Who’s It For?
I think that the Kingpin 13 should be at the top of the list for anyone looking for the best possible skiing performance in a tech binding (with the possible exception of the Beast 16, which I’ve not skied enough to compare).
But those who want the lightest and most efficient gear for long trips or touring in soft conditions may not feel like the additional weight of the Kingpin is worth the improved skiing performance, and I would generally agree—I’ve had so many great days on older-style tech bindings with very few issues, and will still use them for super long days, multi-day tours, or when I’m out skiing with friends who subscribe more to a “fast and light” style of ski touring.
That said, for bigger, more aggressive skiers who want to ski their tech bindings confidently and with the toes unlocked, the Kingpin may be worth quite a few extra grams.
Locking Out the Toes / Not Locking Out the Toes
This last point about skiing with the toes unlocked is something I’ve given a lot of thought about. Over the past decade of skiing regularly on tech bindings, I’ve often struggled with the question of whether I felt safer keeping my toes in the “descend” position (toepieces unlocked) and therefore making it easier to release in the case of a fall or avalanche, versus skiing in the “climb” or “ascend” position (toepieces locked) to prevent an unwanted and untimely prerelease.
Because of this ongoing question whether to ski locked out or unlocked, I feel like one of the most compelling reasons for me to opt for the Kingpin on any given day of skiing is because I no longer have to make that decision. Based on my experience so far, I have found that I can ski hard in the Kingpin without fear of prerelease, while still having the binding in the configuration that is most likely to come off if / when I need them to. For most of my day-touring trips, this reassurance—coupled with the added ski performance of the Kingpin—is well worth the extra weight.
In addition, anyone looking for a tech binding to do double-duty for inbounds and ski touring should definitely consider the Kingpin, especially if you’re mostly skiing in soft snow, or if you only ski the resort on powder days.
The Marker Kingpin 13 skis better than any tech binding I’ve used, and aside from the increased weight, the Kingpin tours as well as any other binding on the market.
There will still be plenty of days and trips for which I’ll grab lighter touring bindings, but the Kingpin is a step forward in tech binding performance.
All things considered, it’s the most capable, most versatile, all-around ski binding I’ve ever used.
(See Jonathan Ellsworth’s review of the Kingpin)