The Ion family of bindings from this Canadian innovator is a proven dynasty now. In some ways, the Ion bindings are ahead of the curve, while we have always wished the weight would come down. With the LT 12, the promise of light weight loomed. However, the rest of the market races forward. With the Ion, the "LT" qualifier is best used to compare to bindings of 5 years ago. For the features, these would have been light bindings half a decade ago. As the market stands now, there are lighter and more featured bindings. However, there are unique attributes, particularly for beginner skiers, that set the Ion LT apart.
G3 Ion LT 12 Review
Cons: No ski brake option, heavier than bindings with the same or more features
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G3 Ion LT 12
|Price||$429.00 at Amazon||$499.95 at MooseJaw||$574.95 at REI|
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|$402.50 at Backcountry|
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|$349.95 at Amazon|
|Pros||Solid, reliable ski bindings, excellent toe piece entry and easy heel lifter transitions||Light, solid, just the right set of features||Super light, adjustable for length, proven design, widely available||Simple, reliable design, familiar usability, for long-time users of tech bindings||Surprisingly durable for how light they are, killer price, lighter than most|
|Cons||No ski brake option, heavier than bindings with the same or more features||Not ideal for truly hard-charging downhill skiers||No brakes, limited release adjustment, no heel lifters||Outdated and complicated transitions, limited customer service||No brake option, heel risers are more of a pain to learn|
|Bottom Line||These Canadian bindings use a now-proven overall design and include the latest of the greatest usability benefits. We only wish they were lighter.||This minimalist binding has exactly what most of you should want, and nothing you don’t need.||The Helio bindings suffer none of the special problems we’ve encountered in other ultralight bindings. For this, they earn our Top Pick award.||Solid ski touring bindings in a classic configuration; the overall design is proven, but other companies have made updates that enhance usability.||A simple binding design that has been proven over decades now; with an economy of scale and few design changes in many years, these are available for a fraction of the price of others.|
|Rating Categories||G3 Ion LT 12||Atomic Backland Tour||Black Diamond Helio 180||Plum Guide XS Stopper||Dynafit Speed Turn 2.0|
|Touring Performance (30%)|
|Downhill Performance (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||G3 Ion LT 12||Atomic Backland Tour||Black Diamond...||Plum Guide XS...||Dynafit Speed Turn...|
|Weight (pounds for pair)||2.13||1.82||0.8||2.13||1.63|
|Release Value Range||5 to 12||"Men", "Women", "Expert"||6 to10||3.5 to 7||4 to 10|
|Stack Height (mm. average of toe and heel pin height)||46||37||39||40||38|
|Toe/Heel Delta (mm difference in height between heel pins and toe pins)||12.5||10||11.5||17||17|
|Brake options||No brakes||80, 90, 100, 110, 120||100, 125mm||95, 105 mm||No Brakes|
|Ski Crampon Compatible?||With aftermarket part. Only G3 brand||Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/ B&D style||Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/ B&D style||Yes. Best with Plum brand. "Standard" Dynafit/B&D style ski crampons can be lightly filed to work||Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/ B&D style|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The G3 Ion LT is a carefully engineered and designed, solid-functioning, all around backcountry ski binding. The lack of a ski brake somewhat limits its appeal, but we'd argue that expert backcountry skiers (as opposed to "expert" resort skiers) don't need ski brakes.
With solid performances across the board, the Ion LT was a contender for our Editors Choice award. If it shaved a few ounces and included ski brakes at that lower weight it would handily exceed the scores of the Editors Choice Atomic Backland Tour. Therefore, if you do not need brakes, and aren't super fastidious about weight, you might want to consider the G3 Ion LT.
The friction-less pivot and three levels of heel elevation put the Ion LT right in the mix with the best of the best in this category. Beginner skinners really appreciate the option to lift their heel to one of the three different levels. For 2018 basically all of our tested bindings include three lift levels. Only the Plum Tech Race 150 and Top Pick Black Diamond Helio 180 do not have three levels of lift.
Downhill performance is a wide-reaching category. We look at two major categories of information in this scoring metric. First, we consider how the bindings perform in normal skiing. How well is your boot held and what is the binding geometry as it pertains to downhill performance. We experienced no "pre release" of the G3 bindings. This is good. The design includes a little bit of "forward pressure" at the heel that, at least theoretically, allows for greater binding elasticity in high energy downhill skiing. The stack height and heel-toe delta (difference in height) are almost exactly average. Of the simpler tech bindings we tested (all those that aren't the Marker KingPin and Top Pick Fritschi Tecton), the G3 is the only one with this forward pressure consideration.
Next, we consider what happens in non-standard downhill skiing situations. Essentially, how reliably and adjustably does the binding release, and is the ski braked when it comes off. The bindings have a non-certified "release value" adjustment and no ski brakes. In these ways, the G3 Ion LT is relatively non-sophisticated. It compares most closely in these ways to the Dynafit TLT Speed and Best Buy Dynafit Speed Turn. The Plum Guide and Editors Choice Atomic Backland both include ski brakes and have the same sort of non-certified release adjustment. The big gun Marker and Fritschi bindings have brakes and TUV/DIN certified release values.
Ease of Use
We can rate the ease of use of the Ion LT very highly. The toe piece is optimized for easy entry and the heel lifters flip around very readily when you want to change them. In most ways, the simple yet carefully designed Ion LT is the top scoring in terms of ease of use. The Dynafit TLT Speed comes close, but switching from ski to tour mode on the TLT can be very strenuous. Doing so with the Ion LT never gave us any trouble.
The Ion LT is tied with the Plum Guide XS for the heaviest of the non-TUV certified bindings. This greater weight, as compared to something like the Dynafit Speed Turn or Editors Choice Atomic Backland Tour is attributable to greater usability features and the downhill "forward pressure" attribute. These things could very well justify the extra weight, for you. Our test team definitely prefers lighter bindings, even if it means a little compromise in performance.
We had no problems at all with the durability or function of the Ion LT. Other users have briefly mentioned issues with the toe piece getting stuck in locked position, but our extensive testing revealed no such problem. As initially compared to the construction of the otherwise similar Plum Guide XS, the inclusion of plastic in the Ion LT is a little unnerving. However, the plastic is clearly carefully chosen and well engineered. We experienced no breakage.
We handily recommend these bindings for the all-around user. Others are a little more refined, lighter, or include more features and performance attributes. However, the Ion LT strikes a balance that many will prefer.
These bindings are widely available, reasonably priced, and are backed up by a customer service system we have had good experiences with. There are better values out there, but not by much. If you find any sort of sale on the G3 Ion LT that purchase will definitely rival even the value of our Best Buy award winner.
Solid bindings that are widely available and include performance attributes that belie both weight and purchase price.
— Jediah Porter