Reviews You Can Rely On

Kohla Vacuum Base ZERO Review

Unique, “glueless” skins for the occasional backcountry skier or the very patient enthusiast
kohla vacuum base zero climbing skin review
Credit: Kohla
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $200 List
Manufacturer:   Kohla
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 11, 2020
  • Glide - 30% 5.0
  • Grip - 15% 5.0
  • Glue Integrity - 20% 2.0
  • Portability - 20% 6.0
  • Icing Resistance - 10% 6.0
  • Compatibility - 5% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Kohla Vacuum Base Zero skins offer solid and proven fabric side performance, with a unique "solution" to the adhesive side. The silicone material sticks to the base of your skis with a suction-like action. The result is field failures that appear more frequently than with "regular" glue, but a home maintenance regimen that is virtually nonexistent. We've tested these and others long enough to find that the differences, for most users, tip in favor of sticking with "regular" glued products. However, for some, the appeal of long-lasting and low-maintenance mediocre performance could outweigh the appeal of long-term replacement and maintenance costs and time in exchange for better field performance. These are perhaps best for the very occasional backcountry skier who has patience and skill for the field side of things but doesn't want to treat their skins like another member of the family the other 363 days of the year.
Average to above average grip and glide
Unique adhesive is low-maintenance
In the long run
Unique adhesive causes more-than-usual field problems

Our Analysis and Test Results

Kohla's Vacuum Base Zero climbing skins are made without "traditional" skin glue, which certainly sets them apart from the masses. This design is appealing because it theoretically does better with wet conditions and is, in the long run, easier to maintain. In our experience, the silicone base has its pros and cons.

Performance Comparison

kohla vacuum base zero climbing skin review - for occasional skiers, the low maintenance of the kohla may be worth...
For occasional skiers, the low maintenance of the Kohla may be worth the field fiddle factor.
Credit: Jediah Porter


In our head to head glide testing, we were able to agree across the test team pretty closely. The fabric side of the Vacuum Base Zero is right in the middle of the pack. Whether the snow is dry or wet, you won't notice great amounts of resistance to forward progress.

Comparatively, the glide is virtually indistinguishable from that of the current Best Buy. Glide is easy to underestimate, for beginning skinners. The energy required to slide your skins forward can add up to a considerable amount. Weight your choices in favor of glide, given the option. We approve of the glide characteristics of the Kohla.

kohla vacuum base zero climbing skin review - the plush side of the kohla competes well with all the main award...
The plush side of the Kohla competes well with all the main award winners, in terms of grip and glide.
Credit: Jediah Porter


Grip is what skins do. The reason we use skins is to grip the snow. That being said, all skins grip "enough", given good technique. Since grip and glide are, in terms of design criteria, somewhat oppositional, we weight glide more heavily and discount the importance of grip. Only beginner skinners or those in real tough conditions will discern important differences between the grip of different skins. As with glide, the Kohla Vacuum comes out in the middle of the pack, in terms of grip. This is great.

Glue Integrity

In this category, the Vacuum Base Zero really stands out, and the silicone adhesive is truly unique within our test roster. We used another set of silicone skins in an earlier review cycle and a different, iterative improvement more recently. We like them all, overall. As compared to "regular" skin glue, the silicone base of these is more durable and requires less maintenance, in the long run. On any given tour, though, you are more likely to need to perform some sort of adjustment or reapplication. You can literally wash these skins in your sink at home. If your kid wraps the cat in your Kohla skins, you simply rinse off the hair with soap and water. You definitely cannot do that with traditional glued skins. On the other hand, almost regardless of temperatures and moisture content, you are more likely to experience ski/skin delamination out in the backcountry with the siliconed Kohla Vacuum. This is annoying and time consuming but is easily resolved with a ski-off, skin cleaning rest break.

The adhesive design informs the ease of use. Like we mention above, you have a choice to make. Do you want in-field fiddling in exchange for toss-it-in-the-corner at home ease? Or would you rather take some care and put in some work at home and get better field performance? With other minor usability concerns, this seems to be the question informing ones choice of the Kohla or not.

We tested long enough to discover that, if you lose a traditionally glued skin once about every five days of skinning, you will lose your Kohla Vacuum twice for every five days of skinning. Essentially, you are going to remount your Kohla skins about twice as frequently as your regular glued skins, all else equal. Now, regular glued skins degrade with time and use, while the silicone base of the Kohla basically does not. If you are sloppy with maintenance and replacement of your regular glued skins, you will kick them off more frequently, while skin adhesion failure of the Kohla will not appreciably change with clumsy maintenance. Our test team went "'round and 'round" on the question of "well, is the silicone better than regular glue?" We didn't heartily agree, but the consensus is that regular glue is a little better. We'd rather, overall, deal with the glue maintenance at home than in the field.

kohla vacuum base zero climbing skin review - the silicone adhesive often fails entirely in the field. the fix...
The silicone adhesive often fails entirely in the field. The fix takes a few minutes each time, and seems to work every time. This same issue is a problem with "regular" skins, but is less frequent.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Choose the Kohla Vacuum Base Zero if you want skins that will last a long time with absolutely no at-home maintenance. You will pay for that ease with more frequent in-field issues, but those in-field issues are easily resolved. Traditional glued skins require some love at home but work better in the wild.

kohla vacuum base zero climbing skin review - here a skin tester and avalanche instructor tests the field...
Here a skin tester and avalanche instructor tests the field reliability of the Kohla by rubbing the "glue" side on wet snow. Regular skins fully fail this test, but all these needed was a quick pat dry and they were as good as new.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Icing Resistance

All skins collect ice and snow, on the fabric side, in some conditions. The biggest variable that informs this, over the long term, is waxing of your skins. Waxed skins resist icing better than nonwaxed skins, by far. There are more subtle differences, mainly in the balance and presence of nylon vs. mohair and the factory pretreatment of the skins, that inform icing proclivity.

With all this in mind, the mohair/nylon blend of the Kohla Vacuum seems to resist icing as well as most will need. Fully nylon skins and all plastic skins resist icing the best, but that comes with other significant drawbacks.


Because skins are cut to the length and width of your skis, comparing exact dimensions and mass is problematic. We do indeed weigh and measure the skins but calibrate that, informally, against surface area to deduce actual relative weight and bulk. When we do that, the Kohla skins are among the more packable skins we assessed.

Pretty much all the mohair/nylon blend skins are the same weight and bulk.

kohla vacuum base zero climbing skin review - packing up the kohla. for storage, the silicone adhesive is much...
Packing up the Kohla. For storage, the silicone adhesive is much lower maintenance than the other products on the market.
Credit: Jediah Porter


This metric is easy to report on. Basically, the Vacuum Base Zero skins can be cut for use with any skis. We dig this.

Only a couple of skins are available only for use on certain skis. This is an important thing to mention and note, but it doesn't really inform your choices too much.

kohla vacuum base zero climbing skin review - kohla skin testing in the grand targhee backcountry, may 2018.
Kohla skin testing in the Grand Targhee backcountry, May 2018.
Credit: Jediah Porter


Since they will last a long time with little to no maintenance, these are an ok value. The field performance suffers, as compared to others, but the low maintenance costs (in terms of dollars and time) can tip the balance.


Every few years some new "technology" promises to disrupt the climbing skin business. We follow the trends and hold on for the ride, but these "upgrades" rarely exceed the performance of the "tried and true" formula. The silicone adhesive of the Kohla can be seen either way. For a very small subset of users, this is exactly what you've been looking for. For most, though, the regular glue technology is still preferred. In overall scoring, there is nothing special about the Kohla. By far, their most discerning characteristic is the silicone adhesive. The plush (fabric) side strikes a great balance of grip and glide, fitting right in with the best in our review. If the pros and cons of the non-traditional adhesive balance out on the plus side for you, these are excellent skins. Basically, the adhesive is indeed more durable and lower maintenance in the long run. However, while "on tour" in the field, these skins require a little more fiddling than skins with regular glue.

Jediah Porter
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