Contour Hybrid Mix Review
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Contour Hybrid Mix
|Price||Check Price at REI|
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|$209.95 at REI|
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$229.95 at Amazon
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|Pros||Well-balanced in all attributes, great glue||Light, fast gliding, enough grip, optimized glue, universal tip and tail||Light, fast, compact||All around performance, huge size range available||Light, fast gliding|
|Cons||Expensive, require ongoing periodic maintenance||Mohair blend will wear out faster than all nylon, harder to find than other brands||Compromised grip, compromised durability||Compromised glide when new, limited availability at times and places||Durability concerns, limited grip|
|Bottom Line||These walk a tightrope, yielding a product that is fully balanced right at the performance point that our experience suggests is ideal||The best climbing skins on the market, they strike all the right balances||Fast gliding skins for cold snow and accomplished skinners, the super compact, light form makes your huge skis more manageable||Budget friendly high performance skins for every backcountry skier||On the balance sheet of climbing skins, they lean in the fast and light direction, with associated compromises in grip and durability|
|Rating Categories||Contour Hybrid Mix||Pomoca Climb Pro S...||Pomoca Free Pro 2.0||Pomoca Climb 2.0||Pomoca Climb Pro Mo...|
|Glue Integrity (20%)|
|Icing/Glopping Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Contour Hybrid Mix||Pomoca Climb Pro S...||Pomoca Free Pro 2.0||Pomoca Climb 2.0||Pomoca Climb Pro Mo...|
|Measured Weight||1.21 lbs||1.23 lbs||1.09 lbs||0.99 lbs||1 lb|
|Material||70% Mohair, 30% Synthetic||70% Mohair and 30% Nylon||100% Mohair||70% mohair 30% Nylon||100% Mohair|
|Weight Per Pair||551 for Blizzard Zero G, 654g for 178 Voile Hyperdrifter||558g for Salomon MTN Explore 95. 587g for 183 Black Crows Corvus Freebird||496g for 180cm Kastle TX 103||448g for Dynastar M99 Tour||452g for 170cm 80mm ski|
|Weight per ski width. Very rough calculation. (grams/mm)||5.3||5.9||4.8||4.5||5.7|
|Glue||Hybrid glue technology||Traditional||Traditional||Traditional||Traditional|
|Tip Attachment||Rigid tip loop||Rigid tip loop||Rigid tip loop||Rigid tip loop||Rigid tip loop|
|Tail Attachment||Vinyl strap and cam hook||Rubber strap and cam hook||Rubber strap and cam hook||rubber strap and cam hook||Rubber strap and cam hook|
|Precut Option?||Order for length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape||Order for length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape||Order for length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape||Order for length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape||Order for length and approximate width, cut to lateral shape|
Our Analysis and Test Results
There are two distinct plotlines we have to spell out before diving into our analysis of these skins. First, we were wrong about these skins. How's that for reviewer vulnerability? We loved them at first and then fell hard out of love with them. We were right the first time. We have learned that, when performance suffered, it wasn't the product's fault. It was an issue of maintenance. All skins need some maintenance to perform well. These skins require more significant maintenance but perform more significantly well. We learned that, in a sense, alongside the manufacturer. The manufacturer, it seems, knew these skins would need to be cleaned more consistently than others. They tried to tell all of us consumers. But they didn't make it easy to clean them. They've since begun to ship new skins with small packets of cleaning wipes purpose-built to refresh the stick of the "Hybrid" glue. These wipes and a cleaning spray are now way, way more available at retail. We like it. Though it has been a tumultuous ride to this point.
Next, branding and such. Contour Hybrid skins are available in a variety of settings and under different brands. We've tested Contour branded skins and those sold under the Backcountry Access brand. Contour branding's umbrella covers a wide range of skins, including different glue types and different plush/fabric blends. We tested the sweet spot Contour Hybrid MIx and the unqualified BCA Climbing Skins. As it turns out, they are exactly the same. We can't tell the difference and the companies suggest that they are the same. We review and discuss them accordingly. We have pictures of Contour and BCA skins. We discuss them as Contour Hybrid Mix skins. In the name, "Hybrid" refers to the two-part glue formulation and "Mix" refers to the mohair/nylon blended fabric. With that somewhat irrelevant business out of the way, let's dive in on a closer look.
Glide is the most important, and therefore most highly weighted, performance attribute for your climbing skins. For efficiency, skins need to glide forward. However, maximize glide, and you entirely lose grip. There will always be a sweet spot, and for different users and in different circumstances, that sweet spot may move around. Beginning backcountry skiers want more grip and are ok with less glide. Improve your skinning technique, and you need less grip and can realize the benefits of more glide. A small number of folks will want more glide and less grip, and a similarly small number of people will want more grip and less glide. However, the big, center of the bell curve of users will dig the exact balance that the Hybrid Mix skins strike. On the Contour skins, you can slide down gentle hills and swinging your foot forward is largely unencumbered.
Let us reiterate. Every skin attribute is balanced against another. Maximum glide would be the best. But that's just your bare ski base. Adding anything to your ski base will add friction and reduce glide. Further, you will only realize the benefit of enhanced glide with good skinning technique. Biomechanically, skinning works best (though we don't really understand why, to be honest) when you slide your skins forward instead of lifting them up with each step. The Mohair/Nylon blend of the Contour Hybrid Mix skins won't get in your way too much.
Thin fabrics and flexible backing make for a more packable skin. Of course, larger skis require larger skins, which also influences packability. Correcting our assessment for ski size, the Hybrid Mix skins are among the more packable options. That they can be so light and compact while still being stiff enough to resist peeling is much appreciated. See? Every design criterion has a counterpart. You can't tug on one part of the skin design equation without affecting another. However, you can tune things to optimize in a couple of directions. The packability attributes of the Contour skins doesn't seem to dramatically compromise other attributes.
Thinner, innovative climbing skins are definitely lighter and more packable than the Contour Hybrid Mix. All those, though, that are more portable than the Contour are specialized or compromised in some way or another.
Glue integrity is actually a combination of the nature of the glue itself and the stiffness of the skin fabric. Sticky glue helps skins stay on skis. Also, and less obvious, stiffer skins stay better on skis. Super soft skin fabric rolls at the edges, letting snow force its way in and leading to glue failure. As in everything skin-related, there is a balance to strike. Super sticky glue is great until you need to wrestle skins apart from storage, while super stiff fabric is best for glue integrity until you need to pack them in your jacket front.
The glue and fabric employed by the Hybrid Mix skins stays on your skis worse than most. With fastidious use, they do all you need them to do. Fastidious use requires, as we alluded to above, some cleaning periodically. Your cleaning interval will depend on a intensity of use, attention during storage, and the general "dirtiness" of your ski life. Cleaning is, by far, best done with the dedicated Contour cleaning products. Whether in wipe or spray form, we found the Contour products to be way, way more effective than any sort of improvised solution we could dream up (or track down online…). Whatever is actually in Contour's cleaning solution, it isn't readily replicable in another format. Do yourself a favor and remain equipped to clean with the proper stuff. It is worth it. The performance of these skins is worth the marginally greater maintenance required.
Grip is the antithesis of glide. Similarly, it needs to be balanced. Of course, maximum grip would be great, but we have to acknowledge that maximum grip has minimum glide. There is always a give and take. In short, the Hybrid Mix skins have enough grip for all but the clumsiest skinners in the gnarliest of conditions.
In tens of thousands of vertical feet of highly varied Teton and Canadian ski touring, the traction of the Hybrid Mix was just enough. Full nylon skins grab better, to be sure. However, that amount of traction is unnecessary. These grab well enough to get a beginner through their first season of skinning and to get you up gnarly frozen corn and slicked mid-winter drought existing skin tracks.
The primary variable influencing fabric side icing is conditions and stride. Keep to just cold (<0c) or just warm (at 0c) snow and you'll have few to no problems. If you have to alternate between warm and cold snow, slide your skis ahead with each stride and you get a long way. Next, skin fabric treatment matters. A waxed skin will always glop less than an unwaxed one. Nonetheless, normalizing for waxing, conditions, and stride, we still see some differences. The propensity for icing is a function, after wax, of manufacturer pretreatment and percentage of nylon in the fabric. Good pretreatments help, and more nylon helps. It isn't real clear what Contour does to their skins, but our anecdotal experience seems to suggest that icing is reasonable.
The Contour Hybrid Mix skins ice up at about the same rate as other mohair/nylon blended skins. You have a great deal of control over icing, regardless of skin construction or attributes. When that fails, these have got your back.
Compatibility is easy to assess. Either the skins can be cut to fit a variety of skis, or they are built for one particular make and model. The Hybrid Mix skins are compatible with all skis.
With the ever-increasing co-branding relationships that Contour is forming, you might very well find that the dedicated skins that are sold with some skis are actually Contour Hybrid Mix. Atomic and Hagan license Contour skins to sell matched and precut to their ski models, for instance. Do some research at the time of purchase to see who actually made your ski brand's skins and realize that we are commenting here on Contour's Hybrid glue and nylon/mohair "Mix" fabric.
Should You Buy the Contour Hybrid Mix?
We find that the performance of these is worthwhile. The increased maintenance needs and costs, we have found, yield longer function than skins with "traditional" glue. Commit to the care of some Contour skins and you'll get performance that outlasts the others.
What Other Climbing Skins Should You Consider?
You have done well to narrow your search in such a fashion as to include the Contour Hybrid Mix (or the same skins, branded other ways). You will do just as well to include the high-performance Pomoca Climb Pro S Glide. Everything else is a little further off the back of these two.
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