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Hands-on Gear Review
SMC Capra Review
Cons: Slightly harder to clip a carabiner or girth hitch to the hole in its head.
The Seattle Manufacturing Company (SMC) Capra ice axe is a great value for a fantastic general mountaineering axe. It is one of the most comfortable axes to carry and is one of the better and smoother ice axes at self-arresting. As a result of the large, wide head (presumably to help with comfort while carrying) it was especially easier to "spin" for self belay to self-arrest during our tests. The Capra is named after the sure-footed mountain goats of the Cascades.
This is a good ice axe for climbers on a budget who do general mountaineering and snow climbing routes. It is one of the best self-arresting ice axes we tested. It performs wonderfully at digging anchors and tent platforms even in firm snow. The slight drawbacks are that it is harder to clip the head and also that it has average snow and ice performance. But for short sections it can get the job done. It is made in the USA and the Black Diamond and CAMP are not.
See how the Capra compared to all of the products tested in our Best Ice Axe review.
RELATED: Our complete review of ice axes
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Capra has a large, rounded head that makes it comfortable to hold and it's barely behind the Black Diamond Raven family in comfort. The rounded head, when in self belay position, "spun around" and made self-arresting fast and easy. The pick shape, along with that of the Raven series makes it the smoothest to self-arrest. The hole in the middle of the head and the one in the adze work fairly well in snow anchor mode as well as in standing ice axe belays. Clipping the hole in the head is a little challenging. The adze performs about as well as a Raven and not quite as well as a CAMP Neve.
The pick penetrates firmer ice about average; it is not a great choice on steeper snow and ice climbs. It is not quite as good as a Petzl Snow Walker and is about the same as a Raven or a Raven Pro. Another slight problem came during a crevasse rescue where the rounded head made it slightly more difficult to clip or girth hitch a sling to, but it was still easier than a CAMP Neve.
This a perfect axe for general mountaineering and snow climbing. If you climb or aspire to climb a lot of steeper snow and ice climbs, you may not be as happy with its ability in steeper situations alone or in conjunction with another ice tool. For almost any mountaineering application this is an excellent all around ice axe.
At $6 more than the Black Diamond Raven or CAMP Neve, the Capra has a hard time because it is so similar. It is the same weight as a Raven and one ounce lighter than the Neve.
— Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 23, 2015