Field Tested: Petzl Nomic & Ergonomic

Petzl’s redesigned Quark, Nomic and Ergonomic ice tools have arrived for Fall/Winter 2018 and we couldn’t be more excited. The original Nomics — the all-black version — were my first ‘technical’ ice tools and faithful companions on countless days of ice, mixed and alpine climbing. The Generation 2 tools — the black-orange ones — proved somewhat problematic, however, and newer designs from other brands grabbed some of the spotlight. I used the Gen 2’s for only a couple dozen days, preferring Camp/Cassin’s X-Dream, but now the new, Generation 3, Nomic has arrived, complete with redesigned handle and pommel, new picks and a completely new big brother, the Ergonomic.

Though we have had a couple of days of climbing on all the new tools at the Ouray Ice Park back in January 2018 during the tools’ official announcement and launch, it’s always different climbing in a foreign setting and under the auspices of a press trip. Luckily, winter has come early to the Rockies and over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a chance to climb on both the new Nomic and Ergonomic on familiar territory: pure rock drytooling, some comp-style plastic, snow-covered mixed and pure, if thin, ice. So here are some observations.

The Ergonomics in action on Oct 6, 2018 (yes, this season!)

Note: for all images in this post, if you’d like to see a much higher-resolution version just click on the image to see the media file, then right click and select ‘view image,’ or something similar based on whichever browser you’re using. I’ve uploaded them all at around 4000px minimum on the short axis so there’s a lot of detail if you want to get a closer look.

Nomic or Ergonomic or…?

I get asked this question a lot, but the answer is both relatively simple and at once incredibly complex.

The Nomic is the best all-around tool that Petzl makes. Given the new, spiked or un-spiked, pommel, the redesigned handle, the new picks and hydroformed shaft, I will also say that it is the best all-around tool currently available. (Were it not for the more versatile pick and hammer/adze combinations possible with the Petzl tools, Camp’s X-Dream would be sharing the top spot, but as-is it’s a very close second.)

No other tools I’ve tried come close to either the new, Gen 3, Nomic or the X-Dream, though I haven’t climbed enough on the more esoteric tools available in Europe and Russia to have strong opinions of them. But, of the tools currently widely available in Canada and the USA, the Nomic and X-Dream stand apart. Between those two, it just comes down to personal preference (and to a certain extent, budget, as the French tools are noticeably more expensive than their Italian counterparts). BD’s new Reactor also looks to be an excellent ice and mixed tool, but it doesn’t offer the versatility of the Nomic or X-Dream (I haven’t used the Reactor yet, but have heard very good things from people I trust.)

So the somewhat simple answer is: if you want the most versatile tool for everything from all-around mountaineering (think high-dagger and piolet canne use, where the new spike really comes into its own) to easy ice climbing (the new Pur’Ice pick is superb) all the way to hard mixed and funky featured ice (the Dry pick feels very secure on thin rock moves, hooks incredibly well, and swings just as well as the Pur’Ice) and long alpine routes (there’s the Mini Hammer and the regular Hammer, and you could stick an Adze on the Nomic if you really want to) then the Gen-3 Nomic is unbeatable. No other tool offers so much versatility.

The Generation 3 Nomics are the best all-around technical ice tool I have used. (Photo: Veronica coming up a mixed corner on Twisted, Field, BC, Oct 6, 2018.)

The Ergonomic, on the other hand, is the best climbing rock and hard ice tool I’ve ever used. On rock it just plain feels like cheating: scratch around, feel a decent placement and the ErgoN just holds on. Add in the most comfortable ice tool handle I’ve held and it’s easy to imagine the ErgoN making appearances on the hardest ice and mixed routes in the world. This thing is simply phenomenal, and combined with Petzl’s modular spike/no-spike pommel and the pick and hammer options and I can easily picture more advanced climbers bringing the ErgoN’s on committing alpine routes. Where it doesn’t excel is the mellow stuff, the WI3+ and M6’s: until the ice turns vertical and the rock overhanging, the ErgoN is overkill and feels more awkward to place than the less-extreme Nomic.

So the more complex answer is: if you want the best tools for climbing weird, funky, featured, vertical and overhanging ice or are prone to hanging around in figure-4’s in a roof or scratching around for thin edges on vertical rock, the Ergonomic is for you. It is not a quiver of one tool. It’s probably not even a quiver of two tool, but if you’ve already got a couple closets full of gear, the ErgoN’s won’t feel out of place.

Picks

For Fall/Winter 2018, Petzl now has four picks to choose from: Ice, Pur’Ice, Dry, and Pur’Dry.

As a note, Petzl have done some extra testing and concluded that that annoying little spacer that was a bitch to insert properly and kept falling out and getting lost when replacing picks is not necessary. All the new picks come without this spacer.

“Our testing shows that any Quark, Nomic, Ergo or Ergonomic made after 2011 does not need the spacer. If the tool is pre-2011 then we recommend using the spacer.” – this is straight from Petzl HQ.

Note: the 2011 tools would be the Generation 2 Nomic (orange handle sections), the Ergo (crazy curved orange tool) and the previous generation Quark (looks like current one, but without the fancy upper shaft).

The Fall/Winter 2018 Petzl pick lineup.

The Ice pick remains unchanged, and comes stock on the Quark. It’s designed primarily for ice and mixed climbing, and tapers to 3.3mm at the tip (4mm at the head). It doesn’t have any head spikes, and is somewhat more aggressive than the Pur’Ice pick. It’s best used on the Quark; on the Nomic I find it a bit harder to clean than the Pur’Ice, and I have yet to use it on the Ergonomic.

Top to bottom: Pur’Ice, Ice, Dry, Pur’Dry. You can easily see the differences in taper of the picks. (Did I already bend the Dry one?!)

Pur’Ice is new for FW18, though the only change is the addition of small spiky teeth on the head. Stock on the new Nomic, it’s tapered to 3mm at the tip. With the most open angle of all the Petzl picks, it’s designed purely for ice climbing. It places and cleans as well as any other pick I’ve used, and is noticeably better to climb with on the Nomic than the Ice. Put it on the Ergonomic and it’s a featured ice dream machine. The preferred pure-ice pick for the Nomic and Ergonomic.

Front to back: Pur’Ice, Ice, Dry, Pur’Dry.

The Dry pick comes stock on the Ergonomic and is the best all-around mixed pick in the Petzl lineup. It has large teeth on top for secure steins and aggressive teeth underneath for hooking and wrapping around ice features. Tapered to 3.3mm it penetrates ice well but I find the fifth, more pronounced, tooth sticks in ice. I usually file it down as I find it doesn’t add anything for mixed climbing but impedes removal from ice. Very stable on rock: my favourite pick for mixed routes for both the Nomic and Ergonomic.

Pur’Dry is new for FW18 and as the name suggests is designed exclusively for rock use. 4mm along its entire length, it also has extremely aggressive top and bottom teeth for secure purchase on rock in nearly any direction. The first tooth is extra-large for secure placement on tenuous holds and excels at competition-style drytooling on plastic and metal holds. I find it too aggressive on well-travelled routes as the pick sinks into holds so well. I’ve yet to swing it into ice, but given it’s very aggressive nature I suspect it will swing ok but not clean well at all. Recommended for techy, tenuous rock routes on either Nomic or Ergonomic, and for indoor drytooling, especially on the Ergonomic.

Pommels & Handles

The new pommels are interchangeable between the Nomic and the Ergonomic. The Nomic comes stock with the spiked one, while the Ergonomic’s pommel looks to be identical save for having had the spike cut off.

L to R: Nomic Gen 3, Nomic Gen 2, Ergonomic.

The new pommels are noticeably wider, and feel deeper. In combination with the redesigned Nomic handle and the all-new ErgoN handle, the result is what feels like a longer handle. It is not — I measured. But, for whatever reason, I find myself using the new tools in the Small pommel setting, whereas I was a comfortable Medium with the previous gen tools.

The handles are pretty much identical in size, though differ slightly in shape.
L to R: Gen 3 in Medium, Gen 2 in Medium, Gen 3 in Small. I prefer the Small setting.
Gen 2 vs Gen 3 Nomic pommel.

Also, as far as I can tell the new pommels are not interchangeable with the previous generation tools. The attachment bolt is in a different spot (and is larger diameter) and the inner teeth have a different profile. Perhaps someone more willing to dremel and epoxy and drill and experiment will make them fit, but it’s not a simple bolt-on swap (I tried).

Gen 2 (left) vs Gen 3 (right). Not only are the bolt holes in different spots, the new bolt is also thicker.
Ergonomic (same as Nomic Gen 3) on the left, Gen 2 Nomic on the right. The Gen 2 Nomic uses the smaller, more central, hole for attaching the pommel. (The other hole is for threading through cord as a make-do way of attaching tethers.)

Because the new spiky pommel can be fitted to both the Ergonomic and the Nomic, I naturally thought it reasonable to test out its use on both tools in piolet canne and high dagger positions.

In piolet canne, on either model tool, the spike is rendered useless in the Small position due to the angle it rests at. I found myself reverting back to the hold-by-the-handle and use-the-spiked-head method pioneered with the first generation tools. In Medium the situation is a little better on the Ergonomic, while the spike is fully usable on the Nomics. In Large either tool positions the spike at a pronounced downward angle.

The situation is reversed in high dagger, where the Small pommel setting offers more spike surface area to rest on, while the Large setting exposes more of the plastic pommel. The Medium is, predictably, in-between. None of the settings are ideal but short of offering different pommels for different pommel size settings I can’t think of an easy way to get around this issue.

Weight

Because the new tools are so interchangeable, I thought I’d post the individual weights, along with complete tools. (Tool weights are in stock configuration.) Hopefully this gives you an idea of how light (or heavy) the tools would be in certain configurations.

Nomic gen 2: 602 grams
Nomic gen 3: 596 grams (585 grams by Petzl numbers)
Ergonomic: 648 grams (635 grams by Petzl numbers)

Nomic gen 3, shaft only, no pommel: 338 grams
Ergonomic, shaft only, no pommel: 380 grams

Pommel, spiked, with bolt: 36 grams
Pommel, no spike, with bolt: 30 grams

Mini Hammer: 20 grams
Large Hammer: 62 grams

Pick weights, with bolt: 66 grams

Pick mounting bolts, pair, with washers: 30 grams

Pur’Dry pick: 140 grams
Dry pick: 122 grams
Pur’Ice pick: 106 grams
Ice pick: 114 grams

Weighing, comparing, swapping.

Pick Shift Comparisons

All the below images were shot from a tripod-mounted camera at the exact same settings. The point of the pick was placed in the exact same location each time as well.

Pur’Ice pick.
Ice pick.
Dry pick.
Pur’Dry pick.
Pur’Ice pick.
Ice pick.
Dry pick.
Pur’Dry pick.
Pur’Ice pick (2016 version) on Generation 2 Nomic.

10 thoughts on “Field Tested: Petzl Nomic & Ergonomic

  1. Andrej says:

    So there is no way to put a lanyard on the ErgoN without switching the pommel out for the one with the spike? It doesn’t have the second hole beneath the pommel attachment, which could be used in the 2nd gen Nomic for example.

    • Raf says:

      That’s correct, the lanyard hole is gone and unfortunately you’ll need to buy a pair of the spiked pommels to have a clip-on point on the ErgoN.

  2. Chris says:

    Fantastic review, Raf! Thanks for taking the time to compile all this data! Quick question – anyway you could post a video on how you change-out picks? I replaced my Nomic Gen 2 picks last winter with the updated Pur’Ice & had a hell of a time removing the original pick. I’d like to see how you go about doing it. Your post makes me want new Nomics!
    Off topic question: I’m looking at buying a new climbing-specific pack for on-route ice & I *think* I’ve narrowed it down to the Alpha FL 45, The Tupilak 37+ or the Ascentionist 30. I want something in the 30-35L range. Seeing that you have some experience with possibility all three, would you recommend one over another? Thanks!!

    • Raf says:

      I can definitely do that — I’ll try to shoot and post the video tomorrow.

      As far as the packs, I have used all three of those. The Alpha FL 45 is one of my favourite packs: light and durable, not too expensive. The Tupilak 37 is quite awesome and I’m working on a review of it to post within a week or two but it is pricier than the Arc’teryx. The Ascensionist packs and I don’t get along — too many design features I just don’t like.

      Of the three, I’d recommend the Alpha FL 45. It’s a superb pack. The Tupilak is great but has some quirks that might not work for everyone. IF you can wait a bit, hold on for the Tupilak review and decide if it’s a pack you would be interested in.

  3. Fabio Lacentra says:

    Hey Raf, great review, it’s well done.
    Thank you for taking the time to enlighten all of us.

    Keep up the good work.
    Fab

  4. Blaž says:

    Regarding the pick spacer/washer thingy. Is it safe to also leave it out on older generation tools? Or is this limited to the new style head with plastic ‘anti-wobble’ insert?

    • Raf says:

      “Our testing shows that any Quark, Nomic, Ergo or Ergonomic made after 2011 does not need the spacer. If the tool is pre-2011 then we recommend using the spacer.’ – straight from Petzl HQ.

      • Blaž says:

        Excellent, thanks a lot!
        I intend to keep mine in but it is good to know in case I lose one some day.

  5. Landon says:

    Damn, now I want a set of Ergonomics AND gen3 Nomics. The lack of proper clip in point for umbilicals has always driven me nuts on the gen2 Nomics.

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