best backcountry ski bindings

The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings: Top 5 of 2024

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by James

If you’re heading into the backcountry, you need to make sure your equipment is up to the challenge. Using the right alpine touring bindings can turn a good excursion into a great one, so choosing the best option is important.

Efficient bindings will make your life much easier when heading up the hill. They will also work to improve your downhill skiing, giving you the safety and support required on challenging terrain.

This guide is designed to make sure you find the best backcountry ski bindings for your off-piste activities. We have listed the pros and cons of every option, helping you make an informed purchase before heading to the mountain.

Best Backcountry Ski Bindings At A Glance

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Summary

Price

    • Step-in aid makes clipping in super easy

    • Includes 3 climbing levels and 3 release value options

    • Lightweight yet solid 'all-round' design

        

        

    • 'Dual mode' toe piece is MNC and tech compatible

    • Compatible with all adult boot sole types

    • Secure enough for aggressive downhill skiing

        

        

    • Steel and alumiunium construction is durable

    • Super lightweight and simple design

    • Time-tested and trusted reliability

        

         

    • Practical design with easy step-in

    • Plastic and metal build offers lightweight stability

    • Budget friendly price

           

           

    • Solid frame offers good downhill power trnsmission

    • Hollow construction keeps weight to a minimum

    • Triple pivot toe offers reliable release/retention

           

           

    Why Do I Need The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings?

    Backcountry skiing involves long days on the mountain, unpredictable weather conditions and challenging terrain. Having the right equipment is vital for a successful experience, with specialised bindings being a necessity.

    Backcountry bindings (also known as ‘alpine touring’ or ‘AT’ bindings) allow your heels to lift while skinning uphill, but lock your feet in place when skiing downhill. This gives you the required flexibility to scale the mountain, while also allowing a standard alpine skiing technique when sliding down.

    Not all bindings are made equally, so choosing the best option for your skill level is vital. Every binding will be specifically designed to withstand different pressures, depending on your physiology and technical ability.

    In addition, backcountry bindings will need to be durable and reliable. They need to be able to stand up to the hash weather and intense terrain you should expect when ski touring.

    Best Backcountry Ski Bindings
    Backcountry bindings need to be reliable when heading into the unknown

    How To Choose The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings

    Type of Binding

    Backcountry bindings come in different types. Each style has its own pros and cons, making the best option dependant on your individual needs.

    Tech Touring Bindings

    ‘Tech’ touring bindings use a special pin that holds your toe and heel in place. This type of binding requires special boots with ‘tech inserts’, making it very specific to backcountry skiers.

    Tech bindings tend to be the lightest options available, while also giving you the most natural walking motion when heading uphill. However, they don’t always give you the same ‘alpine’ feeling when heading downhill.

    Frame Touring Bindings

    Frame touring bindings have a setup similar to that one seen on most alpine skis. The toe and heel pieces are connected by a frame, giving them an appearance closer to a regular binding.

    Frame bindings can be used with any ski boots and have a downhill feeling that’s similar to regular alpine ski bindings. However, they tend to be the heaviest options on the market and have a less natural feeling when skinning uphill.

    Hybrid Touring Bindings

    Hybrid touring bindings look to combine the best of both worlds. They use a ‘tech’ toe piece for optimal pivot and weight reduction, with a heel piece that gives you a more responsive feel when skiing downhill.

    These bindings have become extremely popular as a ‘middle-ground’ for all-round backcountry skiers. However, they still require ‘tech’ boots to skin uphill and often lack the rugged construction of a really tough frame or alpine binding.

    Best Backcountry Ski Bindings
    Make sure your bindings match your ski boots!

    Release Setting (DIN)

    The release setting determines the amount of force required for your binding to release. Its function is to keep you safe in the event of a fall and prevent knee injuries.

    DIN settings are commonly based on factors like age, weight, height and skill level. If you are an advanced or expert level skier, you will usually be looking for bindings with a higher DIN range than an intermediate or beginner level skier.

    However, not all backcountry bindings use the ‘DIN’ scale to measure their release settings. The most lightweight and dedicated ‘uphill’ touring bindings will often use their own calculated release numbers, usually offering a range between 1-12.

    If you are predominantly an alpine skier who wants to do a small amount of touring, you should look for bindings with DIN release values. However, if you are an avid backcountry skier, you should look to prioritise weight and ergonomics over release.

    Weight

    The weight of your bindings can make a big difference when you’re heading uphill. It’s certainly beneficial to have the lightest bindings possible, giving you the energy required to tackle challenging slopes.

    However, lightweight bindings can be less effective when heading downhill. They often lack the strength and durability of heavier options, making them less capable of handling steep and deep terrain.

    If you are an aggressive skier who loves to hit big ‘rock drops’, then you should prioritise sturdiness over weight. However, if you are more of a mountaineer and uphill adventurist, then be sure to cut weight where you can.

    Construction

    The design and materials used to construct your bindings will have a big impact on their performance. Backcountry terrain will put them under significant strain, so you need to make sure they’re durable.

    Metal bindings usually offer the most durability, but also tend to be the heaviest options. Plastic alternatives are usually much lighter, but they can lack the robust strength that premium materials offer.

    Some of the best backcountry ski bindings use a combination of materials. Using plastic where you can keep weight down but reinforcing key areas with metal, providing a light yet sturdy design.

    The bindings on this list are all designed to withstand tough days on the mountain. However, make sure you analyse the key features and materials used to determine how far you can push each product.

    Best Backcountry Ski Bindings
    Make sure your bindings are durable

    Best Backcountry Ski Bindings Reviewed

    Atomic Backland Tour Ski Bindings

    Key Features

    • Type: Tech Touring Binding
    • Release Setting: 3 Release Value Options
    • Weight: 398g (1 Binding)
    • Best For: Overall/Uphill

    If you are looking for a lightweight and reliable touring binding that is also capable on the descent, look no further than the Atomic Backland tour. Weighing in at less than 400 grams, it is one of the lightest brake equipped touring bindings on the market.

    Although lightweight, these bindings come with 3 release options that are reliable enough to ski harsh backcountry terrain with confidence. They also come with 3 adjustable climbing levels and a super convenient step-in system.

    The Atomic Backland Tour ski bindings provide combine a lightweight design with solid downhill performance. They use a simple yet durable construction, making them a solid all-round backcountry binding.

    Pros

    • Lightweight design includes brakes
    • 3 release options are reliable
    • 3 adjustable climbing levels
    • Easy step-in aid
    • Simple design is durable
    • Good power when heading downhill
    • Adjustable boot length

    Cons

    • Not for the most aggressive downhill skiers
    • Lighter options are available if you’re serious about weight reduction

    Salomon S/Lab Shift MNC 13 Ski Bindings

    Key Features

    • Type: Hybrid Touring Binding
    • Release Setting: 6-13 DIN
    • Weight: 885g (1 Binding)
    • Best For: Overall/Downhill

    The Salomon S/Lab Shift MNC Ski Bindings provide solid downhill performance and safety, while also offering ski touring flexibility. These ‘hybrid’ bindings are compatible with almost every type of ski boot when heading downhill, while using a ‘tech’ boot PIN toe design while skinning uphill.

    These bindings are designed to give you maximum downhill safety and performance, providing 47mm of elastic travel in the toe piece and a maximum DIN setting of 13. They are constructed from carbon-infused PA, aluminium and steel; making for a strong design that is lighter than your average alpine binding.

    Salomon have created the S/Lab Shift MNC 13 ski bindings to combine the performance of an alpine binding with the versatility of a touring binding. They offer a solid MNC design that can can withstand hard off-piste skiing, while also using a traditional PIN toe piece that is effective when heading uphill.

    Pros

    • Maximum 13 DIN for hard chargers
    • Strong carbon, aluminium and steel construction
    • PIN toe design for flexible touring
    • Alpine, touring, gripwalk and WTR boot compatible
    • 47mm of elastic travel in the toe piece
    • Multi Norm Certified for downhill safety
    • Hybrid design provides true uphill and downhill versatility

    Cons

    • Not the lightest option for true uphill touring
    • Brakes sometimes deploy in walk mode
    • Many moving parts that can be prone to wear and tear

    Dynafit TLT Superlite 2.0 10 Ski Bindings

    Key Features

    • Type: Tech Touring Binding
    • Release Setting: 5-10 Release Range
    • Weight: 202g (1 Binding)
    • Best For: Lightweight/Uphill

    If you love climbing the mountain at speed, the Dynafit Superlite 2.0 might be the ski bindings for you. They weigh in at just over 200g per binding, making them great for fast and lightweight use.

    These bindings are constructed from steel and aluminium, providing a durable and reliable option for backcountry tours. When heading downhill, they offer an adjustable release range of 5-10 and give you the option to add brakes when necessary.

    The Dynafit TLT Superlight 2.0 10 ski bindings provide a great lightweight option for ski tours and mountaineering. They have a reliable and durable construction that has made them a favourite amongst backcountry skiers for many years.

    Pros

    • Super lightweight construction
    • Steel and aluminium build is durable
    • Time-tested and reliable design
    • Optional brakes
    • Two heel risers adapt to changing terrain
    • Removable crampon attachment

    Cons

    • Limited release settings
    • Not built for aggressive downhill skiers
    • Lacking length adjustment

    Fritschi Xenic 10 Ski Bindings

    Key Features

    • Type: Tech Touring Binding
    • Release Setting: 4-10 DIN
    • Weight: 280g (1 Binding)
    • Best For: Budget/Uphill

    The Fritschi Xenic 10 ski bindings are easy-to-use and lightweight enough to keep most backcountry skiers happy. They have a DIN rated release setting of 4-10 that is capable of providing retention and release that will keep you safe on challenging terrain.

    These bindings use a toe piece with fixed stop and step-in pedal that is designed to improve release during dangerous falls and limit pre-release. They also have an exceptionally wide heel support that can improve power transmission on the hill.

    The Fritschi Xenic 10 ski bindings provide a variety of release features that are designed to keep you safe on the downhill. They are also lightweight and reliable enough to improve your uphill performance, making them a great budget binding for backcountry tours.

    Pros

    • DIN release range of 4-10
    • Fixed stop improves toe piece release
    • 10mm length compensation
    • Step-in pedal engages toe piece
    • Broad heel support for power transmission
    • Budget friendly option

    Cons

    • Locking toe piece takes a lot of force
    • Heel riser durability can be an issue
    • Many plastic parts than can get broken

    Marker F12 Tour EPF Ski Bindings

    Key Features

    • Type: Frame Touring Binding
    • Release Setting: 4-12 DIN
    • Weight: 1117g (1 Binding)
    • Best For: Downhill

    If you want to do some alpine touring without compromising downhill performance, the Marker F12 Tour EPF is one of your best binding options. They have a solid frame design that offers a reliable 4-12 DIN range and is secure enough for aggressive backcountry skiers.

    These bindings are compatible with most ski boot types and use a hollow construction that aims to keep weight to a minimum. When in touring mode, the binding is shifted 40mm backwards to give you a more natural and balanced walking position.

    The Marker F12 Tour EPF ski bindings are ideal for downhill skiers who also want the option of exploring the backcountry. They have reliable release and retention that will allow you to perform at your best on the slopes, while also adding an extra dimension to your ski setup.

    Pros

    • 4-12 DIN for downhill chargers
    • Hollow construction reduces weight
    • Touring mode optomizes binding position for balance
    • Frame gives solid downhill power transfer
    • Triple pivot toe has reliable release and retention
    • Compatible with alpine, touring, WTR and GripWalk ski boots

    Cons

    • Too heavy for serious backcountry tours
    • Some plastic parts can lack durability
    • High amount of force required to get fully clicked-in

    Summing Up

    If you’re heading into the unknown, making sure you’re well prepared is vital. The bindings you use will make a significant difference to your time on the hill, so choosing the correct option is important.

    Make sure you consider what your mountain goals are before making your purchase. Whether you spend more time going uphill or downhill will dictate which product is best for you, along with the overall build quality of each option.

    The best backcountry ski bindings can greatly improve your ski touring experience. Every product on this list has the strength and reliability required to make sure you have a great time on the mountain.