Whether you're going on a day-long tour or multi-night hut trip, you need the best backcountry binding that works as well going uphill as it does going down.

Backcountry bindings have seen some of the highest levels of innovation in the ski industry over the last decade. They have also led, in part, to an explosion in the popularity of skiing uphill at the same time.

The best backcountry bindings walk a fine line between being lightweight for long tours, but strong enough to handle aggressive skiing on the way back down. That's why we've listed weight as well as release ratings to help determine which binding is right for you. If you're still not sure, head to your local ski shop with a few of these bindings in mind to get direct answers.

Looking for Alpine Bindings? Check out the Best Alpine Bindings of the Year

Marker Kingpin M-Werks 12

Marker Kingpin M-WERKS

Marker Kingpin M-Werks 12 is the beloved Kingpin on a performance-enhancing diet.

Built with the same performance standards of the Kingpin 13 but put on a serious diet, the new M-Werks Kingpin is the latest option for a lightweight tech toe/alpine heel binding hybrid. Using carbon reinforcements in the toe and heel, Marker was able to create a backcountry freeride binding that is much more comfortable for long journeys into the backcountry.

Marker Kingpin M-Werks 12 Binding Specs

  • Weight — 620g per binding (with brakes)
  • Release settings — 4-12
  • Brake — Optional
  • MSRP – $729 [BUY NOW]

Dynafit TLT Speed Z12

Dynafit TLT Speed Z12

The Dynafit TLT Speed Z12 is tried, true, and built to last.

Dynafit invented the tech binding, and the TLT Speed remains the industry standard. Made with durable aluminum components, a rotating heel, and weight trimmed in a number of places, the refined TLT Speed is in the upper echelon of tech bindings. And thanks to wear-and-tear reducing innovations like the bayonet lock, one pair is sure to last a long time, too.

Dynafit TLT Speed Z12 Binding Specs

  • Weight – 285g per binding
  • Release settings – 6-12
  • Brake — Optional
  • MSRP – $450 [BUY NOW]

Salomon S/Lab SHIFT MNC 13

Salomon S/LAB SHIFT MNC

The Salomon S/Lab SHIFT MNC 13 was the biggest binding release of 2019.

In downhill mode, the 865-gram SHIFT MNC performs like a high-performance, 6-13 release value alpine binding, and is compatible with any type of DIN-certified boot sole. The binding transforms into uphill mode by flipping a switch in the toe which releases wings that function with a boot’s tech inserts. For anyone who skis resort and backcountry equally, or those who want a single set-up for everywhere they ski, this is now the best option on the market.

Salomon S/Lab SHIFT MNC 13: Gear of the Year for 2019

Salomon S/Lab SHIFT MNC 13 Specs

  • Weight – 865g per binding
  • Release settings — 6-13
  • Brakes – Included
  • Also Branded As – Atomic, Armada
  • MSRP – $600 [BUY NOW]

G3 ZED 12

G3 Zed 12

The G3 ZED is a lightweight, high-performance version of the Ion.

G3 re-thought its beloved ION to create a sub-350-gram, 5-12 release value tech binding that performs extremely well in steep terrain, soft snow, and most other conditions backcountry skiers will encounter. The ZED’s toe retention pressure held up well enough in ski mode that we were never tempted to lock it out, even in high-consequence terrain. Optional 85-gram brakes are available for those who don’t want to use leashes, but they cost extra.

G3 ZED Binding Specs

  • Weight — 345g per binding
  • Release settings – 5-12
  • Brakes — Optional 
  • Price — $499 (brakes, $85) [BUY NOW]

Marker Alpinist

Marker Alpinist

The Marker Alpinist is the first minimalist tech binding from the German company.

Marker continues its evolution towards backcountry binding domination with a new lightweight, low-tech option, the Alpinist. While its uphill and downhill performance is on par with the other low-tech options, the Alpinist’s innovative, intuitive tour-to-ski transition won tester praise. Two rails slide forward or backward to hold down or release the optional brake, and a simple turn or flip of the heel riser is all it takes before starting up or down. 

  • Weight – 245g per binding
  • Release settings – 6-12
  • Brakes – Optional
  • Price – $449 (brakes $59) [BUY NOW]

Fritschi Tecton 12

gear guide 2018 fritschi tecton 12 ski binding review

The Fritschi Tecton 12 has tech toes and an alpine-style clamp heel.

The Tecton is Fritschi’s answer to the demands of a growing market: a tech binding with an alpine-style heel clamp. Using the updated toe piece from the Vipec EVO (the only tech toe with certified release values), the Tecton adds an all-new heel with DIN to 12. Testers found the new interface powerful, with more edge sensitivity than pin-style heels. Complaints? The heel risers were finicky, and the unproven reliability of the complex binding did raise a red flag for several testers.

More burly bindings that go up and down: Binding Hybrids

Fritschi Tecton 12 Binding Specs

  • Weight – 550g per binding without brakes
  • Release settings – 5-12
  • Brakes – Optional
  • MSRP: $649 [BUY NOW]

G3 ION 12

gear guide 2018 g3 ion 12 ski binding review

The G3 ION has a cult-like following.

The ION has quickly risen to the top of the tech-binding market due to its ease of use, reliable retention with forward heel pressure, durability, and zero-fuss utility (all adjustments can be done with a #3 Pozi-drive). The ION returns this season with only minor tweaks, and was praised as “simple, solid, sick.” For a few bucks less, it’s also available as the ION 10—without brakes and therefore a bit lighter.

G3 ION 12 Binding Specs

  • Weight – 595g per binding
  • Release settings – 5-12
  • Brakes – Optional
  • MSRP – $579 [BUY NOW]

Salomon MTN Binding

Salomon MTN Binding

The Salomon MTN Binding with an optional brake.

Salomon has been killing it for several seasons now with its ski-touring gear. Its new MTN binding continues that upward trend. The binding doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but offers an easy step-in aid, and simple, non-rotating heel post with three heel-riser positions, and ski-crampon adapter. Testers called the MTN “dependable, lightweight, and efficient.” The MTN is sold with or without ski brakes, depending on your preference; but most testers preferred the weight savings of brakeless bindings in the backcountry.

  • Weight – 390g per binding without brake
  • Release settings – "Women," "Men," and "Expert"
  • Brakes – Optional
  • Also branded as – Atomic Backland
  • MSRP – $550 [BUY NOW]

Bonus Binding: Armada N SHIFT MNC 13

Armada N SHIFT MNC 13

Want an all-black SHIFT? Check out Armada's version.

Functionally, there’s nothing new about Armada’s version of the lauded SHIFT binding, which is essentially an alpine binding that, if your boot has tech inserts, you can use to ski uphill. It’s noteworthy because the brand is now owned by the same parent as Salomon and Atomic, so Armada-branded bindings are officially a thing, and they look especially handsome in all black.

Armada N SHIFT MNC 13 Binding Specs

  • Weight – 850g per binding
  • Release settings — 6-13
  • Brakes — Included
  • Also branded as — Salomon, Atomic
  • MSRP: $725 [BUY NOW]

People Also Ask

What are backcountry bindings?

  • Backcountry bindings are ski bindings that feature a releasable heel. Combined with skins, they can make traveling uphill with skis easier than taking your skis off and walking. All of the bindings featured above require backcountry boots with tech inserts — sometimes called "Dynafit inserts" — but there are backcountry/resort hybrid ski bindings that can function with boots that do not have tech inserts. 

Do these bindings work with any ski?

  • Yes. You can put backcountry bindings on any ski that does not come pre-mounted with a binding. You might find, however, that backcountry work especially well for going uphill when mounted on lightweight, backcountry-specific skis. SKI highly recommends only having a certified, professional ski technician mount bindings to skis.

Do all backcountry bindings work with all ski boots?

  • No. All of these bindings require ski boots that have tech inserts and are labeled "ISO 13992." If you are unsure, ask a certified ski technician if your boots will work with the bindings you want to buy. SKI highly recommends only skiing in boots and bindings with the same ISO compatibility and have been properly installed and adjusted by a professional ski technician.

Can I adjust my ski bindings?

  • Think of your ski bindings like your car's power steering: If you go in and start recklessly turning screws, you’re probably going both invalidate the warranty and break something (your car, your binding, and/or yourself). Just like taking your car to a mechanic to get the steering properly fixed, you should take your bindings to a certified ski technician if you think something is wrong with your ski bindings. SKI highly recommends only skiing in boots and bindings with the same ISO compatibility and have been properly installed and adjusted by a professional ski technician.

What are Tech Inserts?

  • Tech inserts are metal-reinforced indentations in the toe and heel that make a ski boot compatible with tech bindings for ski touring. They are also sometimes called “Dynafit inserts,” and require bindings designed for tech inserts (ISO 13992 certified).

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