The 5 Best Splitboard Climbing Skins
Top 7 Product Ratings
|Price||$148.46 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Beefy skins with great grip, durable, excellent attachment system||Easy to peel apart and remove from ski base, great glide, compact storage, easier to recover from skin failure|
|Cons||Bulky, inefficient, tough to pack||No length adjustment, velcro tip and tail attachment, higher frequency of total skin failures|
|Bottom Line||Great skins for beginner splitboarders who want all the help they can get ascending||A unique skin that manages certain difficulties of glue-based skins but requires more tending in the field|
|Rating Categories||G3 Splitboard+ Grip||Contour Hybrid|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Attachment System (15%)|
|Glue Icing Glop (20%)|
|Specs||G3 Splitboard+ Grip||Contour Hybrid|
|Weight per pair||580 (g)||624 (g)|
|Weight per skin||290 (g)||312 (g)|
|Material||Nylon plush||70% Mohair / 30% Synthetic|
|Glue||Non-toxic adhesive||Twin layer hybriad adhesive|
|Tip Attachment||Asymmetrical steel hands||Fixed velco attachment|
|Tail Attachment||SPLITBOARD+||Fixed velcro attachment|
|Cheat Sheets Included?||Yes||Yes|
Best Overall Splitboard Skin
G3 Splitboard+ Universal
The G3 Splitboard+ Universal skin constantly impressed our testers. It's a high performing, versatile player that is thoughtfully designed to provide a streamlined and efficient experience. Setting up your skins and getting out on the snow is as easy as it gets. The camming tail clips provide exceptional security when sized correctly, and the word universal says it all. These skins work well for most riders in most conditions.
The more complex tail clip and bulky tip clip prevent this skin from folding or rolling as small as its simpler competitors. That being said, the skin will still be packable enough for every application, like being shoved into a jacket pocket or stuffed in your backpack.
Read more: G3 Splitboard+ Universal review
Best Bang for the Buck
Black Diamond Ascension Splitboard STS
The Black Diamond Ascension is an all-around workhorse that has been happily serving guides, avalanche professionals, and rental fleets for years. Its diverse use contexts are supported by its well-balanced performance. This skin has an excellent grip to glide ratio suitable for learning or longer objectives based on its shorter pile and nylon plush. The nylon plush brings durability benefits, which should last through the use and abuse of experts or beginners. We found this skin to offer great versatility at a great price.
The Ascension skin requires more effort to make the transition from box to field. It needs to be trimmed in both dimensions, and the tip clip needs to be installed; this a time-consuming process that has pros and cons. Specifically, the trim to fit as opposed to the sized base distribution model produces more waste and takes more time on the consumer's end. Another consideration is that with the robust coating of glue, it can be challenging to pull apart after time and in colder temperatures.
Read more: Black Diamond Ascension Splitboard STS review
Black Diamond GlideLite Splitboard Mix STS
The Black Diamond Glidelite STS Splitboard Skin offers great value in a mohair mix skin due to its grip to glide ratio and packability. This skin features a 70% to 30% blend of mohair to nylon, which increases glide, especially in drier snow conditions, yet maintains plenty of grip and durability for intermediate skinners. The simple tip and tail attachment systems minimize bulk and fit in small packs for quick, light, fast missions. The Glidelite is the best value in a mohair mix skin for its performance on the skin track and no-frills approach that results in a solid skin for big and small objectives.
When compared to other skins in the category, some assembly is required. It needs to be trimmed to fit length and width before the tail clip can be attached. If you like to switch one pair of skins across a few different snowboards, this skin lacks a large range of adjustment. The smaller adjustment ability can fit boards within a 4-5 cm range. For most people, this shouldn't be an issue but is worth noting.
Read more: Black Diamond GlideLite Splitboard Mix STS review
Best Skin for Easy Care and Ease of Use
The Contour Hybrid offers a unique approach to skin glue. It provides a two-layer hybrid adhesive designed to be easy to pull apart, yet still remain reliably attached to the base. The unique glue is easy to care for; if something gets on the adhesive, it can be washed off. With this type of adhesive, full skin failures are easier to recover from; simply wipe off the base and adhesive, and you should be back at it. While the sticky side of the skin is different, the carpet side still offers a supple, compact feel and competitive glide.
The Contour Hybrid has few considerations to be aware of before making your purchase. This skin is designed to fit only one board as it has no built-in length adjustment. It has two Velcro tip connectors that are surprisingly reliable but change how we place the skin on our split ski. The Velcro was also harder to handle with gloves on. The final consideration of these skins is the frequency at which full skin failures occur. The hybrid glue is more likely to fail than standard glue when wet. These limitations make this skin best for individuals looking to stay closer to the car but still want a user-friendly, high-performance skin.
Read more: Contour Hybrid review
Best Skin for Jones Users
Jones Nomad PRO
The Jones Nomad Pro is a great choice for those who already have or are looking to purchase a Jones board. With the quick tension tail clip, these can be purchased to fit your board perfectly. This will reduce the likelihood of human error, save time, frustration and provide a very secure system. The Nomad Pro is an efficient skin based on its levels of glide, packability, and weight.
The Jones Nomad Pro comes at a high cost. It's one of the more expensive skins on the market. Like some other skins on the market, the universal tail requires installation, which just takes additional time to do properly, especially if you don't use rivets often.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our splitboarding experts are long-time snow lovers David Reichel and Isaac Laredo, and their friends in the Sierra. David is a full-time avalanche expert and spends his winter months digging snowpits and gathering snowpack data. Isaac is an avalanche educator and avid go-getter on his personal backcountry days. In short, that means they get to splitboard… a lot! When they are not splitboarding, they're guiding or riding worldwide, including the USA and Japan. As avalanche experts that get out almost every day there's snow, they provide us with pivotal and important feedback on the best splitboard skins out there.
While testing these skins, we 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 most honest recommendations you'll find out there.
Related: How We Tested Splitboard Skins
Analysis and Test Results
Skins are physical contradictions. We ask them to provide claw-like grip, but also glide like we are sliding on a freshly oiled wooden floor. We ask that they adhere to our bases like duct tape but come off like brownies from a greased baking pan. Additionally, we require our skins to be light as feathers but as durable as granite. As adventurers, we ask a lot from our gear, but few categories have such polarized requirements as skins. We reviewed seven different splitboard skins, ranging from the burliest climbers to some of the most efficient gliding splitboard skins on the market. In this review, we will help you find the best performing model to support your backcountry adventures.
Related: How to Choose Splitboard Skins for Backcountry Snowboarding
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 stick 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. In other words, the best value.
Our highest performer, the G3 Universal, offers performance that was at the top of its category at a very reasonable price. It's easy to align and has a very secure attachment system that differentiates the product from other well-balanced skins. The Black Diamond Ascension provides an excellent value based on its similar pricing structure and offers an impressive grip to glide ratio and longevity. This model is incredibly versatile and supports a variety of goals.
The Black Diamond GlideLite also offers up an excellent price point. It's the best value in a mohair skin based on its price and execution, which provides a smooth glide, supple and packable nature.
Many splitboarders started as snowboarders with zero ski experience. Therefore, most 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 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 traveling further, faster, and arriving with more energy to enjoy the down. To suss out these details of efficiency, we were often touring with two different skins over flat and rolling terrain or straight-lining down the hill in ski mode.
Every splitboarder has different needs in this metric. The beginner skinner will most likely favor a skin with more grip than glide, while an experienced backcountry skier or splitboarder with good skinning technique can climb extremely well using skins that compromise some grip for improved glide. Examples of this include the G3 Splitboard + Glide, Black Diamond GlideLite Split STS, or Jones Nomad Pro. These three skins offered the best glide of our review fleet due to their strategic hair length and mix of nylon and mohair.
In contrast, a beginner is likely to favor a skin that provides the utmost grip but at the expense of glide. The difference between these users' needs is technique. Good technique can make up for skins that provide less grip, but can't overcome skins with less glide. While some experienced backcountry skiers and splitboarders are content to stick with nylon skins that grip exceptionally well, many experiment with nylon/mohair mixes that provide for more efficient travel. The G3 Splitboard+ Universal might be the bridge between the gap as they provided comparable glide to the Glidelite and G3 Glide.
Take a look at your backcountry goals and aspirations. Are they close to the trailhead laps that you can fit in between classes or work? Perhaps multi-day ski touring in California's backcountry? Either way, 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.
Remember five seconds ago when you were reading about frictionless glide? It's reasonable if you had to double take at this metric title. Yes, it says grip. What we ask of our skins is inherently polarized; skins need to grip the snow as you climb up, and do it with security so you can focus on conversation, observation, and navigation rather than staying on your feet. Grip was tested in the field predominantly through daily touring, and our reviewers would routinely step off the skin track to climb the steepest hill in whatever conditions. This resulted in many dropped conversations and finding and exceeding the grip and technical capabilities of our fleet and testers.
Many beginner splitboarders will likely value grip over any other quality. Strong performance in grip will likely improve their learning experience over the other qualities (even tiny back slips can be terrifying to new skinners).
The full nylon skins, like the G3 Splitboard+ Grip, and the Black Diamond Ascension, provided the highest quantities of grip in that respective order. These three skins are the best for learning if you want the added security of strong grip. The G3 Universal Skin was a strong performer in the means of grip, providing marginally less grip than the two mentioned above. The Universal deserves an honorable mention here for its well-rounded performance in polarized categories. Its performance makes it an excellent choice for a first of fifth skin. As splitboarders refine their technique and route-finding, we often climb lower angle skin tracks with no switchbacks. Here grip becomes less important, and we can favor glide, weight, packability, and other metrics.
Ease of Use
The goal is to get as much riding and touring as possible. To do that, we need to minimize our time in transition and set up. It's critical that our skins are easy to use all of the time. If you have ever fought to rip your skin apart in a blizzard, you can appreciate a user-friendly product. As you might expect, we based our evaluations on how easy it was to set up and handle our skins.
All skins in our review require that they're trimmed to fit a splitboard; they all included trim tools, but a couple of the tools were nicer than others. The G3 trim tool, in particular, is simple to use and has an ergonomic design, which results in a well-cut skin that accurately matches the splitboard without too much fuss and measuring. The Black Diamond GlideLite and Jones Universal skins both require physically attaching a clip. The GlideLite required us to attach a tip clip with some breakaway screws. The process required some time and three different tools. Black Diamond also recommends tapering the tip of the skin to maximize glide. Both of these steps are something most manufacturers have done out of the box.
The Jones Universal skins 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. Jones does sell skins that come pre-fit to your Jones splitboard. If you are purchasing or already own a Jones splitboard, buying the pre-cut Jones skins eliminates this pre-trip hassle. This is a nice feature and will speed up the process so you can get out the door and onto the snow.
We also considered weight and packability 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 folded, rolled, and stuffed the skins into our packs to measure how packable they are. In general, skins with less bulky attachment systems that have thin and supple carpets are the most packable. The Black Diamond GlideLite, Contour Hybrid, and Jones Nomad Pro skins were the most packable of our review pool. They were able to roll and fold into compact packages.
Your skins are a critical movement tool in the backcountry, and an effective attachment system will serve two purposes: it first must be reliable, and secondly, it must be user-friendly. The attachment system is the foundation for avoiding skin failure. If the glue has been compromised, a good attachment system can prevent a total failure and allow you to limp back to the trailhead. We intentionally compromised our skins and used the skin on different lengths and shaped splitboards to test the reliability, versatility, and user-friendliness of each attachment system.
The time has finally come. G3 has brought a camming tail clip to the splitboard market, and it is offered on G3 Splitboard + Series, which provides incredible security when sized appropriately. In our testing, the tail clip of the G3s never unintentionally came off our splitboards. When the glue was intentionally compromised, we were able to travel and still had peace of mind that our skin would stay on.
Splitboards have begun to align with the shape movement unfolding in snowboarding, which results in a lot of unique tip and tail shapes. The G3 series attachment system has the ideal geometry to fit the increasingly common swallow, diamond, and blunted tails securely. On certain tail shapes, the horizontal sidearm can be off the board but posed no threat to security. The tip clip is rigid and easy to align to the straight inside edge based on the orientation of the steel armbars.
Many skins in this review, like the Jones Nomad Pro and Black Diamond models, utilized the time-tested fixed metal wire loop that sits over your tip clip. This system is reliable but harder to align with the inside edge than the G3, which translates to more fumbling opportunities.
Glue and Glop
The glue provides the backbone of our skin's security. We expect our skins to seemingly be welded to our bases yet easy to pull apart in all conditions. Proactive paranoia regarding water and debris is the best thing to preserve your glue in the short term and long term.
On the other side of the skin, it needs to avoid glop; glopping is when snow collects into a cohesive block on the bottom of your skins. Glopping increases the weight on your feet and has negative impacts on your efficiency and energy use. If you were to add one pound on your foot, it would be the equivalent of adding five pounds to your backpack. No one needs that additional weight in the form of glop.
Each skin model had varying adhesive levels — some are a little too strong, and others are made to be incredibly easy to pull apart. The Jones Nomad Pro finds a nice middle ground without the use of a rip strip. A rip strip 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. The G3 and Black Diamond skins offer rip-strips. G3 uses a thin coat of non-toxic glue that proved to be incredibly reliable and remained easy to use in all temperatures.
The Contour Hybrid takes a different approach to find this balance. It uses a hybrid adhesive that requires no effort to pull apart and has good adherence to the skin base. In order to maintain a good stick, you do have to be more attentive and dry your skin base. The skin is more susceptible to full failures when moisture is encountered. Fortunately, failures are easier to recover from than with traditional glue.
Glopping is likely to occur 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. Skins such as the G3 series, Black Diamond, and Jones all have sophisticated waterproofing that aims to prevent glopping and carpet saturation. The carpets of the Jones Nomad Pro began to saturate over time as the coating began to wear off, which can result in increased glopping in the proper conditions.
What we ask of our climbing skins are polarized concepts. Balance and compromise are inherent requirements of this piece of gear to best serve our needs. The best thing we can do is understand what metrics we prioritize. Splitboard climbing skins meant, first and foremost, to grip and glide; what sets them apart is the balance and details. The ideal splitboard skin will provide performance, glide, and a secure grip. 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 best splitboard skins for your board and your snowy adventures.
— Isaac Laredo & David Reichel
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