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2015-2016 Climbing Skins Comparisons

It’s easy to get caught up in all the latest AT boots, skis, and bindings, while overlooking an important part of the touring equation: skins.

Where you tour, where you tour most, and how often you tour all factor into what your priorities are: Traction? Glide? Durability? How fast and easy the skins are to put on and take off?

With that in mind, we’ve compiled this list of some of the more popular skins on the market. Check out our 16/17 piece for new skins and updates.

 

Black Diamond GlideLite Mohair Mix STS

Paul Forward climbing skin comparison for Blister Gear Review

Black Diamond GlideLite Mohair Mix STS

Materials: 65% mohair, 35% nylon

MSRP: $180

These skins have performed almost flawlessly from day trips to extended multi-day traverses in tough conditions. They have enough grip to crank up something steep, but significantly better glide than grippier skins like the Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS or the G3 Alpinist or Alpinist High Traction.

The current Black Diamond glue is quite good, and ties with G3 for the best glue we’ve used. The Black Diamond tip and tail system is also fine, although we’ve broken more than a few of the tails, and the tips don’t work for some very wide tip shapes.

Paul Forward climbing skin comparison for Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth, Paul Forward, Alex Adams, and friends, Porters backcountry, New Zealand.

Paul Forward climbing skin comparison for Blister Gear Review

Black Diamond GlideLite Mohair Pure STS

Black Diamond GlideLite Mohair Pure STS

Materials: 100% mohair

MSRP: $199

We really like pure Mohair skins, and this option from Black Diamond is our favorite so far. For almost any given day of skiing they would be our top choice, but we have found them to be less durable than the mohair mix skins listed above. But the excellent glide of pure mohair easily makes up for the decreased traction and durability. Experienced ski-tourers with good technique can use these on almost any type of terrain, and the impressive glide makes a big difference on long approaches.

 

G3 Alpinist Momix

Materials: 70% mohair, 30% nylon

MSRP: $100

Paul Forward climbing skin comparison for Blister Gear Review

G3 Alpinist Momix

We like the G3 Momix for the same reasons we like the Black Diamond Mohair mix skins. The glue is quite good—comparable to the BD version.

The G3 tip attachment system has worked well on any kind of ski we’ve tried (including a few that the BD skins wouldn’t fit well), and the tail cam works great. The only reason we would rank them lower than the BD skins is that we’ve had quite a bit more glopping with the G3 skins, even with ample amounts of glop stopper.

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Paul Forward skinning in Japan. (photo by Cam McLeod)

Paul Forward climbing skin comparison for Blister Gear Review

Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS

 

Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS

Materials: Nylon

MSRP: $160

We have not yet reviewed the new 15/16 version of the Ascension Nylon STS but have extensive experience with previous iterations. They are among the most durable skins we’ve used, and have all been great all-around performers. But they do lack glide compared to the skins listed above.

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Julia Van Raalte, Turnagain Pass, Alaska. (photo by Sierra Halverson)

Paul Forward climbing skin comparison for Blister Gear Review

G3 Alpinist

 

G3 Alpinist

Materials: Nylon

MSRP: $153

The G3 Alpinist has slightly better glide than the Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS, but we’ve experienced the same glopping issues that we’ve encountered with the G3 Momix. Even in side-by-side testing with skins of equal ages, our test pairs of G3’s glopped a bit more for us than comparable Black Diamond skins in a variety of conditions.

Paul Forward climbing skin comparison for Blister Gear Review

Alex Adams, Porters Ski Area backcountry, NZ.

Paul Forward climbing skin comparison for Blister Gear Review


G3 Alpinist High Traction (HT)

 

G3 Alpinist High Traction (HT)

Materials: Nylon

MSRP: $148

While the G3 Alpinist High Traction skins do have a bit more grip than the Black Diamond Nylon STS or the G3 Alpinists, we haven’t yet found a situation where the extra traction was worth the decreased glide. With good skinning technique we think most skiers won’t need these in most situations. But if your tours regularly involve relatively short, steep skin tracks, the more sense it makes to give these a look.

 

Volkl Universal Vacuum Skins

Materials: Nylon

MSRP: $239

Volkl Universal Vacuum Skins

Volkl Universal Vacuum Skins

If you hate fighting with your sticky skins to peel them apart, then you might consider these “glueless” skins. To be accurate, these aren’t glue free, but they use a silicone-based adhesive that takes no effort whatsoever to separate, making installation and removal incredibly fast and easy.

The downside is that, of all the skins we’ve listed here, these are the least willing to stick to wet ski bases—a not-uncommon thing when touring in wet snow.

So for these to work well, you’ll need to wipe down and dry your bases to get these skins to adhere. But if you’re willing to do that, we’ve found their glide to be totally adequate and their grip to be very good—on par with the G3 Alpinist and Ascension Nylon STS. The more you tend to yo-yo laps in the backcountry, the more compelling these “vacuum” climbing skins become.

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Jonathan Ellsworth on the Volkl Universal Vacuum skins.

We did find them to glop up quite a bit during our testing of them in New Zealand (typically touring in warm temps and wet snow) in comparison with several of the above listed skins. In addition, we found that the tail attachment was prone to slipping and was generally more difficult to use compared to the rubber strap versions on the G3 and BD skins.

However, when touring in colder temps and drier snow in northern New Mexico—while being careful to make sure the bases are dry before applying these—they have performed well, and without issue.

10 Comments

  1. paul Jamieson November 16, 2015 Reply

    You guys should take a look at the contour hybrid, great for shorter skins.

  2. Stephan November 16, 2015 Reply

    How wide of a tip are we talking about on the BD’s? Would they work on the latest Bent Chetlers or should I go with the G3’s?

    • Author
      Paul Forward November 29, 2015 Reply

      Hi Stephan, I think the BD tip system will be okay for the new Bentchetler although the tips are quite thick now with the plastic insert. The skis I struggled with with the BD’s were some of the fatter Moment’s and others with more squared off tip shapes. Let us know how it goes with your bentchetler’s.

      • Blister Member
        Bredey November 1, 2016 Reply

        So I went with the G3 skin and it worked fine. Like you said, because the tip is thick and convex, it’s not a match made in heaven, but with a little bending / adjusting of the metal hooks, they fit well enough on the tip of the Bent Chetler.

        I’m wondering, did you have trouble fitting the BD’s on the Bibbys aswell?

  3. Doug November 16, 2015 Reply

    Too bad you didn’t look at some of the euro brands that perform very well, are durable and available in the states (i.e. Pomoca, MOntana, Colltex) You don’t see too many bd or g3 skins in rando races…

    • Author
      Paul Forward November 29, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Doug. Totally agree. We’d love to review some of the skins you’ve mentioned.

  4. Lindahl November 16, 2015 Reply

    Just thought I’d drop in and talk about the various skins, and my favorite usage for them and why.

    No experience with the MoMix, since I use Pures or Nylons only for various conditions. MoMix would probably be a good compromise if you don’t have multiple skis or skins.

    BD Nylon/G3 High Traction: Spring/summer firm snow skin – lack of glide doesn’t seem to a big deal on firm snow like it does in soft snow, so I don’t really notice. Extra climbing grip is really nice for those firm sidehill skin tracks where you need every bit of grip you can muster – keeps the crampons off for longer. The extra durability is really nice too, when going over rocks, dirt, trees, etc. I prefer the tip/tail hardware on the G3s, and would pick those over BD every time.

    BD Pure Mohair: Mid-winter powder skin – they grip just as well as the BD Nylon in unpacked snow, but glide much better. If your skin tracks get really firm even on powder days in mid-winter (ie busy places, or powerlaps in the PNW), maybe the BD Nylon/G3 High Traction skins would be better, for better firm snow traction. If G3 made pure mohairs, I’d probably use those, since I prefer their tip/tail hardware.

    G3 Alpinist: Early-season powder skin – Better gliding than BD Nylon, not as good of a climber on firm snow though. Better durability than Pures for dealing with rocks, dirt, trees etc., Colder conditions in the early season means you don’t really deal with glopping at all. Works well in mid-winter also, but doesn’t seem to glide or climb as well as the BD Pures.

    Gecko Glueless Skins: slackcountry and road laps – glue is similar to Volkls (and 4FRNT) in that it’s silicone based, plush is similar to BD Pures in climbing and gliding. Easy to pull apart for beating others up bootpacks. Glue failure isn’t a critical issue since you’re close to the car/lift. Love these skins, but they can fail in gnarly or wet conditions, so for real touring, I use other skins. I have these as straight skins (uncut) that are sized smaller than my ski, since they’ll glide even faster this way. They work just fine for climbing straight up, but switchbacks and sidehilling on firmer skintracks will cause issues. I don’t have to deal with firm sidehill tracks when in the slackcountry or off road laps.

  5. Shawn November 20, 2015 Reply

    Climbing Skins Direct should be in an upcoming review. Cheaper than most, and they last and last and last. Great traction.

  6. alex h November 20, 2015 Reply

    Helpful comparison. MSRP for the G3 Alpinist Momixs seems low – their website says $175. Thanks

  7. Miles bright December 8, 2016 Reply

    I bought a set of volkl universal vacuum skins. I used them in cold dry conditions on a week long tour. These skins came off 3 days out of 6. I ended up taping them on every day. Nice idea but they didn’t work for me.

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