The DIN-certified touring head-to-head
So, you’re fond of the backcountry and even more fond of your knees. You’re in the market for a freeride-friendly ski touring binding with a DIN range up to 10, with plenty of elastic travel to soak up those big hits, and a reliable release. Once upon a time, the thought of getting all that in one binding would have been the stuff of dreams. Then along came the Marker Kingpin to shake up the whole market with its revolutionary approach and DIN-certified reliability. Nowadays, the Kingpin isn’t the only binding on the market with that TUV certification. Dynafit have achieved the same sought-after mark with a few of their bindings, not least the new ST Rotation 10.
There's a lot of opinion out there...
This begs the question – which should you choose? Well, for some brand fans and tech geeks, the choice is simple. It’s the Marker. The Marker!? Don’t be daft. It’s the Dynafit! Dynafit!? Nonense – it’s the Marker… Let’s just say there are a whole lot of opinions flying about out there and we’re not trying to convince any die-hards out of their firmly held beliefs – we’re sure that most of you probably base them soundly on… brand loyalty… habit... fear of new things… whatever. But there might just be a few open-minded souls out there who haven’t made up their minds yet. Maybe you’re new to the game and want to know the details to form your own opinion. Well, that’s where our handy head-to-head comes in. We’re here to look at the facts, your honour.
Let’s start with the Kingpin…
If you’re unfamiliar with the Kingpin, it’s Marker’s unique take on an elastic touring binding that tore up the rulebook and finally appeared onto the market a few seasons ago after long delays and much will-they-won’t-they hearsay and rumour. Safe to say when it finally arrived it did so to rapturous applause, with many feeling that it had just nailed the brief and almost made us completely reappraise how safe and reliable a pin-tech binding could be.
The heel is where it's at
The big innovation was in the heel, where they succeeded in introducing that essential lateral elasticity by using what is far more like a traditional alpine rear end than anything seen on a touring binding before.
What is Lateral Elasticity?
“Lateral elasticity”, for those of you not in-the-know, is the ability of a binding to allow the boot to move from side to side under impact, without releasing things when you don’t want it to. It’s something that modern alpine bindings do very well – particularly those aimed at high-impact activities like freeriding. Previously, touring bindings either released the boot too early and weren’t up to the task of absorbing big hits, or they didn’t release at all and wrecked all your knee ligaments in one fell swoop.
A ground-breaking approach that opened the door to bigger hits
So, by introducing this elasticity, Marker were able to add a level of reliability to their bindings that enabled them to become DIN-certified – something no touring binding had managed before. They also opened up the pin-tech style of binding to a whole new subset of heavy-hitting riders who would previously be forced to opt for a far bulkier frame access binding – albeit they’d probably be opting for the higher DIN ratings of the Kingpin 13.
But, now, as we’ve said, Dynafit have matched 10 for 10 in terms of DIN-certification – so if we take the Kingpin 10 and the ST Rotation 10 as like-for-like in that respect, they are, on-paper, evenly matched. Let’s look beyond that then, and see where else the Kingpin differs.
A little extra weight for a more user-friendly experience
There are a few other size and usability areas where the Kingpins set themselves apart – firstly, they appear to be a bit chunkier, and burlier, with a slightly wider base that you could argue will transfer energy better into the edge of wider skis – but that’s not always a key consideration for every touring ski. If you are skiing wider skis though, it’s worth noting that the brakes on the Kingpin are a little cheaper and easier to replace than the Dynafit. That extra burly bulk also results in a little more weight though. We’re talking 320g across the pair, so it’s not a whole heap, but in the world of the ounce-counter, it could make the difference.
That new heel piece isn't without its drawbacks...
If you are more of an up-hill focused rider, who’s still looking for that DIN-certification, but doesn’t want to add any unnecessary weight to their setup then you’re probably rocking some lighter weight boots too. So, it’s worth remembering that the clever Kingpin heel piece isn’t compatible with all pin-tech boots. You may need to install an adapter, which is easy enough, although it will probably void the warranty on your boots.
Smooth transitions every time
Where the Kingpin comes into its own though, is really in terms of usability. The heel risers are easier to flick, the ski/walk lever is simple and smooth, and both mode changes can be achieved with your boot still attached to the ski – something that will undoubtedly come as a reassurance at the top of that knife-edge ridge when you’re getting ready to drop in. And let’s not forget the toe stopper – an incredibly simple couple of bits of metal that stop your boot in exactly the right place that you need to be in to clip into the toe piece. Sometimes, the simplest things are the most elegant!
Now, let’s look at the Dynafit…
The Dynafit ST Rotation 10 brings with it all the heritage that you’d expect from the innovative brand who invented the pin-tech system that has become the industry standard today. They’ve been kings of the lightweight touring market for years and still have a huge following amongst uphill enthusiasts and lightweight skimo types. They’ve taken some serious heat from the young guns at Marker and other brands like G3 and Plum in recent seasons though, which is why this head-to-head across DIN-certification is so interesting. Can Marker be so bold as to do Dynafit better than Dynafit does itself?
Winning the weight game
Well, as you’d expect, they’re winning the weight game. The slimmed-down and narrower ST Rotation weighs in at around 599g per pair, which represents a reasonable weight saving over the Kingpin, so if you’ve already invested in that super lightweight core construction and those high-end carbon boots then this will present the ideal compromise between ounce counting and reliable knee-friendly performance. You can also be sure, given that Dynafit wrote the book on the pin-tech system, that your boots will work in the ST Rotation without any additional adaptation. However, if you’ve gone for wider skis then expect to pay a bit of a premium and invest some time in swapping the brakes out as it’s not necessarily an easy process.
A little more fiddly here and there
Now, that brake switch-out process isn’t the only place where the ST Rotation is a little trickier to operate. The transition between ski and walk mode involves you rotating the heel piece, which can seem a little stiff and generally needs to be done with the ski unattached from your boot, which isn’t always going to be ideal, depending where you find yourself. Flicking the heel lifters isn’t as easy to do with the pole as it is on the Markers either, and they’re generally a little more fiddly to mount and set-up when you first do so.
Easier than ever to line things up
That said, the Dynafit system is tried-and-tested and loved by many, many skiers who are totally happy with it, so it largely comes down to personal preference. The ST Rotation 10 does use the Rotation 2.0 toe-piece which has some clever auto-centring tech that makes them easier to align and step into than previous Dynafit models with the older free-rotating toe piece.
Okay, so let’s recap
There’s a lot to think about with these two bindings, but it’s possible to simplify it all down to a few points where they match each other and a few where they differ. It breaks down a little bit like this…
|Kingpin 10||ST Rotation 10|
|Replaceable brake||Cheaper, easier||More expensive, trickier|
|Boot compatibility||Incompatible with some tech boots||Compatible with all tech boots|
|Ski/walk transition||Super-easy||Slightly more fiddly|
|Heel risers||Two-position, easy to use with pole||Two-position, less easy to use with pole|
Which should you buy?
Buy the Marker Kingpin 10 if…
You’re open to trusting new tech, you’re looking for more of a freeride-focused binding, perhaps to use with wider skis, and you’d rather sacrifice a few grams in favour of slick user-friendly operation.
Buy the Dynafit ST Rotation 10 if…
You’re a weight-conscious ounce-counter who still wants to look after your knees. You like that Dynafit heritage, trust their system, and don’t want to have to mess with the sole-heel of your expensive new boots.
We hope that you found this helpful if you were sitting on the fence. Ultimately, you'll also be influenced by budget and the type of skiing you're more likely to do. Undoubtedly though, we will have opened the floodgates to tech-nerds on both sides of the divide to weigh-in on exactly where and how we are talking rubbish, and we look forward to the healthy debate on social media!