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Black Diamond Raven Review

Best Buy Award
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Price:  $85 List | $79.95 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 4 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.
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 8, 2014
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 15
  • Self-arresting - 22% 8
  • Digging & Step chopping - 17% 7
  • Use as improvised Anchor - 8% 9
  • Steep ice and snow - 22% 6
  • Comfort to carry - 11% 10
  • Weight - 20% 5

Our Verdict

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.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison




Self-Arresting


The Black Diamond Raven performed 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 straight-shafted ravel is ok for self-arresting. However, curved shafts perform much better.

The Raven has several advantages but steep snow climbing prowess isn't one of them and was slightly below average overall in our review. Its wider-than-average pick worked okay when conditions were soft but didn't penetrate firmer snow or ice nearly as well as most other models in our review.
The Raven has several advantages but steep snow climbing prowess isn't one of them and was slightly below average overall in our review. Its wider-than-average pick worked okay when conditions were soft but didn't penetrate firmer snow or ice nearly as well as most other models in our review.

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.

The Raven is a solid general mountaineering axe at a great price. While there are certainly better models for steeper routes or that are lighter its hard to find one at a better price.
The Raven is a solid general mountaineering axe at a great price. While there are certainly better models for steeper routes or that are lighter its hard to find one at a better price.

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.

The top view of the Raven. You can see how heavily tapered the pick is which helps it to provide better support/purchase in softer conditions.
The top view of the Raven. You can see how heavily tapered the pick is which helps it to provide better support/purchase in softer conditions.

Adze Performance


Performance here is adequate but unimpressive. Need to hack out a tent platform in ice or chop steps in icy firm snow? This aze did ok but couldn't really compete with some of the top-rated axes. When digging T-slots for crevasse it gets the job done, just not as fast.
Showing the Spike of a Black Diamond Raven.
Showing the Spike of a Black Diamond Raven.

Comfort to carry


Here the Raven soars. In both self-arrest (pick backward) and the self-belay position (pick forward), it's quite easy on the hands, especially if you have 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 $15 more you can get the lighter Petzl Glacier, or for $25 more, Black Diamond Raven Pro. The Raven isn't 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 general 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 $25 we would the Petzl Glacier which is 4 ounces lighter and features a better performing 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.


Ian Nicholson