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Whether it’s floating in our beverages to keep them cool in the summer or providing solid footing on top of a lake in the winter, the key to interacting with and harnessing ice successfully in any situation comes from finding the best ice pick for the intended job. The most basic form of ice pick is a small tool for single-handed use with one to three sharp prongs at the end. These are best for use in bars and kitchens, but if they’re large enough they can work to break down chunks of ice in driveways, parking spots, and other low-stakes situations. For heavy-duty uses like fishing, hiking, camping, and climbing that involve extended time outdoors, a larger ice pick with a thick handle and blade should be used for maximum reliability and efficiency. Below, we’ve broken down a few of our favorite picks and key considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best ice pick for your next task.

Features to consider when shopping for an ice pick

The best ice pick for your needs depends on whether you’re looking to use it in the kitchen or in the great outdoors. There are some design overlaps between these varieties, but the most flexible ice picks are the ones that excel primarily as either a bar tool or as a climbing tool. Regardless of how you’ll use your ice pick, sturdy construction and thoughtful design are the key elements to keep an eye on.

Ice picks can be great bar accessories or a useful piece of backpacking gear. Here’s one for just about any type of use

Ice picks are not particularly cost-prohibitive or bulky, but if versatility is your main concern, choose an all-around model that can excel at breaking down the most common ice-related tasks. When selecting the best ice pick overall, choose a model that offers an easy-to-grip handle that can be maneuvered from both the top and the side. This type of construction will ensure that you can retain control of the pick during even the most forceful motions.

Another key consideration to look for is a cutting element that’s made of a hard, durable material that extends deep into the handle rather than being simply fastened to the end. This design ensures that torque and leverage are maintained while reinforcing the strength of the handle itself.

Best overall ice pick: Cuda SS Ice Pick

Simple Yet Effective

Includes a tip protector and holes to loop through a lanyard. Amazon

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The SS ice pick from Cuda sports a simple and sturdy construction with a durable stainless steel finish to prevent corrosion during use. It’s one of the best ice picks available for all-around use thanks to its 5-½-inch blade that runs through the length of the handle for superior control and strength. A scale pattern on the handle allows users to maneuver this pick to their liking, making it a flexible choice that excels outdoors.

For outdoor adventures, look for an ice axe and ice spikes

Ice climbing is a popular and fun outdoor activity with a lot of specific considerations and safety requirements to keep in mind. Because of the potentially severe and demanding nature of ice climbing, it’s crucial to select an pick that’s specifically designed to withstand the rigors of the activity.

When selecting the best ice pick for climbing, look for a design that offers an easy-to-grip handle and a durable head made out of steel or other tough materials. A lightweight construction with included carabiner holes or other fastening design elements ensures that the ice pick is within reach at a moment’s notice without adding extra bulk, which is critical for maintaining mobility. If you’re looking to streamline your climbing gear setup even more, look for an ice pick that includes a spiked end to add stability on flat surfaces.

Best ice pick for climbing: Petzl Glacier Ice Pick

Built For Dexterity

Includes a cutting head and a spike, both equipped with holes for string or carabiner attachment. Amazon

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The Glacier is a super lightweight ice pick from Petzl that’s designed for anchoring and cutting steps in hard ice and snow with ease. It weighs in at under a pound and has a length of just over 1.5 feet, so it’s incredibly portable in addition to being durable. The steel head and spike are connected in the center by a rust-resistant anodized aluminum handle. More extreme climbers may want a heftier pick, but for the vast majority of outdoor winter excursions, the Glacier is equipped to punch way above its weight class.

A compact ice chisel should always be a part of your backpacking gear

The best ice pick for backpacking trips should have a foldable, portable design or be part of a set of foldable tools that are both durable and lightweight. By integrating the design of the pick into a form factor that includes a shovel, spade, axe, or other related backpacking gear, you can cut down on the space used in your bag while maximizing your preparedness for encounters with environmental variables.

Common backpacking circumstances that warrant a dedicated ice pick include the need to clear and traverse snowy trails, as well as preparation of backcountry campsites and removal of ice from hard surfaces including wood, rock, and asphalt. As with other types of ice picks, it’s important to pick a harder material like steel to ensure effectiveness and prevent breakage. Because sturdier metals are likely to be heavy, a foldable and compact form factor are essential features to keep in mind when choosing the best ice pick for backpacking trips.

Best ice pick for backpacking trips: Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel and Pick

Your Portable Lifeline

Weighs in at two pounds and folds into a 9 by 6-inch space. Amazon

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This multi-tool from Rhino USA is one of the best ice picks for backpacking trips thanks to its portable, lightweight form factor and the inclusion of a shovelhead as well as a cutting edge for dealing with wood and other debris. Because it’s foldable, this unit is perfect for stowing in a bag and pulling out to assist in clearing trails or preparing areas for camp. It’s made of powder-coated carbon steel and extends to around 23 inches long when fully opened.

There’s no fancier tool to add to your cocktail kit than an icepick for breaking up ice blocks

Any serious bartender knows that the quality of ice used in a cocktail directly affects the overall quality and taste of the drink itself. The best ice pick for bartender use allows professionals and amateurs alike to carve ice chips and shaped chunks from larger ice blocks, a technique that allows the formation of cocktail-friendly cube shapes. By having precise control over the shape and quality of ice, bartenders can use an ice pick to form chips for frothy drinks, sculpted cubes for serving liquor straight, and everything in between without having to rely on the cookie-cutter approach of an ice machine or freezer delivering uniform and generic ice cube shapes. Carving custom cubes and ice shapes from a dedicated larger block is a great way to ensure freshness, too, when ice is acquired for a specific event rather than stored over long periods of time. An ice pick is a key bartending accessory to have in your cocktail kit for its unparalleled flexibility, novelty, and class, and it can even break up cubes that have melted together in a pinch.

Best ice pick for bartenders: Barfame Wood Ice Pick

Portable and Food-Safe

Made of sturdy stainless steel and measuring in at just under seven inches in length. Amazon

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This wood-handled ice pick from Barfame is a great choice for bartender and kitchen duties thanks to its simple shape and dual-prong construction. A pick hammer sits at the top of the handle to allow users to break ice with a tapping motion, while the spike at the bottom offers more traditional stabbing functionality. The food-safe steel ensures that the ice pick is easy to clean and stays free of rust, making this a good ice pick for bartenders facing high-volume tasks.

Ice picks can add a lovely vintage feel to your home bar tools

You don’t have to be a professional bartender to enjoy the benefits of a classy ice pick at home. Some of the best ice picks for home use are designed to add elegance and a unique flair to your personal bar—whether you’re staying in or entertaining guests. In a bar context, ice picks are perfect for shaving off small beverage-sized chunks of ice off of a larger main cube, which adds to the customizability of beverages as well as the overall freshness of the ice. Since larger blocks of ice take longer to melt, this system can safely be used over long periods during entertaining without added refrigeration. This mechanism applies equally to breaking up a mass of ice in the storage area of a home ice machine, which can melt and refreeze over time, fusing together.

When looking for the best ice pick for home use, you can’t go wrong with a durable and understated model that matches the rest of your bar tools. Steering away from branded accessories and opting for a generic metal or silver ice pick that features food-grade materials is key to ensuring longevity and sustained enjoyment.

Best ice pick for home: Fortune Candy Ice Chipper

Heavy-Duty Design

Breaks apart bags of ice and whole blocks with speed and ease. Amazon

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This ice pick from Fortune Candy is constructed from thick stainless steel and features three prongs for ice chipping as well as a durable food-grade silicone grip for added support and control. Extra weight and hefty construction assist users in maintaining grip in the hand through even the most demanding motions.

Ice pick on a budget: What you can get for under $10

Ice picks that are dedicated to safety and stability in outdoor environments typically have a price tag that corresponds to their critical application. In kitchen environments, however, you don’t need to spend a lot on an ice pick to get decent results. If you’re looking for the best cheap ice pick for low-impact applications, turn to a model with a spike longer than five inches to ensure adequate penetration of the ice block you’re breaking apart. It usually costs a little more to find a sturdy ice pick in this price category that has silicone grips, but wood is an adequate substitute.

Best cheap ice pick: Norpro Ice Pick

Subtle Yet Capable

The wood handle minimizes the transfer of heat away from users’ hands. Amazon

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This basic ice pick from Norpro is one of the best cheap ice picks available thanks to its sturdy stainless steel spike and easy-to-grip wooden handle. It measures in at 7 and ¼ inches in length, and includes a wooden sheath for easy storage and protection. For light use, this ice pick is an incredibly good value, but you may want to look elsewhere if durability and longevity are your main concerns. Still, the price point is accessible enough to make this a great choice for stocking up on backups.

FAQs

What’s the most durable material for an ice pick?

Steel is by far the most common material used for ice picks due to its sustained durability properties at a wide range of temperatures. In kitchen picks, food-safe stainless steel is the material of choice. Climbers’ ice picks and ice picks for backpacking often use aluminum in the handles to cut down on total weight and increase handleability.

What other uses are there for ice picks besides chipping ice?

Ice picks have a few key uses besides chipping ice, and most of these are within the realm of outdoor recreation. Climbers rely upon ice picks to grant stability while moving across icy slopes, and ice fishers use ice picks to cut holes through ice surfaces.

Should I purchase an ice pick with a retractable blade?

An ice pick with a retractable blade is nice to have in preventing accidental scratches and scrapes, but most smaller ice picks come with their own sheaths and covers for this purpose. In specific cases where you’re moving a lot or digging through a bag, a retractable ice pick can be beneficial, but in most kitchen and bar contexts, this isn’t necessary.

A final word on shopping for an ice pick

Ice picks are unique tools that offer a variety of ways to harness the unique properties of ice both in the kitchen and out in the field. Fancy, compact ice picks are great for chipping away at ice blocks in bars and at home, while larger ice picks and foldable multi-tool ice picks are the way to go for hiking and backpacking. The best ice pick will allow users to gain control over, break apart, and distribute ice in any context, making it a welcome addition to any collection of kitchen or climbing gear.

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