CAMP Corsa Nanotech Review
Cons: Tiny adze, spike could be better, poor at digging snow anchors, not the most comfortable to carry in self-arrest (pick-forward) position
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The CAMP Corsa Nanotech isn't a versatile all-arounder but is the perfect model for places like the Colorado Rockies or the Sierra, where you aren't traveling in complex glaciated terrain, but need an ice axe to provide security while accessing alpine rock climbs earlier in the season. The unique Corsa Nanotech nicely fills this niche by utilizing a unique design via performance characteristics, like low weight and excellent steep snow climbing prowess geared towards these users.
While the Corsa Nanotech has a much wider range of use than our testers originally thought, it certainly isn't an "all-around" mountaineering axe.
We wouldn't recommend this axe for routes where you'll be pounding pickets or for complex glacier travel that involves heavily crevassed terrain. If you're frequenting ranges like the Sierra or the Colorado Rockies, this might be the ticket. However, for ranges like the Cascades, it would be more of a quiver axe for alpine rock-oriented ascents.
The Corsa Nanotech self-arrested better than expected for a nearly all-aluminum ice axe with such an aggressive and sharp pick. The sharp steel pick is riveted onto the end of the entirely aluminum head. During testing, we appreciated its bent shaft; our testers agreed it provided more leverage to drive the pick in while attempting to self-arrest.
This model's steel pick provided a solid "bit", but wasn't as smooth as more general purpose models; it almost bit too quickly in firmer conditions, where we had to focus so as to not lose control of our axe. In soft snow, the Corsa Nanotech's performance was average, while it fell a bit short in firm snow while trying to catch crevasse falls.
Digging and Step Chopping
The Corsa Nanotech boarders on non-functional when tasked with chopping steps in firm snow or ice and you certainly don't want to have to hack out a tent platform with it. In most cases, a well-shaped rock would do the job better than the Corsa Nanotech. The Corsa's adze is very small, rounded off on all sides to make it more comfortable to carry, and is made entirely of aluminum; when dealing with anything firm, don't count on it performing up to your standards.
Use As Improvised Anchor
The Corsa Nanotech is CEN-B certified and can be used as an anchor in a deadman or "T-slot" fashion. The hole in the aluminum head is big enough to clip a carabiner or sling to, though we rarely clip the top of our axe while building snow anchors.
Steep Ice and Snow
For most people, this is the most critical aspect of an ice axe, as it helps keep a climber secure while ascending steep snow. This is a category where this model performed exceptionally well. While super light, all of the weight is the head creates good swing weight alongside the razor-sharp nano steel tip, which bites into hard ice fantastically.
Our testers thought the Corsa Nanotech was one of the better steep snow climbing ultralight axes, with only the Petzl Gully performing better in firm snow. All of our testers appreciated the bend in the shaft, which helped create more clearance for our hand when in mid-dagger/piolet appui (hand in a fist position on the shaft below the head of the axe) as well as keep it slightly warmer and drier. There is a small amount of grip tape on the lower portion of the shaft which is nice, especially because this axe is so lightweight and heavily weighted towards the head. We found ourselves swinging it (piolet traction) more than with other axes as it was the easiest way to secure ourselves.
Comfort to Carry
The Corsa Nanotech is one of the few ice axes we tested that is excellent to carry in self-belay/piolet canne position (pick forward), though below average in comfort for self-arrest position (pick backward). It is far less comfortable when carried in self-arrest position; this axe is meant for climbing up and will likely be taken into places that climbers are more likely to use the self-belay position, such as steep approaches. It isn't particularly designed for mellow glacier travel where climbers might use the self-arrest position for fear of falling in unseen crevasses.
If you have concerns about it being less comfortable in self-arrest position, do note that it does not cause discomfort. You can also try carrying it in self-belay (pick forward position) knowing that not one person in Europe carries their axe pick backward (some may even correct you if they see you doing so).
The Corsa Nanotech weighs in at 8.7 ounces and is one of the lightest ice axes on the market. In fact, it's the lightest ice axe that features both a steel pick and a steel spike (the steel pick is riveted on). The Corsa Nanotech is only marginally heavier than the non-steel tipped version, the CAMP Corsa, which is 100% aluminum and tips the scales at an impressively low 7.4 ounces. The only other model in our review that was lighter was the Petzl Ride (8.4 ounces), which only comes in a 45cm length; while it does feature a well-designed steel head, it does not have a spike.
The Corsa Nanotech is certainly on the more expensive side; however, we feel this niche product's price is justified. It's nearly double the price of the Black Diamond Raven, but has a better spike, climbs steep snow better, and is only about roughly half the weight. Compared to the Petzl Glacier Literide, it's four ounces lighter, climbs steep snow arguably better, but isn't quite a versatile.
The Corsa Nanotech is a niche axe for the right type of user and is notable for its design. While it isn't incredibly versatile, its all most climbers need in mountain ranges with limited glacier travel, with a touch of steep snow which must be negotiated earlier in the season. It's lightweight and compact enough for ski-mountaineering or early season backpacking, or as a just-in-case axe while snowshoeing.
— Ian Nicholson