G3 Splitboard+ Universal Review
Cons: Awkward folding
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Our Analysis and Test Results
G3 makes a wide range of skins for skiing and splitboarding. The Splitboard+ Universal updates their previous design with thoughtful improvements. This particular model is appropriate for most splitboarders.
G3 claims that the Universal is evenly balanced between grip and glide. After several months of use, we agree.
With reasonably good skinning technique, we felt confident in the grip provided by these skins; blown out switchbacks at our local go-to areas are great testing grounds for the grip of a skin. Even after a couple of days of cold, clear nights, and some near-surface faceting made the switchbacks slippery, the Universal skins gripped well.
The Universal provides an impressive balance of grip and glide, making it a great choice as an everyday skin, no matter how far you are skinning.
It offers effortless and silky glide in every stride and condition. Glide is critical for conserving energy during your tour to ride your best on the way down. Mohair skins generally provide the best glide, but this nylon plush provided mohair like glide; our testers were impressed by the versatility offered by its fine-tuned balance of grip and glide.
Ease of Use
The Universal is a thoughtfully featured skin that creates a positive user experience.
The skins come out of the box with a precut edge that aligns perfectly with the straight edge of your splitboard. Not only does this cut your time in half from box to trailhead, but it allows for one perfect edge, which helps on every transition. The included skin trimming tool was ergonomically designed for easy handling and bracing against the edge of the splitboard. The tool helped us achieve our cleanest cuts on the review fleet.
The G3 Splitboard skins are available in two size lengths. The S/M fits boards from 144-162 cm, and the M/L fits boards 154-172 cm. The splitboards in our testing quiver were primarily 157-162 in length; we chose the S/M to review. As experienced splitboarders and confident skinners, we preferred a slightly lighter (because it is smaller) overall skin. The versatile sizing offers plenty of overlap for most board sizes and fits every board in our review with a range of 156 to 162.
The secure attachment system features a camming tail clip and a bulky yet user-friendly tip clip. However, the system makes this skin a challenge to roll and can increase difficulty in compactly folding. We found this to be a trade-off we were willing to make for the ease of use and security brought by the Universal's attachment system.
Splitboarders rejoice. Camming tail clips have been found on ski climbing skins for years but have been slow to make their way onto splitboard skins.
Fortunately, those days might soon be over. The tip and tail systems on the Universal are excellent, and the tail camming connector provides an intuitive and secure attachment. During our testing, the tail clip never fell off; the plastic has held up well to our use and abuse without showing much evidence of wear. After a few attachments, it becomes intuitive to attach the tail using the clip and cam lock system.
As the sport has grown, splitboard manufacturers have been exploring and refining different shapes from blunted tails to swallowtails. Certain styles of tail clips are insecure on this unique shape. The Universal tail clip is living up to its name by bringing security to these shapes. The actual camming action is impressively secure. G3's camming tail connector is the best solution we have tested so far for traditional and surf styled shapes.
When switching between splitboards of different lengths, we recommend adjusting the camming tail connector at home and not in the cold, at the trailhead, while your friends wait. It is a bit cumbersome to adjust the length properly, but this is really not a problem because after you fit it to your splitboard once, you shouldn't have to adjust it again. Additionally, because adjusting the camming tail connector requires specific manipulations of the tail material, it is very secure and unlikely to work its way loose. Once the proper length is selected to achieve the optimum tension on the ski, it holds the skins securely on the splitboard.
Looking at G3's ski skins, it is clear that they see plastic as a useful material for connecting to the nose of a ski. The splitboard skins show this influence but are tweaked for their asymmetric shape. We found the metal clips to do an excellent job of holding the skins to the splitboard; they are reasonably easy to attach and are up to the task of keeping the skins in place. The side of any skin that lines up with the part of the splitboard with sidecut is often the first place that snow works its way underneath the skin. We had high hopes that G3's plastic connector would solve this issue, and we were slightly disappointed that it did not.
To be fair, no other style of connector has cracked the code on this either. We did not find the G3 connector to fare any worse than other skin designs, but it still required that we methodically attach the skins and make sure that they were perfectly attached in this area to avoid snow intrusion.
Glue and Glop
The Universal skins performed very well in avoiding or minimizing glop. During testing in Argentina, we encountered periods of warm temperatures while cold snow remained; these are ideal conditions for horrendous glop. The Universal skins almost entirely avoided glopping while some of our partners experienced a build-up of several pounds of snow. We have just over a year of significant use of these skins, and they are still performing well at avoiding glop. Big props to G3 for achieving excellent waterproofness on their skins with a PFOA Free treatment.
If skins don't stick to your base, they are worthless, and the glue is the unsung hero of skins. Unless the owner maintains extreme vigilance, the glue magically collects all manner of dog hair, dust, pine needles, and dirt. After a solid two months of use, the Universal skin glue is performing as well as it did when it was brand new. We've kept them clean of contaminants, but have also used them in South American huts and driven home from the trailhead stuffed awkwardly in wet packs, to be left there overnight when the apres asado went late. G3 deserves credit for finding a glue formula that is non-toxic and still functions well.
For a nylon skin, the Universal is priced on the higher end compared to the rest of the skin market. Through extensive testing, the Universal was awarded our Editors' Choice Award for its distinctive performance. Performance and durability are the two driving components of inherent value. While a score for durability is not assigned in this review, the skins are well made, and we have high hopes for their longevity. Both of these factors combined make the Universal a solid value for performance seeking splitboarders.
The G3 Splitboard+ Universal is perfect for most intermediate to expert splitboarders that have aspirations to do long traverses or backyard laps. As the name states, the Universal is ideal for almost all splitboarders in almost all conditions, as it successfully finds the sweet spot between grip and glide. The product is thoughtfully featured to make an easy to use, and reliable skin, and the attachment systems work well across a range of board designs. G3 includes their easy to use skin trimmer tool, and only trimming one side of the skin is required. The Universal is at home wherever it may be, and its plush performance and features make it a good first or fifth skin.
— Isaac Laredo & David Reichel