2016-2017 22 Designs Outlaw
Stated Weight (Size Small): 3.8 pounds / 1580 g
- True Step In
- Instant flex engagement
- Optional brakes: 110mm and 125mm widths
- Optional stiffy spring kit
- 50 degrees of resistance-free touring
- Industrial strength main die spring
- Preload adjustable from 1 to 5
- Spring-loaded climbing bail
Toepiece height: 1.1” at rear with 3 degree ramp
Boots Used: Scarpa TxComp
Skis Used: 177 cm K2 Pinnacle and 183 cm Volkl Shiro
Days Skied: 30+
Test Locations: Stowe Mountain Resort, VT; Thompson Pass, Chugach Mountains, AK; Emmons Glacier, Mount Rainier.[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 15/16 Outlaw, which is reportedly receiving a few tweaks — which we will describe in the review — for 16/17.]
When I found out that Rottefella had licensed to 22 Designs the rights to the NTN patent design, I let out a sigh of relief. While there are other manufactures out there toying with NTN binding designs (most notably the Meidjo from M-Equipment), the fact that 22 Designs would be able to develop the first real alternative on the market to the Rottefella Freedom and Freeride was a sign that, contrary to popular belief, Telemark is not dead, and it is not dying. If you need more proof of this, 22 Designs has sold out of the Outlaw multiple times this year.
Back in 2010 when I was putting together my DPS Wailer 112 + NTN Freeride setup, Jonathan Ellsworth and I discussed the only options that seemed smart back then: Rottefella Freeride vs. 22 Designs’ Axl (Yes, Jonathan could actually talk intelligently about Tele back then, believe it or not.) Now, six years later we free heelers finally have another option to consider when committing to the NTN binding: the 22 Designs Outlaw.
If I had posted my review of the Outlaw after skiing it for a month near the end of the season on man-made snow at Stowe, my review would have gone like this: “BEST BINDING EVER, GO BUY IT AND THANK ME LATER.”
But since it took six years for a new NTN design to hit the market, we held off on publishing this review until after I’d taken the Outlaw to Alaska and Rainier. I’m glad I put in another 20 days on the Outlaw, because while the Outlaw is an impressive tele binding, there are still some issues that need to be resolved.
The Outlaw’s brakes are sufficient, but are a little inferior to Rottefella’s. They hold the ski in place on the snow when you’re not in your bindings, so they do their intended job. However, I found them to be hard to install, and I did bend one of the brake tubes on my first try while sliding into place the Slic Pin (the pin that holds the brake in the binding).
Chris Pringle of 22 Designs acknowledged that “the brakes are a tough design problem with this binding. There just isn’t enough space to make them easy to engage.” He explained that “the torsion springs need to be that stiff so they stand a chance of stopping a ski. The area that your boot presses on can’t be any longer or it will crash with the base when touring, and I can’t move the brakes rearward in the toe piece without weakening it.”
In contrast, the weaker spring in the Rottefella may not make the binding easier to put on, but the placement of the brake definitely does.
22 Designs only offers brakes “a la carte” for the Outlaw, and has said that they will keep them that way until they design a non-touring version of the Outlaw (much like the Freeride) so there can be more room under the foot for brake placement. Pringle does not recommended their brakes for regular touring because they had received some complaints about the brakes catching on each other.
I climbed Rainier on these bindings and have toured on them more than a dozen times, and I have yet to experience any issues while touring with the brakes on the bindings. If you have a very narrow skinning stance they may hit each other, but otherwise, I think that 22 Designs is being overly cautious here with their customer satisfaction policy, and I’d say that you can tour just fine with brakes in place.
It should be noted that the brakes do not bend easily when trying to fit them to fatter skis. There are two sizes currently being offered (110 mm and 125 mm), so it’s important to get the right width. (22 Designs says that they will eventually sell three sizes.) I was able to bend the 110 mm brakes to fit my 119mm-underfoot Volkl Shiros, but they dragged when I railed the ski hard. (None of this is a big deal per se, but many skiers are coming from years of being able to bend Rottefella brakes far beyond their stated size to fit wider skis. So the brakes are an area where the Outlaw could stand to improve in order to really compete with the Freeride and Freedom which both come with brakes installed and functional.
Stepping In / Stepping Out
The Outlaw claims to offer a true step-in, which means you shouldn’t need to use a ski pole or bend over to secure the binding. I found this to be partially true. Without the brakes installed, the Outlaw is a true step-in binding—and it is awesome. Stepping into the Outlaw without the brakes is perhaps even easier than stepping into an alpine binding, and much easier than any AT setup.
However, with the brake installed, it becomes harder to step in. At times I had to pull the brake up with my hand in order to step in; other times, I just had to kick my toe harder than I should’ve had to.
In order to step out, you use your pole under the ball of the boot to pop the clamp open. It is simple and easy, and all you then need to do is shake your boot and the ski comes right off. This feature works great.
NEXT:Downhill Performance, Touring, Etc.