Touring bindings are a hot topic right now. There is a lot of development going on and new technology coming out every year. Bindings like the Salomon / Atomic Shift, Fritschi Tecton, and Marker Kingpin have gotten a lot of worthy attention for bringing elements of alpine binding performance to the touring world.
But those bindings are on the heavier end of the touring binding spectrum, and they offer a level of downhill performance that many ski tourers and ski mountaineers simply don’t need (unless you are skiing fast and hard, jumping off cliffs, straight-lining chutes, etc.).
When it comes to surfing around in hippie pow on a storm day or touring for miles to reach high peaks, things like elasticity, maximum toe / heel release values, or having an alpine-style heel may become lower priorities.
For those backcountry skiers who aren’t as concerned with skiing super hard on the way down, weight, simplicity, and reliability are the features that make a binding stand out. A lighter weight allows you to climb higher, with fresher legs for the down; simple design is critical for things like transitioning to ski mode on a 50° slope; and there is nothing worse than an equipment malfunction deep in the backcountry.
So we’ve rounded up 4 of the most interesting lightweight touring bindings that will be on the market for the 18/19 season, mounted them on four pairs of the same ski (one of our favorite lightweight touring skis, the Salomon MTN Explore 95), and have been testing them head-to-head this spring.
How We Chose the Bindings
There are a staggering number of touring bindings on the market right now. Narrowing down which to choose for this test was not easy.
The main idea behind the test is that the bindings should be light enough to make a difference in your day (let you climb an extra peak, move fast enough so you can sleep in a bit longer on warm spring days, etc.) without taking too much from the enjoyment of the descent.
While most of the “freeride” touring bindings come in at well over 600 grams, the bindings in this test all weigh under 400 grams, with some coming closer to 300 grams. That can shave off over a pound per foot when compared to the Kingpin or Shift. That’s a big difference.
Here is some other miscellaneous criteria for the bindings included in the test:
(1) Robust feature sets
There are tons of ultralight bindings out there with fixed heel tracks, odd ramp angles, non-adjustable release values, and limited climbing riser options. All of the bindings in our test have adjustable heel tracks, adjustable release values (some have both vertical and lateral release values at the heel), a flat climbing option along with at least two other risers, and ski crampon slots. All of the bindings in this test also have the option of using brakes or leashes.
(2) Wide mounting patterns
There’s no use in getting a binding that allows you to go further into the mountains if you’re going to tear it out of your skis on the way down. Narrow hole patterns put more stress on the skis and bindings, and aren’t as well suited to skiing hard, especially on fatter skis. Sure, you can save some weight by switching to a 3-hole pattern on the heel, but for this test, we focused on bindings with wider, 4-hole mount patterns that are better suited to handle wider skis.
Below are the four bindings we’re including in this test. And when it’s ready, we will definitely be adding the G3 Zed to the mix.
- Marker Alpinist 12
- Dynafit TLT Speed
- Atomic Backland Tour / Salomon MTN (sold by both brands, but construction is identical)
- Hagan Core 12 / ATK Raider 12 2.0 (sold by both brands, but construction is identical)
We’ve already started getting time on each of these bindings, so over the coming weeks we’ll be dropping reviews of each individual binding, and then finish up with some in-depth comparisons to differentiate the four. Stay tuned…