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Hands-on Gear Review
G3 ION 12 Review
Cons: Brakes occasionally have icing problems, heel lifters flip back over a little too easily
The G3 ION is a well-designed, sleek, and extremely user-friendly touring binding. While it might not be our first choice for a binding to ski in-bounds some or the majority of the time, it remains a strong contender for any backcountry missions no matter how deep; we look to this pair of AT bindings for their reliability and touring performance. As far as weight and downhill performance goes, the ION is pretty average among tech bindings; however, all of our testers thought the ION was the by far the easiest binding to get into, and we appreciated its well-designed toe piece that was easy to clean ice out of.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Ease of Use
When compared to all other competitors, this competitor was by far the easiest tech binding to get into, with its ease of use and step-in prowess being furthered when conditions got deep or otherwise challenging. This model has something similar to Dynafit's and Marker's tower guides, though the technology is taken one step forward; the result is a minimum of coordination being required, which is something that we appreciated when we were tired, were attempting to step back into a ski on a steep slope, or when conditions were deep. The user simply brings the toe of their boot up to the wide boot stops and presses down; as simple as that, you're in. The heel risers are some of the easiest to engage, if not the easiest; their large folds are easy to snag with a pole.
As a whole, we found that this model iced up similarly to other tech bindings out there though the Ion is designed to be one of the easiest models to clean ice out of around the toe piece. This binding features large openings on the sides of the toe piece, which make it significantly easier to clear ice build up, and allows snow to easily fall out when you press and release the toe a couple of times. The Marker Kingpin features a very similar feature and both these bindings were easier to clean ice out of than the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 or the Fritschi Vipec.
This contender is one of the easier transitioning bindings on the market. When transitioning into tour mode, its easiest to depress the brake and spin the heel piece in either direction. A small but useful feature of this model is that during the whole of the transition, the brake stays deployed until you clip in and step onto the brake with your boot. This is nice for the rare, but possible situations where your ski could run away from you before you put on your skins.
Something that can happen on rare occasion with the Ion is that the brakes will engage while skinning. The only time we've had a tester manage to do this is when he flexed the ski enough while skiing uphill (in times when your tip and tail are elevated over a gap), which released the brake. We've heard of other folks experiencing this problem on occasion, but we haven't seen it much. Do note that it's only a minor inconvenience to re-set.
This model features average, good, and good-but-not great overall downhill performance; during our side-by-side testing, it skied downhill about as well as the original Dynafit Racial ST, but not quite as good as the newer Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 or Marker Kingpin 13. We could hardly notice a difference in deeper or softer snow conditions, but noticed some difference on firmer snow at higher speeds.
This model was one of the first tech bindings to feature forward pressure; forward pressure helps the elasticity of the binding, which improves overall downhill performance and helps make the binding safer by offering a more consistent release. The Marker Kingpin, Dynafit Radical ST 2.0, and Fritschi Vipec all features some sort of forward pressure in their designs.
Overall, this is a durable binding and we wouldn't hesitate to take it on remote backcountry adventures. While we have heard of the springs in the heel risers wearing out quickly, and this is marginally annoying to have them start engaging and disengaging after extended use, this isn't going to hose you on a week long traverse.
At 2 lbs 9 oz, the G3 ION is only an ounce lighter than the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0, but around a half pound lighter than the 3 lbs 2 oz Marker Kingpin. The ION does check in around 8 ounces heavier than the 2 lbs 1 oz Fritschi Vipec.
This pair of bindings is best for folks who are going to mount them on skis in which they will be primarily or exclusively used for touring. While this competitor is okay for in-bounds skiing, we'd steer you towards the Marker Kingpin if you plan on riding chairs more than 50% of the time. If you plan to use the ION on boards for mostly or exclusively touring, these are an excellent fit.
Value and the Bottom Line
At $550, this model is in line with most of the other tech bindings on the market; while they are not a killer deal, they aren't comparatively expensive either. They are the same price as the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0, $50 less than the lighter wight Fritschi Vipec, and $100 less than the burlier, but heavier, Marker Kingpin 13. They are $200 more than the much lighter weight OutdoorGearLab Best Buy Award Winner, the Dynafit Speed Turn 2.0, though the Speed turn isn't compatible with brakes, nor does it offer as good of touring or downhill performance.
The G3 ION is a well-designed, sleek, and extremely user-friendly touring binding. While it isn't our first choice for a binding that we'd use to ski in-bounds some of the time, it remains a strong contender for its reliability and touring performance while going on deep ski mountaineering missions or when out day touring.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Ion comes in two models: the ION 10 and the ION 12. The difference is primarily in the DIN settings and price, with the ION 12 offer a DIN of 5-12 and costing $550 (the binding we tested in our review) and the ION 10 offering a DIN 4-10 and costing $500. For the 2015/16 season, G3 came out with the ION LT 12 which is a brake-less model that runs around 8 ounces lighter than the ION 12.
— Ian Nicholson
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