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Hands-on Gear Review
Marker Kingpin 13 Review
Cons: Little heavier than most tech bindings, won't fit all tech compatible boots; specifically a handful of the super light ones
The Marker Kingpin is half tech binding, half traditional-binding in what is the best 50-50 binding out there. If you only have one set up to do everything and want a binding that performs close to an alpine binding on the descent, but is light and efficient enough for extended tours, this contender should be a top consideration. This model, along with the Dynafit Beast 16, was the best performing downhill tech style bindings in our review. It was is easy to step into and has very simple to engage heel risers. Its powerful energy transfer and fantastic downhill performance does come at a slight weight penalty; this pair of bindings is around a half, to a full pound heavier than most other tech bindings and was among the more challenging to transition.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Ease of Use
This model is one of the easier overall touring bindings to use. When stepping into the toe piece, it uses two very functional toe guides to help line your boot up in the correct spot; the toe piece ease of entry was slightly above average overall (when compared to other tech bindings). After extensive use and side-by-side testing, it required marginally less body coordination and was easier to get into when compared to the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0. It was far easier to get into than the Fritschi Vipec, but wasn't quite as easy to get into as the G3 ION 12. The heel risers are easy to engage and rarely flip when they are not supposed to.
Our testers really appreciated how the design of this competitor's toe made it easy to clean snow and ice out of it. The gap is big enough to fit the end of a pole in, which helps to easily facilitate cleaning ice. This larger opening also makes it easier for snow and ice to fall out on their own.
In addition to its heavier than average weight, this model's only other disadvantage (among tech style-options) was that it's nearly impossible to transition with your boot still in the binding. If you're someone that always steps out of their binding to rip skins, this contender's easy-to-flip leaver and smooth sliding heel piece helped the binding to switch both from ski to skin, and skin to ski, and was just as easy as nearly all other options.
To transition this model from skinning to downhill skiing, the user must flip the heel piece down into the open position; this is very similar to "opening" the heel piece of a traditional alpine binding. Then flip the leaver under the arch of the boot; this brings the piece closer, and allows the binding to go into downhill mode.
When transitioning this pair of bindings, our testers did find it easier to press the brake down when flipping the leaver over, which made switching the leaver much easier. The leaver was WAY easier to flip in comparison to the Marker Baron 13 EPF or the Marker Duke and the heel piece moved very smoothly. As an added bonus, the auto brake deploys once you flip the leaver back over for downhill mode.
This model offers an equally as efficient of a pivot point as all the other tech bindings; unlike beefier tech bindings, such as the Dynafit Beast, this competitor allows you to tour flat-footed. Ease of transitioning and weight aside, this competitor offers equal overall touring performance to most other top touring bindings out there. The heel risers offer 7 and 14 degrees of climbing assistance which is slightly, but still noticeable less, than the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0.
This binding offered some of the best downhill performance of any tech binding we tested, with the Dynafit Beast 16 being the only tech style design to come close. This pair of bindings was the first tech binding to receive the ISO/DIN certification from the German testing organization TUV, for its safety and consistent retention, as well as its release values (AKA DIN settings).
Our testers agreed that the more traditional, alpine style heel offered our testers the best and most efficient energy transfer from our boot to the ski (of any tech binding in our review). After side-by-side comparisons in a ski resort, we even felt this model performed better than the Dynafit Beast 16 in the downhill performance category. Compared to other tech bindings, we could feel marginally better downhill performance while touring, but our testers felt it was even more apparent at higher speeds on firmer snow. Marker makes a big deal about their six springs in the toe piece, though we aren't necessarily sold that this is a big reason when compared to the elasticity created with the downward and forward pressure of the heel piece; this model offers good elasticity and therefore more consistent releasability, and better overall performance. The binding's 38 mm hole pattern is in line with the widest mounting patterns among tech bindings, allowing the binding greater leverage on the ski, and better energy transmission from your boot to the ski.
This competitor is one of the burlier tech bindings on the market. We would easily recommend this binding for day-in day-out in-bounds skiing; while it might not perform quite as well as a traditional alpine binding, or a framed AT Binding like the Marker Duke or the Marker Baron 13 EPF, it isn't far from it. While heavy, we wouldn't hesitate, at least from a reliability standpoint, to take this binding on more remote trips. An issue that Marker had with the some of the bindings that released in the earlier portion of the 2014-15 season was that the pins in the toe of the binding would come unscrewed; the newest version binding toes can be easily identified, as they have grey springs (instead of black). Marker recommends that users check the toes of their bindings and to contact them if the pins have moved (for a free exchange).
At 3 lbs 3 oz for the pair (1430g), this is one of the heavier tech bindings on the market and weighs in around half a pound heavier than the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 or the G3 ION (both 2 lbs 9 oz), but does offer slightly better downhill performance. This model is almost a pound lighter than the Dynafit Beast 16 (4 lbs 2 oz) and offers at least as good of downhill performance and certainly superior uphill tour-ability.
This binding is great for someone who has one set up for everything, and wants a binding that's not super heavy to tour on, but also performs well enough if you're just ripping groomers. While an okay option for pure-touring, we might go with something a little lighter. We feel the downhill performance given up by going with a Dynafit Radical ST 2.0 or a Fritschi Vipec is minimal, though we appreciate the 8-16 ounce weight savings these bindings generate.
Value and the Bottom Line
At $650, this model is on the more expensive side of touring bindings, but for folks looking for a quiver-of-one type set up for resort days and really, touring with this model is tough to beat. It is around $100-$150 more than most other tech bindings that cost mostly in the $500-$550 range, including our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice the Dynafit Radical ST 2.0; however, the Kingpin offered better downhill performance.
Our testers love the Kingpin for its downhill performance and overall ease of use. it wouldn't be our top choice for a pure-touring binding, because it's heaver and we didn't have the option to rip skins with the skins with skis still on our feet; however, it should be considered by anyone looking for a binding in which they want to ski the same set up, both in-bounds (because of the touring efficiency and downhill capability) or because they just want the best performing downhill tech binding for their backcountry and touring adventures.
Other Versions and Accessories
It comes in two DIN settings a 5-10 DIN and a 6-13 DIN.
Marker Duke EPF
Marker Griffon 13
Marker Jester 16
— Ian Nicholson
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