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The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024

We found the best alpine touring and backcountry ski bindings for 2024. Skip the lines and gear up for an out-of-bounds adventure.
G3 ionPhoto/Chris Kassar, Elk Raven Photography
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Sure, you might still be able to hike out of bounds at your local ski area, but you can’t actually skin uphill without a binding that releases at the heel and pivots at the toe. And with the investment in backcountry ski bindings comes the ultimate freedom and efficiency for lift-free travel, whether in the backcountry or at your local resort.

While the category may seem a bit new and mysterious to many shoppers here in the U.S., the development and evolution of these bindings have been going on rigorously in Europe for decades. Ski touring bindings mark an integral part of any backcountry setup, so don’t overlook the crucial technology that connects your boots to your skis.

First things first: You will need to educate yourself on how to shop for backcountry ski bindings, commonly called AT (alpine touring) bindings or uphill touring bindings. Our buyer’s guide is the perfect place to start. Then, with a little knowledge, you can evaluate our picks for the best backcountry ski bindings to find which is best for you. Head over to our comparison chart for a side-by-side rundown of specs and pricing, and check out our FAQ section, especially if you’re new to the wonders of ski touring.

Editor’s Note: We updated this guide on April 10, 2024, by adding the G3 Ion 12 to the lineup as our new pick for best overall backcountry ski binding. We also made sure the other items on our list were available and up-to-date.

The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024

Best Overall Backcountry Ski Binding

G3 ION 12


  • Weight 2 lbs., 8.8 oz.
  • Type Tech
  • DIN 5-12
The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024


  • Easy step-in
  • Extremely versatile
  • Tried and true; icon in the industry
  • Optimal heel lift
  • Very skier-friendly and intuitive to use


  • To the extreme weight-saver, may be a tad heavy
Best Budget Backcountry Ski Bindings

Fritschi Xenic 10


  • Weight 1 lb., 9 oz.
  • Type Tech
  • DIN 4-10
The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024


  • Easier to engage pins in deep snow
  • A good balance of weight and features
  • Great price


  • Toe lock for touring can be tough to engage
Best Crossover Backcountry Ski Bindings

Salomon S/Lab Shift MN 13


  • Weight 3 lbs., 14.4 oz. (pair)
  • Type Tech
  • DIN 6-13
The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024


  • Allows for more aggressive skiing in the backcountry
  • Extremely versatile
  • Accommodates Alpine, GripWalk, Tech, and Touring boot soles


  • Though lighter than frame bindings, these are still on the heavy side for touring
Best Frame Binding

Marker Baron


  • Weight 3 lbs.
  • Type Frame
  • DIN 4-13
The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024


  • Great downhill performance
  • Alpine boot compatible


  • Heavy
Best for Beginners

G3 ZED 12


  • Weight 1 lb., 9 oz.
  • Type Tech
  • DIN 5-12
The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024


  • Good range of adjustment
  • Easy to engage heel risers
  • Good value


  • Just a touch on the heavy side
Best Lightweight Ski Binding

Dynafit Superlite 150


  • Weight 10.5 oz.
  • Type Tech
  • DIN 4-13
The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024


  • Ultralight
  • Durable


  • Heel piece requires rotation to adjust riser height
Best of the Rest

Marker Alpinist 12


  • Weight 1 lb, 1 oz.
  • Type Tech
  • DIN 6-12
The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024


  • Good downhill performance
  • Lightweight


  • Release values are not DIN certified

Marker Duke PT 13


  • Weight 5 lbs., 12.8 oz.
  • Type Hybrid
  • DIN 4-13
The Best Backcountry Ski Bindings of 2024


  • A good compromise of uphill and downhill performance


  • Heavy
  • Expensive compared true tech pin bindings

Backcountry Ski Bindings Comparison Chart

BindingPriceWeight (per pair)TypeDIN Range
G3 Ion 12$6642 lbs., 8.8 oz. Tech5-12
Fritschi Xenic 10$5201 lb., 9 oz.Tech4-10
Salomon S/Lab Shift MN 13$6003 lbs., 14.4 oz.Hybrid6-13
Marker Baron$5003 lbs.Frame4-13
G3 ZED 12$5721 lb., 9 oz.Tech5-12
Dynafit Superlite 150$60010.5 oz.Tech4-13
Marker Alpinist 12$5501 lb., 1 oz.Tech6-12
Marker Duke PT 13$6505 lbs., 12.8 oz.Hybrid4-13
While backcountry skiing requires you to “earn your turns” with thousands of feet of climbing, the adventure and the setting can’t be beat. Our testers get to enjoy plenty of turns while testing bindings, along with plenty of trudging; (photo/Matt Bento)

How We Tested Backcountry Ski Bindings

Testing ski bindings involves climbing thousands of feet, ripping couloirs, quiet powder turns in the trees, and the occasional pre-release. For the team of ski-touring enthusiasts at GearJunkie, that part is all fun and games and the real work involves mounting and adjusting bindings, familiarizing themselves with new risers, and stepping into unfamiliar toe pieces in deep snow.

Curating this guide from the beginning in 2020 is writer, photographer, and lifelong ski bum Aaron Bible. Aaron has been covering the outdoor industry for decades, and he brings his keen eye for detail and his knack for the written word to provide solid assessments of each binding in our list.

In 2024, we also brought in two new testers, Ryan Kempfer, a boot fitter and ski tech cruising the backcountry for decades, and editor Chris Kassar, a dawn-patrol powder hound who usually gets in more than 100 days a year of earning her turns.

A good pair of bindings needs to pair well with the skier using them and the skis they’re mounted to, and while you’ll find our best overall choice is very versatile, don’t shy away from choosing a binding that better fits your needs. While a heavy frame binding isn’t going to get any nods from us in terms of lightweight performance, we’ve included one because there are skiers who are looking for the occasional roadside hit, but still just want one pair of skis they’ll mostly ride at the resort. So, with that in mind, we head out into the hills to make fair assessments of each binding based on the best use for each design.

The best way to get a thorough evaluation of ski binding is to go touring. Through countless climbs and transitions, the user experience becomes pretty clear. We pay close attention to how difficult it is to click into each binding (after a reasonable amount of practice) how it feels to adjust the risers from a standing position, and how they perform on the downhill.

Finally, we consider the weight of each pair. In human-powered travel, a few extra grams can really at up. The lightest bindings won’t have the best downhill performance, and the heaviest bindings with the most features will never be our top choice for a multiday tour. Our favorite bindings fall somewhere in the middle and are functional without weighing us down in the long run.

There are many moving parts on a backcountry ski binding, and if one fails far from the car it could mean a lot of trouble. The bindings in our guide are durable and reliable, but you should still inspect your bindings before and after each outing; (photo/GearJunkie)

Buyers Guide: How to Choose Backcountry Ski Bindings

The freedom of skiing without lifts — and hopefully without crowds — has been luring more and more people into the backcountry (uphill touring or alpine touring among Europeans) for years now. However, the mass growth in the U.S. and the use of these skis, bindings, boots, and skins for uphill travel and fitness at the ski resorts are a relatively new phenomenon.

Now, it is practically commonplace, and almost every ski area in North America has instituted some sort of uphill policy. These uphill policies are designed to allow uphill access for those wishing to earn their turns and also to keep everyone safe from snow machines and downhill ski traffic.

Purchasing backcountry bindings online lets you research bindings so you can find a touring binding that best fits your needs, goals, and budget. Backcountry bindings fall on a continuum, from light and efficient for skinning uphill, all the way to heavy and powerful for your downhill descents. And that’s basically how you can approach making your buying decision.

Ask yourself: What distance will I be skinning? How aggressive will I be skiing? Are the climbs steep? How long will I be climbing, and for how many days each season?

If I’m doing long tours way out of bounds at least once a week (or more), then it’s worthwhile to invest in the lightest weight bindings possible. If my focus is on skiing the most difficult lines and I’m strong as an ox, then my decision will be different than if I’m going for short, speedy skins up the front of my local ski hill.

When selecting a backcountry binding for your touring setup, consider these factors — uphill and downhill performance, ease of use, weight, and durability.

Heel risers make a world of difference on steep climbs. Some like the ones on the G3 Xenic are easy to flick up with your poles, while other designs require you to rotate the heel piece; (photo/Genuine Guide Gear)

Uphill & Downhill Performance

Start by determining what kind of skiing you do, as well as how you like to ski, before you choose an alpine touring binding. How heavy and aggressive of a skier you are makes all the difference. That said, most of the bindings you will encounter are overbuilt for the mission.

You won’t be dropping cliffs and stomping big-air landings in an ultralight 10 DIN touring binding. Nor will you be doing multiday rolling tours in a heavy frame-style binding with a 16 DIN.

But with the breadth and depth of choices now available to American consumers, you’ll certainly find something in between that matches the majority of your skiing. If you’re planning on getting a lot of days in over the next couple of seasons and have extra cash lying around, then you might consider investing in multiple sets of bindings mounted to skis that match the terrain, conditions, and end use you are shooting for.

Now, if you plan to use your setup primarily for backcountry skiing, you’ll want to look at any of the several tech-pin bindings we’ve featured here. Backcountry tech bindings are lighter and allow for efficient uphill travel by using a pin to connect to the toe of your boot.

If you plan to use your setup at the resort and for an occasional backcountry trip, choose a binding like the Atomic/Salomon SHIFT 13 that is designed similarly to an alpine binding. These bindings will perform better on the downhill, but they come with extra weight.

Ease of Use

Tech bindings may look confusing at first, but they’re actually very straightforward to use, especially if you choose one like our overall best pick, the G3 Ion 12. For beginners, they simply take some getting used to. Especially in deep snow, where you can’t see what you’re doing, they can get a little tricky. Some bindings feature indicators to help you line up your toepiece to the binding.

When you get your new binding mounted, practice using them repeatedly at home or at a resort before you head to the backcountry. Start by aligning the pin of your binding to your boot, and then step down with the front of your foot.

Practice clicking in and out of the binding, locking the toe lever (in climbing/walking mode) so your boot can’t pivot. Test the different climbing levels and know how these risers under your heel work. You’ll want to know if and when you can effectively manage the binding’s features with your ski pole, or if you will need more power and leverage to make changes, as well as get in and out while skiing.

Dynafit has long been the king of lightweight touring bindings; (photo/Dynafit)


Don’t get too caught up on the weight of your alpine touring bindings when looking at similar models side by side. Yes, lighter bindings make uphill travel easier, and you do want less weight on your feet. But you can also cut weight in other areas.

If you are doing ski mountaineering races or uphill/downhill races at your local ski area, then you will want to look at the Dynafit Superlite 150 or other backcountry ski binding with a focus on lightweight or racing.

However, if you are an aggressive skier who stomps big jumps and skis long, dynamic runs in-bounds to get back to the car, then a heavier binding will be more appropriate. The Salomon S/Lab Shift MN 13 is a versatile binding with tech pins for walking and an Alpine-style binding so you can be as rowdy as you want on the way down.


It’s safe to say that any backcountry touring binding is going to be durable. Really, its one job is to hold up to extreme conditions. However, some are more up to the task than others. For instance, the G3 Ion 12 is a workhorse built to last, while some lighter bindings may fail earlier.

Consider how much you’ll be traveling and what type of conditions you’ll encounter to get to the backcountry. Tech bindings are a great choice if you’re looking to move uphill quickly and have tools for repairs.

If you’re a weekend warrior and don’t want to be bothered with trips to the gear shop, consider a more durable binding. If you toss your skis in a bag and then head out on an airplane, be sure to protect your bindings so they don’t get knocked around in travel.


The big point on boots is that you’ll want to make sure that your boots are compatible with backcountry skiing bindings. That is, do they have tech pin inserts on the toes and tech heel inserts in the back? Another pair of boots is costly, and a pair of frame bindings like the Marker Baron can be compatible with your resort boots, but skinning in those boots can be pretty uncomfortable.

Tech bindings require boots with a molded-in toe fitting and a slotted plate at the heel. Most alpine touring boots will work with most alpine touring bindings on the market, but some brands aren’t always compatible with others. To be safe, you should triple-check to make sure that your boots and bindings are compatible.

When deciding on boots, consider the type of skiing you plan to do in your boots, and be honest with yourself. Fast and light alpine touring boots cut weight to help you travel uphill fast, but they often lack the power and stiffness of other crossover boots.

Crossover boots are a great option if you plan to ski at the resort and take some backcountry trips with your setup. They’ll be heavier on the uphill, but they’ll let you dominate the downhill, letting you ski as aggressively as you like.

To access the goods, sometimes you’ll go miles before you can put your skis on. If you’re more into covering a lot of ground than ripping the gnarliest lines, choose one of the lighter bindings on our list; (photo/Matt Bento)

Frequently Asked Questions

How do alpine touring ski bindings work?

Backcountry ski bindings are, in many ways, completely unlike your traditional downhill bindings. It’s good to consider them in a different light, although the goal of affixing your boots to your skis remains the same.

Backcountry bindings are different from resort or downhill bindings in that they employ a releasable heel but, in most cases, not a releasable toe. At least, that’s how they started out, and many of the more touring-focused bindings are still this way. When clicking out of most backcountry ski bindings, you will release from the toe instead of the heel, but that’s not universally true.

Alpine touring (AT) bindings allow you to change your settings so you can stomp down and lock into the heel and ski down. The bindings work by holding the boot in two distinct ways: from the toe only, with the heel piece out of the way for uphill touring, or locked in, with both the toe and the heel secure for downhill skiing.

The simple answer is that bindings work by holding your boot to your skis. They are the critical connection between your two most important assets: your boots and your skis. It’s crucial that your bindings are mounted by a professional to your specific boots.

So, we do recommend starting with your boots. You will have your boots for several seasons at least, whereas you could end up getting new skis every year. The bindings are an expensive and important investment in this system. They can easily be pulled off and remounted onto other skis at any shop.

With that, AT or backcountry ski bindings have essentially evolved into two modern camps. Camp one is born from the traditional Dynafit system, where the bindings release from the toe and are held to the boots with two contracting, nonadjustable pins. These snap together into holes on both sides of the toe, or welt, that sticks out about a half-inch from the toe of the ski boot.

The rear features another female insert that two pins fit into to hold the heel down during ski mode (downhill). The rear pins rotate out of the way when touring uphill, and this is also where you adjust for sole length and DIN.

Meanwhile, the second camp uses the rear heel welt like a traditional alpine binding to lock the heel down in ski mode. This newer type of backcountry touring binding also employs a way to use the front welt to lock the toe down in addition to the pins.

Are ski bindings universal?

Yes and no. As long as your ski boot has tech inserts, the boots are essentially universal, but you can’t put a traditional alpine boot in backcountry ski bindings. Nearly 50% of all ski boots sold today have tech inserts. Alpine touring bindings typically fall into two categories: tech bindings and frame bindings.

Tech bindings use pins to attach to the front of your boot at the toe, and the heel piece is separate. In contrast, frame bindings look more like a traditional downhill binding.

The name refers to the frame that runs from the toe to the heel underneath the sole of your boot. This is the part of the binding that will raise and lower with your feet while you are touring uphill.

Can ski bindings be adjusted for larger boots?

Every binding is designed to adjust to fit the sole length of your boot. While some bindings let you make small length adjustments, say 6-10 mm, others only allow for more minor adjustments to accommodate boot fit to the original mount.

If you do alternate boot sizes, consider a binding like the Marker Alpinist that gives you 15 mm of adjustability, so you can use boots with different sole lengths. That said, this should truly be done at a shop to ensure that the bindings are adjusted exactly to your sole length and that DIN has not been compromised.

Your binding DIN settings take several factors into account, including your boot size, the terrain you ski, your height and weight, and your level of experience. While you can make small adjustments on your own, you should go to a certified ski technician to mount your bindings and make major adjustments.

Bindings have a range of about 25-30 mm of adjustability to allow you to change boot size a little bit up or down. Brands in the same shoe size can vary 3-5 mm in length difference, so your binding will accommodate that.

Which ski bindings should I buy?

People often worry too much about whether or not they are getting the exact right product, instead of just focusing on getting outside more. To an expert, many of the subtle differences in materials, design, and functionality do add up to large differentiators. But for the beginner, you really just need something safe that you can afford to get you started.

Some people start with a more alpine-centric binding, such as a Salomon, their first year, and then a Dynafit or a more touring-focused binding the next year, because they want to go farther, longer, and stay more out of bounds.

Look for a backcountry ski binding that is TÜV certified if you want the safest and most consistent releasing binding (like a SHIFT or Dynafit Rotation 10/12). That said, most people don’t need to worry about this for general touring. Your ski shop will set your DIN based on the chart at the ski shop when mounting your bindings.

In a perfect world, you should buy your bindings based on your objective. If you are planning for mostly uphill skinning at your local ski resort with groomers on the way down, you should consider something lighter, with a lower DIN, maybe simpler, and possibly less expensive.

The farther and more extreme your terrain, the more important other factors — including weight and features — come into play. Look for multiple levels of heel risers (simpler race-style bindings may only have one level of heel riser while more full-featured bindings might have three levels).

Consider whether or not you really need brakes (for resort skiing, you do need brakes to legally board a lift). A multiday high alpine tour would call for a lighter, simpler binding than hike-to or short side-country runs.

Less aggressive skiers need to worry less about ejecting from their bindings in an untimely manner. Hopefully, you can extrapolate this into what you want to do, what you can afford, and what’s actually available. Then, pair that with the right skis and make sure you’ve got compatible boots — and go skiing!


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