The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Grivel Air Tech Evolution Review

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.
Grivel Evolution
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $200 List | $199.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Best steep snow climbing performance, durable, penetrates hard ice well, excellent self-arrest and steep snow climbing performance
Cons:  Expensive, slightly on the heavier side, like its slider pummel but wished it could be placed in more positions along the shaft
Manufacturer:   Grivel
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 28, 2019
  • Share this article:
86
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The Grivel Air Tech Evolution (often shortened to Grivel Evo) is a former Editors' Choice winner, and it remains an excellent all-around axe. The Evolution is designed down to the finest detail and is 100% manufactured in Courmayeur, Italy in the shadow of Mont Blanc with 100% solar energy. This model was our overall favorite until Petzl released the Summit Evo, which has a similar pick and adze, but a more ergonomic shaft that is more comfortable for steep snow climbing and is slightly lighter weight. Testers loved this model's hot-forged Chromoly steel pick and adze that will chop steps as well as any axe we've tested. Its hot-forged pick is exceptionally durable and provides incredible ice incursion capabilities. As a result, the Evo climbs steep, firm ice as well as could be asked from a classic, curved pick. Also of note, Grivel was founded in 1818 and is the oldest ice axe manufacturer in the world today.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $199.95 at Amazon$149.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$179.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$178.90 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$99.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
86
100
0
89
100
0
87
100
0
85
100
0
85
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Best steep snow climbing performance, durable, penetrates hard ice well, excellent self-arrest and steep snow climbing performanceHot-forged pick, excellent self-arrest performance, fantastic adze design, below average weight particularly for an all-mountain option, solid steep snow climbing abilityHot-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 designsClimbs steep ice extremely well, sweet slider pommel, one of the best performing adzes in the review, chops ice like a championLightest weight mountain axe with a spike, great price, very comfortable, solid self-arrest performance
Cons Expensive, slightly on the heavier side, like its slider pummel but wished it could be placed in more positions along the shaftSlightly more expensive side, not the best ice performanceA little on the heavier sideSelf-arrest performance is good but not great, heavy for basic mountaineering, expensiveOnly comes in one size, just okay steep snow performance
Bottom Line 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.One of the most versatile models, the Summit excels in a wide-range of activities, from steep snow routes to alpine rock climbs.The best all-around ice axe; while other models might perform specific tasks better, there is no better do-everything model.A true hybrid of a traditional ice axe and an ice tool; it has the shaft of an ice axe and the same head and pick selection as the rest of Petzl's ice tools.One of the most versatile axes for the weight, this model performs surprisingly well at a wide range of tasks while still weighing in less than several specialized options.
Rating Categories Grivel Air Tech Evolution Petzl Summit Petzl Summit Evo Petzl Sum'Tec Petzl Glacier Literide
Self Arresting (22%)
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
9
Digging & Step Chopping (17%)
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
Use As Improvised Anchor (8%)
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
Steep Ice And Snow (22%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
7
Comfort To Carry (11%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Weight (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
9
Specs Grivel Air Tech... Petzl Summit Petzl Summit Evo Petzl Sum'Tec Petzl Glacier...
Weight (oz/gram) 17.6 oz 13.4 oz/380g 14.8 oz/420g 17.9 oz/507g 11.2 oz/320g
Size tested 58cm 59cm 59cm 59cm 50cm
Lengths availible 48, 53, 58, 66cm 52, 59, 66cm 52, 59, 66cm 52, 59, 66, 73cm 50cm
Rating CEN-T CEN-B CEN-B CEN-T CEN-B
Category General Modular

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Grivel Air Tech Evolution is one of the best mountaineering axes currently available. The Air Tech Evo excels at nearly every mountaineering activity and will stand up to even the most demanding users. In fact, in the United States and Canada, this is one of only three ice axes that you'll see 90+ percent of mountain guides use.

Performance Comparison


Easily one of the best all-around mountaineering axes currently on the market  the Air Tech Evolution is a former winner of our Editors' Choice award and very nearly won it again. This model excels at nearly every type of mountaineering objective and will stand up to even the most demanding of users.
Easily one of the best all-around mountaineering axes currently on the market, the Air Tech Evolution is a former winner of our Editors' Choice award and very nearly won it again. This model excels at nearly every type of mountaineering objective and will stand up to even the most demanding of users.

Self-Arresting


The Air Tech Evo boasts incredible power and smoothness when self-arresting. Its hot-forged, aggressive, positive curve pick offers near unequaled prowess. The shaft has a gentle curve, which is focused just below the head, gave greater self-arresting power over non-curved shaft models. The Air Tech, along with the Petzl Summit Evo, Grivel Air Tech Racing SA, and Petzl Summit offered by far the best self-arresting performance in our review.

Digging and Step Chopping


The Air Tech Evowas one of the best step choppers, T-slot makers, and icy tent platform creators, no matter how hard the ice was. In all our digging tests, this model, along with the Grivel Air Tech Racing SA, which featured an identical adze, performed the best.

Like many European designed (and built) models  the Air Tech Evolution is most comfortable to be carried in self-belay/poilet canne (pick-forwards) position.
Like many European designed (and built) models, the Air Tech Evolution is most comfortable to be carried in self-belay/poilet canne (pick-forwards) position.

Use as an Improvised Anchor


Tester Ian Nicholson, an IFMGA mountain guide, has personally pounded over a thousand pickets with his Air Tech Evo and compared to various other models, it has shown very little wear. The hot forged Chromoly steel head holds up well, and the flat area on the head of the axe is well-suited for pounding pickets. It offered comparable performance to the Petzl Sum'tec Evo.

The hole in the middle of the head easily accepts a carabiner, and the spike helps facilitate a vertical anchor exceptionally well. The new version of this axe only receives a CEN "B" Rating (Type 1), whereas the old version was a CEN "T" Rating (Type 2). The new version's shafts 2.5KN strength rating is plenty compared to the "T's" 4 KN. The only two axes we tested that have a CEN-T rating are the Petzl Sum'tec and the Black Diamond Swift.

With its hot-forged head and aggressive adze  the Air Tech Evolution is one of the highest performing models in this category. Adze performance is generally an afterthought for most people looking to buy an ice axe; however  if you're after more challenging or complex routes  you might want to give this some thought.  Whether chopping icy tent platforms  building snow anchors  or constructing a snow bollard (seen here) in which to rappel  a well-designed adze will come in handy time and time again.
With its hot-forged head and aggressive adze, the Air Tech Evolution is one of the highest performing models in this category. Adze performance is generally an afterthought for most people looking to buy an ice axe; however, if you're after more challenging or complex routes, you might want to give this some thought. Whether chopping icy tent platforms, building snow anchors, or constructing a snow bollard (seen here) in which to rappel, a well-designed adze will come in handy time and time again.

Steep Ice and Snow


The Air Tech Evo is one of the best steep snow climbing axes you can buy. It does not feature a reverse curved pick and scores similarly to our Editors' Choice, Petzl Summit Evo. Even when compared to models with modular, reverse curved picks, the Air Tech Evo performs nearly as well on steep snow.

This is one of the best overall models for ascending steep snow and ice. From top to bottom  the Air Tech Evolution is designed to provide security and efficiency while climbing steeper terrain. From its top-notch hot-forged pick  slider pommel  curved shaft  and rubber grip  this model is designed with challenging terrain in mind.
This is one of the best overall models for ascending steep snow and ice. From top to bottom, the Air Tech Evolution is designed to provide security and efficiency while climbing steeper terrain. From its top-notch hot-forged pick, slider pommel, curved shaft, and rubber grip, this model is designed with challenging terrain in mind.

The Air Tech Evo's pick is hot forged Chromoly steel, meaning it can be thinner than a laser-cut or stamped model; this allows the Air Tech Evo to penetrate snow or ice better, while still being stronger. Besides being thinner, the Air Tech Evo's pick is still stronger than models that feature the previously mentioned construction methods.

The Air Tech Evo's pick is hot forged Chromoly steel  meaning it can be made thinner while retaining the same strength (or stronger) as models that feature other construction methods. The fact that its thinner allows it to penetrate firm snow or ice more easily and effectively. Here David Long tests his Air Tech Evo's steep snow abilities on Mt. Shuksan's Hells Highway.
The Air Tech Evo's pick is hot forged Chromoly steel, meaning it can be made thinner while retaining the same strength (or stronger) as models that feature other construction methods. The fact that its thinner allows it to penetrate firm snow or ice more easily and effectively. Here David Long tests his Air Tech Evo's steep snow abilities on Mt. Shuksan's Hells Highway.

The Air Tech Evo's pick is a positive curve but is slightly more aggressive than average; it has larger teeth, allowing it to excel when driven into snow or ice. Grivel also heavily tapers their pick so that it has the best chance to penetrant the snow or ice with its thin pick but is thicker closer to the shaft, which provides more support in softer conditions.

The Air Tech Evolution is perfect for routes that require the ascent of steep snow  ice  or complex glacier travel and is one of the best overall models for these types of routes. Here Forest McBrain is happy to have his Air Tech Evolution as he pulls a steep bergshrund.
The Air Tech Evolution is perfect for routes that require the ascent of steep snow, ice, or complex glacier travel and is one of the best overall models for these types of routes. Here Forest McBrain is happy to have his Air Tech Evolution as he pulls a steep bergshrund.

The Air Tech Evo's shaft has a fairly significant bend for a traditional axe, allowing for more clearance for your hand when in the mid-dagger positon (piolet appui). This clearance gives you more leverage on the pick, enabling you to drive it deeper; it's more comfortable overall and keeps your hand slightly warmer and drier. Compared to other models with bent shafts, like the Grivel Air Tech Racing SA, the Air Tech Evo has more clearance.

The Air Tech Evolution (center) has more curve than most  even when only compared to ice axes with bent shafts. Only a handful of models with modular heads featured more bend in their shaft. The additional curvature gives the user more clearance and adds leverage for both mid and low-daggering as well as self-arresting. The Grivel Air Tech Racing SA is on the left and the Petzl Sum'tec is on the right.
The Air Tech Evolution (center) has more curve than most, even when only compared to ice axes with bent shafts. Only a handful of models with modular heads featured more bend in their shaft. The additional curvature gives the user more clearance and adds leverage for both mid and low-daggering as well as self-arresting. The Grivel Air Tech Racing SA is on the left and the Petzl Sum'tec is on the right.

The Air Tech Evo has a rubber-grip at the lowest portion of its shaft for grip when swinging the tool, but it's also excellent for chopping with the adze.

The Air Tech Evolution features a sweet slider pommel that adds support while climbing steeper terrain. We really liked this design and appreciated its low weight; unlike other models from Black Diamond and Petzl which can be locked into place anywhere along the length of the shaft  the Air Tech Evos only has two positions - one at the base of the shaft for use while swinging or tucked out of the way underneath its head.
The Air Tech Evolution features a sweet slider pommel that adds support while climbing steeper terrain. We really liked this design and appreciated its low weight; unlike other models from Black Diamond and Petzl which can be locked into place anywhere along the length of the shaft, the Air Tech Evos only has two positions - one at the base of the shaft for use while swinging or tucked out of the way underneath its head.

Its slighting pummel that has the option to be used with an included removable, stretchy, umbilical-cord style leash. Unlike the Petzl Sum'tec, which has a slider pummel that can be positioned anywhere along the shaft, this model doesn't lock into place and can only be used at the base of the haft for support while swinging or tucked out of the way below the spike.

Another view of the Air Tech Evolution slider pommel in use.
Another view of the Air Tech Evolution slider pommel in use.

Comfort to Carry


Like many European models, the Air Tech Evo likes to be carried in the self-belay position (pick-forward). However, it is still certainly above average when carried in the self-arrest position (pick backward). For Self-belay/pick forwards this model is a perfect 10 out of 10 and out testers loved it for both all day carrying comfort and driving the spike/ shaft of the axe deep into the snow while traveling in steeper terrain when in self-arrest/Piolet Canne or even belaying our short sections in Piolet Manche (both hands on the head in a "T" position).

The Air Tech Evolution is fine to carry in self-arrest/ pick-backward position and was rather average overall and is far from uncomfortable.
The Air Tech Evolution is fine to carry in self-arrest/ pick-backward position and was rather average overall and is far from uncomfortable.

Our entire testing team also particularly liked the curved shaft for steep ascents because it was easier to maintain our balance by using the spoke of the Air Tech Evo. All of our testers agreed that the curved shaft was nice for steep ascents while still holding the axe in the self-belay/piolet-canne position (not yet with the pick in the snow).

Many people are into carrying their ice axe in one position. In reality  both self-arrest and self-belay positions are very valuable; many climbers who just use one should really re-assess the terrain they are in and which position might be better. Here David Long is transferring his Air Tech Evolution back to self-arrest position for a stretch of moderate glacier travel after using self-belay to ascend steep snow.
Many people are into carrying their ice axe in one position. In reality, both self-arrest and self-belay positions are very valuable; many climbers who just use one should really re-assess the terrain they are in and which position might be better. Here David Long is transferring his Air Tech Evolution back to self-arrest position for a stretch of moderate glacier travel after using self-belay to ascend steep snow.

Weight


This axe is hardly heavy and compared to models of yesteryear; it is quite light, but it is slightly on the heavier side. The Air Tech Evo tips the scales at 15.2 ounces with the only heavier non-modular model being the Black Diamond Swift. The Air Tech Evo is heavier than its closest competition the Petzl Summit Evo 14.1 ounces (so barely an ounce heavier) remains lighter than all the modular options we tested like the Petzl Sum'tec (17.1 ounces), or the Black Diamond Venom (18 ounces). For most people considering the Air Tech Evo the extra couple ounces over a more basic all-around mountain axe will easily be worth its significant additional performance. For example, the Air Tech Evo outperforms more basic all-arounders like the Black Diamond Raven Pro (13 ounces) or the Petzl Glacier (12.3 ounces) in every possible way.

At 15.2 ounces  the Air Tech Evolution is average amongst performance-oriented models which excel in complex glacier travel and steep snow climbs. Here Forest McBrain Approaches the Fisher Chimneys with the Upper and Lower Curties Glaciers visible above.
At 15.2 ounces, the Air Tech Evolution is average amongst performance-oriented models which excel in complex glacier travel and steep snow climbs. Here Forest McBrain Approaches the Fisher Chimneys with the Upper and Lower Curties Glaciers visible above.

If you really like this axe but wished it was just a little bit lighter check out the Grivel Air Tech Racing SA which offers very similar overall performances characteristics but is just over an ounce lighter. Its shaft isn't quite as bent, and it doesn't come with the slider pummel or rubber section on the lower part of the head but offers the same pick/adze.

Best Application


This is one of the best all-around performance mountain axes. While overkill for someone who is going to just use it for simple snow climbs, basic glacier mountaineering routes, or early season alpine rock climbs it still isn't totally unreasonable, though these users could certainly get away with a lighter option.

The Air Tech Evo is best for all-around alpine climbing where users may be faced with steeper sections of snow, challenging glacial conditions, or other problems where its elevated performance is worth its additional cost and slightly heavier-than-average weight. As it is on the heavier side, it isn't an ideal choice for ski mountaineers, early season backpackers or alpine rock climbers but will totally work and isn't MUCH heavier. It is a fantastic choice for 40-50 degree routes by itself or for 55 degrees or steeper routes when paired with a second ice tool. Since it offers exceptional durability, it is a fantastic choice for mountain guides and outdoor educators who will use the full gambit of its features and will benefit from its toughness during many seasons of use and abuse.

Value


At $200 this axe is one of the more expensive models in our review but is line with other top-tier performance axes like the Petzl Summit Evo is $180 and BD Swift $190. It is less than several modular headed models and brings a lot to the table from a functionality standpoint.

Honestly a lot better than many of the $100-$150 axes at least for an all-around mountaineering and alpine climbing ice axe. Also because of its impressive durability, it is the type of ice axe that can last you a lifetime if you are gentle on your gear, or at least close to a decade if you are a mountain guide or put serious hurt on your equipment.

The Air Tech Evolution is one of the best all-around ice axes currently available and performs well for nearly any type of mountaineering objective. This model only barely missed out on our Editors' Choice award  but remains a Top Pick  and a fantastic all-around option. All of our testers loved its overall performance  ergonomics  hot-forged pick  and its steep prowess. While expensive  we think its performance makes it worth the cost.
The Air Tech Evolution is one of the best all-around ice axes currently available and performs well for nearly any type of mountaineering objective. This model only barely missed out on our Editors' Choice award, but remains a Top Pick, and a fantastic all-around option. All of our testers loved its overall performance, ergonomics, hot-forged pick, and its steep prowess. While expensive, we think its performance makes it worth the cost.

Conclusion


One of the best all-around mountaineering axes out there the Air Tech Evolution does nearly everything well and was very nearly our Editors' Choice and only barely lost out to the Petzl Summit Evo. We liked the ergonomics on the shaft of the Summit Evo better for steep snow climbing, and it was slightly lighter however the Air Tech Evo remains a very close second and a rad all-around option.

If extreme toughness and top-notch steep snow performance are priorities, then this is a fantastic option. If you are looking for a simple ice axe for general mountaineering, you can save a few dollars and a few ounces with another model, but other than a little weight this axe provides very few downsides. So if steep alpine faces or late season glaciated ascents are in your future then Evo makes a great choice.


Ian Nicholson