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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Tricks, Tips
Dynafit Tourlite Tech (TLT), Comfort, Vertical, Radical ST10, FT12
randonnee tech "AT" ski bindings

 

By Louis Dawson        (updated 12-24-2013)

dynafit binding
Time tested and reliable Dynafit TLT ski binding in touring mode with heel lift, brake installed and retracted for touring. 2001 model shown here, all are similar.

FAQ INDEX

What is the Dynafit binding?

What makes the Dynafit bindings special?

What do people call these things?

Where can I buy Dynafit Bindings?

How does the Dynafit backcountry skiing binding work?

How much do Dynafit bindings weigh?

How much do the boot fittings weigh, are they durable?

The Dynafit binding looks so small, is it durable?

Up/down play in the heel, brakes don't retract.

Can I huck cliffs and ski bumps with Dynafit?

So, can I use my Dynafit bindings as a resort binding?

I did a jump turn, and pre-released up at the heel, problem?

Do they release just like an alpine binding?

Can I telemark with Dynafit bindings?

What about riser plates for backcountry skiing?

Does the Dynafit binding have a climbing heel lift - how does it work?

How do I rotate the heel lift?

My binding heels rotate and spin to different positions while I'm touring and it's annoying as heck. Fix?

Dynafit ski brakes jam up against or between the lugs on the heel of my boot sole, fix?

My Dynafit ski brakes stick sometimes, in other words, when my boot comes out of the binding, they don't spring open, fix?

How do I find the boot sole midpoint "mounting mark" on a pair of backcountry skiing boots without the mark?

Is it possible to mount the Dynafit at home without a jig?

Can you swap models of Dynafit binding on same mounting screw hole pattern?

Dynafit Radical bindings have funny looking star drive torx screws, what tools do I need for those?

I noticed the gap between the heel of my boot and the binding heel unit, is this important?

I noticed my boot had a lot of up/down play at the heel. I looked down, and noticed that the heel pins were on top of the plastic ledge on the heel of my boot! What do I do!

My skis are too wide for the TLT brake, can I swap on a brake from a Tri-Step, or mod the TLT brake?

Any quirks with this backcountry skiing binding?

When I put on my skis, I can't get the wings on a toe piece to close. Fix?

I get ice in the gap under my toe piece, and it does funny things when I try to put them on after the climb.

What about ski crampons?

The safety "runaway" straps that come with Dynafit bindings remind me of a bondaaage scene, solution?

It's said you have to take your boot completely out of the Dynafit binding to change from latched heel to free heel. Is this really a big deal?

Any other general problems to be aware of?

Do Dynafit bindings adjust for different size boot shells?

I want even less weight for backcountry skiing! How?

Where can I get Dynafit ski bindings?

Do all Dynafit bindings use the same mounting screw hole pattern?

Do Dynafit bindings have a right and left?

What should I carry in my repair kit?

I like a return spring for touring, why doesn't Dynafit have one?

I pulled my heel unit off the ski, what's the deal?

Can the Dynafit binding fittings be aftermarket installed in any ski boot?

How popular is this ski binding, and who invented it?


What is the Dynafit binding?
A backcountry skiing binding that allows you to ski downhill with your boot attached to your ski the same way a regular resort ski binding functions, yet transforms into a touring/climbing binding for skiing uphill or across level ground with your heels free to move up and down. The binding is available in several basic models that split into sub-models. The basic models are the Vertical and Radical ST and FT, Speed, and Low Tech.

TLT Speed is a basic version that's been available for more than a decade. Vertical & Radical FT and ST are the latest models.

Note that as of circa 2009 the term "tech" binding has been in use to describe all ski bindings that use a system similar to the Dynafit binding.

What makes Dynafit bindings special?
In a word, weight. It is amazing what the Dynafit engineers place in a package weighing less than your ski pants. This ski mountaineering binding has safety release, allows a fixed heel for alpine skiing, frees your heel for walking and climbing, is durable, holds your boot firmly on your ski -- and much more. Ski touring with this binding is a joy. It's no exaggeration to say the Dynafit binding revolutionized the sports of ski mountaineering and backcountry skiing.

What do people call these things?
In speech the binding is often called a "Dynafit binding," or "Dynafit" for short -- or as noted above, if the binding is not the Dynafit brand but uses the system originated by Dynafit and inventor Fritz Barthel, the generic term for such is "tech bindings."

Numerous models of the Dynafit binding are in production or available on the used market. The lighter, leaner model that's been sold for some time is usually called the "Dynafit Tourlite Tech," or "TLT." I've also seen it written as "TL Tech." Radical models are known as "Radical ST" and "Vertical ST." Those models named "Vertical" are known as ST and FT.

Another Dynafit model called the Comfort was formerly sold, now updated and morphed into the Vertical and Radical models. All Dynafit backcountry skiing tech binding models work the same way as the TLT, and are nearly the same binding. Among other differences, later models have a wider range of adjustment for different boot sizes, may be slightly easier to enter with your boot, and have a somewhat improved heel unit.This FAQ is intended to cover things that apply to all Dynafit bindings, for model specifics See this FAQ for Comfort (FT ST Radical) binding specifics, and see this FAQ for specifics of the discontinued Tri-Step binding, which uses the same heel unit as the Comfort.

(Salewa North America distributes the Dynafit backcountry ski binding, and other associated gear.)

Where can I buy Dynafit Bindings?
For a good deal and terrific service I recommend the mail-order store Backcountry.com for buying Dynafit bindings. Be sure you have a good plan for mounting the bindings before you buy them mail-order. You can mount them yourself, or pay a shop to do it.

Shop for Dynafit alpine touring bindings at Backcountry.com

How does the Dynafit tech binding work?
Dynafit engineers could present a three-day seminar on Dynafit bindings. I'll be brief. To function both as touring and fixed-heel skiing machines, most randonnee bindings have a heel and toe unit mounted on a rigid connector, such as a plate or bar (sometimes called a "frame"). Instead of being a "frame binding," Dynafit and all other tech bindings use the boot as the connecting device, by building toe and heel connectors into the boot. This eliminates weight and parts. What's more, Dynafit figured out a way to blend the walking pivot at the toe with the safety release mechanism, thus eliminating more weight. Vertical safety release is accomplished by the boot heel pulling a triangular metal fitting up though two springy prongs (known as the "heel pins"). Sideways (lateral) release is accomplished by the heel piece on the ski rotating under tension, while the small ball/socket joints on the boot toe pop "out of joint."

Scale time is usually a scary moment, but not with the Dynafit (early TLT Speed model shown on scale, later models weigh a few grams more).

How much do Dynafit bindings weigh?
We weight binding parts on a Pelouze PE5 digital postal scale (weights for one binding, not a pair, all weighed without screws and without accessories.) Scale accuracy is verified with a known weight. All our binding weights are available in one location on our Backcountry Skiing Weights Page.

Ski crampons, brakes, and runaway straps add weight. See tips below for ways to minimize such glycogen drag. Anyone know where to get titanium screws?

How much do the boot fittings weigh, and are they durable?
The Dynafit fittings (known as "tech" fittings) molded into a Dynafit compatible boot weigh 1.1 oz (32g) per boot. They are installed during boot manufacture and are difficult or impossible to retrofit. The toe fitting is molded in, and the heel fitting is installed in a machined pocket and held by a screw and locator pin. The fittings (sans boot) are not available for retail sale, though they can be easily removed from worn out boots. The heel fitting is easy to remove (back out screw and pry the fitting out. To remove the toe fitting, grind the sole off below the toe fitting. Once the bottom of the toe fitting is exposed, pry it out. As to durability, there have been few reported problems. The heel fitting can loosen and become detached after heavy use. To prevent that, see this mod.

While they look simple, tech fittings are actually somewhat difficult to manufacture correctly and install in a way that they'll be reliable. Most boot makers do a good job, but sometimes they fail to do so. Thus, buying boots from proven manufacturers is generally a better idea than being an early adopter of a new and unproven brand that's recently decided to manufacture and install their own tech fittings.

Boot fittings for Dynafit backcountry skiing binding.
Dynafit toe and heel fittings removed from boot. Coin for scale. Total weight 1.1 ounces.

The Dynafit binding looks so small, is it durable?
Indeed, this engineering marvel is the most minimalist full-function ski binding system ever invented. It is now imitated by dozens of companies, and known generically as the "tech" syste. Yet despite it's appearance the Dynafit binding is arguably one of the most durable randonnee bindings made. Other tech systems are usually just as durable and reliable.

TLT binding with homebrew gussets
TLT with heel post reinforcement gussets welded by an expert metal worker. Binding must be taken apart for this work. Don't try at home unless you're an experienced craftsman and mechanic. Very few people need this mod.

Skiers who weigh more than 180 pounds, and carry a pack, may on rare occasions bend the heel elevator posts on the early models of TLT. This is not a critical failure, and is easily repaired with available parts (also, while somewhat hard to obtain, the heel post/plate assembly from the Tri-Step and Comfort models can be swapped onto the TLT and fits perfectly). I have one big-guy friend who loves the TLT, but did bend his heel posts. His solution was to remove the part, and have a metal shop weld a small reinforcement to the post.

Earlier Comfort models have occasional problems with the plastic plate under the toe unit breaking while using Dynafit's dedicated ski crampon. This area is reinforced with steel on later models. There are also occasional reports of the front portion of this plate breaking, and it has subsequently been reinforced on later models.

A common durability question regards Dynafit toe pivot pins, and the boot-toe pivot sockets: Do they wear out? The steel used to make these parts is super-hard. Guides have used the binding for literally hundreds of thousands of vertical feet without significant wear. And in my experience (our family has owned more than a dozen pairs of Dynafit bindings, and used them for more then a decade on hundreds of peaks), this is not an issue. Nonetheless, it is prudent to make sure your boot pivot sockets are clean of grit, since heavy use combined with abrasive material could accelerate wear.

In all, use this binding with confidence in its durability for normal ski mountaineering (see "can I jump off cliffs?"), and forget the spare parts for all but huge expeditions. See the following thimble bushing info for more durability issues.

Dynafit thimble bushing
Dynafit heel with housing removed, spring and thimble bushing held in operative position. Arrow indicates where edge of aluminum post wears into bushing.

My Dynafit bindings have developed annoying up/down play in the heel, the brakes don't retract like they used to, and they click while I'm touring. What can I do?This problem usually occurs on high mileage bindings. It's possibly caused by upward pressure of the brake levering the binding heel piece up and back (in touring mode). And also may be caused by wear as you rotate the heel between touring and alpine modes. This wears out a small internal thimble shaped bushing, thus causing play. This thimble bushing can easily be examined by removing the threaded torsional release setting barrel (just screw it out counter clockwise), removing the internal coil spring, then using your finger or sometimes a sharp hook such as a dental pick to pull out the plastic bushing/cap that rides on the end of the coil spring. (This disassembly procedure is used to install TLT brakes).

If the thimble bushing has a worn spot, that is what's causing your problem. The thimble bushing is shown on the binding paperwork as part #19. Order replacements through your dealer, or from Life Link. Grease all bushing surfaces well when you reassemble. Moreover, frequently apply silicon or ski wax to the steel surface of the brake retractor plate that the binding rides on as it rotates between modes

Thimble bushing detail
This bushing had a hole worn clear through. After an easy replacement, the binding is good as new.

You can slow down the thimble bushing wear by always retracting the brake by squeezing it closed with your hand when switching to touring mode, greasing the thimble bushing a few times a season, and lightly polishing the aluminum edges that damage the thimble bushing. Use 220 grit sandpaper for polishing. Clean well after polishing, and grease liberally during re-assembly. When taking apart and greasing, rotate the thimble bushing a bit so a less worn surface is riding against the aluminum edge of the heel post. Use a plastic compatible low-temperature grease.

Remember, this problem only occurs after many vertical feet of ski touring. It is normal wear-and-tear, easy to fix, and no cause for concern about this fine ski binding. Of interest, note that the thimble bushing and spring are the only thing holding the binding heel on the aluminum heel post, thus, if you set a low of DIN setting and rotate the binding heel with upward force, you can possibly pull it up off the ski -- rare enough to be a non-issue, but it has happened.

The Dynafit binding looks meager, can I jump off cliffs and ski bumps with them, like I do with my alpine bindings?
Moderate drops, with good technique, are possible with the Dynafit. Relaxed bump skiing is fine, but you won't be able to follow Glen Plake down through those Prius sized humps. Taking big air is not recommended if for no other reason than all Dynafit compatible boots are "soft" relative to alpine boots, and may not offer enough for/aft support for landing a jump at 60 mph on a huge pair of skis. Moreover, forcefully landing a ski in soft snow can bend (de-camber) the ski so much it jams the boot between the binding toe and heel, and thus pops the boot out of the binding. While the Dynafit binding is engineered to absorb some of this force, via the space between boot heel and binding, alpine bindings and some other randonnee bindings can absorb more of it. Indeed, the more "alpine-like" Fritschi Diamir Titanal rando binding does a better job of dealing with this situation, because the binding heel and toe are mounted on a rigid bar instead of the ski. If you want a randonnee binding for large jumps on big skis, or for aggressive bump skiing, consider the Diamir. Or better still, take a hint from all those "big mountain" skiers who star in the videos, and figure out how to do your descents using alpine bindings.

All that said, another pleasant surprise with the Dynafit bindings is that they provide a good rigid connection between boot and ski. In fact, they're as solid as any AT binding on the market, and actually more solid than some. Just put a boot in the binding and press the cuff of the boot from side-to-side and look for wobble and slop. Do so with different AT bindings and you'll be amazed how solid the Dynafit is.

So, can I use my Dynafit bindings as a resort binding?
Depends on style. My wife uses Dynafit for all her skiing, both on and off resort, about 40 days a year (some "days" being fitness climbs before work). She is very happy with them, never pre-releases, and they seem safe enough. She seldom falls, and is not an aggressive skier. She skis intermediate parallel. But, and it's a big BUT, aggressive resort skiing on the Dynafit is problematic. For starters, hard bump skiing or landing large jumps, as mentioned above, can pop you out of the binding quicker than a champagne cork on a wedding night. What's more, while the Dynafit is durable in comparison with other randonnee bindings, a hard bash to the side of the heel piece can cause a lot more damage to the Dynafit than it would to an alpine binding. In summary, the Dynafit works fine as a resort binding for low-key skiing. Aggressive skiers should not use it at the resort, except for occasional "dial-in" days.

I did a jump turn, and pre-released up at the heel, is this a problem?
Indeed, if you over-camber (bend tip and tail down towards the ground) your ski and pull up on the heel, the boot pops out very easily. I've had this happen when standing in a steep couloir, with my skis buried in deep slush. I did an aggressive jump up to pull my skis out of the snow, and instead had a boot pop up vertically out of the binding. This occurrence is easy to replicate in the shop. Latch a boot into the binding, flip the ski upside down and suspend between two solid supports at tip and tail. While pulling the heel of the boot down towards the floor, aggressively press down on the center of the ski to induce an exaggerated camber in the ski. You'll be surprised how easily the boot pops out when the pins pull out of the heel fitting. The longer heel pins of the Vertical and Radical series bindings may help with this problem, as they allow a little extra distance before they pull out of the boot fitting. With any tech binding, be extra sure the specified space between boot heel and binding is no larger than specified (see below for details).

For much more excellent information about inadvertent binding release check out this excellent info from Vermont Ski Safety.

Do they release just like an alpine binding?
While more than a decade of testing has proven the Dynafit to have a functional safety release that's similar to alpine bindings, it is not the same. Alpine bindings may have more angles of release, and may have more elasticity (ability to absorb movement, vibration, and shock). Remember that for maximum safety, all ski bindings require careful release tuning. Tune binding release by setting to standard settings using height/weight charts, and ski a few runs. If you don't pre-release (i.e., release while skiing, not falling), set the release a half number lower, and ski more. Keep reducing the release setting until you start pre-releasing, then crank back up 1/2 number. Do this individually for lateral (sideways) and upward (vertical) release. Ski all randonnee bindings more conservatively than you would full-on alpine bindings. In other words, ski without falling.

Can I telemark with Dynafit bindings?
No, not in the sense of making linked telemark turns down a mountain. While you can ski downhill with the binding/boot in touring mode (i.e., with a free heel), and thus scoot one ski forward and make an awkward "telemark" turn, doing so places huge stress on the binding toe. If you put much force into the turn, you'll pop the toe out of the binding, or break the binding. On the other hand, while touring with the Dynafit binding it's not uncommon to use the telemark stance as a way to glide through sharp transitions such as creek beds. Doing so works because it includes little lateral force on the binding.

What about riser plates?
In alpine downhill ski mode, the Dynafit TLT binding places the heel of your boot 20 millimeters above the ski, and the toe about 12 millimeters above the ski (measurement is not precise because of difference in randonnee boot soles). The Comfort and Vertical (FT ST) models yield even more rise, with 30 millimeters at the heel and about 20 mm at the toe.

Thus, not only do the Dynafit bindings provide fairly substantial "rise," but the lower toe provides more "positive ramp angle" for your boot sole, thus compensating somewhat for the neutral stance of randonnee backcountry ski boots.

The theory of riser plates is that they provide more leverage to the ski edges by increasing the length of your lower leg "lever." I've meet few randonnee skiers who believe they need more rise than the Dynafit binding provides by default. Interestingly, in the 1970s some of the world's best ski racers felt that having their feet closer to their skis was better. They would grind down their boot soles and hollow out their boot interior foot-beds to accomplish this. In my opinion, both extremes, (rise or drop), are a waste of energy for a rando skier to worry about. I've skied on the Comfort, with its 30mm rise, and while I noticed being higher on the ski felt different in a turn, I didn't feel it made my skiing any better, or easier.

It's said that when you need more boot height above the ski is when you use jumbo width skis. Be your own judge of that, and make risers or use rental plates (see below) if you think you need more height.

For more on this subject, related to crud and powder skiing, I found an excellent article on the Ski Magazine website, wherein Steve and Junior Bounous state, "Most powder experts like to have their boot soles as close to the platform as possible. That means little or no lift...Riser plates that enhance a ski’s performance on hardpack make it tricky to manage in deep snow."

Again, if you feel a need for "rise," you can install a set of Dynafit "demo plates." These provide more rise, as well as extensive adjustment for different boot shell sizes.

Or make your own risers out of plastic cutting board material. Use extra long screws that go all the way through the board into your ski. Fill all holes with copious amounts of epoxy, as any side-to-side movement of the screws or bindings will result in mount failure.

Does the Dynafit binding have a climbing heel lift, and how does it work?

TLT heel lift at high setting using post, binding shown with brake installed. Comfort and Tri-Step work the same way.

The climbing lift system (aka heel lift) is one of the most reviled and misunderstood parts of the Dynafit TLT binding. Yet when mastered, it's simple, slick, and efficient. The climbing lift consists of three modes. When climbing steep slopes, you rotate the heel piece so the appendage (the heel post) on top of the heel piece supports your heel. For moderate climbing, you rotate the heel piece so the two "retention pins" point backward, and rest your heel on the main body of the heel piece. While touring flat or lightly angled ground, you rotate the heel piece so it's across the long axis of the ski, which allows your boot heel to rest low, on the base of the heel piece.

For extra "extreme" lift, the TLT binding comes with extra plastic buttons you can attach to the heel post. If you don't use these keep them anyway for spares, as the plastic buttons have been known to break.

Okay, now I understand the different heel lifts, but how do I rotate it?!

Rotating the Dynafit heel lifter post by inserting pole tip in socket, practice at home!

Dynafit Radical model bindings after 2011 have an easily operated flip-up heel lift. Other models have a heel lift that requires rotating the heel unit. To do so while standing and using a ski pole, Identify the hole in the heel lift post, the triangular appendage atop the TLT heel piece (and red plastic post atop the Tri-Step, sometimes called the "volcano").

While standing on the trail, lift the heel of your foot, insert the tip of a ski pole in the hole, and rotate the heel piece to your desired setting. It helps to insert just the tip of your pole -- just a centimeter or two. Also, and this is important, PRACTICE AT HOME. Get out on your living room carpet, and try rotating the heel with a ski pole. Due to body size, ski pole length, etc., everyone develops a slightly different technique. Once you master it, you can click the heel unit around with an elegant flip of your wrist.

In my testing, I've found that rotating the heel on the Comfort model is much easier than the TLT. But doing so smoothly still requires practice.

The hole in the TLT heel lift is intended for an average aluminum ski pole. Some carbon fiber poles may not work well, or may be damaged by the steel edges of the hole in the TLT. If you have carbon poles and experience this problem, try easing the edges of the hole with a file, and slightly enlarge it if necessary.

My binding heels rotate too easily -- they spin to different positions while I'm touring and it's annoying as heck. Fix?

This pesky backcountry problem is usually caused by how the lugs on your boot tread sit on the binding heel when in one of the two raised heel positions. It's also caused by buildup of snow or ice on your boot heel or binding while you're touring, which causes the binding to be pushed to the side. Several solutions: Use an anti-icing strategy such as silicon spray or rubbing the binding surfaces and boot heel with alpine wax before you tour. If the boot sole lugs are causing the problem, fill between the offending lugs with boot sole repair compound such as Shoe Goo, and/or bevel the edges of the lugs. Some users report that this problem is more likely if you're using ski brakes, as the brakes exert quite a bit of upward force against the binding heel unit and may cause it to somehow rotate easier, or not return to position the way it should. Tweak for that is to remove one of the two brake retraction springs to it has less upward force when in the retracted position. Warning, removing one of the brake springs will cause it to have less beef in the deployed position, and could even cause problems with the brake triggering from the retracted position.

My Dynafit TLT or Tri-Step ski brakes jam up against or between the lugs on the heel of my boot sole, fix?

Dynafit randonnee AT backcountry ski binding brake problem
Heinous "brake jam" (related to toe jam?) shown above may keep your Dynafit brakes from working properly, and may degrade lateral release. In this photo, not only is lateral release blocked by the side lugs, but when stomping down into the binding, the rear sole lugs catch on the brake and drive it forward, possibly damaging it. Fix by modifying boot sole with a solid rubber block, or forget using the brakes -- they weigh a ton anyway...

If the lugs on your boot sole appear to interfere with the operation of the Dynafit ski brake, screw/glue a small block of hard rubber in between the lugs, so the brake actuator plate doesn't catch.

Or, have a boot repair shop grind off the rear lugs on your boot heel, then glue a solid rubber half-heel in place of the removed lugs.

This can be a safety issue, as the boot sole lugs may catch on the brake plate and block lateral release.

 

My Dynafit ski brakes stick sometimes, in other words, when my boot comes out of the binding, they don't spring open, fix?
Lubricate all brake mechanism pivot points with light oil such as WD40 (keep off base of ski and skins). If lubrication doesn't work, place a few layers of duct tape on the ski, under the front of the gray plastic brake actuator plate where it contacts the ski when pressed down by the boot in alpine mode. This holds the plate up slightly higher so the binding doesn't "catch" in the retracted position.

How do I find the boot sole midpoint "mounting mark" on a pair of boots without the mark?
Compare the unmarked boots with a marked pair. Or place boots in Dynafit mounting jig, and use the mark on jig as reference for a mark on the boot. Or, measure the length of the sole and divide in half (this is how virtually all boots are marked). Please complain to boot makers who don't put mounting indicator marks on their boots.

Is it possible to home mount the Dynafit?
If you're handy with tools you can do it. Practice first on a pair of dumpster skis. See this article for details.

I'm mounting Dynafit Radical bindings, they don't have normal binding screws but instead have star drive torx screws, what do I do?
You'll need to tool up with torx T-20. See this article.

Is it possible to swap Dynafit bindings and use the same mounting hole screw pattern.
Mostly yes. The heel unit of nearly all models uses the same screw hole pattern, and ALL toes use the same pattern (layout). Exceptions being super light race heels. Interchange of bindings to same hole pattern is one of the excellent features of the Dynafit. The only gotcha to be aware of is that switching from a binding with more length adjustment (Comfort, FT, ST) to one with less (TLT) could result in your binding not accommodating a given boot length because the screw holes in the ski are off too far forward or back for the binding's adjustment to compensate. For more details see this blog post.

Do Dynafit bindings adjust for different size boot shells?
The TLT binding heel unit adjusts for/aft 6.4 millimeters, which means it could possible possibly adjust for a change of one shell size, depending on where you have it adjusted when it's mounted. Most often, a new boot shell size requires remounting the TLT.

The Comfort and Vertical binding models have an adjustment range of 26 millimeters (or about 2 1/2 Mondo sizes.) This is one of the Comfort/Vertical model's primary advantages over the TLT.

Dynafit also sells rental bindings and a "rental plate" that installs under the TLT, these offer a wider adjustment range with the downside of adding weight.

If your Dynafits don't adjust for your boot length, drilling a few extra holes in today's skis is not a big deal so long as it's done with care. Extra holes, however, do reduce the resale value of skis, and are less favored if you mount telemark bindings, which place incredibly huge forces on the mounting screws.

I noticed the gap between the heel of my boot and the binding heel unit, is this important?
YES! Dynafit bindings are sold with a small plastic feeler gauge "shim" to check this space. With the Tourlite/TLT/Speed/Race binding heel prior to the 2010/2011 model this is supposed to be 4 mm, and the Comfort/Vertical/ST/FT setting is 6 mm before 2009/2010 and 5.5 mm after. (If you lack a gauge for 5.5 mm, use three nickle coins). After 2009/2010 sales season all Dynafit Radical and Vertical series bindings will use a 5.5 mm gap, and Dynafit says the Race models will use that as well.

If you set this gap too wide the heel pins may pull out of your boot while you're skiing, and the binding will have lower release values than those indicated by the numbers on the binding. Too small a space may cause prerelease or dangerous jamming when the ski flexes and the heel of the boot compresses against the binding heel. Setting this space is tricky. The TLT binding heel has a small bump on it, below the pins. You must rest the feeler gauge above this bump, otherwise you'll end up with too much space. Recheck this periodically. Note the shim/feeler has come in different colors over the years. For extensive details about setting this gap, see this article about the Dynafit "tech gap."

Dynafit TLT backcountry skiing binding adjustment.
Dynafit TLT binding with adjustment shim spacer in proper position. New bindings after 2009/2010 use a 5.5 mm shim gauge to set the gap. Around 2013 Dynafit switched to a very different shim/gauge that we detail elsewhere. In reality, nearly any tech binding will function with anything around a 4 mm gap plus or minus one millimeter, but you'll get your best performance and safety if you set your bindings to exact manufacturer specifications.

 

For Dynafit Radical bindings starting around 2013 the gauge for heel gap is a compressible little device as pictured below. It's a bit confusing to use. Don't over-think it, just line up the parts as indicated in photo and you've set your heel gap to plus-minus 5.3 mm (officially 5.5 mm, or the thickness of 3 nickles.)

The gauge for heel gap is now a compressible little device as pictured.

 

I noticed my boot had a lot of up/down play at the heel. I looked down, and noticed that the heel pins were on top of the plastic ledge on the heel of my boot! What do I do!
First, be aware that Dynafit backcountry skiing bindings are not designed for hard-core resort skiing for the larger, aggressive skier. Using it for such can cause numerous problems, including that related above. That said, whatever your use of Dynafit bindings, get in the habit of checking the bindings before and during every run. Do a quick visual check by simply looking down at the bindings and seeing if anything is awry, and get in the habit of checking for play by moving your feet a bit before each run, and while stopped in the middle of a run. If you find your boot heel caught down below the pins, it's time to check your binding settings, then perhaps change your expectations of what these bindings can do. First check the clearance between the boot and heel unit. Use the feeler gage that comes with the bindings. See detailed instructions above and in the Dynafit mounting instructions on this website. Next, check your vertical release setting. Provided you have the correct clearance set, dialing up your vertical release setting a hair may reduce the occurrence of this problem. Note the Comfort binding has longer heel pins than the TLT, and thus may be less prone to this sort of behavior. Also consider what type of skis you're using. Soft flexible skis may be more prone to this sort of behavior, because the flexing ski moves the pins in and out of the boot heel.

My skis are too wide for the TLT brake, can I swap on a brake from a Tri-Step, or mod the TLT brake?
While the TLT brake can be bent outwards to fit wider skis, such bending quickly reaches its limit. To adapt the Tri-Step brake to the TLT would require using parts from both type of brakes, and doing a major tear-down rebuild of the brake. Not recommended. An easier way would be to cut and extend the TLT brake prongs so they fit over a wider ski. A competent metal craftsman would have no problem with this, though the project could be expensive and time consuming.

Any quirks with this binding?
In alpine mode, if your boot is jammed sharply rearward in the binding, it will pop out. While this situation is very uncommon in normal skiing, it could happen while doing a "falling leaf" sideslip in a narrow couloir. Solution: if you're in a situation where such release could mean injury or death, reach down and pull your toe-piece lock tabs up into touring lock mode. For all but huge skiers, this will effectively prevent the above from occurring, as well as locking out out all lateral release to approximately DIN 14-18. Bear in mind that locking the touring latch has no effect on vertical release, thus it's not a 100% "lock out" as many people think it is.

When I put on my skis, I can't get the wings on a toe piece to close. Fix?

Cleaning the boot socket with the cute little tool mounted on a safety strap. A 16d nail also works well for this.

No doubt, getting your boot into the Dynafit binding is the hardest part of using it.

If you have problems, first check and make sure the sockets in your boot toe are not plugged with ice or dirt. Clean with a small sharp object. The safety straps included with some models of the binding have a built-in cleaner molded into the end of one of the metal tabs. A 16d nail also works well.

When you put on your skis, the Dynafit toe wings snap closed when your boot sole presses down on a "trigger" in the middle of the toe piece. Some boots come from the factory without enough sole in this area to press the "trigger," and boots can wear in such a way that the same problem occurs. Fix by building a small pad of duct tape or epoxy up on the trigger, until you can easily click into the binding.

There are two methods of getting in to the Dynafit backcountry skiing binding, both require practice, and both should be learned: With the "tilt to the side" method, tilt your boot slightly sideways and place one toe hole on a toe pin, then tilt boot down to snap toe closed. With the "straight in" method, rotate the binding heel unit to the touring setting that allows your boot heel to rest on the ski. With toe wings open, hold your boot toe slightly up and push your boot heel back against the binding heel unit, then press your boot toe down into the toe unit, thus snapping the wings closed on the boot. The trick with the "straight in" method is that holding your boot toe up causes the boot heel to engage the heel unit at an angle, thus forcing your boot slightly forward and allowing it to align with the pivot pints when you press your toe down. This angle is critical, and must be learned by practice.

Assuming you're in tour mode, once the toe wings are closed don't forget to bend down and pull up the touring lock tabs at the front of the binding. Yank them up hard. Next, swing your foot and rotate the binding pins in the boot holes so the small cutter slots on the pins can clean any remaining ice or junk out of the pivots. Also do this cleaning swing when entering the bindings for downhill skiing (before you snap your heels down), but of course don't lock the touring tabs if you're latching your heels down.

Dynafit boot toe fittings filling with hard ice can be a significant problem In climates where icing of gear common, or if you're planning on walking or climbing without skis for long periods. In these situations it's advisable to have something handy you can use to clean out the boot fittings. A 16d nail works well, as do the smaller implements in most common multi-tools.

Some boots are sold with special shaped Dynafit toe fittings that make it easer to enter the binding. We've tested these and they're nice, as of winter2006 they were only available on Dynafit brand boots.

I get ice in the gap under my toe piece, and it does funny things when I try to put them on after the climb.
All backcountry ski bindings can have problems with ice and snow buildup. Dynafit bindings are not immune to this problem. Keep all upper surfaces of your skis and bindings well coated with silicon, ski wax, or some kind of anti-wet compound. More, work some ski wax into the cavity below the Dynafit toe piece wings. When you're done with a climb, use a thin object to clean ice out from the pocket under the binding toe piece (and out of the sockets on your boots). When cleaning the cavity under the binding, don't use an object that scratches the ski (in other words, don't use a knife), once your ski is scratched, ice will build up all that easier. Something like a popsicle stick works well.

When going to alpine mode, don't immediately jam your heel down into the heel prongs. Instead, with your toes snapped in, swing your feet and skis a few times forward and back, thus pivoting the binding on your boot toe. Doing this allows small cutter slots built into the pivot pins to cut any remaining ice out of your boot toe sockets.

To prevent ice accumulation you can modify the plastic plate under the Dynafit backcountry ski binding toe. Instructions here.

What about ski crampons?

Skalp "Petzel" ski crampon with Dynafit binding. These were popular with narrower skis in the 1980s and 1990s, but don't work with today's wider skis.

Ski crampons are one of the most effective devices ever invented for ski mountaineering and backcountry skiing. Use them on a steep icy skin track, and you'll never leave them home again. Use ski crampons on an icy slope above a certain death cliff, and you'll sing their praises all the way to your mother's house. Who will be happy you are still alive.

Crampons sold with Dynafit bindings attach to a slot at the rear base of the toe unit. They move up and down with your boot as you walk, and must be adjusted (by installing plastic spacers supplied with the crampons) for the amount of heel lift you prefer.

In early Dynafit bindings, the crampon slot was made of plastic and broke easily. All later bindings have metal hooks that hold the crampon and are proven to have adaquate durability.

In mine and many other skier's experience, instead of using the Dynafit crampon, a crampon that simply mounts solid to the ski, and works with whatever heel lift you choose, is a better choice. A large variety of aftermarket Dynafit compatible crampons are available from B&D Ski Gear. See their banner on these pages.

The safety "runaway" straps that come with Dynafit bindings remind me of a bondaaage scene, solution?

Minimalista non-bondaaage strap system. Light is right!

Tie a loop of nylon cord through your boot tongue. Using the same cord, tie another loop about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Buy a pair of those sturdy metal clips telemarkers use for safety strap attachment (remove any steel cable the hooks come with, as you want your system to break in the event of a trapped ski or avalanche, and steel is too strong). Girth hitch the loop through the clip, then girth hitch the same loop through the binding as shown in the Dynafit instruction sheet.

Clip this rig to your boot for a runaway safety strap, remove for long tours. The idea is to use cord that would break in a big avalanche or if you caught your ski under a log.

Do not build this rig with metal cable (such as that used for telemark binding "knee ripper" runaway straps). Metal cable does not have enough give, and thus may damage your binding or your boot (or leg) in a fall. Also, the rig shown here is designed to break in a big avalanche or super-harsh fall.

Since this rig is somewhat weak by intent, DO NOT USE AT THE SKI RESORT or during glacier travel where you could loose a ski in a crevasse fall.

Some people say the biggest problem with the Dynafit is that you have to take your boot completely out of the binding to change from latched heel to free heel. Is this really a big deal?
If you're in rolling terrain, perhaps skiing a long, low angled run with your skins off, it's nice to switch a randonnee binding between modes by simply reaching down and flipping a lever, as you can with most other randonnee bindings. With the Dynafit, you can easily drop into fixed heel mode from touring mode, but changing from fixed to touring usually requires removal of boot from binding. Thus, if you do a lot of rolling terrain tours you might consider this a problem, otherwise it's a minor annoyance -- or less.

TRICK: If you don't use brakes with your Dynafits, it may be possible to pull your heel up out of the binding while in alpine mode, thus going to touring mode WITHOUT removing boot from binding. To do this, first lock the toe into touring mode, then pull up your boot heel while twisting the binding heel piece to the side with your ski pole, as if you were changing heel lift mode. Works for some people...doesn't work for others. Do not try this if you have brakes installed, as doing so places too much stress on the binding.

Any other general problems to be aware of?
Don't forget your boots must have built-in fittings to use Dynafit bindings. These fittings can not be retrofitted without major and time consuming machine work and boot modifications. Presently, most of the Dynafit brand boots have the fittings, as do the Scarpa Laser and Magic, and some Garmont boots. A big scold goes out to Lowa for NOT selling boots with Dynafit fittings. A principle with Lowa told me they "didn't want to support the competition." Lame.

Dynafit rando randonnee randone ski binding
Custom aluminum top plate on TLT, with Tri-Step elevator post for ease of rotation with ski pole. Saves 1 ounce per pair of bindings. Worth it? You decide... Made with 6061 T6 alu, cut with router using original top plate as cutting guide.

I'm addicted to lightweight backcountry skiing gear, and now I want even less weight! How?

The lightweight addict treatment center will be open for business soon. Until then, it is interesting what's going on in the area of making the TLT and Tri-Step ever lighter.

It's said that the top rando racers in Europe have as many parts for the binding as possible machined from aluminum, especially the top plate on the heel unit.

Using titanium screws is of course the holy grail, if you know where to get them please email me. While pricey, a titanium version of the complete binding is available, as well as a titanium toe unit.

For a quick and proven weight reduction, use the bindings without the brakes, and use the minimalist safety strap I describe elsewhere in this FAQ.

Custom Dynafit race binding.
An Italian World Cup rando racer had this setup at the 2004 Powderkeg randonnee race. This appears to use a nicely machined heel that holds the U-shaped release spring from earlier Dynafit heels -- don't throw yours away! The racers said the French had even sexier bindings. Oh la la. There is a weight requirement of 1100 grams for skis and bindings and some of the teams are having to add weight to hit that. There is no such rule in the backcountry, so let's get going and really go light!

 

Where can I get Dynafit ski bindings?

Shop for Dynafit bindings.

The binding is distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Salewa North America. You can mail order the binding with skis using the link above, and get a mount included in the deal. Or mount it at home, but unless you're handy with tools, you might want to have a shop do the mount. In that case, consider buying your bindings them from the people who do the mount. Doing so creates good will you can cash in later, and if you negotiate, you should be able to get them, with the mount, for a fair price.

Do the TLT, Comfort, Tri-Step, Vertical and Radical Dynafit bindings use the same mounting screw hole pattern?
Radical model bindings use a different toe hole pattern but use the same heel screw pattern as Comfort, Tri-Step and Vertical models. Amazingly, the earlier TLT models share the same heel unit screw hole pattern as Comfort, Vertical, and Radical. Beast is entirely different.

Do Dynafit bindings have a right and left?
No, but it is a good idea to mark your skis for right and left, so you can place your best ski edges on the inside if you damage an edge during a trip. More, some boots have the Dynafit fittings molded in slightly crooked, and dedicating a right and left ski makes this moot (the skis will still be interchangeable in a pinch, but will function smother if used as designated).

TIP: if you put huge uphill vertical on your Dynafit bindings, you'll put a bit less wear on the toe pins is you vary your right and left skis (because the way you move your body may tend to wear one pin more than the other).

My older Dynafit bindings (circa 1993, with a pink/green color theme) have the toe pins that thread into the toe piece wings. One of the pins has come loose and the threads appear stripped, can I repair it?
That model has toe pins that thread into the toe piece wings. All later models have pins that are swaged into the toe piece. The later pins are made with super hard steel that doesn't wear out under normal use, the early ones eventually wore out and were hence replaceable.

It would be difficult if not impossible to repair an older toe with this problem. Upgrading to a newer model would be a better way to spend your money and time (newer models use the same holes in your skis). Later models are much much better, mostly because they have adjustable vertical release that can be fine tuned, rather than having the U shaped springs that you swap into the heel of the older model, in order to change your vertical release tension.

I'm going on a long trip and am putting together a binding repair kit. Normally I carry screws, glue, steel wool, some wooden matchsticks, a multi-tool, some wire, and the binding diagram. Is there anything else I should add to the repair kit specific to the standard Dynafit binding?
Be sure your binding screws are inserted with epoxy when you mount the bindings, and set your release tension at a reasonable level. If so, it is highly unlikely the binding screws will loosen or pull out during normal use (the event your above repair kit is biased towards).

As for other problems that would dictate repair kit items, I receive hundreds of emails about the TLT and Tri-Step bindings and rarely hear of any breakage. Nonetheless, things happen. To prevent catastrophic problems, inspect your bindings carefully every morning before you use them. Look for press-pins that may be working loose (especially in the brakes), bent or cracked parts, etc. Work the heel piece with your hand, feel for smooth action and thimble bushing wear (see thimble bushing info above). Check that the toe locks correctly into touring mode. If you've left your skis outside, check for ice in the pocket under the TLT toe wings.

Backcountry skiing binding repair.
With enough straps and other materials, you can almost always rig something that will get a person with a broken binding out of the backcountry. In this case, the broken Silvretta still had a functional plate and touring pivot, and the owner finished four days of a ski traverse with the rig shown above.

If the unlikely happens and the Dynafit binding actually breaks, most problems would be difficult to repair in the field without spare parts (as they would be for other rando bindings, and most telemark bindings). The beauty of the Dynafit is that you can carry spare parts at very little weight penalty. Thus, on a big trip you can carry a spare toe and heel unit and a few thimble bushings. For shorter trips perhaps carry a spare TLT toe and the correct screw driver bit to remove screws (#3 pozidrive bit, and remember to heat epoxied screws with a hot screw driver, small heated metal rod, soldering iron, or butane lighter before attempting removal.) All that said, I've found the TLT to be so reliable that I don't carry spare parts unless I'm more than a hard day's travel from civilization. But I do carry enough duct tape, wire, etc., to attach a boot to a ski well enough to plod through snow in the event of catastrophic binding failure.

The TLT and Tri-Step bindings have no springs built into the binding to pull the ski tail up to the boot while in climbing mode. I know that other AT randonnee bindings have a spring that pulls the ski tail up while you're sidestepping or kick turning. Is this a problem when using the Dynafit?
This is known as a "return spring," and lack thereof is not a problem. Because of the pivot position and light weight of the Dynafit binding, kick turns are just as easy as those with a return spring pulling your ski tail up, and the uphill kick turn known as a "snap turn" might actually be easier without a return spring. Side stepping without a return spring is sometimes a bit more awkward, since it's difficult to move the ski up parallel to the sole of your boot (the tail drops). With practice you learn to give your foot a sort of flick while side stepping, so that the ski tail jumps up to where you want it. For long sessions of side stepping, you can always latch down your heels (frequently the best thing to do with any AT binding if you're facing a long session of side stepping). I've come to prefer AT bindings without return springs (probably because I'm so used to the Dynafit), and I usually remove them from bindings such as the Diamir.

I was rotating the heel unit around with my ski pole when I actually torqued the entire heel unit off the assembly! I realized what I had done, and by unscrewing the torsional/lateral release setting barrel, I was able to reattach the heel unit onto the mount. Was I just being too harsh on the binding, or does this mean that the torsional/lateral release setting is too low (I had it set to 6)?
WHOA! You should get a free pair of bindings from Life Link for doing something that I or any other people I know have never heard of!!!!

Yeah, if the spring inside the binding gets compressed, and you torque the binding at just the right angle, while pulling up, you could pull the heel up off the post, since the only thing that holds the heel unit down on the post is the thimble bushing (see above) being pressed into a slot in the aluminum heel post, as you can easily see when you take the binding apart.

Set your torsional/lateral DIN slightly higher, and practice rotating the heel at home, with care! Analyze how your ski pole interacts with the hole in the heel lifter. Sometimes easing the edges of the hole with a file, or even enlarging the hole slightly, makes things work much better. I suspect that while you were rotating the binding, you were placing quite a bit of upward force on it. Try to avoid the upward force (and don't underestimate its power).

Can the Dynafit binding fittings be aftermarket installed in any ski boot?
Doing so is possible but difficult. The toe fitting is molded into the boot when it's made, and the rear is precisely installed. More, the fittings are not available for sale separate from boots. Nonetheless, it's been done. Check this article for details.

How popular is this ski binding, and who invented it?
The Dynafit Tourlite Tech is enormously popular. All accounts report literally millions sold throughout the world, and the co-inventor of the binding told me they sell about 13,000 pair a year. They are used by everyone from weekend warriors, to guides logging hundreds of thousands of vertical feet, to competitive randonnee rally racers who treat ski mountaineering like a stair master workout.

For details about Dynafit binding history, please see our Dynafit Tour Lite binding museum display.

Note to journalists and writers: If you find this backcountry skiing material useful, please give credit where credit is due.


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