angled steel spike, which is actually integrated into the bottom of the aluminum shaft. This does a lot more than similar models, which just have a diagonally cut bottom. I did notice that after a season of heavy use the steel spike was worn to half its original height. However, it was much more durable that an aluminum shaft axe without this feature. Also, during tests I regularly felt this axe "slipped back" while walking in cane position as I charged my way up steeper terrain.

Best Application
This is one of the best options for ski mountaineers who need more toughness than the CAMP Corsa offers. It excels for basic snow climbers and early season backpackers who want more than a typical ultralight ice axe with an aluminum head. Any climber looking for a general mountaineering axe should consider to the Raven Ultra.

Value
The Raven Ultra is more versatile, durable and $10 less than the CAMP Corsa. In general the two have slightly different audiences and we thought the $10 price difference wasn't that big a deal and people would choose between the two out of functionality. So if you want weight savings without giving up a steel head, the Raven Ultra is the way to go.

Ian Nicholson

Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >

Where to Buy?


Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 19, 2010
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


Have you used the Black Diamond Raven Ultra?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Click to enlarge
Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe
Credit: Steve
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Backcountry $109.95
Amazon $109.95
CampSaver $109.95
Compare prices at 8 sellers >

*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
Picking the Best Ice Axe

Picking the Best Ice Axe

We looked at 14 different ice axes and compared them head-to-head on tasks from self arrest to chopping steps.
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Ice Axe - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Ice Axe

by Ian Nicholson
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Related Gear Reviews
Petzl Summit

Petzl Summit
$160
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Editors' Choice Award
Petzl Sum'Tec

Petzl Sum'Tec
$175
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Editors' Choice Award
CAMP Corsa

CAMP Corsa
$120
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Editors' Choice Award
Black Diamond Venom

Black Diamond Venom
$140
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Best Buy Award
Black Diamond Raven

Black Diamond Raven
$80
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Best Buy Award
Petzl Snowracer

Petzl Snowracer
$80
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Best Buy Award
More related gear reviews...