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How To Choose Climbing Skins
Published: Dec 15, 2020
Climbing skins may be one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment in a skiing setup. However, these may come essential for travelling in the backcountry. These are strips of fabric that can be attached to the bottom of backcountry skis, so that you can climb up hills with the skis on your feet. Then, when you reach the top of the hill, you can just peel them off, fold them, and stuff them in your bag to enjoy your ride back down.
Good climbing skins can smoothen out your skiing experience, while poor-quality climbing skins may leave you stranded. That is why it is important that you find the best climbing skins, that have adequate glide, glue integrity, good portability, icing resistance, and of course, compatibility with your skis.
Below is a guide to help you understand what climbing skins are, and to help you choose the right ones for your skis.
Climbing Skins Materials
- Synthetic Skins
These are usually made of nylon, which is very durable and will provide superior traction. However, they tend to not glide as well as mohair skins, but are usually less expensive than mohair or mohair-blend skins.
Although less common than those made of nylon, there are also skins that are made from polyethylene plastic. These skins imitate the function and design of the traction pattern that is found on waxless cross-country skis. Although they glide very well, they do not provide the same level of traction as that of nylon skins.
The best performing climbing skins are the Black Diamond Ascension. They are also the most used skins on the market because they work for everyone, which means that they are compatible with any skis on the market. They are durable, and grip very well on the uphill. They are also sticky enough, and the fabric is super stiff, so that it stays put where you want it to. The Ascension are also very resistant to glopping. They are available in various sizes, and their adjustable tails provide 3.93 inches of length adjustments. They are also inexpensive, and can be purchased on Amazon (check the price here).
If you are looking for climbing skins that have a superior grip, the G3 Alpinist Plus Universal are a good choice, because they grip well enough for basically all ski touring. This model is a good all-around backcountry climbing skin because of its excellent tip and tail clips, and its advanced trimming tool. These climbing skins are durable, reliable, and glide really well. Their fabric is stiff enough, and resists rolling and peeling, while the glue also works well enough even in cold and wet conditions. The G3 Alpinist are moderately priced, and can also be purchased on Amazon (check the price here).
- Mohair Skins
Climbing skins made with Mohair provide a good combination of grip and glide. Mohair actually comes from the hair of Angora goats. These skins are lightweight, packable, and able to maintain speed even on flat sections. However, they are less durable and can be more expensive than nylon-made ones. They also don't have the same sticking power as nylon climbing skins, especially when on steep skin tracks. They also suffer in wet snow.
The top choice for the best performing mohair climbing skin is the Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair. It is made of 100% mohair, which means it glides really well, has reliable sticking power, even for long, cold days, and has a satisfactory grip. These are fast-gliding skins that are suitable for high-energy randonnée racers. The Pomoca Climb Pro Mohair are also small and packable. In fact, they are so compact that you can just stuff them in your jacket without them taking up too much space. These skins are available on Amazon in universal sizes that you can cut to take the shape of your skis. Check the price here.
For superior glide performance, the Contour Hybrid Pure is a good option. It is made of 100% mohair plush, and is constructed with hybrid adhesive technology, which makes it easy to handle, and will stick excellently, even on multiple ascents and in cold temperatures. This model is compatible even with skis with rounded tails. As for ski tails that are thicker than 5mm, it is best to use their wide tail clip. The Contour Hybrid Pure are available in XS (57in-60in) to XL (70in-72in) sizes, and have a 135mm tip width. They can also be trimmed to fit your skis. To check the price and availability on Amazon, click here.
- Blend Skins
Blend, or Mix climbing skins, are made of a combination of mohair and nylon, which provides a good balance of glide, grip, durability, weight, and cost. They are a bit more durable than pure mohair, and are close to nylon, while being lighter and gliding better.
One of the best choices for best performing mohair blend climbing skins is the Contour Hybrid Mix, because it has a balance of all features. It is a solid climbing skins that is well-executed. It will let you slide down gentle hills, and have enough grip for every skinner. Its glue lets go easily for skins in transition, and with the combination of the fabric, it will let the skin stick to the skis better. The Contour Hybrid Mix are also some of the most packable, while still being stiff enough to resist peeling. They are available in different sizes, and can be cut to fit a variety of skis. If you are looking for climbing skins that have a bit of everything, and are suitable for backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering, click here for the price on Amazon.
One of the lightest models of mohair blend climbing skins is the Black Diamond GlideLite Mix. It is made with 65% mohair and 35% nylon, and is suitable for all backcountry and ski mountaineering. It allow for a smooth glide, and sufficient grip for a secure uphill travel, which makes it suitable for extended and variable backcountry expeditions. The Black Diamond GlideLite Mix have soft and lightweight materials; that is why they are packable. Plus, the metal tails and tip will allow for easier adjustments. To check the price and sizes on Amazon, click here.
Climbing Skins Width and Length
For most ski climbing skins, sizing options are listed with the width in millimeters. So, it is best to choose skins based on the width of the tip of your skis, which is the widest part of the ski. It is also more ideal to choose climbing skins that have a width narrower than the tip of your ski by about 5-6 mm. If you cannot find the perfect size, it's usually okay to just go slightly narrower. When you have the right width, you can trim the skin down to the length of your ski, then attach the tip or tail hardware, and finally trim the sides of the skin to match the shape of your skis.
For many climbing skins, the sizing options are also listed with the length in centimeters, and are displayed as a range. The tip and tail hardware of these climbing skins have already been attached, so all you have to do is make sure that the length of your planks is within the listed size range, because you cannot adjust the length in the trimming process. If the width in millimeters is not on the list, we can assume that the climbing skins are made with a standard width that can work with the vast majority of boards, and can be trimmed or cut down to match your skis' width and sidecut.
- Pre-cut Climbing Skins
Most manufacturers make climbing skins that are pre-cut to fit a specific model. These fit the length of the ski or board exactly, and require no trimming. To purchase pre-cut skins, you just have to make sure that they exactly match the model and size of your skis. Pre-cut skins, generally, are laser cut, and should fit your skis perfectly right out of the box.
Check our list below for pre-cut climbing skins that are available on Amazon.
For the Dynafit Blacklight 88 Alpine touring ski, click here.
For the Rossignol Super 7 HD ski, click here.
For the Dynafit Beast 108 ski, click here.
For the Dynafit Beast 98 ski, click here.
For the Dynafit Tour 88 ski, click here.
Climbing Skins Weight
There are many factors that affect a climbing skin's weight, such as its width, length, and tip and tail hardware. And if you trim it to fit your ski, its measured weight will decrease. But, generally, if the climbing skin is more packable and has a thinner material, then it will weigh less.
- Lightweight Climbing Skins
Our top choice for lightweight climbing skins is the Black Diamond Ultralite Mix STS. It is made with 65% mohair and 35% nylon. Its construction is redesigned to be 20% lighter and more packable. It features an adjustable and patented STS tails, to provide 3.9 inches of adjustment. The Ultralite Mix is reliable and functional, and has average grip and glide. This model is available in different universal arrangements, and is also moderately priced. You can check it here.
Climbing Skins Components
Tips and Tail Clips- These vary in design depending on the company and model. Plus, some clips work best for certain ski shapes.
Adhesive/Glue- This is what helps climbing skins stick to your skis' base, and is typically made with a tacky glue. Some climbing skins have hybrid adhesives, which are a combination of standard glue and a glueless technology, while others have suctions rather than glue.
Plush/Fur- This is also called “fur,” and is usually made of nylon, mohair, or a mix of both materials. This gives the skis the ability to climb up a skin track, while being able to glide on flat areas and slide downhill.
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