Which splitboard skin is the best? We analyzed over 20 pairs and then bought the top 8 for our 2019 testing period. We broke trail in powder, tip-toed over rocks, struggled up steep icy skin tracks, ripped skins in the wind, jammed them in backpacks, and then pulled them apart to repeat the process. We monitored how well they gripped on the up and how well they glided on flat, as well as how easy they pulled apart. We also measured the glue's stickness and how well the skin resisted the snow from sticking to it. Keep scrolling to find out how all contenders fared in our comparisons.
The Best Splitboard Climbing Skins of 2019
|Price||$189.00 at REI|
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|$199.00 at REI|
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|$199.00 at REI|
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|$191.96 at Amazon|
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|$147.96 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||All-purpose, efficient, convenient, easy set up||Beefy skins with great grip, durable, excellent attachment system,||Efficient skinning, compact storage, solid attachment system||Lightweight, efficient, packable, good climbing ability||Durable, stellar grip, sturdy, easy to use, affordable, reliable glue, above average attachment, avoided glop in most conditions|
|Cons||Awkward folding, generalist, plastic||Bulky, slow, inefficient, tough to pack||Adequate grip, awkward folds||Expensive, difficult tale installation, no rip strip||Heavy, poor glide, bulky|
|Bottom Line||Excellent all around skin for most splitboarders.||Great skins for beginner splitboarders who want all the help they can get ascending.||Great skins for proficient skinners who know they want an efficient skin for big days.||A solid, pre-sized choice when selected for Jones splitboards.||Exceptional in many ways, the Voile is a previous Editors' Choice winner that ticks many boxes.|
|Rating Categories||G3 Splitboard+ Universal||G3 Splitboard+ Grip||G3 Splitboard+ Glide||Jones Nomad PRO||Voile Skins with Tail Clip|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Attachment System (15%)|
|Glue Icing Glop (20%)|
|Specs||G3 Splitboard+...||G3 Splitboard+ Grip||G3 Splitboard+ Glide||Jones Nomad PRO||Voile Skins with...|
|Weight per pair||560 g||580 g||560 g||500 g||730 g|
|Weight per skin||280 g||290 g||280 g||250 g||365 g|
|Material||Nylon plush||Nylon plush||Nylon plush||70% Mohair, 30% Nylon||Hydrophobic nylon|
|Glue||Non-toxic adhesive||Non-toxic adhesive||Non-toxic adhesive||Traditional||Traditional|
|Tip Attachment||Asymmetrical steel nads||Asymmetrical steel hands||Asymmetrical steel hands||Universal metal tip clip||Universal aluminum tip clip|
|Tail Attachment||SPLITBOARD+||SPLITBOARD+||SPLITBOARD+||Universal tail clip or board-specific quick tension tail clip||Rubber strap with aluminum tail attachment|
|Cheat Sheets Included?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
Best Overall Splitboard Climbing Skins for Backcountry Snowboarding
G3 Splitboard+ Universal
The G3 Splitboard+ Universal skin impresses across the board. Setting up your skins and getting out on the snow is as easy as it gets. The tip and tail attachments are excellent and once properly sized work perfectly. As the Universal name indicates, these skins work well for most riders in most conditions. The G3 Splitboard + Grip and G3 Splitboard + Glide share basically the same design except for the length of fur. We were impressed with these as well, but their appeal is narrower than the Universal. The general features of all three of these skins are covered in depth in the Universal review.
The specific Grip and Glide strengths and weaknesses are discussed in their respective reviews. If you are starting out with zero skinning experience, you should consider the G3 Splitboard + Grip skins. If you are an experienced splitboarder who gets out on longer and more complex tours, consider the G3 Splitboard+ Glide skins.
Read review: G3 Splitboard+ Universal
Best Value, Great Grip and Reliable Glue
Voile Skins with Tail Clip
When first unwrapping the Voile Skins with Tail Clip skins, we were a bit shocked at how burly they were. These skins are noticeably stiffer than the others in our review, especially when new. The G3 Splitboard + Grip skins are the closest. The Voile Skins became more supple with use and ultimately won a Top Pick Award. Although the tail clip is new, these skins are similar to earlier versions that have demonstrated impressive durability both of glue and of fur. The tail clip is light, easy to operate, and secures confidently. They grip very well on the ascent, though like many grippy skins, they sacrifice glide (and they are fairly heavy and bulky).
Out of the package, they only require trimming to the width of your splitboard. These skins make a solid choice especially for folks just getting into splitboarding who will likely appreciate the strong grip and stout construction and for riders who climb especially steep skin tracks.
Read review: Voile Skins with Tail Clip
Notable for Performance in Gliding and Climbing
The Jones Nomad is an excellent choice or experienced splitboarders who have developed confidence in their skinning skills. We tested the Clip version but the Quick Tensions Tail Clip version would likely be the choice for folks with Jones splitboards that have the tail notch designed for these skins.
The Jones Nomad nylon/mohair mix performance extremely well and was an excellent compromise between grip and glide and were the only ones in our review that required the user to attach the tail clip. This process involves rivets, a nail, and the final product might look a bit amateur depending on your level of crafting skill.
Read review: Jones Nomad
Why You Should Trust Us
Our splitboarding expert is long-time snow lover David Reichel and his friends in the Sierra. As a full-time avalanche expert, he spends his winter months digging snowpits and gathering snowpack data. That means he gets to splitboard…a lot! When he's not doing that, he's guiding all over the world including the USA and Japan. As an avalanche expert that gets out almost every day there's snow, he provides us with pivotal and important feedback on the best splitboard skins out there.
While testing these skins, we simply got out into the backcountry as much as possible. Venturing to places all over the world, we got to test in all climates ranging from heavy wet snow to dry and light. We primarily evaluated the glide and grip in addition to the ease of use and attachment systems. We compared each one through an unbiased lens to provide you with the best and honest recommendations you'll find out there.
Related: The Best Splitboard Bindings
Analysis and Test Results
We reviewed eight different splitboard skins. These ranged from the burliest climbers to some of the most efficient gliding splitboard skins on the market. The G3 Splitboard + Universal Skins were the winners due to their balance between grip and glide. The G3 Splitboard + Grip, and G3 Splitboard + Glide are also excellent for the right splitter. The Jones skins are solid and convenient choices for folks buying Jones Splitboards. Voile has been making quality skins forever and is still a pragmatic choice.
Related: Buying Advice for Splitboard Skins
How climbing skins work for you on and off your splitboard is a matter of balance. Does the glue hold tight while skinning but release when it's time to clamp the halves back together? Do they glide and grip just right for an efficient stride? Another balancing game is to consider the performance for the cost. The Best Buy award-winning Voile Skins with Tail Clip is our best value.
Skins are a primitive tool in many ways. While they are no longer made out of a dead animal skin that is stuck to the bottom of our skis, that basic DNA is still apparent in their design. The two primary materials replacing the animal fur are nylon and mohair (mohair is processed angora goat wool).
The fur has two primary functions: it grips and it glides. The fur is slightly angled towards the tail of the skin; this allows it to slide forward, engaging the hairs when pushed backwards. In turn, this (in theory) stops the skin from slipping. A hypothetical ideal skin would glide forward with zero resistance and then grip like wolverine claws when pushed backwards. Spoiler Alert! This ideal skin does not exist.
In addition to the gripping and gliding qualities of a skin, there are other factors in evaluating a climbing skin. How much does it weigh? Weight is tremendously important when climbing mountains and the difference between skins can be significant. How packable is it? Skins live a portion of their lives folded or rolled up in our backpacks and it's nice if the skins take up a minimum amount of space during transport.
While the aforementioned qualities are important, if the skin doesn't stick to your splitboard, nothing else really matters. The motto "better living through chemistry" could easily apply to skin glue. Ideally, it grips perfectly to your skins while ascending, but pulls apart easily after being stored glue to glue and stuffed in your pack for the descent. The glue should also magically repel dog hair, pine needles, and any other contaminants, and should last for a decent amount of time. In the real world, glue collects contaminants as you would expect from a sticky substance. In certain conditions, it can stick to itself and require significant muscle and time to pull apart. Most skins come with a ribbon in the middle of the skin glue known as a rip strip. This ribbon can help mitigate overly strong glue common with brand new skins and prolong the vigor of glue in older skins.
Historically, splitboard skins did not offer the full range of choices found in ski skins. This has shifted significantly in the last few years. Nearly every manufacturer now offers a range of skins. The trend seems to be manufacturers offering skins with more glide. The value of efficient skins has been appreciated by the ski touring community for years and it appears these types of skins are increasingly being offered to splitboarders.
Many splitboarders started out as snowboarders with zero ski experience. As snowboarders, their first forays in the backcountry are often on snowshoes. Even the worst gliding skins glide forward much better than snowshoes and thus often feel great. In reality, not all skins slide forward as easily and this resistance actually adds significantly to the amount of energy required to move the skins. Over the course of a big day, relatively small increases in gliding efficiency result in travelling further, faster, and arriving with more energy to enjoy the down. In general, nylon/mohair mix skins have better glide than straight nylon skins. The G3 Splitboard + Glide, Jones Nomad Pro had the best glide in our review.
Experienced backcountry skiers and splitboarders with good skinning technique can actually climb extremely well and quite efficiently using skins that compromise some grip for improved glide. To say this a different way, good technique can make up for skins that provide less grip, but it can't overcome skins that have less glide. While some experienced backcountry skiers and splitboarders are content to stick with nylon skins that grip great, many others experiment with nylon/mohair mixes that provide for more efficient travel. The length of your tours is also worth considering here. On shorter days the inefficiency of the extra grip doesn't matter as much as it does on longer full day tours.
Skins need to grip the snow as you climb up. The Voile splitboard skins and G3 Splitboard + Grip skins provided the most grip in our review. Ideally, we would all climb expertly low angle fresh skin tracks on powder days with no switchbacks, where grip is less critical. In reality we often climb overly steep, slick skin tracks and having the most grip possible feels great in these situations.
Many beginner splitboarders will likely value grip over any other quality as strong performance in grip will likely improve their learning experience over the other qualities (even tiny back slips can be terrifying to new skinners). With time comes improved skinning technique and maximum grip is less critical. For more experienced splitters, it makes sense to consider how grip compromises glide and possibly increases weight and packability.
Ease of Use
As you might expect, we based our evaluations on how easy it was to set up our skins. All the skins in our review required that they be trimmed to fit a splitboard; they all included trim tools, but a couple of the tools were nicer than others. The G3 Splitboard + Universal and G3 Splitboard + Grip and G3 Splitboard + Glide trim tool in particular is simple to use and results in a well-cut skin that accurately matches the splitboard without too much fuss and measuring. All the skins except for the Jones skins came with attached adjustable tail clips. This means you just need to buy the skin that fits your board and adjust the tail clip so that it securely holds the tail of your splitboard. Both Jones splitboards, the Jones Solution and Jones Explorer, come with an adjustable tail, but require the purchaser to install it. Installation is not rocket science but unless you have experience working with rivets, it can be a bit challenging. If you are purchasing or already own a Jones Splitboard, buying on the precut Jones skins eliminates this pre-trip hassle. Jones does sell skins that come pre-fit to your Jones splitboard. This is a nice feature and will speed you out the door and onto the snow.
We also considered weight as part of ease of use. Weight is challenging to measure for skins since they arrive (when bought new) in significantly different lengths and widths. We did our best to measure how all the skins compare to each other. We folded, rolled and stuffed the skins into our packs to measure how packable they could be. At the bottom of our runs, we pulled the skins apart and evaluated how hard or difficult it was to do this. In general, the skins that excel at glide are smaller and lighter than those that excel at grip.
All the splitboard skins in our review have nose and tail clips. When properly adjusted to your splitboard, they all work well at helping to keep the skins connected to your board. Truthfully this works fine with newer skins (with strong glue) and on shorter days. Not having a tail clip actually saves a little weight and allows the skins to pack even smaller. If you spend enough time in the backcountry, you will eventually have a day where the glue on skins starts to fail due to challenging environmental conditions, something contaminating your glue, or perhaps older glue that has deteriorated.
Tail clips can save your bacon when the glue starts to fail by providing enough connection to the board, which will help you limp back to the trailhead. If the glue totally fails, the tail clips are not enough to hold on your skins, but will help with a partial failure. The nose clips on the Jones and Voile Skins with Tail Clips are quite similar, with the G3 skins bringing some creativity to the market. The G3 uses more rubber in connecting their tip clip to the skin material and their tip and tail connectors work very well.
Glue and Glop
The glue on all our skins worked well during our partial season of testing, so longevity may not be accounted for in our results. We appreciate the rip strips on the G3 and Voile offerings. This reduces a bit of stickiness when the skins are brand new and the glue super strong, saving your arms from some straining. After several seasons of use when the glue begins to weaken, removing the rip strip reveals essentially brand new glue and extends the useful life of the skins.
On the other side of the skin, in specific conditions, snow can stick to the fur of the skin. Often this occurs on a powder day when a mix of warm above freezing temps (perhaps in the sun) and colder snow remaining in shady areas. Once the skins become a little wet from the above freezing sunny melting snow and then move back into the cold wintery below freezing snow, it sticks or glops to the skin. In what seems to be comparable to that of a speed record, this snow can accumulate and become very heavy. This is usually a stop and fix problem that requires scraping the glopping snow off the split ski and then applying skin wax to the skin to try and prevent this from re-occuring. Many skins come treated with some water-repellent finish to deter this glopping. In our experience, this treatment works partially, but it is still necessary to carry skin wax just in case.
Splitboard climbing skins are first and foremost meant to grip and glide. In addition to the primary function of these skins, necessary factors such as weight, glue strength, and ease of attachment can set certain skins above the rest. Our goal in conducting and publishing this review is to help you identify the right skins for your board and your snowy adventures.
— David Reichel