The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Marker Kingpin 13 Review

A proven design, albeit heavy, from a perennial binding manufacturer, that allows for the most aggressive of downhill backcountry skiing; mind Marker’s recall notices for some versions of this binding.
KingPin
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Price:  $650 List | $341.95 at Amazon
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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  ⋅  Jan 16, 2019
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 9
  • Touring Performance - 30% 8
  • Downhill Performance - 25% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 3
  • Weight - 25% 4
  • Durability - 5% 7

Our Verdict

The Marker Kingpin is half tech binding, half traditional alpine binding. This "50-50" compromise may be exactly what you want and need, or it may be overkill and the "worst of both worlds". Our full review explains all the pros, cons, ins, and outs of the Kingpin. As compared to the other offerings, the Kingpin goes head to head with the Fritschi Tecton, but should also be compared to more "traditional" tech bindings like the Atomic Backland Tour. Both the Kingpin and Tecton are built in this hybrid style, with tech toes and alpine heel pieces. Comparing these two makes for a close race. The Kingpin has a longer track record, but is a little heavier and has been plagued very recently with a widespread recall. Whether you lean towards the Kingpin for its pedigree and (mostly) proven reliability, or opt for the Top Pick Tecton (so awarded for the lower weight and lack of a recent recall), realize that this style of backcountry ski binding is quite specialized. 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 the Editors' Choice Atomic Backland Tour.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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

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

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

As compared to close competitor and Top Pick Fritschi Tecton, the Kingpin has greater range of motion and a more rigid touring mode attachment. The Fritschi Tecton toe piece is more elaborate, for arguably safer downhill release functionality, but that compromises both range of motion and rigidity of the touring pivot attachment. Basically, the Fritschi feels "mushy" while touring on sidehills. The Kingpin exceeds the Tecton in both these ways. Otherwise, the Kingpin and Tecton tour quite similarly. The Editors Choice Atomic Backland Tour exceeds the touring functionality of both these beefier bindings.

Downhill Performance


This binding offered some of the best downhill performance of any tech binding we tested. The Marker Kingpin was the first tech binding to receive the 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 downhill performance of the Kingpin was virtually indistinguishable from that of the Top Pick Fritschi Tecton, and both of these exceed the downhill performance of all the other tech style bindings we have tested. The difference between these top downhill performers and something like the Plum Guide or the Editors Choice Atomic Backland Tour 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 Tecton and 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 whole heel piece slides forward and aft between ski and tour modes.
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.

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 back-up 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 and Tecton 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 brakes up in tour mode. Earlier versions of the KingPin had problems here  but this one (17/18 version) works very well.
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.

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 allow one to keep skis on. Most touring bindings also can be reconfigured 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. No other tech bindings we tested have this requirement. 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 Marker KingPin between ski and tour modes.
This lever lives beneath the center of your boot and changes the Marker KingPin between ski and tour modes.

After extensive use and side-by-side testing, it required marginally less body coordination to enter than something like the Plum Guide or Best Buy Dynafit Speed Turn. 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 3 lbs 3 oz for the pair (1430g), this is one of the heavier tech bindings on the market and weighs in more than a pound heavier than the G3 ION. It weighs two-tenths of a pound more than the otherwise close competitor Top Pick Fritschi Tecton. It is this weight difference that mainly edges the Tecton ahead in the Top Pick race.

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

The 2017/18 KingPin bindings were recalled by Marker. We have tested these bindings but haven't yet followed through with the recall recommendations. Essentially, we need to take ours into a dealership to have the toe piece inspected and perhaps repaired. In our testing, we had no problems, but Marker's recall notice points out that the toe pins could fail entirely.

Best Applications


We can recommend this binding, highly, for truly hard-charging backcountry skiers. When we say "hard-charging", we mean it. Only those that weigh around and over 200 pounds and backcountry ski like they're on the far end of a RED camera lens for a Matchstick movie will fully realize the downhill benefits of the Kingpin. Those downhill benefits come with a weight and touring performance penalty. If you don't need the downhill benefits, the weight penalty isn't worth paying.

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.
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.

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. Their price is essentially the same as that of the Top Pick Fritschi Tecton.

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 heaver and we didn'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. It is worth considering for those that want to ski the same set up both in-bounds and out of bounds.


Jediah Porter & Ian Nicholson