Hands-on Gear Review

SMC Capra Review

SMC Capra Ice Axe
By: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 18, 2015
Price:  $85 List  |  $79.95 at Amazon - 6% Off
Pros:  Comfortable to hold, self-arrests great.
Cons:  Slightly harder to clip a carabiner or girth hitch to the hole in its head.
Manufacturer:   SMC

#14 of 15
  • Self-arresting - 22% 9
  • Digging & Step chopping - 17% 7
  • Use as improvised Anchor - 8% 7
  • Steep ice and snow - 22% 6
  • Comfort to carry - 11% 9
  • Weight - 20% 5
RELATED REVIEW: Picking the Best Ice Axe
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Our Verdict

The Seattle Manufacturing Company (SMC) Capra ice axe is a great value for a fantastic general mountaineering axe. It is one of the most comfortable axes to carry and performs great when self-arresting. As a result of the large, wide head (presumably to help with comfort while carrying) it was especially easier to "spin" for self-belay to self-arrest during our tests. The Capra is named after the sure-footed mountain goats of the Cascades.

This is a good ice axe for climbers on a budget who do general mountaineering and snow climbing routes. It is one of the best self-arresting ice axes we tested. It performs wonderfully at digging anchors and tent platforms even in firm snow. The slight drawbacks are that it is harder to clip the head and also that it has average snow and ice performance. But for short sections, it can get the job done. It is made in the USA and the Black Diamond and CAMP are not.

See how the Capra compared to all of the products tested in our Best Ice Axe review.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results



The Capra has a large, rounded head that makes it comfortable to hold and it's barely behind the Black Diamond Raven family in comfort. The rounded head, when in self-belay position, "spun around" and made self-arresting fast and easy. The pick shape, along with that of the Raven series makes it the smoothest to self-arrest. The hole in the middle of the head and the one in the adze work fairly well in snow anchor mode as well as in standing ice axe belays. Clipping the hole in the head is a little challenging. The adze performs about as well as a Raven and not quite as well as a CAMP Neve.


The pick penetrates firmer ice about average; it is not a great choice on steeper snow and ice climbs. It is not quite as good as a Petzl Snow Walker and is about the same as a Raven or a Raven Pro. Another slight problem came during a crevasse rescue where the rounded head made it slightly more difficult to clip or girth hitch a sling to, but it was still easier than a CAMP Neve.

Best Application

This axe is an ideal go-to model for mountaineering and snow climbing. For steeper ascents, you might prefer another tool, but for most everything else, the Capra is a fantastic option.


At $6 more than the Black Diamond Raven or CAMP Neve, the Capra has a hard time because it is so similar. It is the same weight as a Raven and one ounce lighter than the Neve.

Ian Nicholson

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Most recent review: September 23, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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Average Customer Rating:  
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100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (2)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)

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   Sep 23, 2015 - 05:47pm
MeanUncleDon · Climber · Ferndale

I have several ice axes and I am what I would consider myself a gear junky. If it is new and cool I want it. A couple years back I purchased a new Capra from SMC. I like the overall design of the shaft (not a flat oval tube) and the way it felt in my hand while holding it.

I am by far a slow and steady climber. I don't pack try and pack light so I can take more food. The Capra was the best feeling affordably priced Ice Axe I could find (awesome value at $79.00). The capra felt solid which to me meant it was going to do it's job if I needed it to.

Overall I would say this has been my best purchase as far as Ice Axes go. I have climbed Hood, Adams, Rainier (almost 4 times), Baker and a few other Cascades with it.

Some things to note is that the head doesn't support carabiners unless your using micro biners from Mammut so webbing is the only way to attach a leash. If your doing any real vertical climbing such as ice you will find that the front pick sticks almost too well and to a point it doesn't want to release (good and bad). This is my 2 cents.
Head Down  step up. Mount Rainier heading towards Liberty Ridge
Head Down, step up. Mount Rainier heading towards Liberty Ridge

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

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