Climbing skins are a crucial part of your backcountry ski set-up. First and foremost you are going to want lightweight skis with an AT (alpine touring) binding and adjustable ski poles. Next you need climbing skins to help you ski uphill. And don’t forget your avalanche gear: beacon, shovel, and probe, plus a backpack to carry it all in!
The very first consideration when purchasing climbing skins is the tip and tail attachment, and related to this is ski compatibility. Several brands make skins that are precut and perfectly compatible with their skis. For example, Dynafit has a custom tip and tail attachment that only works with Dynafit skis and skins, and each ski has a specific corresponding skin. Black Diamond also makes pre-cut skins for certain ski models. If that is the case, we recommend purchasing the skin that goes with your ski. It will almost always be less work, and the attachment system will work better than if you try and purchase a different brand skin and cut it to the correct size.
If your chosen backcountry skis do not have a ready-made compatible skin, then you can choose which brand of skins you want to match with your skis. Brands like Black Diamond and G3 make versatile skins that can be used with just about any ski, but each brand has their own tip and tail attachment system. Before you commit to purchasing, make sure that these attachments will fit on your particular skis. Also, be prepared for a little work, because buying a skin that is not pre-made for your ski will usually involve some trimming to get them to the correct size and shape.
The next thing to consider is the material that the skin is made from, and there are two primary types: mohair, which is a naturally occurring animal fiber, usually from a goat, and synthetic, which is usually nylon. Mohair tends to be lighter weight, glide forward better but grip less well, and is often more expensive. Nylon tends to be heavier, much gripper but offers less forward glide, and is less expensive. Since all climbing skins want to achieve the perfect balance of excellent glide and confidence-inspiring grip, most manufacturers also make a combination mohair and nylon version. Based on your budget and your preference for glide versus grip, you can choose which of these three materials will suit you the best.