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Hands-on Gear Review

SMC Capra Review


Ice Ax

  • Currently 4.0/5
Overall avg rating 4.0 of 5 based on 2 reviews. Most recent review: September 23, 2015
Price:   $85 List | $84 online
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Pros:  Comfortable to hold, self-arrests great.
Cons:  Slightly harder to clip a carabiner or girth hitch to the hole in its head.
Manufacturer:   SMC
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ May 18, 2015  
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. SMC also manufactures the REI Yeti covered in this review. Other than color and price, the two seem to be identical.

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. The Capra's hardest value challenge is with its twin brother the REI Yeti, which at $75 is the best priced ice axe in the review.

See how the Capra compared to all of the products tested in our Best Ice Axe review.

RELATED: Our complete review of ice axes

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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 and the REI Yeti, 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 or a Petzl Snow Walker 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.

Best Application

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

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: September 23, 2015
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   Sep 23, 2015 - 05:47pm
MeanUncleDon · Climber · Ferndale
I have several ice axes and I am what I would consider myself a gear junky. If it is new and cool I want it. A couple years back I purchased a new Capra from SMC. I like the overall design of the shaft (not a flat oval tube) and the way it felt in my hand while holding it.

I am by far a slow and steady climber. I don't pack try and pack light so I can take more food. The Capra was the best feeling affordably priced Ice Axe I could find (awesome value at $79.00). The capra felt solid which to me meant it was going to do it's job if I needed it to.

Overall I would say this has been my best purchase as far as Ice Axes go. I have climbed Hood, Adams, Rainier (almost 4 times), Baker and a few other Cascades with it.

Some things to note is that the head doesn't support carabiners unless your using micro biners from Mammut so webbing is the only way to attach a leash. If your doing any real vertical climbing such as ice you will find that the front pick sticks almost too well and to a point it doesn't want to release (good and bad). This is my 2 cents.
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Head Down, step up. Mount Rainier heading towards Liberty Ridge
Credit: MeanUncleDon

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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SMC Capra Ice Axe
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