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CAMP Corsa Nanotech Review

A useful for the right type of user, it's perfect for mountain ranges that require limited glacier travel and steep snow negotiated earlier in the season
CAMP Corsa Nanotech
Photo: CAMP USA
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Price:  $160 List | $159.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, decent steep snow performance, comfortable to carry in self-belay/piolet canne position, decent self arrest performance
Cons:  Tiny adze, spike could be better, poor at digging snow anchors, not the most comfortable to carry in self-arrest (pick-forward) position
Manufacturer:   CAMP
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 21, 2019
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 17
  • Self-Arresting - 15% 4
  • Digging & Step Chopping - 15% 5
  • Use as Improvised Anchor - 15% 7
  • Steep Ice & Snow - 25% 7
  • Comfort to Carry - 5% 6
  • Weight - 25% 9
RELATED: Best Ice Axe

Our Verdict

The CAMP Corsa Nanotech is a unique ice axe unlike almost any other on the market. Its design makes it one of the lightest in our review and one of the lightest weight CEN-B rated axes on the market. What makes the Corsa Nanotech so unique is that it is nearly 100% aluminum, including its head (most ice axes have steel heads), making it insanely light (8.7 ounces). What keeps it functional is it features a short but aggressively shaped steel pick riveted onto the end of its pick and a slender steel spike enhancing its performance on steeper snow. While hardly an all-around axe, it performs well for the type of objectives the majority of people in North America are climbing (like alpine rock climbing, ski mountaineering, and early season backpacking). The Corsa Nanotech surprised all our testers, and we found it to be more versatile than we originally gave it credit for.

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CAMP Corsa Nanotech
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $159.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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54
Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight, decent steep snow performance, comfortable to carry in self-belay/piolet canne position, decent self arrest performanceHot-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 designsLightest weight mountain axe with a spike, great price, very comfortable, solid self-arrest performanceExtremely lightweight, second lightest model we tested and the lightest overall to feature a steel head, steep snow climbing performance and self-arrest abilities, versatilityComfortable to carry, great price, decent adze performance, head is easy to clip in several fashions
Cons Tiny adze, spike could be better, poor at digging snow anchors, not the most comfortable to carry in self-arrest (pick-forward) positionA little on the heavier sideOnly comes in one size, just okay steep snow performanceNo real spike, only available in one fairly short length (45cm)Doesn't penetrate firm snow or ice well, below average steep snow performance
Bottom Line A useful for the right type of user, it's perfect for mountain ranges that require limited glacier travel and steep snow negotiated earlier in the seasonWhile other models might perform specific tasks better, there is no better do-everything modelOne of the most versatile axes for the weight, this model performs surprisingly well at a wide range of tasksThe lightest model to feature a 100% steel head, it's surprisingly versatile for its weightExcellent price for a solid all-around mountaineering axe for use on moderate snow climbs and basic glacier routes
Rating Categories CAMP Corsa Nanotech Petzl Summit Evo Petzl Glacier Literide Petzl Ride Black Diamond Raven
Self Arresting (15%)
4.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
Digging & Step Chopping (15%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
4.0
7.0
Use As Improvised Anchor (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Steep Ice & Snow (25%)
7.0
9.0
5.0
5.0
3.0
Comfort To Carry (5%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
10.0
Weight (25%)
9.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
Specs CAMP Corsa Nanotech Petzl Summit Evo Petzl Glacier Literide Petzl Ride Black Diamond Raven
Measured Weight 8.7 oz / 249g 14.1 oz / 400g 11.2 oz /320g 8.4 oz / 240g 16 oz / 437g
Category Ultralight General Ultralight Ultralight General
Rating CEN-B CEN-B CEN-B CEN-B CEN-B
Pick Shape, Material, and Construction Forged aluminum with Sandvik steel pick riveted onto the point of the pick Hot-forged steel, Classic Positive curve Forged steel, classic positve curve Tempered steel, classic positive curve Laser cut, stainless steel, classic positive
Lengths Available 50, 60, 70 cm 52, 59, 66 cm 50 cm 45 cm 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 90 cm
Included Pommel or Leash? No Lower Rubber Grip No No No
Hammer Option No No No No No
Shaft Design Bent Bent Straight Bent Straight

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.

Performance Comparison


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.

The Corsa Nanotech is perfect for ski mountaineering or alpine rock...
The Corsa Nanotech is perfect for ski mountaineering or alpine rock climbing, where weight is at a premium but there is steep enough snow that an ice axe is required. At half the weight of many other models in our review, it's an excellent option for crossing glaciers or seasonal snow. Here Danny Spreafico slips his Corsa Nanotech into his harness as he pulls from the bergshrund onto the rock.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

At $160, this niche product is a bit more on the expensive side of...
At $160, this niche product is a bit more on the expensive side of the spectrum.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The Corsa Nanotech is hardly an all-arounder but is a lightweight...
The Corsa Nanotech is hardly an all-arounder but is a lightweight, steep snow security-adding specialist.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Self-Arresting


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.

The Corsa Nanotech is decent at self-arresting. However, it is more...
The Corsa Nanotech is decent at self-arresting. However, it is more geared toward climbing steep snow slopes rather than arresting a fall.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

The Corsa Nanotech features a steel pick riveted onto the end of its...
The Corsa Nanotech features a steel pick riveted onto the end of its otherwise aluminum head. This design, coupled with its curved shaft, perform well for ascending steeper slopes, even if they are fairly firm.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

The top view of the head of the Corsa Nanotech. While we liked many...
The top view of the head of the Corsa Nanotech. While we liked many design aspects of this axe, its adze performance was not one of them. The adze's small size and rounded edges make it a poor choice for any type of chopping, from tent platform construction to improvised anchors.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

Unlike a lot of ultralight axes which have nothing more than a...
Unlike a lot of ultralight axes which have nothing more than a diagonally sliced piece of shaft to add security when traveling in canne positions, CAMP has at last added a thin piece of steel to the spike (that is riveted onto its aluminum shaft).
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

Here David and Dan Whitmore use a Corsa Nanotech to ascend steep...
Here David and Dan Whitmore use a Corsa Nanotech to ascend steep snow slopes on the North Face of Whatcom Peak in the Picket Range of the North Cascades.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

There is a small amount of a grip tape on the lower portion of the...
There is a small amount of a grip tape on the lower portion of the shaft which we utilized more so than with other models. Because the Corsa Nanotech is so lightweight and it's so heavily weighted towards the head, we found ourselves swinging it overhead (piolet traction) more than with other axes. Here Peter Webb gets ready to swing his Corsa Nanotech while pulling over the bergshrund - North Ridge of Mt. Stuart.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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.

Like many European models, the Corsa Nanotech is gear toward and far...
Like many European models, the Corsa Nanotech is gear toward and far more comfortable to be carried in self-belay/piolet canne position (pick-forward). In self-arrest (pick-backward, shown here) position, the Corsa Nanotech was one the least comfortable in our review.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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).

All of our review team found the Corsa Nanotech to be far more...
All of our review team found the Corsa Nanotech to be far more versatile than we originally gave it credit for. We love it for ski-mountaineering, early season backpacking, alpine rock climbing, or any trip where weight is at a premium but some steep snow must be negotiated. Here Peter Webb climbs pitch 14 of the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Weight


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.

Weight is why you buy this model; at 8.7 ounces, it is one of the...
Weight is why you buy this model; at 8.7 ounces, it is one of the lightest ice axes on the market and is the lightest ice axe that features both a steel pick and a steel spike (even if that steel pick and spike are both riveted on).
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Value


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.

This is a rad model for the right type of user and application, and...
This is a rad model for the right type of user and application, and is our Top Pick for the best ice axe for alpine rock climbs. While not incredibly versatile, it performs well in mountain ranges and climbs that require limited glacier travel. Its also plenty light and compact enough for ski-mountaineering, or early season backpacking. Here the Corsa is used on the Challenger Glacier to while crossing the North Picket Range.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Conclusion


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