Reviews You Can Rely On

Marker Kingpin 13 Review

A proven design, albeit heavy, that allows for the most aggressive of downhill backcountry skiing; mind Marker’s recall notices for some versions of this binding
Marker Kingpin 13
Photo: Marker
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Price:  $650 List | $649.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Excellent downhill energy transition, fully ISO/DIN certified
Cons:  Heavier than most tech bindings, won't fit all tech compatible boots, recent recall to consider
Manufacturer:   Marker
By Jediah Porter & Ian Nicholson  ⋅  Oct 21, 2021
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55
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 14
  • Touring Performance - 30% 7
  • Downhill Performance - 25% 8
  • Weight - 25% 3
  • Ease of Use - 15% 2
  • Durability - 5% 7

Our Verdict

The Marker Kingpin is half tech binding, half traditional alpine binding. This "50-50" compromise is probably exactly what you want. Is it what you need or may it be overkill and the "worst of both worlds"? Our full review explains all the pros, cons, ins, and outs of the Kingpin. Understand that this style of backcountry ski binding is quite specialized and you will only realize the benefits of these beefy backcountry bindings if you ski the out-of-bounds with park rat or big mountain movie star style. For most backcountry skiers, our deeply experienced test team recommends a lighter option like either Editors' Choice winners.

Updated Colors
The Marker Kingpin 13 is available and has been sold in a variety of color schemes. The binding's meaningful technical specs haven't changed.

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Marker Kingpin 13
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Marker Kingpin 13
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $649.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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73
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53
Star Rating
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Pros Excellent downhill energy transition, fully ISO/DIN certifiedLight, solid, adjustable, three heel lifts, good brakesLight, innovative downhill performanceSolid, reliable ski bindings, excellent toe piece entry and easy heel lifter transitionsCertified release, adjustable release, elastic boot retention, removable toe piece for uphill
Cons Heavier than most tech bindings, won't fit all tech compatible boots, recent recall to considerNo certification, limited release adjustmentUnsophisticated heel lifters, untested aftermarket brakeNo ski brake option, heavier than bindings with the same or more featuresHeavy, complicated transitions, lots of moving parts
Bottom Line A proven design, albeit heavy, that allows for the most aggressive of downhill backcountry skiing; mind Marker’s recall notices for some versions of this bindingThis minimalist binding has exactly what most of you should want, and nothing you don’t needThese are excellent all around functioning bindings made for human powered skiingThese Canadian bindings use a now-proven overall design and include the latest of the greatest usability benefits; we only wish they were lighterA downhill optimized binding with all the resort attributes you need and rudimentary touring ability
Rating Categories Marker Kingpin 13 Atomic Backland Tour Marker Alpinist 12 G3 Ion LT 12 Marker Duke PT 12
Touring Performance (30%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
4.0
Downhill Performance (25%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
9.0
Weight (25%)
3.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
2.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
2.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
Durability (5%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Marker Kingpin 13 Atomic Backland Tour Marker Alpinist 12 G3 Ion LT 12 Marker Duke PT 12
Weight (pounds for pair) 3.25 lbs 1.26 lbs 1.18 lbs 2.13 lbs 5.38 lbs
Weight of one binding, grams 737g 286g 268g 483g 1219g
Release value range 6 to 13 "Men", "Women", "Expert" 6 to 12 5 to 12 4 to 12
Stack height (mm. average of toe and heel pin height) 39mm 37mm 36mm 46mm 42mm
Toe/heel delta (mm difference in height between heel pins and toe pins) 11.5mm 10mm 3mm 12.5mm 14mm
Brake options 100, 125mm 80, 90, 100, 110, 120mm 90, 105, 115mm No brakes 100, 125mm
ISO/DIN Certified? Yes No No No Yes
Ski Crampon compatible? Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/ B&D style. Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/ B&D style. Yes. "Standard" Dynafit/ B&D style. With aftermarket part. Only G3 brand. Yes. Marker Duke PT specific.

Our Analysis and Test Results

This is a specialized product in a niche market. Overall, other products definitely perform better on our scoring rubric.

Performance Comparison


Lead test editor Jediah Porter transitioning the KingPin on Teton...
Lead test editor Jediah Porter transitioning the KingPin on Teton Pass, Wyoming.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Touring Performance


This model offers almost as much touring efficiency as the other tech bindings. It allows you to tour flat-footed, includes two levels of heel rise, and has toe piece range of motion that should do all you need to do. Despite many moving parts and bulky construction, we did not have particularly notable snow or ice build-up on the KingPin.

Relative heel lifter heights of the Plum Guide and Kingpin, in...
Relative heel lifter heights of the Plum Guide and Kingpin, in maximum lift mode. These two are pretty comparable.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Downhill Performance


The Marker Kingpin was the first tech binding to receive the AT ISO/DIN certification from the German testing organization TUV. Other bindings have since earned this same certification, but Marker did it first and has made minor tweaks along the way. To earn this third-party certification, AT bindings must prove 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 efficient energy transfer from boot to the ski. The difference between the KingPin and something like a traditional tech binding is the heel piece. The alpine heel piece creates release "elasticity" and lends downward and forward pressure to your ski boot.

When we reference binding elasticity, we are referring to how far your boot can move in the binding, side to side, and still stay connected to the ski. Traditional tech style bindings have very little elasticity. As soon as the boot is deflected even a little bit, the binding completely disengages. In the Kingpin, there is much greater elasticity. While skiing hard, your boot can move laterally, at the toe, and the heel piece forward and downward pressure will push it back into position.

Tour mode on the KingPin. In order to do all this binding does, the...
Tour mode on the KingPin. In order to do all this binding does, the whole heel piece slides forward and aft between ski and tour modes.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Finally, the Kingpin'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.

Now, how much does this enhanced downhill performance mean to you? We'd argue that it shouldn't mean much unless you are skiing truly fast and hard. No matter who you are or how you are equipped, skiing fast and hard in the backcountry increases your hazard exposure. Most responsible backcountry skiers, especially those truly going into the wild without backup support, are skiing well within their limits. For most skiers, skiing within their limits also means skiing within the limits of more traditional tech bindings. In our expert opinion, Kingpin bindings do indeed make super hard-charging skiing marginally safer. In that same expert opinion (and in decades now of experience with tech bindings), "normal" paced backcountry skiing isn't much safer in Kingpins than it is in traditional tech bindings.

Ease of Use


This model is pretty easy 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).

The small screw visible between the two larger screws holds the...
The small screw visible between the two larger screws holds the brakes up in tour mode. Earlier versions of the KingPin had problems here, but this one (17/18 version) works very well.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The Kingpin's main usability disadvantage is that it is nearly impossible to transition with your boot still in the binding. From ski to tour, a transition that requires reconfiguring bindings and installing skins, everyone takes their skis off anyway. The Kingpin isn't alone in this requirement. However, to go from tour to ski, a transition that requires binding reconfiguration and skin removal, biomechanics theoretically allows one to keep skis on. Most touring bindings also can be reconfigured from tour to ski with the ski still on one's foot. The Kingpin binding transition is performed with a lever that sits squarely beneath one's foot. You must remove your skis to move the binding between modes. If you remove your skis to remove skins anyway, this attribute will not be a real disadvantage.

This lever lives beneath the center of your boot and changes the...
This lever lives beneath the center of your boot and changes the Marker KingPin between ski and tour modes.
Photo: Jediah Porter

After extensive use and side-by-side testing, it required marginally less body coordination to enter than average. Our testers really appreciated how the design of this product'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.

Weight


At 737g per foot (or 1430g for the pair. Converted to imperial: 3 lbs 3 oz for the pair), this is one of the heavier tech bindings on the market and weighs in more than a pound heavier than either highest award winners. These aren't light bindings. They are lighter than some but way heavier than most.

Durability


In the long run, with years now of field application, this is one of the burlier tech bindings on the market. We could almost recommend this binding for day-in-day-out in-bounds skiing, which is perhaps the best durability endorsement we could offer.

The toe piece of the KingPin is a beefed up version of the classic...
The toe piece of the KingPin is a beefed up version of the classic design pioneered by another manufacturer in Austria 30 years ago.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The 2017/18 KingPin bindings were recalled by Marker. We have tested these bindings and had no problems, but Marker's recall notice points out that the toe pins could fail entirely.

Like regular resort bindings, the KingPin addresses ski/boot...
Like regular resort bindings, the KingPin addresses ski/boot friction with a sliding "anti friction device", in this case mounted to the top surface of the brake.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Value


If you need and want the performance of the Kingpin, you'll handily justify the expense. Kingpin bindings are more expensive than some of the competitors, but not by much.

Conclusion


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 heavier, and we don't have the option to rip skins with the skins with skis still on our feet. It should be considered by anyone looking to ski hard and is worth considering for those that want to ski the same setup both in-bounds and out of bounds.

Jediah Porter & Ian Nicholson