Binding Shootout: Marker Kingpin 13 v. Dynafit Beast 16 v. Dynafit Speed TLT

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri
http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

I have been meaning to write up a review on the Dynafit Beast 16 for quite some time and with a recent turn in the weather resulting in an ugly rain crust plus a few days on the new Marker Kingpin 13 now seemed like an opportune time to get my thoughts on (digital) paper.

First a little about me. Normally I focus on mountain bike related posts but once the snow flies I am a skier through and through. I grew up skiing in the Interior of BC. A lot of trees, fresh pow, and an unfortunate phase as a park rat. I call those the lost years (mainly because of the concussions). I am a resort rat recently converted to backcountry, about 4 years now. I tower over the competition at 5’6″ and 160 lbs. I have not been kind to my ACL’s and now have a frequent buyers card at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic (thanks Steady!).

So, when I look for a binding my priorities are a little different than most backcountry skiers. In this order, I want:

  1. Retention/Release
  2. Reliability
  3. Touring performance
  4. Power Transfer
  5. Weight

Now to the shootout. Here is what the quiver looks like and the rough number of days on each. I ski mainly in the Chugach and Talkeetna Ranges in Alaska but venture back to BC and the lower 48 a few times a season.

P1050530

  • Armada Magic J 185 w/ Dynafit Beast 16:
    • Roughly 20-25 days, Approx. 100 miles & 100K vertical
    • Single Ski/Binding weight: 6.83 lbs
    • Binding weight: 2.12 lbs
  • Rossi Sin 7 172 w/ Dynafit Speed TLT:
    • 7 days, Approx. 25 miles & 25K vertical
    •  Single Ski/Binding weight: 4.93 lbs
    • Binding weight: 0.83 lbs
  • Rossi Soul 7 180 w/ Marker Kingpin 13:
    • 2 days, Approx. 11 miles & 10K vertical
    •  Single Ski/Binding weight: 5.91 lbs
    • Binding Weight: 1.7 lbs
  • DPS lotus 120 185 w/Plum Guides:
    • Approximately 15 days, 50 miles, 60K-80K vertical
    • I no longer have this set up but I may reference it occasionally.
    • Binding weight:0.79 lbs

I’ll try and be concise as I go through the major points of performance and give you my opinion on how each perform. I have the least days on the Kingpins so there will have to be a little bit of extrapolation on performance.

P1050571

Retention/Release:

As I said, this is my number one priority. After a couple knee surgeries I’d rather not have another. I want a binding that I don’t have to worry about and that I trust. Something I know is going to release when I want it too and retain me when I need it most. I like to jump, drop, and (occasionally) huck. I’m not the biggest guy out there and I don’t send it like some others do but I still like to put a fun, smooth, poppy line down with some air along the way.

Dynafit Beast 16: The retention is fantastic. Stepping into this binding felt solid and reassuring. The rotating toe piece performed flawlessly and predictably – as tested when I tomahawked off of a flat light rollover at 50 mph. The release was smooth and effective. 10/10, would crash with these again.

Marker Kingpin 13: Early to say and no crashes yet but the 6 pack toe retention felt noticeably crisper and solid than the traditional 4 spring pin tech toes. The heel piece gave me the confident and solid feeling that I get when I step into an alpine binding. Just doing some bench tests the release felt smooth. The sliding AFD pad on the brake plus the rollers on the heel added to this feel.

Dynafit Speed TLT: The pin tech system has never really given me a reassuring feeling. I have had numerous pre releases which has lead me to ski more aggressive lines with the toe locked in the climb position – HIGHLY unadvised!! I notice that I ski much more conservatively with these bindings and certainly choose very different lines than I would like to. On the mountain and on the bench I find the release to be very exponential in the release rate, not linear at all. The Plums fall into this category as well. Similar results

Winner: Beast 16

Solid, consistent, reliable, and beefy. I am hopeful that the Kingpin may unseat the Beast though, more time will tell.

Reliability:

This is an important one. As my good friend Dante Petri over at http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/ can attest to, nothing ruins a day like equipment failure 5 miles out from the trailhead.

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri
http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Dynafit Beast 16: Construction wise, these are solid. The issues I did have were more related to icing. The heel piece tended to have ice build up between the brake and riser which involved some tinkering when switching from ski to tour mode. That said, with a decent amount of mileage on them, I have had no major mechanicals.

Marker Kingpin 13:  Nothing as of yet. I have seen on the interwebs that some people have had toe pin failures. I am watching for this and continually check the pins but have had no indications of problems yet. Another discussion going around is how reliable the carbon mode switch strip will hold up. I have an engineering background and researched the construction behind this quite a bit before making the purchase. I am fairly confident this will hold up in the long run. The band is in tension the whole time (where carbon likes to be) and there are no flex points that point load the band. It is fairly well protected from any sort of impact.

P1050559

Dynafit Speed TLT:  I have not experienced any failures on mine but have seen failures of the risers from other users.

Winner: Beast 16

I am going to be repetitive here: Solid, consistent, reliable, and beefy. I am hopeful that the Kingpin may unseat the Beast though, more time will tell.

Touring Performance & Weight:

I have a mix of touring days. Some are easy access laps not far from the road, some are long flat approaches to objectives, but most involve a steady approach to the mountain and then several laps before heading out. Days range from 4-8 miles on average and usually in the 4,500′ to 7,500′ vertical range. Some more, some less. I’ll combine performance and weight for this one as it is tough to talk about one without the other

Dynafit Beast 16: This is where the beasts fell down for me. I knew going in to it that they would be heavy (968 gm per binding) but I was willing to sacrifice for the downhill performance. I certainly noticed the extra weight and I worked a little harder then the rest of the crew but I would put it in the ‘ Suck it up, Buttercup’ category, not quite the ‘Just go on without me, I’ll never make it’ category. What the deal breaker was for me was the lack of a flat first position. In order to lock the brake for touring mode the first lifter locks in place, holding the brake down and covering the pins. This means the first position is comparable to being on the first riser on other pintech bindings. This is fine for climbing on an incline but if there is a long flat approach or any kind of down slope that you need to skin on, your quads will likely explode. Additionally, the toe lock can be hard to release from the locked position. With gloves its ok, mitts are harder. I was not really successful using the pole handle like other bindings. I found the most effective way was to loop my pole strap underneath and pull. This isn’t a deal breaker but just an annoyance. Releasing the heel lock was a little more effort and certainly needed the pole tip and leverage to get it to pop.You could use your hand but I always worried about pinching a finger on release.

I looked at taking the brakes off but they are cast into the binding and not removable. the heel piece does rotate, so it is conceivable that you could cut the brakes off and rotate the heel out of the way but i think there would be a lot of issues switching to riser positions.I know a lot of people like to transition without taking theirs skis off. I lack the flexibility for this and I always take a few minutes to have some water and a snack anyways. I suppose this could be done on this binding but it would be a lot of work.

Overall, this would be fine for slack country tours but I wouldn’t recommend for big distances.

Beast 16 Downhill Position

Beast 16 Downhill Position

First position for touring is closer to 7 degrees, not flat.

First position for touring is closer to 7 degrees, not flat.

2nd position

2nd position

Marker Kingpin 13:  I am duly impressed. at 730 gm per binding the weight is more than acceptable for the performance. the standard tech toe is easy to use. switching between walk and ski is easy and could easily be done with the ski still on. The heel piece slides back and out of the way while locking the brakes down. The risers are by far the easiest and fastest I have used. the simply flip up and down, no rotating or fidgeting. They provide a larger platform and a flat, 7 deg, and 13 deg position.

Flat, 7 degrees, & 13 degrees

Flat, 7 degrees, & 13 degrees

Dynafit Speed TLT: Proven lightweight Dynafit performance. Standard tech toe and heel. fast on the up with standard riser angles. no complaints here. The only nuance i would pick on is that the flip risers are quick but small, they needed a little more precision to switch.

Winner: Tie. Speed TLT & Kingpin. 

The Speeds are light and fast but the weight on the Kingpin wasn’t that noticeable. The Kingpins may edge the Speeds out just because I like the risers so much.

Photo Credit: Joe Engel

Photo Credit: Joe Engel

Power Transfer:

I like big skis and I cannot lie. All you other skiers can’t deny, when a ski slides round with an itty bitty waist, I get sunk.

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri
http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

I prefer a ski in the 95mm to 115mm underfoot range. The float and feel seem to fall in the sweet spot for me. Power transfer can be tough to achieve on planks like that.

Dynafit Beast 16: Very good power transfer. I felt this mimicked an alpine binding closer than anything else. I had the chance to ski this at Revelstoke Mountain Resort for 3 days and the conditions ranged from soft crud to skied out chop. The stability and performance on the variable conditions was very positive.

Marker Kingpin 13:  The best way I can describe these is precise. They did exactly what I wanted them to do. Conditions ranged from deep and soft to chattery backcountry ski luge exits. I felt confident that the power was going where I wanted when I wanted it there.

Dynafit Speed TLT: Shocking I know, but these were not the best in this category. They felt weak and unresponsive and a little delicate. They did not inspire confidence on chop and ice and provided very little feedback in soft conditions.

Winner: Beast 16

As close to an alpine binding as you are going to get on pins. You could go to a Guardian if you are a sadist but with the Beast there is no need to punish yourself like that.

The final Word:

The Beast came out on top in 3 out of 4 categories, and very dominantly at that. It is a clear winner in downhill performance and reliability. But just as high as it soared, it fell dismally short on touring performance. The weight is almost forgivable but the lack of a flat touring mode really is what did it for me. I can see this being a great dual purpose binding for resort and side country but if that is the goal I would rather be on a cheaper and more reliable Guardian or Duke. I can’t recommend this for big backcountry days with long approaches.

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri
http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Likewise, the Speed TLT is a clear winner for uphill performance at 373 gm per binding. But the constant worry of reliability and performance on the down was more than enough to take it out of contention for me. I don’t like the feeling of second guessing my equipment when I am about to drop in and I did this every time on these bindings.

While it may be premature, the win goes to the Kingpin for me. It has the best balance of weight and uphill performance combined with downhill stability and reliability. The binding was easy to use and confidence inspiring. Build reliability is yet to be determined but I will be putting it through its paces the rest of the season.

Overall Winner: Kingpin 13

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri
http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

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22 thoughts on “Binding Shootout: Marker Kingpin 13 v. Dynafit Beast 16 v. Dynafit Speed TLT

  1. Colin says:

    Please mount Kingpin on bigger ski and bring with to lower 48. kthxbye

  2. dave mcirvin says:

    Nice review and thanks. I’m the same height, a little lighter and a little more grey bearded than you—might you give an extrapolation to how some kingpin 10 might perform with a pair of 98 mm wide planks and my NTN tele tx-pro boots for mostly side country on bigger snow days in the Rockies? thanks.

    • Hi Dave, I think the 10 would do just fine for what you are describing. I usually ski my alpine bindings between a 9 and 11 DIN setting depending on the binding, ski, and terrain. I chose the Kingpin 13 because there was a high likelihood that I would run the DIN at 10 and it is bad practice to ski a binding with the DIN spring maxed out. So, that said, if you ski your alpine DIN at 9 or less I think the 10 would be just fine.

      • dave mcirvin says:

        Hey, thanks (like to avoid buying some additional footwear that may be used under a dozen days a year if the comfortable Scarpas can be used adequately for AT). My alpine gear DIN is 7.5 though my most frequently used system is the NTN.

        Given the lack of kingpin availability (and great snowfall so far), it may be tolerable to pause til autumn for the pin/durability kinks to be answered. thanks.

    • Brandon says:

      HI Dave, did you ever get a reply to this?? Did you use the tx pro with the Kingpins?

  3. ryan says:

    Perfect, Ive been hoping someone would compare the beast and kingpin! (TLT pfft) . Couple questions.
    The Beast has some swivel in the toe piece, how important do you think that is to retention and safety of the binding over Kingpins?
    When Im touring I like to hit 10 footers, but Im in Marker Barrons. Did you drop anything in the Kingpins. Ive never wanted to ride pin tech b/c I did want to hurt myself on on drops.
    In terms of retention and power transfer how much of a difference are we talking here? Was Beast significantly better or almost imperceptible?

    B/C of the pin issue my skis are in the closet and my Kingpins are back at REI but Marker will not replace the pins (its not even a full toepiece replacement), instead I have to ski on them until they might break. There is no way im mounting these on new skis. Marker is basically telling customers to GFY.

  4. Peter says:

    Ryan, I had the same issue with my Kingpin 13s. I only had one pin slightly moving and REI, via the Marker rep, told me to keep skiing them. I brought them back to REI and ended up calling the rep directly (and aggressively) and got them to replace my whole toe piece. My issue now is that once I got the toe piece back and mounted, the binding is failing the release bench test and I had to sign a waiver at REI to take them home after. The odd thing is that the release discrepancy is laterally different. In other words, when the heel releases to the right, it releases much more easily than if it releases to the left. Same on each binding, not matter which boot was used. REI called the rep and he pretty much blamed it on the boots not matching with the bindings, and they are not liable. Which doesn’t make sense because my brand new Scarpa Freedom SLs are Dynafit certified, just like the Kingpin with regard to toe piece fit. I have 5 days skiing on the boots and bindings, both which I bought new, so it’s bull that they would blame that. I’m going to get the bindings checked out at a different ski shop over the weekend, then I’ll start exploring the warranty information in more detail.

    I will say, though, touring in the bindings was wonderful for those 5 days in the backcountry around Big Sky, MT, and I thought they skied downhill on piste just as well as my alpine bindings. I hit 10-15 drops and they retained my boot fine. If I can get my confidence back on the release value, these will definitely be my everyday ski on my DPS 112RP2s.

  5. Jeff Rutter says:

    I have a pair of the Marker Kingpin 13 and skied them in Colorado for an entire season from 14ers to hardpack. They skied great downhill and released properly and had the feel of an alpine binding. On the uphill, I have had multiple releases while the toe was supposedly locked out. I ended up losing my ski because of this recently. I would not recommend them because of this and have not heard back from Marker regarding this problem.

    • Jeff Rutter says:

      Marker has been very responsive lately and is being very helpful in trying to fix this issue. They are saying there was a manufacturing issue with the first batch in regards to the front toe pins. They have fixed this issue in current bindings and are being helpful in replacing the binding with a new one. Very excited as I loved the performance of these and they are pretty lightweight too compared to the beast.

      • Jeff – Marker was pretty responsive to me as well. I directly contacted the rep and they had new toe pieces to me within 2 weeks. Same experience for a buddy of mine. I have about 40 days on the new toes and the pins are holding strong. Lots of variable conditions as well.

  6. ski bunny says:

    REI pulled this from their shelves… and won’t mount this binding. They told me that it has failed the VSSE bench testing numerous times… at first they were doing waivers. But now it is company wide policy… no mounting this binding.

  7. doug says:

    From a Marker dealer in the UK (pictures omitted)

    I can now confirm the following:

    All of the stock we carry in the Kingpin Bindings are the Generation 3 type and the most up to date.

    The 3 different types are easily distinguishable as follows:

    1, Gen 1, Bindings were never realised mainstream in the market to consumers to purchase, they were seeded with Industry professionals for final was testing. They are easily identifiable by looking at the Pin finish on the Gold toe frame. You will see that the outer part of the pin (outside of the binding towards the skis edge) is flush to the gold frame.
    This is the model that people have remarked on as having movement in the Pin. As you will understand, the Pin cannot come out when the boot is in place.
    *See Gen 1 Picture attached

    2, Gen 2, This was what Marker designed as a quick fix at consumer release time and was only implemented to a small number of production bindings. You will see that this pin has seated edges on the internal part of the pin so that it reduces movement in the Gold frame housing. This is what Wildsnow’s article outlined as a difference.
    *See Gen 2 Picture attached

    3, Gen 3, This is that final revised design that has been shipped into the stores as per the beginning of 2016 and in fact is what is is wide circulation now. Our stock is of this Generation 3 design.
    You will see in the picture Gen 3-1 and Gen 3-2 that the inside and outside of the pin have a rolled flange which therefore won’t allow the pin to move out or in on the housing. The nature of the pin is such that its beneficial for it to spin in the housing to reduce wear on the boot inserts when skinning and the boot is pivoting.

    I hope that this gives you further clarity to your query and provides confidence that the stock we have available to you is the most up to date.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like any further details regarding this product or any other items you may be interested in

    Best Regards

    Andy

  8. Rob says:

    Hi, did you ski these 3 setups with the same boots? The beast hell insert didn’t affect the performance/compatibility of the boots with other 2 bindings (Radical, Kingpin)?

    • Initially, I had used different boots between the Kingpin and Beasts but I went back and skied them all with a Salomon MTN Lab this past season and had no issues with the heal adaptor. I’m sure none of the companies would endorse it but I didn’t have problems. I did it mainly out of curiosity and then removed it as the Kingpins are my primaries.

  9. Charlie says:

    Couldn’t you get a flat touring position on the beast 16 if you used a rubber band to lockout the brake over the back of the binding, just like you do when you tune skis. This would in turn give you three touring positions.

  10. Gary says:

    Nice review

    I’m looking at the kingpin and soul 7 as a set up

    How has the set up performed over the last 2 seasons are you still thinking kingpins are the best

    Thanks Gary

    • Hi Gary,

      Long story short, I’m still a believer in the kingpin. It provides great versatility and excellent retention. I have skied that set up on everything from blower power to resort ice. Soul 7/kingpin/salomon Mtn lab is a setup I would recommend to anyone looking for a highly versatile do-it-all set up. The only downsides to the soul 7 is that it has a definite speed limit and struggles and frozen chop.

      This season I have started getting into bigger distant days and more vertical. I split my time between kingpins and my ultralight set up. I will choose to trade performance for weight if I know it’s going to be a high mileage day.

      Hope that helps!

  11. Emma says:

    Hi!! GravityPowered… just wondering if you have an update on your KingPin experience! Sounds like they would be the one for me and have now fixed the pin problems being 2017!? Are you still sitting with them as the best all-round set-up?

    • Hi! It seems the pin issues are corrected. I am running 2 pair now and have had no issues. I am spending a lot more time on a pair of dynafit speed TLT’s and Salomon MTN’s lately though. Purely because my approaches are getting longer and the amount of vertical is getting higher. At this point, 300 grams of weight savings matters.

      However, for a pin tech binding – the kingpins are still the most versatile (IMHO) if you plan on using them at the resort. The rotational release on the heel sells it for me! I ski mine inbounds frequently.

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