Gear Review: Climbing Skins

This winter I extensively tested 3 of the best lightweight climbing skins available. Each skin was tested in variable conditions from super cold snow (-11 degrees Celsius) to Spring corn (0 degrees Celsius). Testing included steep skinning up to 30 degrees head on to kick turning up 40 degree terrain. Most testing occurred on Mount Washington and in the Tröllaskagi Penisula, Iceland. To better compare glide and grip I often went out with one model on one ski and another model on the other. Below are my opinions on these models.

G3 Alpinist LT Mohair, Black Diamond Ultralite Mix, Contour Hybrid Climbing Skins
G3 Alpinist LT Mohair, Black Diamond Ultralite Mix, Contour Hybrid Climbing Skins

Black Diamond Ultralite Mix STS 140mm Climbing Skins

This is the lightest and most pack-able model I tested. Installing the toe clip is a little involved but I was able to do it in less than 30 minutes. The 65% mohair and 35% nylon blend strikes a solid balance between grip and glide and I didn’t notice any issues with either characteristic. The glue is super sticky and when redeploying after folding them together it took a little more effort to separate the skins but not enough to be worthy of a negative mark. They are the softest and most fold-able skins I tested which make them extremely pack-able. The STS tail was very secure but I decided to trim the rubber adjustment belt as it felt overly long.

Pros: Lightest, most-pack-able

Cons: Least durable

Weight* 432 grams

G3 Alpinist LT Mohair Climbing Skins

Right out of the box I love how these come in custom lengths and needed no adjusting to fit my skis. The included G3 Trim Tool is a work of art and the only tool I use to trim skins. These had the best glide in cold temps and fair grip in challenging skinning conditions. The glue iced up a little on a couple tours but they were still fully functional throughout. The tip connector is probably the best out there as it self adjusts to fit the shape of your tip perfectly. The tail connector however is my least favorite part of these skins as it would pop off my rocked DPS Wailer 99’s repeatedly. I’ll most likely remove it next season and use these without a tail connector or order a twin tip connector kit.

Pros: Out of the box fit, excellent glide in cold snow

Cons: Frustrating tail clip (replaceable with a twin tip connector kit)

Weight* 496 grams

Contour Hybrid Mix Climbing Skins

Contour uses a 70/30 mohair/nylon mix in their hybrid skins that require the tip clip to be installed before use, much like the Black Diamond skins. Set-up took less than 30 minutes. These had the best grip of the three models I tested but less glide (that’s usually the toss up with skins). Both the tip and tail connectors were very secure and the glue performed well in all test runs. I did notice a very strong odor from these skins the first few times I used them that is finally starting to abate.

Pros: Best grip, coolest graphic!

Cons: Less glide than others tested, but not a deal breaker!

Weight* 582 grams

climbing skins review
Author ripping Contour Hybrid Climbing Skins before descending Karlsarfjall 988m peak in Northern Iceland, photo by Brent Doscher

Summary

So which ones are right for you? I found all three to be great for the category but it comes down to what you want most out of a climbing skin.

Best grip? Go with the Contour Hybrid Mix Climbing Skins

Lightest/Most-Packable? Well then you want the Black Diamond Ultralite Mix Climbing Skins

Most convenient all-a-rounder? The G3 Alpinist LT Mohair Climbing Skins are hard to beat!

Have you tried any of these skins? Have a favorite model you want to call out? Let me know in the comments below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

*All skins were trimmed to fit DPS Wailer 99 176 cm skis

Disclaimer: These climbing skins were provided for the purpose of review. Affiliate links help support this blog.

7 thoughts on “Gear Review: Climbing Skins

  1. Excellent review David! What were the durability issues with BD? I have an older version of the BD mohair skins. A few people warned me about durability, but I haven’t noticed anything yet. A friend has complained that the glue on the mohair (older version again, not ultralight) is not as sticky as the non-mohair versions, but I haven’t noticed a significant difference so was curious for more detail.

    • I knew when I had to dig deep for a “con” on the BD skins I’d be pressed for more info. As far as ultra-light skins go there really is no durability issue here. Compared to the slightly thicker models they will undoubtedly wear quicker and I have seen other reviewers comment on durability, but for an ultra-light skin that is only used on snow (I skin over rocks and shrub quite a bit) I’d say there are no durability issues. That said I also only have one season on them… I will update this next winter after another full season on them.

  2. David, excellent comparison. This maybe an unfair question as they were not part of your test set, but have you ever used the Pamoca (branded or rebranded) skins? I’m thinking the Climb Pro Glide specifically. If so how would they fall into this mix?

    • Thanks for commenting Steve! I haven’t used the Pomoca skins but I’m reaching out to them now and hope to demo/review some next season!

  3. …one more thing: We also offer fixed lenghts that just require trimming along the edges and no lenght adjustment. Smaller retailers however prefer just to stock the longest size… Werner

  4. Great overview!
    I’ve tested Contour Hybrid skins for a long time myself. The newest generation ist excellent!
    If I’d have to choose between glide vs. grip I’d always go for GRIP. In warm months I use spray for impregnation every 10 tours. In my opinion the glide ist pretty ok.

    If you want more glide, maybe do it like skimo athletes: use T-bar lifts and keep the skins on the skis while going uphill. I wouldn’t do it and definitly do not recommend it 🙂

    PLUS with contour: no classic glue –> makes the handling really easy. Especially for women with less power in the arms… And clean surfaces.

    BUT: I haven’t used the other skins so I cannot tell anything about them. Several years ago I used Dynafit/Pomoca and G3 Alpinist skins. Okay, but glue… I wouldn’t use glue any more…

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