Black Crows Duos Freebird Review
Cons: Durability is suspect, handle requires an active grip, doesn't pack small
Manufacturer: Black Crows
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Duos stands out in our test because of it's unique grip design. Rather than a main grip that is contoured to the shape of a hand, the Duos features a long foam pad than can be gripped anywhere along its length. It also features a cool swiveling basket, making tip purchase a breeze on any inclined firm slope.
Ease of Use
The Duos Freebird has many of the features that other backcountry ski poles have, with one key twist. The lever locks are made from aluminum and the pole sections lock together with ease. The powder basket is clever and swivels on a ball joint to allow for purchase on any inclined slope.
The main difference between the Duos and any other pole on the market is the grip design. Instead of a contoured grip, it features a long foam slab that can be held anywhere along its length. This means the primary grip, secondary grip, and length adjustment can all be achieved in one place. This grip design is not easy to hold when downhill skiing or pushing, but it does look cool. One advantage of this design, though, is that the grip end of the pole can be driven into the snow for sturdier stability than the tip end. This benefit shows its usefulness rarely, though, and for the rest of the time, we prefer other grips.
The Duos Freebird is the lightest backcountry ski pole in our test. Weighing in at 16 ounces, backcountry skiers looking to eliminate every extra gram can rejoice. This low weight is accomplished by using carbon to construct the lower shaft section, and by using foam in the grip instead of rubber. In addition, the swing weight of the Duos Freebird is light and snappy, meaning you can really whip each pole around to the front when making fast, tight turns.
The Duos Freebird snapped during our test period while being used for normal-impact skiing in the Lake Tahoe backcountry. This isn't altogether surprising, considering the carbon construction and relatively thin lower shaft. The Duos is also the lightest pole in our test, and in general, lightweight equipment tends to be less durable. Carbon poles are useful for saving weight, but we'd caution anyone in the market for backcountry ski poles to go for aluminum options unless they are planning on being very careful with their poles. Many of our testers are ski guides who would hesitate to use a carbon ski pole for most days in the backcountry, as a snapped pole when you are ten miles from the car is a big deal.
The Duos does not pack down very small. Nor is it designed to, with a two-section telescoping construction. The carbon lower shaft features 30 centimeters (12 inches) of length adjustability. This is on the lower end of the spectrum for two-section poles. This long minimum collapsed size, along with a grip that doesn't help much for the ascent, are the reasons why we don't recommend this pole for splitboarders.
The Duos features a long foam grip that is not contoured to the shape of a hand. This is unique and new in the backcountry ski pole market. Foam continues down the shaft through where the secondary grip would normally be found. As a result, this pole didn't impress our testers in the comfort category. It requires an active grip to maintain hold of the ski pole at all times, and doesn't help with leverage while skinning. The top of the handle is a small, round pad that isn't very comfortable to push down when skinning up steep slopes. If you are expecting a well-contoured grip for maximum leverage while skinning, look elsewhere.
The Duos Freebird is the most expensive ski pole in our test. It looks cool and comes from a trendy manufacturer (that makes some fantastic skis), but the lack of useful features, an unconventional grip, and poor durability make us question the high price of this product. That said, it is aesthetic, light, and moderately useful, so if aesthetics is what you're looking for, this pole might be worth the price.
Unfortunately, the Freebird suffers from a lack of useful features, like a contoured grip and handle. It also showed durability concerns during our testing period. In our opinion, there are much better poles on the market, and almost all of them can be found at a lower price.
— Henry Feder