To be sure that mix of qualities is bound to impose some compromise in at least some, if not all of those features. Which begs the question, did Onyx achieve that? It depends on what your priorities are, but based on the response of the alpine touring market so far, that would be a big en-oh, as in NO!
Did G3 misread the market, or simply not execute well? I’ll venture to say a bit of both, but perhaps more importantly, maybe they had the right idea, but poorly targeted marketing. Their reputation is with core backcountry skiers vis-a-vis the Targa binding, skis and climbing skins. After using the Onyx it appears to be perfectly aimed at the budding backcountry aficionado who doesn’t need to be fanatical about weight, doesn’t want any tech binding fiddle factor, and wants to trim excess binding blubber. IOW – not the hardcore backcountry skier – not yet anyway.
Does that mean Onyx doesn’t have any redeeming features? Hardly. Allow me to explain.
Stepping in at the toe on the Onyx has received a bad rap from the get go and it is high time to set the record straight. G3′s Onyx earned demerits among the AT faithful when it was introduced for being the heaviest tech binding on the market, with a toe piece that requires you to actively hold the toe jaws open with a ski pole while aligning your boot. The problem was, it took too much force and there were no brakes to hold the ski still.
Matters of Weight
One of the factors contributing to the higher than average weight of the Onyx is the use of a plate mounting system which has benefits, but not ones that are easily tabulated in a comparison spreadsheet like weight. The plate mounting system allows you to adapt to different sized boots over 3–4 sizes compared to two sizes with most Dynafit bindings. Perhaps more valuable is the ability to easily swap the Onyx between multiple pairs of skis outfitted with the mounting plate.
The beef with weight might easily be addressed by trimming the mounting system on the Onyx. Unless you use that mounting system on a second pair it only offers a potential advantage, and until you do, a weighty disadvantage.
If you’re not in a rando race where ounces matter, nor can you see yourself lugging three pounds of binding per foot up the hill, you can chop that significantly and enjoy Tech caliber skinning with Onyx. Even though the Onyx may weigh more than a Dynafit, it’s lighter than the next closest contender and also eliminates the lifting of the binding heel piece with each step. The touring efficiency may be less than other tech bindings, but it’s in a different league altogether compared to plate bindings.
One of the factors that remains a concern with all tech bindings is their ability to release reliably when needed, and not fold when you want them to hold. In that realm Onyx is a solid notch up from the standard tech binding offerings. The difference is due to a combination of factors. First and foremost are the toe jaws that want to be closed, which eliminates the ability for them to pop open with enough lateral stress and improves return to center force, the core component of alpine bindings exhibiting good elasticity and immunity from pre-release.
This video was made to show off G3′s District ski, but the invisible binding is the Onyx which holds on despite some pretty aggressive skiing.
To date there have been some issues with Onyx, so you are cautioned to beware on the used market. The pins in the toe have been changed from 5 mil to 6 millimeters in diameter to give them more muscle in their bite, and strength to prevent breaking. The plastic on the climbing posts has been upgraded as well, again, to reduce breakage. How can you tell? The climbing posts were a light gray, they’re a dark gray on the improved version.
And they still don’t tele for squat, but then, what AT binding does?
If you’re standing on the fence about making the leap from a plated passport binding for jaunts in- and out-of-bounds, and you have a pair of boots with tech fittings then you owe it to yourself to give Onyx a closer look. It skins great, skis well, is easy to operate, and can be swapped among skis.
Why would you chose Onyx over a plate binding? To save weight and improve touring efficiency. The closest plate binding in weight and functionality is Fritschi’s Freeride. By comparison the Onyx is lighter, laterally more rigid, and it eliminates lifting the entire binding when touring.
Why Onyx over lighter weight tech bindings? It’s easier to latch in to, the mode switch is easier to operate, and it’s easier on the budget (for comparable features). Even though the retail price is equal to plate bindings, its unfair reputation has pushed the street price down to more palatable levels.
Weight/binding w/brake: 1 lb., 15 oz. (879 g)
Brake widths: 85mm, 95mm, 110mm, 130mm
Crampons available: 85mm, 95mm, 110mm, 130mm
Release Range: 6 – 12
Weight/binding w/brake: 1 lb., 14.5 oz. (869 g)
Brake widths: 85mm, 95mm, 110mm
Crampons available: 85mm, 95mm, 110mm
Release Range: 5 – 10