Colltex Combin Mohair Review
Cons: Moody adhesive, finicky tail clip
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Colltex Combin Mohair is the best silicone-based (or "silicone like"… Colltex isn't fully forthcoming about what the sticky side is made of) skin we have tested. We've checked out a few different variations on this theme up to this point and the Colltex is the best so far. What does "silicone-based" mean? "Traditional" skins stick to your skis with an adhesive. That adhesive sticks best to the skin fabric, next best to your skis, and then it also sticks to itself. It also catches and retains fuzz, hair, sticks, leaves, etc. Reconditioning traditional glue requires heat, scraping, and reapplication of a layer or two of glue. Silicone "adhesive" is actually just a tacky layer of silicone material. This sticks to your skis with a combination of "surface tension", tip and tail retention, pure friction, and magic.
It sort of sticks to itself. Sticks and pine needles and cat hair might hang on for a bit, but this detritus can be wiped or rinsed off. Silicone skins don't adhere to your skis as well as traditional glue, all else equal. But they are easier to maintain and can be made much lighter and more compact. We have recommended previous tested options for occasional users that wish to avoid the long-term maintenance and care required of traditional skins. With the Colltex Combin Mohair skin we have found a silicone product that we can recommend for all-around use. They are a little moodier than traditional formulations, but they are much easier to care for and are much more compact. Read on for further elaboration.
The full mohair plush of the Colltex Combin Mohair skins is sparse and short. It glides ok, but not as well as others. It is hard to tell, but it seems like slightly longer hairs (or hairs that are angled back more) would glide better. They glide better than all nylon or mohair/nylon blends, but not as well as other full mohair skins we have used.
We go on and on elsewhere about why glide is so important. Here, just let us say that it is important. Slide your skis forward with ease and your day goes by with ease. Push against great resistance and your great day can evaporate. It is hard to notice at first; beginning skinners almost certainly will not appreciate the importance of glide. Trust us. We wish the Colltex Combin Mohair glided just a little better. Like we said above, it is better than most, but not as good as we've experienced elsewhere.
The grip of the Combin Mohair is sort of like the glide. It is good enough, but we wish it were better. Again, we notice that the plush fibers are sparse and short. Longer, denser, or more steeply angled hairs, it seems to our eyes, would grip better without compromising grip. If anything, it seems to us that it could enhance both grip and glide.
Normally grip and glide are at odds with one another. Our crude observations of the Colltex Combin Mohair suggest that slight tweaks to the fabric formulation could improve both. That being said, we found the grip to be more than enough for efficient, skilled skinning. We scored multiple 10000 foot days of Teton ski touring on the Combin Mohair with little to no noticeable loss of efficiency. We assigned testing in those high volume applications to skilled testers. Someone less balanced on their skins might suffer more for the compromised grip.
Technically, they don't even have "glue". And, if our experience with silicone adhesive is any indication of the trajectory, we might have to rename this scoring metric. In just a few years of innovation, silicone skins have made great leaps in integrity. We try out a new option every few years and like each a lot more than the last.
The silicone formulation on these Colltex skins held up for months, tens of thousands of vertical feet, and through serious, complicated, multi-transition days of ski touring. We definitely had some total failures; more so than we would have had with traditional glue. If we experience total adhesion failure about once a week of skinning with trad glue, we probably experienced total adhesion failure with the Colltex twice a week. Double the failure rate is significant. But it isn't the end of the world. You can usually see or feel it coming and stop before total failure. Further, field fix of total silicone failure is much easier and more reliable than total failure of traditional glue, especially in cold conditions.
Your skins are going to ice up. Pretty much everything, if exposed to alternating wet and cold (sub freezing) snow conditions will collect ice. Synthetic materials better mitigate the icing than mohair.
The full mohair construction of the Colltex plush side is more prone to icing than nylon or nylon/mohair blends. Anticipation, technique (slide them skins forward, don't lift 'em…), and waxing can mitigate the problem enough to virtually eliminate any differences in materials. In the worst conditions all skins, with all preventative/mitigating measures, are going to ice up. In marginal conditions, technique and wax can mitigate issues on all skins. Only with marginal technique or marginal waxing can you notice the difference between mohair and nylon's propensity for icing.
Packability and Weight
It is here that the Colltex Combin Mohair skins really shine. These are definitely the lightest and most compact skins we have ever used. As compared to full nylon skins cut to the same skis the Colltex is half the bulk and 2/3rds the weight. You can see right through the thin backing of the Combin Mohair.
Few innovations in skin "technology" have allowed such a leap in packability. The Combin Mohair is much smaller and lighter than anything close. We are able to fit Combin skins, cut for 100mm x 180cm skis in normal-sized front pants pockets. Like, pockets a little bigger than those in the jeans you are wearing right now. These are very packable skins. Add in the fact that you need not worry as much about them tangling on down jacket or ropes and you have more packing freedom than with any other skins, by a wide margin.
These are universal skins, available in configurations that will work with virtually all skis you'd want to use in real backcountry skiing.
The "three dimensional" rigid tip loop is suited to pointy, rounded, or even squared off ski tips. "Standard" wire tip loops can slip off lots of shapes that the Colltex tip loops hold securely. Only paired tip hooks are more forgiving and secure than loops like the Combin Mohair has. The tail strap and hook is a little moody. When it is not loaded on your ski, whether in your hand or while applying or removing, the tail hook can move back and forth on the strap. The tail hook and its appropriate tension is integral to skin function. You want it at just the right position. We wish it stayed better where we set it.
At full retail, the Colltex Combin Mohair skins are very expensive. We've seen them on sale. However, we know that the mohair plush and the very thin backing won't last as long as other options. These aren't high-value skins; they are high-performance skins with a unique function.
We've heard the sticky side of the Colltex Combin Mohair skins glows in the dark. We cannot confirm or deny this, because we haven't been out after dark with them; every time we try we end up going so much faster than anticipated and get back before dark. All kidding aside, these are efficient, light skins. Grip and glide aren't quite as good as some (but better than most…), but the packing bulk and low maintenance are very appealing. We can see these being a good choice for far-flung expedition skiing where donkey or yak hair won't clog them up, you're spending a lot of time on foot anyway, and you don't want to think about the care of your climbing skins.
— Jediah Porter
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