The Camox Freebird from Black Crows is right in the mix with the best backcountry skis on the market. The Camox is super stylish and ready to scream in a hot red color scheme. We found downhill performance to be balanced across the board and through all kinds of conditions. The touring weight is manageable, but not super light. In round two of testing this ski, we enlisted even more help and more opinions. Thanks to the vociferous and authoritative views of two of these new testers, we did an even deeper dive on the Camox. This is the strength of the OGL testing regimen; we have and take the time to examine and reexamine.Editor's Note: Since we last tested this ski, Black Crows decreased the waist width slightly to 95mm.
Black Crows Camox Freebird Review
Cons: Mid-weight, no real stand out performance
Manufacturer: Black Crows
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Black Crows Camox Freebird
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|Pros||Stable, damp, predictable||Stable, damp, versatile, floaty, balanced||Optimized weight and performance||All-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weight||Fast, smooth, reliable, versatile|
|Cons||Mid-weight, no real stand out performance||Moderately heavy, not optimal firm snow performance||Slightly poor firm snow performance||Soft and damp||Heavy|
|Bottom Line||Good skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions; the definition of all around backcountry skis||This is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balance||All-around, solid skis for all kinds of soft and poor-snow backcountry skiing||Inexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditions||Heavy, big skis for hard-charging performance beneath a wide range of skiers in all backcountry ski scenarios|
|Rating Categories||Black Crows Camox F...||Blizzard Zero G 105||Dynastar M-Tour 99...||K2 Wayback 106||Elan Ripstick 106|
|Firm Snow (20%)|
|Crud and Poor Snow (20%)|
|Stability at Speed (15%)|
|Specs||Black Crows Camox F...||Blizzard Zero G 105||Dynastar M-Tour 99...||K2 Wayback 106||Elan Ripstick 106|
|Weight Per Pair||6.7 lbs||6.7 lbs||6.0 lbs||6.9 lbs||8.2 lbs|
|Weight Per Ski||1510g, 1509g
|Weight Per Pair||3024g||3025g||2731g||3075g||3715g|
|Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2||0.71||0.72||0.68||0.71||0.86|
|Available Lengths (cm)||157.1, 164.3, 172.1, 178.4, 183.4||164, 172, 180, 188||162, 170, 178, 186||172, 179, 186||167, 174, 181, 188|
|Claimed Dimensions (mm)||130/97/115||133/105/118||127/99/117||136/106/124||143/106/120|
|Measured Dimensions (mm)||137/97/117||133/104/118||127/98/116||135/107/123||143/105/119|
|Construction Type||Sandwich||Sandwich||Sandwich||Sandwich Cap Hybrid||Sandwich|
|Core Material||Paulownia, poplar||Paulownia||Paulownia||Paulownia||Tubelite|
|Rocker/Camber||Tip rocker, camber underfoot||Tip and tail rocker||Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot||Tip rocker, slight camber underfoot||Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Crows Camox is an all-around "daily driver" for human-powered skiing. Black Crows skis are legendary for damp performance, and the Camox is no exception. These track straight and don't chatter. They don't "pop" like some, but they also don't push back in tougher conditions and lapse in technique. We found them to grip firm on ice and hard snow and to float just right in powder. Tough snow performance wasn't spectacular, but not poor either. Touring weight is acceptable, right near the top of what we'd consider the range of weights for "all-around" human-powered skis.
We tested 183cm Camox Freebird skis. Left and right skis from a manufacturer often differ a little in weight; remarkably, we found our test pair to be different by only one gram. One weighed 1510g, and the other weighed 1509g. The close tolerances are cool, but no big deal. We've tested skis that differ by much, much more than that, and noticed no issues associated with the difference. The overall weight is right in line with what we consider to be suitable touring skis. For the width and length, 1500g is good but not great. You can get equal or better skiing performance for lower weight.
We found average performance on hard snow with the Camox Freebird. A hand flex test shows them considerably softer than resort groomer skis. They're even softer than some of the budget all-around skis we have tested. One could expect compromised firm snow performance from softer skis. It is harder to "hand flex" for torsional rigidity, but we suspect that that is where the Camox makes up its firm snow performance. In a descent of a slick Teton "Apocalypse Couloir", the Camox grabbed in high consequence terrain under a tester that had taken their possession just the night before.
We wish we had tested the next shortest size. We bet that, if downsized, the Camox would do steep, firm snow even better. They don't suffer in the tested configuration, but shorter (to a point, of course) is often easier to manage in the steeps.
That soft longitudinal flex seems to come into its own in powder snow. Deep and bottomless, or fast and smooth, powder snow is amazing with the Camox. They'll snap around in short-radius turns or hang with you as you open it up faster. The relatively long size we tested (183cm) floated under even the bigger of our testers. Our experience with shorter skis like this indicates that performance would suffer for our test team at the next size down. Choose your size wisely; for powder, don't be afraid to size these up.
We were glad to observe that the Camox Freebird is capable of both long and short powder turns. Such ski style versatility requires both ski and skier to be adaptable. The Camox seems adaptable, and then some.
Bad snow is a backcountry reality. We wish it weren't, and we all work our tails off in searching for only good to perfect stuff. Nonetheless, you can't get the goods without encountering breakable crust and bottomless slop. When you do, the Camox Freebird will keep up but won't let you relax. The wide shovel surfs up out of late-day spring slop but grabs in the breakable crust of a sunny February afternoon. Slow it down in that breakable crust, stay centered, and be patient. You could do a lot worse than the Camox Freebird in tough snow, but they won't let you forget your timing or route selection error that day.
Stability at Speed
That slight additional weight helps keep your skis tracking and charging at higher speeds. These skis like to go fast. Don't let our "touring dork" language fool you; we love to go fast too. When skis like this can go fast, we maximize their abilities any chance we get. Whether on the base in deep snow or up on edge on firmer stuff, the Camox could hang with all the speed that is prudent in the wilderness.
Size the Camox down for light and tight, and size them up for high-speed cruising. For our test team, 183cm in the Camox feels long, fast, and stable. We can't comment on exactly what they would be like in the next smaller size, but we can speculate that they'd be less stable but quicker in the steeps and better on firm snow.
Should You Buy the Black Crows Camox Freebird??
If you seek damp, forgiving all-around backcountry skis for a set of habits that steers to the mellow and not-so-deep end of the spectrum (which describes a huge chunk of the ski market, whether we would self-label that way or not), the Camox should be on your shortlist.
What Other Backcountry Skis Should You Consider?
For the skier that would dig the Camox Freebird, the wider K2 Wayback 106 should also be on the shortlist. It offers a similar overall feel but is better optimized for soft snow. If you like the dimensions of the Camox but want snappier firm snow performance, check out the Fischer Hannibal 96. If what we say about the Camox's all-around performance speaks to you, but you want something lighter weight, check out the Editors' Choice Movement Alp Tracks 100.
— Jediah Porter
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