Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gear Review: G3 Onyx Binding

Despite a few minor flaws, the G3 Onyx has become my go-to backcountry binding.  My review is after the jump.

I purchased the Onyx last year as my new backcountry alpine touring binding.  Like any backcountry binding, these allow your heel to move freely when you want, and also lock down when you want to ski the steep stuff.

The Onyx is a relatively new binding that features the "tech" style attachment found on the Dynafit series of bindings.  This means that your toe is held in place by a pinching mechanism on the front of the ski while the rear release is governed by a pair of metal rods extending from the bindings and into a pocket on your boots. 

This binding requires that your boot be specifically designed with "tech" style adapters.  In my case, I wear the Garmont Megaride boot. It has two small metal pockets near the toe of the boot, and a pocket in the heel of each boot where the metal rods latch it into the binding.  Most major boot manufacturers now craft their boots with the "tech" features.

I skied on the G3 Onyx about ten days last season. I had them mounted on a 181cm pair of Black Diamond Machine Skis (sub 8lbs), and got an extra set of baseplates for my $25 army surplus E-bay skis  a.k.a. Whitesnake (sub 7lbs).

I've skied these inbounds and out. They probably got the hardest workouts on bumps and steeps at Jay, deep powder glades at Bolton and mashed potatoes at the Gulf of Slides on a warm spring day.
Although some people have mentioned that these skis release at inopportune moments, I haven't had any pre-release issues.  I've read that larger skiers may encounter this problem more frequently, given the added stress to the binding.  I'm no Clydesdale at 5'10 and 165lbs, and I've mounted these on fairly light skis, so that could factor into my good fortune.

I like the fact that my foot is closer to the ski on these than on my Silvretta Pure Performance Bindings.  I've found exceptional control for such a light binding.  I'm able to steer my Machines well enough to take on glades and moguls, despite the fact that the Megarides are only a mid-stiffness boot

Also, I've enjoyed being able to switch them between skis, thereby reducing my costs.

I do, however, have three criticisms of the binding.

First, it is difficult to get your toes lined up right to engage the front of the binding. After some practice it gets easier, although I haven't tried to get them on while perched on a forty degree slope.

Second, switching the bindings between plates could be easier. The screws that join the binding to the plate are hard to get at, and can catch on a plastic edge that is out of reach, making it difficult to get the screw out of the binding. I've had to fiddle with the binding for an extended period twice while trying to switch the bindings.

Lastly, the brakes seem flimsy and sometimes get stuck in the "up" position.  While I haven't had to chase my skis or fix a broken brake arm, I've heard of others who have also encountered brake problems.

Despite these three issues, I would still recommend the binding.

And if you don't trust a novice like me, you can read Lou Dawson's very thorough review here.


  1. Awesome review!

    I want to purchase the ONYX but was unsure how it would perform here on the EAST coast under various conditions you have mentioned above... YOUR ARTICLE answers everything perfectly for me. I too have heard about the pre-release issues... and I weigh in at about 160lbs.

    I missed the boat on purchasing the MACHINES - I feel that the type of ski the MACHINE is would be a true test to this type of binding. My fear was pushing the binding beyond it's comfort zone and pre-releasing out... I tend to ski hard given my past and my second set of skis which I aptly dubbed "East Coast Razor Blades" ( 177cm Fischer World Cup GS skis). My current everyday set up is the G3 Baron 177cm with Silvretta Pures... boots are the Scarpa Matrix, which makes for a mid-stiff boot as well.

    Again, great review... answers a lot of my questions!!!


  2. Thanks for the feedback. I hear that the newer (2010-2011) Onyx bindings address the "insta-tele" problem, as well as have more durable climbing bars.

    I've been getting better at switching the bindings between plates, but I still need to struggle with it every now and again.