G3 Zed 12 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Light, simple, advanced features for the weight.
Cons: Crampon mount and brakes not included, heavier than closest competition
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The G3 Zed 12 has many attributes of heavier "full service" ski bindings with a weight that approaches that of the ultralight category. It essentially fits between two categories; it is heavier than the light all-arounders, but it has essential features that they don't. The safety and usability features added to the Zed 12 might just tip the balance in its favor for you. For long-term reliability of release and touring transitions, and ease of use, the Zed 12 is the lightest thing going. It is a relatively new product but uses geometry and technology proven in G3's Ion series of bindings.
The Zed 12 tours very well. When we break down our assessment of touring performance, we consider heel risers, icing propensity, and toe pivot range of motion. The heel risers are among the best in the business, and the toe pivot range is all you would need. The binding's design only allows for moderate amounts of icing and snow build up. It has all the moving parts (and associated places to hold ice) of a heavier binding, but there are big spaces in the toe piece that shed snow and ice better than most.
Do we consider this a downhill oriented binding at a low weight, or do we think of it as an ultralight binding that skis better than its peers? Either way, it skis well, for its weight. As compared to other bindings at and near its weight, the Zed 12 has greater elasticity and more reliable release performance. The heel piece offers some forward pressure, the toe piece geometry allows a little more lateral motion than other light bindings, and the heel springs are independent pins that rotate with each entry so as to spread wear out. Other lightweight bindings, with u-spring heel pieces, experience a change in release characteristics as the u spring metal wears with use.
These things, though, are all theoretical. How does it work in our real-world testing? Truth is, most of our testers in their voluminous testing noticed absolutely no difference in actual downhill performance. Very discerning skiers in very demanding conditions (less than 1% of our testing time and likely way less than that for your use) noticed subtle differences between bindings on the downhill. The Zed 12 skis downhill better than any binding that matches or beats its weight. It has a relatively high "stack height" but minimal ramp angle.
Ease of Use
Transitions, adjustments, getting in and out; how does the Zed do? Transitions use the proven method of twisting the heel piece 90 degrees (either direction). Once in touring mode, the heel lifters can be adjusted between three settings with your ski pole. If you need to adjust release, both lateral and vertical are accomplished with one aft screw. Just below that screw is one for adjusting length. Length is measured with the "kiss" method, requiring no spacer or tool for measurement. Stepping in and out is almost exactly the same as the vast majority of touring tech bindings. The good news is that we found the "default mode" spring tension to be enough to keep the ski on your foot in all but the most rigorous of skinning terrain. No need to lock those toes until the skinning is legit.
The G3 Zed 12, as tested and without brakes, weighs 1.6 pounds for the pair (that's about 360g per binding). Given the touring and downhill skiing features, this weight is pretty darn good. It's the lightest binding, for instance, that we tested that includes individual heel pins. Add on the brake and the proprietary attachment for G3's ski crampons and the weight quickly exceeds that of bindings that perform, overall, similarly or better.
The Zed is a relatively new product. With only a couple seasons on the market, reports of long term function have yet to come in. In our rigorous testing (both on our feet and test pair and in the company of ski partners and backcountry ski clients) we experienced no issues with the retail version of the Zed. It is worth noting that some have had issues with the long adjustment plate that some places use on their rental gear. Maybe you have demoed or rented Zed bindings and had the heel piece slide around. That problem is exclusive to fleet gear.
The price of the Zed is competitive with the whole market and our experience with G3 warranty and durability suggests that your product-life experience with the Zed 12 should be quite favorable.
Lightweight bindings with advanced attributes, or full-function bindings that are stripped down? Either way, these simple and all-purpose ski bindings are ready for whatever sort of human powered skiing you might choose.
— Jediah Porter