Gecko Climbing Skins Redux

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Update, November, 2011 Gecko is doing print advertising now, and ostensibly has worked out the bugs in their skin material. We are in the process of truly testing their most recent product, so we’ll reserve judgement for now. More soon.

Update, February 09, 2009: The Gecko climbing skin fur held up fine and continued to grip during my test, as did the glue, but the edges of the skin plush unraveled enough to create a tiny bald area near the edges, which in turn compromised grip while sidehilling. More, the constant unraveling of the skins was disconcerting and messy, and required constant re-burning of the edges. Gecko says their skins are now manufactured in a way that doesn’t unravel on the cut edges. We’ve sent this version of test skins back and hope to test some of the “unravel resistant” skins soon.

Original post:
It was about this time last winter that Gecko climbing skins were making their debut. Sadly, these unique furs were first constructed with a weak backing and tore easily. Thus, we didn’t have much to blog about except that they seemed fragile. With this exciting new product’s sophomore debut, we can report that fragility (in terms of tearing) is no longer a concern and move on to other parameters.

Backcountry Skiing

Installing the Geckos.

What’s unique and innovative about Gecko is they use adhesive that’s not really glue, but rather a tacky substance that only sticks well to smooth surfaces. You still need to keep them out of the dirt, but they don’t easily pick up lint, and ice or snow crystals are easily removed by scraping and brushing.

Back to durability: Gecko has had a makeover and now sports a nylon reinforced plush backing that stood the test for two days and about 12,000 vertical feet of touring here in Austria.

Early winter touring (or any time at high altitude) is hard on skins. If you enjoy the alpine, you WILL step on rocks no matter how careful you are. Any skin will tear given enough abuse, but practical mountaineering skins should have at least as much durability as your usual nylon variety. Geckos seemed equal to that standard, as over the past few days I scribed them hard on more than several granite edges — with no penalty.

Backcountry Skiing

Tip attachment is a velcro tab which we found problematic, but can easily be swapped or modded.

In terms of a firstlook, my only concern with my pair of Geckos is a questionable attachment system that requires you to peel up a velcro tab (pictured above) which holds the tip loop. You can’t easily do this with gloves, you could loose the tip loop in the snow if you flub, and we all know how velcro doesn’t work when it gets iced. Tail is held by a conventional tail hook. Gecko says their velcro system is used to prevent snow from working its way under the skin and separating the adhesion. Beyond that I suspect that due to how the skins stick, you don’t want too much end-to-end tension on the skin that could pop it off the ski base like a bowstring. So velcro rather than elastic might be good for that reason as well.

Louie has a test pair of Geckos as well, which he’s installing a WildSnow rat tail on. If that works, then problem solved as we’ll use the velcro to position the tip loop while starting removal from the tail. (Louie, please comment after you get out with the skins.)

Backcountry Skiing

After cutting the Geckos, it's necessary to give the edges a good heat fuse. I asked Fritz where his lighter was, he said he had something better. Ever the Boy Scout, I asked him where the fire extinguisher was.

I also gave the Gecko “adhesive” a good field test, though conditions have been too cold to see how they work when wet rather than snow coated. The first day, I carried extra skins and was very careful not to ice the adhesive. The Geckos worked great for two laps, so yesterday I left my backup skins at home and deliberately abused the Geckos by dropping them in the dry boot-top powder we’ve been enjoying.

Once contaminated by snow Geckos have zero adhesion. BUT, snow does not stick but rather just clings and is super easy to clean off by belting the skins back and forth over the edges of a planted ski, then brushing with the back of a glove.

Backcountry Skiing

I deliberately dropped this Gecko in the snow, which would have been a mini disaster for an already moist conventional skin. After some work they stuck fine.

Backcountry Skiing

Here I am belting the snow off on my ski edges .

Geckos are 100% mohair with a nice heavy DWR treatment. As mohair does, they glide well but have a bit less grip than wall-to-wall nylons. In this area of Europe the skin tracks are of reasonable pitch so traction wasn’t a problem during my testing. In the Wasatch and other places where skin track angle is a measure of manhood, you might be better off with nylon (or at least keep your ski crampons handy).

Conclusion: A viable alternative to conventional skins, but follow directions to the letter. Also, while snow is easy to clean off Geckos, these skins are conversely more sensitive to any snow that remains between skin and ski (one small patch of snow keeps expanding as it picks up snow from the trail, and eventually fails the whole skin). Thus, you still have to practice fastidious care during multi-lap days. After the climb they come off quite easily, and with a better tip/tail attachment system would be a joy to remove with skis still on your feet. Jury is still out on how they’ll work for multiple laps during slushy wet conditions. Second best upside is no more glue residue on your ski bases. Best upside is that Gecko adhesive doesn’t easily contaminate with dirt or debris, can be washed, and won’t stick to your hair or fleece.

(And no, these are not an iPod skin.)

Comments

27 Responses to “Gecko Climbing Skins Redux”

  1. Clyde January 5th, 2009 10:51 am

    Two days ain’t much of a skin test Lou…more like a fluff piece I’d expect from print rags. Please post a real review after they’ve been seriously tested.

  2. Lou January 5th, 2009 11:07 am

    Jeez Clyde… Hey, it’s just an extensive first look. I’ve now got more than 12,000 vert of real backcountry on ‘em which is nothing to sneeze at! And where did I say this was a review?

  3. KR January 5th, 2009 2:08 pm

    I just ordered a pair of the Dynafit Speed Skins for my Manaslus, anyone heard if they are any good?

    The tip attachment photo gives me shivers, Lou. I appreciate your willingness to McGuyver stuff but the lazier among us just want stuff to work right out of the box.

  4. Lou January 5th, 2009 2:51 pm

    I’ve used the Dynafit Speed Skins enough to go beyond “fluff.” They work fine. They’re mostly or 100% Mohair so they glide well but have less grip than stiff bristle nylons such as G3 or BD. The glue makes skin removal much easier than other brands that use really tacky stuff, but conversely is not as forgiving when wet or icy. The attachment system rocks and I like, but takes some getting used to if you’ve always had skins that attached/detached from the rear.

  5. Clyde January 5th, 2009 4:24 pm

    I’ve just come to expect more from you Lou! When you lead by saying “fragility is no longer a concern” and then latter reveal that this is actually untested, it was a let down. As we both know, a lot of skins appear good, at first, but the proof is in the long term. Rushing out “first looks” doesn’t help readers IMHO yet that’s what I expect at other web sites and mags. WildSnow is about the only place with decent reviews anymore so keep your standards high! BTW you missed some great powder this weekend here in your backyard.

  6. Lou January 5th, 2009 4:39 pm

    Clyde, points taken. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about the durability. What I was speaking of was how the original Gecko skins easily tore in half during some careful walking over rocks, while these held up to similar and actually worse abuse, and appear to be just as strong as most other available skins. To be clear, I was traversing, and several times I slipped on powder covered granite rocks and raked the skins violently sideways. The same day, Fritz tore another skin of a different brand. As for plush durability and how long the DWR lasts, 12,000 vertical with some rocks thrown in is of course nothing.

    All, I’m constantly working like a dog to keep our voice. You wouldn’t believe some of the pressure we get from manufacturers to always fluff their products. Some even read our “fluff” and still freak out, in the process actually imagining criticism that’s not there! It’s just a crazy world, I guess.

    I value Clyde’s take and would appreciate it if he stays on my case and keeps me trying.

    As for the pow, yeah, I figure I’ll always miss some Colorado fluff when I’m over the pond. At least this year we’ve got nearly 0 avy danger over here with enough snow for some fairly nice skiing. That along with the cultural stuff makes it wonderful and I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to experience some “roots” ski touring.

    For example, today we climbed and skied the mountain that Manfred Barthel used to sneak up and ski before school classes — 60 years ago. Wow. How cool to have memories like that!

  7. KR January 5th, 2009 5:10 pm

    Is this the same Clyde that used to have an “advertorial” section in the magazine he worked on? Those were about the most zero content “reviews” I have ever seen.

    Lou, most of us understand that reviews and quick takes are meant to be just that, not the final gospel.

  8. Lou January 5th, 2009 5:39 pm

    KR, you guys do cut me some slack and I appreciate it. It’s tough working without an editor on 45 minute deadlines (grin). But Clyde did/does have good points. I think the confusion came from me not being clear about what I meant by “durability.” I did a few slight edits and I think we’re good now. Big Gecko review in a few months after Louie and I give ‘em a run for their money. He’ll be using up in the NW where it’s wet and scrappy. We’ll see how a gecko lizard fairs in that environment.

  9. Lou January 5th, 2009 6:08 pm

    I forgot to mention climbing skins should be black and backcountry skis should be white on top. At least Gecko skins are black, now we’ll just wish for white skis that don’t get 2 pounds of ice on top every time the sun comes out….

  10. Clyde January 5th, 2009 7:43 pm

    Yep, the clarifications are good. Agree on black (or at least dark) skins. But, putting on the photographer’s hat, just say NO to white decks or any other deck that doesn’t pop. Kastle’s for example, though I am intrigued by their mythical over-priced BC skis, are just boring visually…at least the non-swagged owners can be comforted by spending a lot of green.

    KR, I wrote reviews for a lot mags and certainly made mistakes. But as for “advertorial,” put up or shut up. The low standards and pitiful pay are the reasons I moved on; if I can’t do it right, I won’t bother. These days, there are no good venues for serious gear reviews in the outdoor world.

  11. Jonathan S. Shefftz January 5th, 2009 10:50 pm

    I have a whopping 2700 vertical on my Manaslu skins so far, but most importantly, they seem to be identical to a friend’s Mustagh Ata skins, which have held up well in some truly challenging skinning conditions — click here if you dare.

  12. Lou January 6th, 2009 3:35 am

    LOL!

  13. Don Lange January 6th, 2009 8:39 pm

    Hey Lou,

    How much weight savings are we talking about compared to the standard Ascension skin? And yes, I am a gram shaver-especially at the feet- so seemingly insignifcant differences might be enough to convince me to consider these for my ultralight corn sticks.

    Thanks, Don

  14. KR January 9th, 2009 9:53 pm

    I took the Manaslu skins out today for a couple thousand vertical feet and 3 miles or so. I loved the glide and they gripped well on a fairly steep skin track. They have about two-thirds of the weight and bulk of my Ascensions that fit these skis.

    On the downside, the edges have lots of loose threads already. Not a big deal but so much for the “laser-cut edges” marketing blurb. Maybe they need to sharpen the laser.

    Also, with the attachment at the tip and the long tip rocker of the ski, I can’t de-skin with my skis still on like I can on the Ascension. Guess I need to work on the beer gut.

  15. Omar Bellio November 6th, 2010 2:02 pm

    I bought gecko skins last June, with great hope and thinking I was found finally a suitable skin with less caring needs and maintenance requirements.
    A few outdoor rounds later, the skins had lost most of its stickiness. I fell I wasted my money and now I’m thinking of buying a different brand.
    I couldn’t find the makers site or e-mail address to ask them to take responsibility for this failure. I’m sorry but my experience with gecko skins is quite far away from positive.

  16. Michael FInger September 30th, 2011 10:02 pm

    Holy way expensive! $200+ for a set?! No way I’m
    interested now.

  17. Lou October 1st, 2011 7:47 am

    Gecko did have some problems with early release of their products. To their credit, they kept their R&D process going with admirable commitment. I’ve got a pair of hopefully-ready-for-prime-time 2011/12 Gecko skins here, which we’ll begin testing just as soon as we’ve got some available uphilling. I’d advise everyone to give them another chance or look, as this type of ‘adhesive’ has exciting possibilities. Reviewing the new ones is at the top of my list. Only trick is to figure out which of my “extended WildSnow quiver” to cut them for (grin)!

  18. Michael FInger October 1st, 2011 8:31 am

    Low,
    They might work great, but at almost 2x (BD, G3, etc on sale or closeout) the price of proven skins they would have to be a substantial improvement to get me to shell out.

  19. Lou October 1st, 2011 9:09 am

    Understood

  20. Davey Cooper October 1st, 2011 10:45 am

    I was convinced to try Gecko skins last winter (2010 – 2011). It was a disaster, after less than 10,000 metres of climbing, the fraying at the sides of the skins was horrendous and the clip in the front of the skins broke, in fact the skins tore at the rivet !!! leaving me “dans le merde” somewhere in the middle of the alps. The stickyness was ok if you could keep the skins warm, but in the cold, there’s nothing. You have to use the back clips. I took them back to the shop and the owner looked at them, apologised and gave me a pair of Colltex instead. Anyway, I hope that Gecko improve things, but after last years experience, I’ll need a lot of convincing.

  21. Ed October 1st, 2011 11:33 am

    Re ?? about Dynafit skins above – I’ve used their OEM skins on both Mustagh Ata’s and Stokes for couple of years now and find them superb. Way more glide than anything else I’ve tried so far (never tried Colltex but can’t seem to connect with em up here). Off Piste did a skins review too in March 2011.
    Today on a rainy Saturday I tried outfitting some new DPS Wailers 112′s with wall to wall we got from Skins Direct (no Lou the workbench isn’t any cleaner than the Stokes pic from last yr – it’s now archeological work to find the bench itself!). Skins look interesting and certainly went together/ trimmed slick as whistle. We’ll see the glide from these. I’m also anxious to try the G3 mohair mix skins out. Anyone any Beta on these?
    So wife comes down and sez what’s that? I sez it’s new ski gear but, economical, trim yourself stuff dear. Furrowed brow looks like trouble coming . . . until I mention that some of the off-cuts might make good sliders for furniture on hardwood floors. Off she goes try some out. Whew! Happy wife . . . happy life . . .

  22. Bar Barrique October 2nd, 2011 9:57 pm

    I am looking forward to your review. If these skins are a viable choice to skins with glue, I would be interested.

  23. Omar October 3rd, 2011 5:37 am

    I bought Gecho skins last winter (2010 in Argentina), and I’m absolutely happy… with my new Black Diamond skins which I used in 2011.

    Gecko failed repeatedly, while other times they worked fine. Tip and tail attachments got broken BOTH. That is not nice when you are several km. away of the nearest town in Patagonia.
    Bottom line: Do not inspire trust. Nontheless, I keep looking forward for the improvement of the product.

  24. David Conlin November 15th, 2011 1:03 pm

    What is the tip/tail attachment system like on the latest iteration?

  25. Lou November 15th, 2011 1:50 pm

    My version has a beefy wire tip loop, with the tail left uncut to use with enclosed system that’s similar to G3, and you rig yourself depending on ski length. It all looks fine. But I’ll test over the next month or so. Will file an initial review very soon. If you read my previous post, it has my total impression of the glue, developed over more than 30 days of use. I don’t see how that’ll change, it’s the same stuff.

  26. Mark November 15th, 2011 2:18 pm

    I’m with Omar and Davey on this one. Early market release of a sub-standard product and getting consumers to do the beta testing is unacceptable for a product of this sort. This was my experience of Gecko a couple of years ago. Problems with fraying, not sticking, skins rolling off blah blah blah……after only 2 days use.

    But for both the Austrian and US offices to ignore emails of complaint is also unacceptable – these guys need to focus on their consumers as much as their product. I’d love for these skins to work but I will never go near any of geckos products again.

  27. Lou November 15th, 2011 2:52 pm

    Mark, my impression of what happened is they indeed released a beta product as retail. More, they seemed inexperienced with the skiing consumer industry. Don’t know if you know, but I did make a special effort to drive to Innsbruck from my friend’s home in Austria and visit them during the early stages of the things. They’re nice, sincere guys, but again, I didn’t get the impression they were professional ski product designers.

    Seems like they got schooled and we should give them another chance to some degree or another. I’ll help as much as possible by being fairly hard-hitting in my next review. That way there won’t be any mystery. Lou

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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