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CAMP Corsa Review

One of the lightest rated ice axes on the market, this quiver ice axe was hardly an all-arounder, but does perform for basic mountaineering.
CAMP Corsa Ice Axe
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $120 List | $111.76 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightest B-rated ice axe on the market, comfortable to carry in self-belay position, provides decent security in steeper terrain
Cons:  Little adze, no spike, pick doesn't penetrate ice or firm snow well, no plug in shaft
Manufacturer:   Camp
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 21, 2019
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OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 17
  • Self-Arresting - 15% 5
  • Digging & Step Chopping - 15% 5
  • Use as Improvised Anchor - 15% 7
  • Steep Ice & Snow - 25% 3
  • Comfort to Carry - 5% 6
  • Weight - 25% 10

Our Verdict

The CAMP Corsa is the lightest CEN-B/Type 1 rated ice axe on the market. CAMP was able to do this by shaving off ounces in nearly every possible way; most notably, they constructed this model entirely with aluminum, while a vast majority of models use steel heads. This created an ice axe that is literally half the weight of a majority of models on the market. It is no longer the lightest model as it was just five years ago, and the Corsa now faces stiff competition. While we wouldn't call the Corsa versatile, it impressed our testers for its ability to add security during moderately steep booters. Its self-arresting prowess is also worth mentioning, just as long as conditions aren't too firm.


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CAMP Corsa Ice Axe
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CAMP Corsa
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $111.76 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$179.95 at REI
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$195.49 at Amazon$189.95 at REI
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Pros Lightest B-rated ice axe on the market, comfortable to carry in self-belay position, provides decent security in steeper terrainHot-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 Little adze, no spike, pick doesn't penetrate ice or firm snow well, no plug in shaftA 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 One of the lightest rated ice axes on the market, this quiver ice axe was hardly an all-arounder, but does perform for basic mountaineering.The best all-around ice axe; while other models might perform specific tasks better, there is no better do-everything model.Across-the-board high performance helps this axe excel at almost any application; from general glacier travel to steep snow routes to alpine rock climbs, this model is among the best.It lacks overall versatility and is geared for challenging glacier routes and steep snow climbs.One of the most versatile models, the Summit excels in a wide-range of activities, from steep snow routes to alpine rock climbs.
Rating Categories CAMP Corsa 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
5
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
6
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
8
Weight (25%)
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
Specs CAMP Corsa Petzl Summit Evo Grivel Air Tech... Black Diamond Swift Petzl Summit
Measured Weight 7.4 oz / 209g 14.1 oz / 400g 15.2 oz / 430g 17 oz / 487g 12.6 oz / 360g
Category Ultralight General General General/Technical General
Rating CEN-B CEN-B CEN-B CEN-T CEN-B
Pick Shape, Material, and Construction Forged aluminum pick, classic positive curve 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, 60, 70 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 CAMP Corsa is one of the lightest rated ice axes currently on the market; if weight is your number one priority, look no further. The Corsa does make some sacrifices in its versatility and some of its performance characteristics, but for the right user or application, this niche axe is a perfect choice. While it lacks versatility, it's quite functional for what its intended purposes are.

Performance Comparison


The Corsa is most at home with ski mountaineers, early season backpackers, alpine rock climbers, adventure racers, and anyone else where weight is the biggest factor. Climbers needing only basic requirements of an axe will enjoy the Corsa's nearly unnoticeable weight. Mountaineers looking for a durable axe or one that will chop steps and climb steep snow efficiently will be unhappy with the Corsa's sub-par performance in those categories. Those carrying an ice axe "just in case" will love the Corsa, while climbers with a quiver of axes will find that with it, they can save an extra half-pound or more on certain general mountaineering trips when conditions are right.

The CAMP Corsa is a 100% aluminum ice axe and is the lightest CEN-B/UIAA Type 1 axe that we know of. It is hardly as versatile as most general mountaineering axes  but worked well for a much wider range of applications than we first gave it credit for.
The CAMP Corsa is a 100% aluminum ice axe and is the lightest CEN-B/UIAA Type 1 axe that we know of. It is hardly as versatile as most general mountaineering axes, but worked well for a much wider range of applications than we first gave it credit for.

Self-Arresting


This model self-arrests smoothly and effectively as long as conditions aren't too firm, something that could be said about most ice axes, but it just needs to be slightly less icy with this model to be effective. Its pick is 100% aluminum and is the only such model we tested with that design. As a result, the pick must be made wider to accommodate the slightly weaker material (compared to more common steel picks).

As long as conditions weren't crazy firm (when you have little chance of successfully self-arresting anyway)  the Corsa worked surprisingly well. Its pick was sharp and tapered enough that it offered a smooth and secure self-arresting ability for a wide range of conditions.
As long as conditions weren't crazy firm (when you have little chance of successfully self-arresting anyway), the Corsa worked surprisingly well. Its pick was sharp and tapered enough that it offered a smooth and secure self-arresting ability for a wide range of conditions.

The head  pick  and adze of the CAMP Corsa are all constructed with 100% aluminum. Along with the CAMP Corsa Nanotech  it is the only such model in our review (all the other models use a steel head). While aluminum-headed models are lighter weight  their picks must be wider to make up for lack of strength  and thus they don't work as well in firmer conditions.
The head, pick, and adze of the CAMP Corsa are all constructed with 100% aluminum. Along with the CAMP Corsa Nanotech, it is the only such model in our review (all the other models use a steel head). While aluminum-headed models are lighter weight, their picks must be wider to make up for lack of strength, and thus they don't work as well in firmer conditions.

Digging and Step Chopping


The adze is one of the most significant sacrifices this model makes to save weight. In all of our testing, we didn't find any application that it excelled in; you'd be bumming if you had to dig out a tent platform in icy conditions. This is fine as a just in case axe while backpacking, for use while ski-mountaineering when you likely have a shovel, or when approaching alpine rock climbs (where you simply need it to add security on snow).

The Corsa is most comfortable carried in self-belay/piolet canne position. In this position  it is rather average and has a low daggering bais. In self-arrest (pick-backward) position  the Corsa was among the least comfortable in our review.
The Corsa is most comfortable carried in self-belay/piolet canne position. In this position, it is rather average and has a low daggering bais. In self-arrest (pick-backward) position, the Corsa was among the least comfortable in our review.

Use As Improvised Anchor


This is the lightest CEN-B/UIAA Type 1 ice axe that we know of; this rating means it is suitable for use as an improvised anchor during crevasse rescue or belaying off of while ascending steep snow climbs (not vertical ice climbs). There are many aspects of CEN-B versus CEN-T, but one of the most commonly applied is that when used as a T-slot or a deadman, a CEN-B rated model needs to be able to withstand a 2.5 KN (versus a T rating that needs to withstand 3.5 KN).

The view from the top of the Corsa  with the head and small adze highlighted. While we understand that the Corsa makes several sacrifices when it comes to saving weight  none are more apparent than its (bordering on useless) undersized and rounded adze. It was hands-down the worst in our review at chopping tent platforms  anchors  and steps.
The view from the top of the Corsa, with the head and small adze highlighted. While we understand that the Corsa makes several sacrifices when it comes to saving weight, none are more apparent than its (bordering on useless) undersized and rounded adze. It was hands-down the worst in our review at chopping tent platforms, anchors, and steps.

We would hesitate to pound many pickets with this model for fear of damaging the aluminum head - which will happen if you try it. We hammered two MSR snow pickets in moderately firm snow for the sake of the review and already put several deep dents into the head of the axe. Its small 100% aluminum adze doesn't dig snow anchors well; as such, it's designed to be lightweight and comfortable. For most ski mountaineering applications, early season backpacking, or basic snow routes, this is less of a big deal as its rare that you'll need to build anchors; in the case of ski-mountaineering, you'll likely have a shovel.

Steep Ice and Snow


Despite its 100% aluminum head, the Corsa is capable of adding security during steep booters or in less moderate terrain, as long as conditions weren't too firm or icy. Its aluminum pick is wide and doesn't penetrate firm snow or ice very well. The aluminum pick also dulls far more quickly than steel versions.

Despite its low weight  the Corsa worked well at providing security on moderately steep slopes. It self-arrested better than expected  and its pick penetrated steep snow slopes as long as conditions weren't too firm.
Despite its low weight, the Corsa worked well at providing security on moderately steep slopes. It self-arrested better than expected, and its pick penetrated steep snow slopes as long as conditions weren't too firm.

While we wouldn't want to climb any sustained steep snow or ice with this axe, it will get the job done for short sections, as long as it's not too firm. Most of the weight is in the head of this model, giving decent swing for a 7.2-ounce axe. Another nice touch is at the bottom of the shaft; there are six machined grooves to help provide better grip while swinging. While not designed for technical routes, all of our testers found themselves swinging (piolet traction) the Corsa more frequently rather than just daggering it in order to get more purchase.

The Corsa's pick is surprisingly aggressive  and while not designed for technical routes  it worked well for moderately steep routes (so long as they weren't icy or the snow surface is too firm).
The Corsa's pick is surprisingly aggressive, and while not designed for technical routes, it worked well for moderately steep routes (so long as they weren't icy or the snow surface is too firm).

This was especially true while pulling over a moat to gain an alpine rock climb or negotiating a bergschrund. Like many ultralight models, the Corsa doesn't have a spike, and the bottom of the shaft is cut at a 45-degree angle.

Low weight is certainly why you buy this ice axe. At 7.4 ounces  it is the lightest CEN-B rated ice axe on the market and excels at applications where every ounce matters and the terrain and conditions you expect to encounter aren't too burly. Here the Corsa is used on the Haute route  a 7-day ski traverse across the heart of the Alps.
Low weight is certainly why you buy this ice axe. At 7.4 ounces, it is the lightest CEN-B rated ice axe on the market and excels at applications where every ounce matters and the terrain and conditions you expect to encounter aren't too burly. Here the Corsa is used on the Haute route, a 7-day ski traverse across the heart of the Alps.

Comfort to Carry


Like many European manufacturers, the Corsa is most pleasant to carry in the self-belay/piolet canne position (pick forward). However, it, along with the nearly identically designed CAMP Corsa Nanotech, was the least comfortable axe to carry in self-arrest position (pick backward), as it doesn't feel natural whatsoever.

Weight


Low weight is why you buy this ice axe. At 7.4 ounces for the 50cm length, this is the lightest CEN-B rated ice axe in the world. Sure it makes some sacrifices in its functionality and versatility but performs well so long as conditions aren't too firm. Do we need to remind you how light it is?

This used to be by far and away the lightest model on the market  but in recent years it faces a lot more competition. It is still the lightest  but the Petzl Ride (8.4 oz) and CAMP Corsa Nanotech (8.7) are close runners-up.
This used to be by far and away the lightest model on the market, but in recent years it faces a lot more competition. It is still the lightest, but the Petzl Ride (8.4 oz) and CAMP Corsa Nanotech (8.7) are close runners-up.

The Corsa used to be the lightest model by far; in recent years, several models closed in. The next closet models in weight are the Petzl Ride (8.4 oz) and CAMP Corsa Nanotech (8.7); the Nanotech is identical save for a short steel pick riveted onto the end of its aluminum pick and a short steel spike.

Showing the spike of the CAMP Corsa. In the case of the Corsa  the spike is just a diagonally sawed off end of the shaft that performed poorly when conditions were firm.
Showing the spike of the CAMP Corsa. In the case of the Corsa, the spike is just a diagonally sawed off end of the shaft that performed poorly when conditions were firm.

One small thing we became aware of is that the shaft of our 50cm doesn't have a plug in the bottom; as a result, snow can become packed in while plunging it in the snow. Just remember to give it a good fling and clear the snow before stowing it again (several of our testers became proficient at flinging snow at partners and fellow testers).

Value


It isn't as versatile as others, but for certain applications, it works quite well. This model likely won't be your only ice axe, which can hurt its overall value. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and it is the lightest rated ice axe on the market. If you want better steep climbing performance check out the CAMP Corsa Nanotech, which is nearly identical to the Corsa except it has a sharp steel pick riveted onto the end.

We found the Corsa to be far more versatile than we initially gave it credit for  but with that said it is certainly not an all-around model nor is likely to be the only ice axe that someone owns. However  for ski-mountaineering  early season backpacking  alpine rock climbing or any trip where weight is at a premium  it is a superb option that climbs steep snow and self-arrests far better than expected.
We found the Corsa to be far more versatile than we initially gave it credit for, but with that said it is certainly not an all-around model nor is likely to be the only ice axe that someone owns. However, for ski-mountaineering, early season backpacking, alpine rock climbing or any trip where weight is at a premium, it is a superb option that climbs steep snow and self-arrests far better than expected.

Conclusion


The CAMP Corsa is the lightest ice axe on the market; despite its 100% aluminum design, it's more versatile than we originally thought. While it performs poorly at anchor construction, chopping steps, or for anything that involves using its micro-sized adze, it climbs steep-ish snow and self-arrests fine as long as conditions aren't too firm. For many, this isn't an all-purpose model or likely the only axe you'll own, unless you live in the Colorado Rockies, High Sierra, or similar mountain ranges. For applications like alpine rock climbing, ski-mountaineering, or early season backpacking, this model provides all the security you need without weighing you down.


Ian Nicholson