Jack and his famous Zebra taped Nomics
There seem to be a gazillion modern ice tools available today. And all of them will climb ice to good effect. Some might even climb ice or rock better than others. Usually not both rock and ice better at the same time how ever.
So how might you choose a ice tool? Or specifically how do I choose an ice tool. Is it just a fashion statement? For various reasons I am not so sure there isn't some truth to that at some point if you climb long enough.
Today a good many of the better climbers are "sponsored". Certainly 99% of the ones teaching ice climbing. Sponsored can mean anything from a salary and airfare plus all the play things required to be involved. Or it may mean just a free set of tools. Or it may just mean a significant discount on those same tools. Either way typically what you get, buys some loyalty to the manufacture. Which makes perfect sense. Nothing is actually free . Not should it be.
I get tools any number of ways. I buy them at full retail, I buy at a discount, or they are given to me for a review here. Only "free" tools, as in no strings attached, "free" are the ones I buy at full retail.
How all that works or doesn't depending on your position in the Industries supply/food chain. I was being given tools and also buying at retail the tools I actually choose to climb with.
Ya just gotta ask, "why", don't ya :-)
I mean after all the guys with sponsorships "love" their tools and never miss a chance at endorsing them. My answer to that is. Most love what they are climbing with now...as in "right now", today.
Look around at your particular ice hero and check out his photo resume. Is the tool he is using now the same tool he climbed hard enough with early on to deserve sponsorship in the first place? If not it might pay you to realise that he first spent his own money on the tools he thought were the best from the get go. Trust your gut on that one.
Some sponsorships and pro deals are much, much harder to get involved with than others. Big bank rolls make a difference. Some simply value their own brands and don't "give a lot way". Imagine the confusion when I made no secret of being given tools that I didn't use! Not a marriage made in heaven...."Ya, think?!" I test and write about gear. That doesn't mean I don't have personal favorites. I don't/haven't/didn't accept or ask for sponsorships.
OK if money doesn't matter how do you choose? In the grand scheme of things for most of us $1400. is going to be hard pill to swallow for a pair of tools. So money does matter, even if the tool might be exceptional. Most of us will never be able to appreciate a set of $1400 tools. I'm not sure any tool available is worth double what others are at retail. I know would not be to me.
That was easy. Now we are at $700 max for a set of tools. Fair enough. At $700 and under it leaves pretty much anything up for grabs, right?
Besides the color I do have a few priorities. My first is pick durability and reliability. Two different requirements in a pick. I want it to last long enough to get me up and down more than a few days climbing with out pick issues. I don't want to be replacing picks from breakage. Beat them up on rock and I expect some wear and eventual replacement . To date the most reliable and the most durable picks by a fair margin have been forged. Picks are also cut from plate. They have gotten better every year. Some picks have a reputation of never breaking. Although I have seen bent ones on occasion. I have not seen the current production forged picks break. Others production methods have been slow to develop that same reputation.. The Internet is an easy reference for failures.
For my own tools I prefer a forged pick. It is one of the few features that define my own ice tool choices. I don't care how good the tool climbs rock or ice, the fancy shaft materials, price or much of anything else if you aren't using reliable forged picks. My wife gets pissy when I get all dandered up like that and "decide" that is the way it is.
Only the color might sway me :) OK, seriously...nope....not really.... I want forged picks.
I'm picky that way.
Next up is I want a full strength attachment point for a umbilical to a T rated shaft. The tool needs to be specifically designed for leashless climbing. Not much of an issue there these days as most technical tools are leashless by design and T rated shafts.
I'd like the tool to be balanced. Heavy or light doesn't matter within reason, the weight needs to be forward of the shaft and perfectly balanced on the swing.
Those are all easily attained attributed these days on most of the better tools.
Past that, the handle required is dependant on the terrain. Good clearance on the shaft is nice but not a deal breaker. A good size bend in the shaft is all that is required for that. One grip or two is fine. Nice to have a small quiver of tools for a specific style of climb if you can afford it. May be better yet the ability to significantly change the tool so it is adaptable to different sorts of terrain. Alpine climbing as opposed to water falls for example. I would typically use a different tool on each given a choice. But that too is going to depend on the difficulty of the alpine climbing as well.
All that is just what I do and how I make a decision on my own ice tools. It does not need to be how you make a decision. Some will just walk in and plop down the cash and walk out. I would encourage you to at least know the history of the brand you choose and the manufacturing process used to produce your tools.
There are entire store walls filled with tools, many of them fully capable of climbing the hardest ice and mixed yet done. Just takes the right climber behind them There is no right tool, no right pick and no "right" shaft shape. I have climbed on most of them and they all work well enough.
I use what I have, because I trust it, and it works well for my own climbing objectives. If either changed I would change tools.
So of all the tools I have climbed on recently what am I using this season? I have three pair at the moment. 1st generation Nomics, Camp X Dream and Camp X Mtn. And that too will eventually change.
I am always on the hunt for the next, "best" tool. It should be obvious I don't care much about fashion statements :)
Lots of good tools out there. Don't over think the decision. Just be sure to know something about what you are buying.
Difference in how they climb by category? I've used/owned just over a dozen of those listed below, Difference? Not much really. Pick the color combo you like. Hard to go wrong.
Grivel Quantum Tech
Grivel Matrix Tech
Black Diamond Cobra
Black Diamond Viper
Camp X all mountain
E-Climb Cryo (5 versions)
And the 2 handed grip tools (more technical tool)
Black Diamond Fusion
Black Diamond Fuel
Camp X Dream
Grivel Monsters (2 versions)
Grivel Machine 3.0
Grivel Force (3 versions?)
What to know more about any one tool? Go to Google and type in "Black Diamond Fusion (or what ever you are interested in) Ice tool" and hit enter. "Grivel Force Ice tool" or "Petzl Nomic Ice tool" etc?