Climbing Skins are one of the most important pieces of kit in the Backcountry. Having any piece of gear fail completely will likely ruin a backcountry trip, but having a skin fail could have some dire consequences if you are miles from the trailhead or in glaciated terrain. Like most things in life, preventing issues is a lot cheaper and easier than fixing issues.
Know your Skins
Different skins have different types of glue. This can greatly affect the way you use and care for your skins.
|Glue Type||Identifying Feature||Skin Models|
|Hot Melt||Tacky to Touch||G3 Skins, Black Diamond Skins|
|Hybrid||Low Tack||Contour Hybrid, Black Crows Pellis|
The vast majority of skins on the market use a traditional "Hot Melt" Glue to affix skin to ski. Hot Melt Glues can be identified as generally being very tacky to touch.
The only other type of Glue we currently stock (and love) is the Hybrid Glue. Developed by Contour, the Hybrid glue uses a multi layered adhesive approach to sticking your skins to ski. Resulting in a much lower tackiness to touch.
Climbing Skin Maintenance
Skins like to be cared for, and are one of the trickiest pieces of gear to take care of, especially in Australia. Here are our top tips for keeping your skins in good shape.
Keep your Skin Glue Clean
- Climbing Skin glue has a tendency to attract dirt, dust, grime, grass fibres, pine needles and everything else out there. Any contaminants to the glue will ultimately inhibit the skins ability to stick to your skis.
- Ski wax is a big contributor to skin glue contamination. Waxing your backcountry skis is important, but take care to scrape and brush all excess wax away before applying skins to them.
- Hybrid Glue has the benefit of being able to be cleaned. Take the skin cleaning wipes that come with skins and give them a wipe down. Else use any soft degreasing soap and water to clean the glue. Do not try this with any Hot Melt glue skins.
Keep Your Skins Dry
- Wet skins are heavy skins, ensuring you dry your skins completely overnight and treating them with waterproofing & skin wax will keep them light and fast.
- When drying skins, avoid close proximity to a heat source.
Keep Your Skins Cool
- Climbing Skins are designed to operate in temperatures from cold to super cold. Letting the temperature of your skins get above 25°C is bad for the longevity of skin glue.
- When drying skins go for airy and cool, avoid drying rooms and drying directly in front of heaters or fires.
- Long term storage through Summer (especially in Australia) presents a challenge for skins. The bottom of a cool cupboard is good for long term storage, else a fridge or freezer can be a good choice.
In the Field Climbing Skins Tips
While out touring for the day, monitoring snow conditions and how your skins are going is a great way to stop skin failure from occurring.
Before applying skins, clear your ski bases of any snow crystals or dirt/grass fibres and then press the skins onto the base. The Hybrid Glue likes being convincingly pushed onto the skis. Once applied, give the skins a once over from tip to tail with your hand.
While skinning, monitor how much snow creep you are getting on the edges of your skins. A little bit of snow between skin & ski is inevitable, much more than that you will soon find your skin flapping in the breeze. If it feels like a lot of snow, reset your skin and ensure to clear all snow from ski & skin surface before re-applying.
Wet skins and cold snow are a recipe for glopping, this often happens going from lower elevations with warm wet snow into higher elevations with cold dry snow. The net effect is a skin that burdens you with the large chunks of snow it picks up. Clear up the snow with a quick pass with a scraper to rub up and down the ski with Skin Wax, Glop Stopper, or Chocolate (the messiest and best smelling option)
Climbing Skin Storage Tips
Short Term Storage
While in the field, skins storage is pretty easy. Fold the skins glue to glue, ensuring to cover as much of the glue surface as possible. Then into a jacket pocket or backpack, your avalanche tools pocket is handy as skins will likely be wet & on most backpacks that pocket is designed for wet gear.
We personally don't use skin savers whilst in the field because they are fiddly and have a tendency to fly away in the wind. Seems that backcountry users are pretty divided on Skin Savers while in the field.
A product like the G3 Love Glove (not what you think) can be handy for short term storage. Especially if you are touring on a windy day.
Long Term Storage
Storing your skins incorrectly over summer is the most common method of ruining skin glue. Prolonged exposure to heat causes the skin glue to stick to anything. We recommend to store skins with skin savers on, in a cool and dry cupboard. Ensuring the skins are completely dry before putting away for the summer is also a great tip.
If you want to dive deeper into Skin Care & other Tips for your Climbing Skins, check out these resources: