The C.A.M.P. Corsa Ice Axe is one of the lightest ice axes on the market, making it a top choice among weight-conscious backpackers and mountaineers who need the ability to self-arrest while crossing glaciers and steep snowfields.
It could very well save your life to have the tools and know-how to be safe in early-season conditions in the mountains. But chances are you’ll also spend a good amount of time carrying your axe in your backpack while you approach the high country. For us, the Corsa strikes the perfect balance between preparedness and minimalism – two things that are essential for successful and comfortable backpacking.
WEIGHT: 7.1 oz. (for 60 cm. model)
SIZES: 50 cm., 60 cm., 70 cm.
LIGHTWEIGHT – Every ounce counts when you’re trying to keep your pack weight in check, and the 60 cm. Corsa weighs just 7.1 oz. – less than half of the weight of the average ice axe. For comparison, the Black Diamond Raven weighs 15.7 oz. and the Petzl Summit 2 weighs 14.1 oz.
COMPACT – The Corsa’s handle is smooth and narrow, so it’s easy to find a place for it on your backpack. It comes in three different lengths – 50 cm., 60 cm., and 70 cm. Our favorite is the 60 cm. because it’s light, but not so short that you have to lean down really far when walking with it.In general, hikers 5’8″ and under can use shorter axes: 50-60 cm. Hikers between 5’8″ and 6′ usually choose between 60-70 cm. sizes. And those 6′ and above will be most comfortable using 70 cm. or higher.
SHARP PICK – The Corsa’s pick is extremely sharp, which helps it bite into the ice and stop your fall quickly in the event of self-arrest. When not in immediate use, we recommend covering the pick to protect your clothing and gear from punctures. The Corsa comes with a minimal, thermoplastic tip cover. It’s nice and light, but it could easily be misplaced. If you know you’ll be covering and uncovering your pick frequently, you may want to pick up a more permanent pick protector with a keeper cord.
EXCELLENT VALUE – Ultralight gear tends to be more expensive due to the materials and engineering involved. The Corsa is a little spendier than some traditional budget axes, but not by much. The Corsa costs significantly less than most technical climbing ice axes, and we think it’s a great value since it will last for many adventures barring a major damaging slide.
ALUMINIUM ISN’T AS DURABLE LONG-TERM – The Corsa’s weight savings come with a minor catch. Since the tool’s pick and spike are aluminum, they won’t be quite as durable as a traditional steel ice axe over many years of use. That said, this is a tool that’s intended for emergency use and the spike likely won’t actually endure much wear and tear. If you practice self-arresting a lot or you take a big fall in the backcountry, you should carefully assess your axe after each use to make sure it’s in good working order.
HEAD ISN’T SUPER ERGONOMIC – The head is the point on the axe where you hold it while walking. In an ideal world, the head should be comfortable in your hand since you’ll likely be holding it for hours at a time. The Corsa doesn’t sit quite as comfortably in our hand as some competitors’ lower-profile ice axe heads. But it’s really not that bad, and it’s a small tradeoff for such a lightweight tool. In the end, the weight savings on our back is far more important to us than the slightly less comfy grip.
NO LEASH INCLUDED – A leash is used to attach your ice axe to your wrist. This will keep your axe connected to you, even if it gets pulled from your hands on a self-arrest attempt or if you accidentally drop it on a steep slope. The Corsa Axe doesn’t come with a leash, but we highly recommend carrying one for your safety. C.A.M.P. makes a leash specifically designed for the Corsa, but you could also make your own with a lightweight utility cord.
BEVELED EDGE VS. SPIKE – Traditional ice axes have a steel tip for traction at the bottom of the shaft. Much like a trekking pole, it’s used to penetrate the snow as you walk on steep terrain and provides a third point of contact. The Corsa has a beveled (angled) edge instead of a spike, with a plug to prevent the shaft from filling with snow. The beveled spike offers better traction than a trekking pole, but it’s less aggressive than a steel spike.
NOT INTENDED FOR CLIMBING – This isn’t really a con since we’re reviewing the Corsa in a hiking context, but this axe is not designed for ice or mixed climbing. It’s an excellent self-arrest tool for hikers and backpackers traveling over steep snow slopes, but if you’re looking for a tool that’s more geared toward climbing, consider C.A.M.P.’s Corsa Nanotech, which has harder metals at key points to make it less susceptible to damage on rocks. Climbing axes will have more curve, a more ergonomic grip on the handle, and a more durable adze for chopping steps.
The C.A.M.P. Corsa Ice Axe is the best option we’ve found for hiking and backpacking. It will keep you safe in the backcountry without being so burdensome that you’re tempted to leave it at home. The Corsa isn’t as burly or aggressive as some traditional ice axes, but it has an ideal balance of weight and strength. We highly recommend it for thru-hikers, or anyone covering serious mileage in the mountains.
To learn how to use an ice axe, see Episode 16 – Crossing Snow – Ice Axe – Self Arrest of our Essential Trail Skills Video Series.
We hope this review helps you determine if the C.A.M.P. Corsa Ice Axe is right for you. As always, please leave a comment below if you have any recommendations, questions, or suggestions or visit our Facebook page and Instagram to join the community conversation. If you found this review helpful, please share on social media and click the little heart button below to give us a digital high five!
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