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Black Diamond Raven Pro Review

A tried and true model that brings respectable performance at a reasonable price.
Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe
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Price:  $110 List | $82.46 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable to carry in either position, lighter than average weight, smooth self-arresting
Cons:  Doesn't penetrate hard ice well, below average steep snow performance
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 22, 2019
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59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 17
  • Self-Arresting - 15% 5
  • Digging & Step Chopping - 15% 7
  • Use as Improvised Anchor - 15% 7
  • Steep Ice & Snow - 25% 3
  • Comfort to Carry - 5% 10
  • Weight - 25% 7

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Raven Pro is the lighter cousin of the mega-popular Raven. The Raven Pro has all the same features but is two ounces lighter and a bit more expensive. The Raven Pro, along with the rest of the Raven family, are among the most comfortable ice axes to carry. The Raven Pro's only real downsides are its adze performance and sub-standard steep snow and ice climbing ability.


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Awards  Editors' Choice Award    
Price $82.46 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable to carry in either position, lighter than average weight, smooth self-arrestingHot-forged pick penetrates snow and ice extremely well, no-teeth on gripping area of pick, curved shaft and teardrop/oval shaped shaft excel in steeper terrain, exceptional self-arrest performance, one of the best overall adze designsBest steep snow climbing performance, durable, penetrates hard ice well, excellent self-arrest and steep snow climbing performanceCEN-T rating, rad FlickLock style slider pommel, curved shaft keeps hands warmer and drier during steep snow climbs, heavy tapered pick provides great support/purchase during normal conditions, huge spikeHot-forged pick, excellent self-arrest performance, fantastic adze design, below average weight particularly for an all-mountain option, solid steep snow climbing ability
Cons Doesn't penetrate hard ice well, below average steep snow performanceA little on the heavier sideExpensive, slightly on the heavier side, like its slider pummel but wished it could be placed in more positions along the shaftHeavy, expensive, wide pick is strong but doesn't penetrate ice as well as someSlightly more expensive side, not the best ice performance
Bottom Line Perfect for snow climbs or basic glacier mountaineering routes, this pleasantly priced model might not be the best for more technical routes.If we could only own one ice axe, this would be it; it's an extremely capable all-arounder that offers a respectable weight for nearly any trip.One of the best all-around mountaineering axes out there, it just narrowly missed our Editors' Choice Award.This burly ice axe is everything you could want for challenging glacier routes and steep snow climbs.Incredibly versatile, there are very few mountaineering objectives that this model doesn't perform well on.
Rating Categories Black Diamond Raven Pro Petzl Summit Evo Grivel Air Tech Evolution Black Diamond Swift Petzl Summit
Self Arresting (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
Digging & Step Chopping (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
Use As Improvised Anchor (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
Steep Ice & Snow (25%)
10
0
3
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
Comfort To Carry (5%)
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
8
Weight (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
Specs Black Diamond... Petzl Summit Evo Grivel Air Tech... Black Diamond Swift Petzl Summit
Measured Weight 13 oz / 362g 14.1 oz / 400g 15.2 oz / 430g 17 oz / 487g 12.6 oz / 360g
Category General General General General/Technical General
Rating CEN-B CEN-B CEN-B CEN-T CEN-B
Pick Shape, Material, and Construction Laser cut, stainless steel, classic positive Hot-forged steel, Classic Positive curve Hot-forged chromoly steel, classic positive curve Hot-forged stainless steel, classic positive curve Hot-forged steel, Classic Positive curve
Lengths Available 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75 cm 52, 59, 66 cm 48, 53, 58, 66 cm 50, 57, 64 cm 52, 59, 66 cm
Included Pommel or Leash? No Lower Rubber Grip Pommel and leash Pommel No
Hammer Option No No Yes No No
Shaft Design Straight Bent Bent Bent Bent

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Raven Pro was considered lightweight and high-performing when it was first released over a decade ago. Ten years later, this tried and true model is still reasonably light but is now rather average. While not one of the better scoring models for steep snow, it still offers up a high level of comfort and smooth self-arresting capabilities.

Performance Comparions


The Raven Pro is best for general mountaineering because it's comfortable to carry, is fairly light, and performs well at most general mountaineering applications. Climbers considering the Raven Pro should also check out the Petzl Glacier which is two ounces lighter and features a better performing pick. For climbers into steeper or more complex terrain, consider the general mountaineering axes the Petzl Summit and the Grivel Evolution.

Self-Arresting


The Raven Pro scored average in our self-arrest testing. In softer snow, its wider pick was effective at slowing us down; however, when we tested it in firmer conditions, it struggled to gain good purchase. The Raven Pro is designed with a straight shaft, which remains solid for self-arresting.

Digging and Step Chopping


The Raven Pro's adze is okay for hacking out icy tent platforms and chopping steps but didn't penetrate firmer snow as well as others, including the similarly priced Petzl Glacier or Grivel G1. When it was super icy, we had to work noticeably harder to chop the same ice away. In softer conditions, while digging T-slots for crevasse rescue, the Raven performed average, yet got the job done.

Use as Improvised Anchor


The Raven Pro is CEN-B rated and works wonderfully in a T-Slot or deadman set-up for crevasse rescue. The whole in the top of its head is a great size and accommodates most carabiners. The spike is well designed, which allows the axe to be inserted vertically for self-anchoring or as a back-up while belaying.

Steep Ice and Snow


Steep snow and ice are where the Raven Pro didn't particularly excel. The Raven Pro's pick is a little wider and less aggressive than most. Our testers thought the Raven Pro was decent when the snow was soft, but when swinging or daggering into ice, the Raven was noticeably less secure. Compared to the similarly priced and weighted Petzl Glacier, the Raven was below average.

Comfort to Carry


The comfort to carry category is where the Raven shines, as it was the most comfortable 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 outperformed the rest.

Weight


At 13 ounces, the Raven Pro is average, as it's both lighter and heavier than some in our fleet. While the Raven is two ounces lighter than its cousin the standard Raven, it's one ounce heavier than the much more versatile Petzl Summit, and two ounces heavier than the higher-performing Petzl Glacier.

Value


For the price, this model offers a satisfactory overall value. It matches the middle of the road pricing to the middle of the road performance. It is an upgrade over the more basic Raven and is two ounces lighter for a slight price increase, which is a reasonable trade-off in our eyes. While it isn't a stand out performer in any one particular metric, it also won't break the bank. Its strongest competition comes from the Petzl Glacier, which offers similar performance, but is slightly less expensive.

Conclusion


The BD Raven Pro is a tried and true classic that brings respectable all-around performance at a reasonable price. It's ideal for snow routes or more basic mountaineering objectives (Mt. Rainier or Shasta); for complex or technical routes, climbers might want to consider upgrading to the Petzl Summit Evo or Black Diamond Swift. For the mountaineers and winter travelers who think those models are overkill for their intended uses, the Raven Pro is likely right up your alley - and it doesn't hurt that it is pretty reasonably priced as well.


Ian Nicholson