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Ice picks are crucial pieces of survival equipment during winter. For an outdoor survival enthusiast, having a high quality ice pick could mean the difference between staying alive and meeting your maker. When you’re putting together a winter survival kit made to withstand the harshest conditions, planning an extreme backcountry trek or mountaineering ascent, or just trying to stay safe when you’re ice fishing, you need to include a high-quality ice pick in your arsenal.

There are two different types of ice picks to consider. The standard “ice pick” that might come to mind is a tool made specifically for mountaineering and ice climbing. This kind of ice pick—which is technically called an ice axe—is usually made up with a long, axe-like shaft with an extended metal pick attached to the end of it. This tool is useful for travel on glaciers, steep couloirs, frozen waterfalls, and other kinds of slippery winter terrain. In contrast, an “ice pick” in the ice fishing world is something else completely. Here, an ice pick—or ice spike— is a small pick sheathed in wood or plastic that will allow you to grip into ice to attempt a self-rescue if you’ve fallen into freezing water. Both types of ice picks are tools that could spell the difference between life and death.

Best Ice Pick For An Outdoor Survival Kit: PETZL Summit EVO

Best Ice Pick for Ice Fishing: Frabill Retractable Ice Picks

Best Ice Pick for Winter Hiking: Petzl Glacier

Best Ice Pick for Ice Climbing: Singing Rock Bandit Ice Tool

Best Cheap Ice Pick: Ito Rocky Pro Beak Ice Axe

Features to Consider When Shopping For An Ice Pick

Having a high-quality ice pick can prove crucial during cold weather adventures. For first-time buyers and experienced winter mountaineers alike, it can be difficult to figure out what kind of ice pick to purchase, because there are different styles of ice picks for winter camping, ice fishing, and mountaineering. Determine exactly what you’ll be using the ice pick for and use our guide below to make sure the one you choose has the proper design and features.

Do You Need an Ice Pick for Navigating Icy Slopes?

If you’ve ever gotten stranded on a steep, icy slope without an ice pick (and survived the encounter), you know why ice picks are a crucial part of winter survival kits.

Like all good outdoor survival tools, an ice pick is a versatile tool. You can use it like a walking stick during winter outings. It can serve as a self-arrest tool if you fall. You can use it to set up an anchor. And if you’re in a real pinch, you can use an ice axe as a weapon to protect yourself with.

Best Ice Pick For An Outdoor Survival Kit: PETZL Summit EVO



The PETZL Summit Evo is an excellent ice axe for a winter survival kit. The toothed tip helps you grip thin hard snow and ice as well as deeper snow. Weighing between 400 or 450 grams depending on shaft length, the pick is not extremely light, but it’s light enough to stash in an alpine outdoor survival kit. It’s good for long treks, daunting ascents, and self-arresting if you slip. It’s a great all-around ice axe.

Do You Need an Ice Pick for Ice Fishing or Walking Frozen Bodies of Water?

A classic ice pick may not be what comes to mind when you’re thinking about ice fishing survival tools. You don’t need an ice pick similar to the one you’d put in a normal survival kit. But ice picks designed for emergency use when walking on frozen lakes can prevent you from drowning or dying of hypothermia if you fall through the ice.

In ice fishing, an “ice pick” is a small pick, somewhat similar to the utensils used to chip large ice blocks into smaller pieces. Basically, an ice fishing ice pick has small wooden or plastic handles and an extended metal prong. You won’t use the pick to break up the ice, but to grip into the ice if you’ve fallen and haul yourself back to safety. You can buy a standard kitchen ice pick or one designed specifically for ice fishing. If you go with the former, make sure that you get two of them (one for each hand) and that they have wooden handles to prevent them from sinking. Your emergency survival gear won’t do you any good if it’s at the bottom of the lake.

Best Ice Pick for Ice Fishing: Frabill Retractable Ice Picks



The Frabill Retractable Ice Pick is an affordable piece of ice fishing emergency gear that will give you peace of mind when you head out on the lake. The picks are small and meant to be worn inside of your jacket. Hold a pick in each hand when you put on your coat. Then slip the picks just inside your sleeves, where they’ll be ready in case of emergency. The retractable guards prevent you from accidentally poking yourself. Hopefully you’ll never have to use these—but they’ll be ready if you do.

Do You Need an Ice Pick for Winter Hiking?

If you plan on using your ice axe for winter hiking, instead of mountaineering or ice climbing, you should get one with the right specifications. You’ll likely want a longer ice axe, which will be easier to use on low-angle slopes. The downside is that these ice axes will also likely be fairly heavy. You need to consider the balance between weight and maneuverability. A straight or slightly curved ice axe will do the trick. You don’t need an aggressive curve, which is geared more towards steep terrain and for ice climbing.

Best Ice Pick for Winter Hiking: Petzl Glacier



The PETZL Glacier ice pick is a solid choice for anyone making long distance backcountry trips during the cold-weather months. The steel pick is similar to those found in technical ice axe picks, but the ice axe is more geared towards glacier travel, meaning slippery but relatively flat ice-covered terrain. It weighs only 320 grams (a bit over 12 ounces), so it’s easy to pack along. A handle-cut grip provides excellent traction, and the anodized aluminum handle resists rusting. A straight shaft means it won’t be ideal for ice climbing or steep ascents, but for most winter backcountry travel, it will exceed expectations.

Will You Be Ice Climbing?

Ice axes are not all alike. Most outdoorsmen will want an ice axe that functions well for general mountaineering. These kinds of ice axes are more versatile and better choices for winter survival kits. But if you are an ice climber—or an aspiring ice climber—you need an axe geared towards that specific activity.

Normal ice picks have slightly curved shafts without very pronounced handles. These are made specifically for navigating extremely steep terrain, but they aren’t what you want for scaling truly vertical terrain such as frozen waterfalls. For this, you’ll need what’s called an “ice tool.” An ice tool is similar to an ice axe, but it has a much more pronounced grip and a deeper curve than your typical ice axe.

Best Ice Pick for Ice Climbing: Singing Rock Bandit Ice Tool

Singing Rock


The Slinging Rock Bandit Ice Tool is designed specifically for ice climbing. A chrome-moly steel head is affixed to a curved aluminum shaft, so you can easily wield it when on near-vertical surfaces. The dual-density plastic grip is strong and provides a secure hold. The ice pick is short—only 20 inches long—which is ideal for ice climbing.

Best Budget Ice Pick: What You Get For Under $70

For a traditional ice axe that’s made for winter mountaineering, you should be ready for your wallet to take a hit. It’s an investment in safety: When you use an ice pick on the side of a nearly vertical couloir, you need to be able to trust your equipment. However, if you’re looking for a general-use ice pick, you don’t need to spend a lot of money.

Best Cheap Ice Pick: Ito Rocky Pro Beak Ice Axe



The Ito Rocky Pro Break Ice Axe is one of the most reasonably priced ice axes on the market today. It’s affordable and still suitable for many winter outings. A straight shaft makes the pick ideal for low-angle travel. The one-piece carbon steel head will dig into ice if you need to self-arrest. The shaft is relatively light with aircraft-grade aluminum construction. For non-extreme conditions, this ice axe will do the job.

FAQ: people also ask

How do you fit an ice axe?

To fit an ice axe, you should stand up straight and hold the axe by the head. The shaft should fall just above your ankle. If it reaches your feet, it’s too long.

How do I choose the best material for my ice pick?

Most ice axes are made with the same material—aluminum shafts and steel heads. These materials are both good options. For an ice pick for ice fishing, make sure to get a set with handles that float. Either wood or plastic should work. Double check by dropping your ice picks in a sink at home before you hit the ice.

A Final Word on Shopping for Ice Picks

There are different styles of ice picks, each with different applications. Know exactly what you’ll be using the pick for, and use our guide above to choose the best ice pick for you.