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The 6 Best Touring & AT Ski Bindings for the 2020-2021 Winter

It used to be that folks shopping for touring bindings were met with few options and even fewer brands of bindings on the market - most tech touring bindings looked about the same and performed about as well as each other, and frame style options were clunky. In the last few years though, there’s been a huge explosion in touring bindings, and nearly every binding brand has brought something new to the market. That means it’s a magical time to be a backcountry skier, bindings are lighter, safer, and more secure than ever before.

With more variety than ever, it’s easier to choose the right touring bindings for the type of skiing and touring that you want to do. More choices also mean a harder time choosing - so we’ve put together this list of the best touring & AT ski bindings to help narrow the field. Our picks here span the spectrum, from burly options that are at home charging firm, inbounds laps, to ultralight touring bindings designed for multi-day trips and ski mountaineering. We’ve broken down the strengths and weaknesses of each binding and explained what style of skier will mesh best with each option helping you decipher the best touring bindings for YOU. So wax those skins and start getting in shape, touring season is almost here.

Marker Duke PT 16

The best touring ski bindings of 2021

Marker’s Duke PT is new for this year, and it arrives with a bang. The Duke PT is designed to replace both your inbounds bindings and your touring bindings. Marker designed the Duke with a removable toe piece that allows the binding to transition from a lightweight pin binding to a full-fledged alpine binding in just a few seconds. This makes it one of the best skiing touring bindings.

The downside of most traditional tech touring bindings is that they hold onto your ski boots with just a few small pins, so it’s hard to design a binding that releases you safely and consistently in a crash. That’s why Marker ditched the pins altogether for the descent, the Duke PT interfaces with your boot in exactly the same way that Marker’s inbound bindings do. So you can ski it hard and fast in challenging terrain with confidence that your skis will stay on your boots, but eject smoothly as soon as you crash.

The downside of the Duke PT is its weight. It’s the heaviest option on this list, and the removable toe piece is one more thing to make sure you remember and means it takes a little longer to transition from walk to ski mode. So if your touring days are typically long with lots of mileage and vert, the Duke PT isn’t the most efficient option. But if you like to ski a few inbounds laps, head out the gates, skin a lap or two, and ski hard and fast on your touring gear, the Duke PT 16 is the binding for you.

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Atomic Shift MNC 10

The best AT ski bindings of 2021

The Salomon & Atomic Shift led the charge for tech touring bindings that ski and release like alpine bindings, and it’s still one of the best AT bindings. This year, the lower DIN Shift 10 joins the party for skiers that don’t need the higher DIN original. It’s lighter than the Duke PT, and you don’t have to remove the toe piece to transition, so it saves you some time and hassle. The downside is that it’s not quite as burly as the Duke PT, it’s got more plastic in its construction, and has a lower DIN range, so heavier skiers may find themselves at the top of its range.

If you like to do a little bit of everything, and you want to do it all on the same pair of skis, the Shift is the binding for you. It’s not the lightest binding on this list, or the burliest, instead, it strikes a nice middle ground. Its design ensures the same safe and consistent release you’d get from an alpine binding, but it tours efficiently and is easy to use in the backcountry. It’s hard to go wrong with the Shift.

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G3 Zed 12

The best touring ski bindings of the 2020 2021 winter

On the other end of the spectrum from the Shift and Duke lies the G3 Zed. The Zed is a lightweight minimalist binding designed for backcountry purists. It ditches the brakes to save weight, and comes with a leash system to keep your skis near you if you release. That said, the Zed isn’t designed for the sort of skiing where you’re crashing and releasing a ski often. Instead, it’s designed to get you up and back down big mountains as efficiently as possible. It’s lightweight, resists icing well, has easy-to-use climbing risers, and is easy to adjust.

If you plan on using your touring skis inbounds and like to charge hard and jump off things, the Zed is not the binding for you. Instead, it’s designed to be one of the best pin tech touring binding for folks who’s biggest priorities are weight and efficiency. There’s no wasted material here, which translates into less wasted effort for you. If you want to go fast and far in big mountains, the Zed is your binding.

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Fritschi Vipec Evo 12

The best tech touring ski bindings of 2021

Of course, a lot of folks aren’t planning on regularly skiing their touring setup inbounds, and don’t need something like a Shift or Duke but also want something a little burlier than the Zed. For those people, the Vipec Evo is a great choice. While the Vipec Evo looks like a traditional pin binding, Fritschi has engineered the toe piece to allow the front of your boot to release laterally. This is a huge advancement from a safety perspective. The big danger of pin bindings has always been that they don’t consistently release from the toe of the binding, so you can end up by injuries caused by the extra leverage of the ski on your joints. The Vipec helps protect against that, while also staying very light.

The Vipec Evo is very efficient and easy to use in the backcountry. Transitioning between modes is straightforward, the risers are easy to use, and it resists icing well. If you want a binding that you’ll trust on big lines in the backcountry, and the occasional inbounds day, but is light enough for long traverses and big ski days, the Vipec Evo is a great choice.

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Dynafit ST Radical

The best touring ski bindings for the 2021 winter

The name “Dynafit” has long been synonymous with tech bindings. In fact, historically, lots of folks have just called all tech bindings “Dynafits” because the brand basically invented the category. The ST Radical takes that successful lineage and builds on it. The basic design has been around for years, and if it isn’t broke, why fix it?

The Radical lies somewhere between the Vipec and the Zed on the “charginess vs. lightweight” spectrum. It doesn’t have the lateral toe release of the Vipec, and isn’t quite as confidence-inspiring inbounds or skiing fast in gnarly terrain, but it’s more versatile than the Zed. It’s got brakes, and ejects consistently, but still isn’t designed for the fast showy skiing that the Shift and Duke are. The ST Radical is a classic for a reason, it’s reliable and easy to use. If that’s music to your ears, get a pair of Radicals on your feet.

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Marker Kingpin M-Werks 12

The best ski touring bindings

Back before the Shift and the Duke PT, if you wanted to ski hard in the backcountry, but tour uphill with a pin toe, the Marker Kingpin was your only option. It combined a burly alpine-style heel with an efficient touring toe to create a hard-charging turn-earning binding. But, as technology has progressed, Marker realized that they could cut some weight off of the original Kingpin without compromising the performance that we all loved. Enter the Kinping M-Werks. It’s significantly lighter than the original Kingpin, and feels exactly the same when you’re pushing the limits of your gear.

The Kingpin doesn’t have the lateral toe release of the Vipec, but it has a more secure feeling alpine style heel, and an overall burlier construction to stand up to more abuse. If you are looking for a binding that feels as secure and powerful as your alpine bindings, but weighs barely more than traditional tech options, the Kingpin M-Werks will suit you very well.

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