The biggest thing to hit skin design in the last couple of years has been the Gecko 'glueless' technology. Without going into an extensive description of the chemistry, the short description is that Gecko skins do not use a traditional glue, but they do use an adhesive. Confused? Read on.
The adhesive on the Geckos is a rubbery compound that works by sticking to smooth, flat surfaces only. The skin does adhere to itself, though the effort required to pull your the two sticky interfaces apart is far easier than any type of traditional glue skin. The make up of this adhesive has not been advertised, but the words 'molecular fusion' have been floating around various online discussions. The closest description I think of is the patch of rubbery glue that magazine publishers use to stick Cds and booklets onto the front of their publications. When you peel that yellow strip off the magazine it leaves no residue, you can screw it up into a ball and then unfurl it again. It sticks to flat things and doesn't get contaminated with hair, dust and other inconveniences, such as snow.
So too with the Geckos. Dropping your skins in the snow is no longer an issue, as you simply pick them up and brush them off. They stick back onto the ski as if the careless rookie mistake of skin contamination never happened. In terms of utility, the Geckos are unmatched. Where before you had sit down with tweezers to pull off the pine needles, with geckos you just have to brush them off, or if you really want, rinse them with warm water. The adhesive doesn't out-perform regular skin glue in stickiness, but the time and effort saved makes transitions that much easier.
Geckos also come with the advantage of weighing less and packing down into a smaller volume. The fast and light crowd will find this feature a boon.
All Geckos skins are mohair and the plush has a similar glide to grip ratio to Dynafit Speedskins or Black Diamond Pure STS. I'll not bother with comparisons to nylon plush, as this information can be easily found elsewhere. One note on the Gecko plush, it doesn't fray (unless cut improperly) and will not require sealing or burning.
The tip attachment is permanently fixed and it had no trouble fitting over the tips of every ski in the the local backcountry store. There may be an issue on the 'round noses' of the K2 freeride/twin tip models, (such as the Obsethed or Hell Bent) though anyone spending over $220 on a skin is probably looking to use it on a light dedicated touring ski. The biggest drawback on the Geckos is the tail attachment. It uses a clasp to secure a nylon strap, which works effectively on backpacks. But because there is almost no stretch in the the strap it is difficult to maintain tension. The strap is more durable than the rubber and plastic tail attachments, but with just a bit more elasticity the tail would not be such a weak point in the system.
The conditions for testing were a mix of wind affected snow, dry powder and breakable crust. While the skin faired well in these conditions, a follow up review will be posted after testing the skins in wet, coastal snow.
Gecko Skins have an innovative design with their adhesive and they just make life easier. But they are not immune to snow contamination. All the same tricks need to be used for long hauls in the backcountry.
To read a review of another 'glueless' climbing skin called the High Trail Evotec climbing skin click here.
Price: $239.95 CDN
Size tested: 130mm 185-195cm cut for DPS Wailer 112RP
Width: 100 - 130mm, 10mm increments
Lengths: 161 to 195cm
Weight: 652g / 23oz
Makes transitions less of a chore, lighter and more packable than other mohair skins, splitboard version available
Tail clip makes it hard to maintain tension
Quality / Price 1.5/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.
UPDATE APRIL 2013:
Having used the Gecko Skins for two full seasons now I can tell you that I love the weight savings and low tack nature of the adhesive but that is where the joy ends for me. In just the last two months both tail clips have torn off, which is not a huge problem as this was the weak point of these skins. At about the same time however the glue started to give up, it started sticking to my skis and clumping on the skins. When this problem is combined with no tail clips it spells disaster. The skins are now only good for about one or two laps before snow gets between the skis and skins and they no longer stick to anything. I have talked with the company and they recognize the problem and are willing to replace my pair but this is proving to be very difficult to do as they are currently out of stock in North America. The company says the problem is limited to a few runs of the skins and most are still performing well. They have also improved the tail clip so I am eager to get a new pair and continue my long term testing.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2014:
The new and improved Gecko Skins arrived at the start of the season and I have been ski touring on them a bunch over the past few months. So far the adhesive side is holding well as long as they are snow free and the new tip and tail clip system is vastly improved. I have noticed that the stickiness is not quite as good as the old version as this seems to be a new compound of some sort. I would still recommend the Gecko skins over any other climbing skins based purely on weight savings and the ease of application. You will never pull a muscle or have a hernia when trying to pull these skins apart, unlike all the others on the market. If I notice any issues with the new and improved Gecko Skins I will be sure to report back.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 2014:
Over all as stated above the Gecko Skins are holding up well as long as you keep them warm and snow free otherwise it is game over. This happened to be the case for me just yesterday. The temps were fairly cold at -15°C and I failed to put the Gecko skins under my jacket for the ski down, this didn't give the adhesive time to warm and when I went to put them back on my skis they were not sticking well. After another run is was a catastrophic failure. Both skins were 100% not sticking and unless I wanted to warm them up in my jacket for 20min and loose the group I was touring with I was forced to resort to using Voile ski straps and plenty of them. I exhausted all the straps in my group, 8 for the left skin and 3 for the right. Not fun and not impressed. I have concluded that the new adhesive is not as good as the old when talking stickiness. I am going to be very cautious when and where I use these skins from now on! See the pics below for that days fun.
UPDATE AUG 22 2014:
After a solid winter of use the Gecko skins only failed me once, likely due to me forgetting to place them inside my jacket to keep them warm like I always do. I took some time this summer to repair a broken tail clip and the Geckos are ready for another winter of use in a few months time. Their minimal weight and low tack adhesive make the Geckos and easy choice for my go-to climbing skin but you have to keep them warm and happy. I will be updating this post again this winter so stay tuned.