The Latest Version of the G3 High Traction Skins
Since our original review of this product, there are several small changes. In 2016,
the shape of the metal hands (the parts that attach the skin to the tip of the ski) were augmented to help prevent the common nuisance of accidentally kicking off the skin with your opposing ski. For 2017, The High Traction skins feature a new tail clip. The new tail clip has a concave front rather than the previous convex shape allowing for less drag. You can also identify the latest version by their updated orange, blue and gray graphic.
Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the latest version of the G3 High Traction pictured on the left, the 2016 model in the middle and the older version shown on the right.
Here's a summary of the key differences between the 2017 High Traction skins and the previous version:
- Nose Clip — With the intention of reducing drag, an update from the 2016 model is the new tail clip which now features a concave front. (This refers to the gray plastic part, which is difficult to see in photos).
- Metal Hands — in 2016, the shape of the metal hands (the parts that affix the skin to the tip of the ski) were updated to combat the annoyance of accidentally kicking off the skin with your other ski.
- Graphics — While arguably similar in style, the new version of this product features slightly different graphics in an orange, blue and gray combo (versus the green, red, and blue graphic of the product we reviewed).
While we're eager to try these skins out, we haven't tested this version yet and so can't confirm the manufacturer's claims. For now, the text and ratings in this review still reflect the older version.
Hands-On Review of the Older G3 High Traction Skins
The High Traction skins from the Canadian company G3 represent the most unique product in our test. The incredibly high grip far exceeds that of the other skins we tested. As you read on, you'll see both the value and cost of this attribute.
G3 HT skins in action in a bony, but still skiing well, Eastern Sierra. February 2015
In our view, glide is the single most important attribute of climbing skins, and it is often the most overlooked. When most consumers think of skins, they think of the grip and the glue. It is indeed important that skins stick to snow and skis stick to skins, and we'll elaborate on that below. However, with every step in good skinning technique the user slides the ski along the snow. Resistance to this slide costs energy. Easy sliding makes for easier climbing.
The G3 High Traction skins are the poorest gliders in our test. Anecdotally, across a variety of conditions, and in our corn-snow objective glide testing, we found the HT skins to drag considerably more than the other products in the review. All the other skins glided better, but none gripped as well. These two attributes are inherently at odds, so the best in one are the worst in the other.
On the left, the Dynastar Cham equipped with G3 High Traction skins. On the right, the Voile V6 set up with Black Diamond Ascension Nylon.
When it comes to grip, basically all skins grip well enough to climb at the most efficient angle. Because we have the option to set our own track, we can climb at whatever angle we want. The savvy skier, setting her own track, will choose a moderate angle for the easiest progress. At that efficient angle, usually around 15-20 deg from horizontal, even the most slippery skins grab totally fine. All this said, occasionally one wishes to skin more steeply. Very rarely terrain requires that the skier climb more steeply. Usually, though, it is the track setting skier that dictates the angle. The first person along, whether in your group or not, may have more grippy conditions, or better skins, or, most likely, better technique. They set a steep track and those following do not want to set their own path. In these cases, improving skinning technique is the best bet. Next, grippier skins can help.
If you really feel you need grippier skins, the High Traction is your best choice. These truly offer greater traction. In head-to-head tests, literally putting one skin on one foot and the High Traction on the other, the HT skins allowed at least 10 degrees of greater angle, even on the iciest of terrain.
IFMGA Mountain Guide Howie Schwartz on the G3 High Traction skins. These skins really do grip better than the alternatives. Is that necessary for you, and worth the inherent compromises? You will have to decide.
Just as skins need to stick to the snow, skis need to stick to skins. The actual integrity of the bond is mainly related to the glue qualities. Good skin glue seems like pure magic. It is a thick, seemingly viscous product, layered on goopy and vulnerable. In usage, it is anything but vulnerable. For the most part it remains evenly distributed on the skin fabric, all while sticking to itself for storage and stuck to the ski in usage. It is a mystery how some, or all of it, only extremely rarely, disengages from the fabric and bonds to only the ski. All formulations on all skin products we tested work in the same basic fashion. The biggest difference between them is in the strength of the bond it forms with both itself and the base of skis. Stronger glue holds the ski base better, but is harder to remove and harder to disengage from itself for deployment. Weaker skin glue is more vulnerable to peeling and rolling, letting snow between ski and skin. Both G3 skins we tested had glue that falls right in the middle. It sticks to the skin well enough, but not tenaciously.
Supporting the glue's qualities is the fabric stiffness and tip connection. Soft fabric is more likely to roll and peel back, allowing for the introduction of snow between skin and ski. Once this starts, it steadily progresses as the user tours. Interestingly, the G3 High Traction skins are softer than the otherwise lighter and more compact G3 Alpinist. In Black Diamond skins we found that the heaviest, burliest skins were also the stiffest. G3's stiffness is counter to what we expect. While the soft, supple fabric suggests vulnerability to peeling, we had no problems with the High Traction skins peeling off. This is probably due to the secure and clean tip attachment. As the last part of the glue integrity trifecta (glue itself, fabric stiffness, and tip attachment), the tip attachment is often overlooked in its impact on overall attachment reliability. This is unfortunate. A good tip attachment, and the G3 is the best universal tip attachment available, seals out the otherwise most vulnerable interface. All testers appreciated the G3 tip attachment for its ease of use and support of attachment integrity.
Close up view of the solid and clean tip attachment system on the G3 High Traction.
All skins ice up. When the user travels through warm, moist snow, and then into cold, dry snow, and back and forth between the two, ice can grow in the fibers of the fabric. This ice attracts more snow, which aggregates with even more. In the right conditions, skins can accumulate pounds of stubborn, soul-sucking mass. Again, all skins do this. New skins, fresh from the factory with a thorough water resistant coating, are a little better. However, on all skins, in our experience, this coating wears off. Some coatings last a little longer than others, and other unobservable attributes subtly change the susceptibility to icing. Intuitively, our testers assumed that the fluffy and fuzzy texture of the High Traction skins would attract more than usual icing. In practice, this forecast did not bear out. The High Traction skins did not ice or glop up more than most others. If anything, the HT skins ice less than the other G3 skins we tested.
Packability and Weight
Close up view of the tail attachment on the G3 High Traction skins.
Even though we mounted these beefy skins to some of the biggest skis in our review, they did not turn out to be the heaviest. We mounted the Best Buy Black Diamond Ascension Nylon to narrower skis, and the Ascension was still heavier and bulkier than the G3. The High Traction skins, though, are bulkier and heavier than all but this Best Buy winner. Those that feel they need the extra grip, and do not care about the corresponding loss of glide, are unlikely to care that much about the weight and bulk of the High Traction skins.
Ease of Use
The glue, especially the way the glue sticks to itself, is the primary determinant of a skin's ease of use. If a skin pulls from itself for deployment easily, it is overall easier to use. Just like with basically all skin attributes, this is a trade-off. Stickier glue stays put on skis better but is harder to deploy and vice versa. All the universally compatible skins we tested, including these G3s and all the Black Diamond products (all of which are, perhaps not coincidentally, designed in North America) offer glue that strikes the perfect balance. It's a little stickier than needed in most conditions, which helps build in a margin for lint, water, and ice. But it also pulls from itself quite readily. Helping the High Traction skins in deployment is G3's inclusion of so-called "wimp strips". A strip of very light fabric is placed over the glue along the center of the front half of the skin. This makes for less glue surface area touching itself in storage and preserves some glue for emergency use. We like the wimp strips.
We tested skins in our test that are set up for use with only one make and model of ski, as well as universally compatible skins. Both G3 skins we tested, as well as the three models of Black Diamond skins, are universally compatible. They can be purchased for rough length and width, and simply need to be trimmed for shape in order to work with any ski on the market. As compared to something like the simple cable loop on the Editors' Choice Black Diamond Glidelite Mix STS, the steel hooks on the G3 High Traction are far more useful and versatile. On the fattest, most rounded ski tips, the cable loop will not stay securely. The G3 hooks, found also on the G3 Alpinist, are absolutely secure regardless of the shape of the ski tip.
We give our Top Pick award to a specialized product. In our review, aside from compatibility issues that significantly narrow the use of other products we tested, the G3 High Traction is the most unique we reviewed. In terms of pure function, the G3 stands out more than any other. The additional traction is indeed noticeable and greatly appreciated in very specific settings. Just like with most of our Top Pick award winners, very few will truly need the functionality of the High Traction. For those that require this amount of grip, the trade-offs will be worthwhile and easily overlooked.
Skinning Esha Peak in the Eastern Sierra, California. G3 High Traction in the lead, with Ascension Nylon just behind. This is also the line up that led our grip scores.
Especially as compared to the non-universal skins, the High Traction is pretty inexpensive. We tested the skins over about 40,000 vertical feet of skinning, and suffered no degradation in performance. Intuitively, we question the durability of the grip. The long, fluffy fibers seem more vulnerable to wear than the stiffer, shorter fibers on other nylon skins we used. As compared to skins with mohair components, however, the full Nylon construction is apt to last pretty well.
Close up, detailed view of the fuzzier-than-average fabric side of the Top Pick G3 High Traction.
We recommend these skins only for those users that absolutely need the greater traction. Skiers in areas with a pattern of super steep skin tracks may appreciate them. Otherwise, in "normal" ski touring, the increase in grip will go largely unnoticed while the decrease in glide will affect every single step.