Expert Review: Armada N Shift MNC 13 Ski Bindings
This review is my honest opinion of the ski bindings, which I purchased with my own money in January of 2020.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the ski bindings, which I purchased with my own money in January of 2020.
The Armada N Shift MNC is a revolutionary binding that combines the support and safety features of an alpine binding with the efficiency and weight of a pin-style touring binding.
About the gear
- Model: 2022 Armada N Shift MNC 13
- Height: 5’9”
- Weight: 165 lbs
- Preferred DIN range: 6-14
- Experience: 20 years of skiing
- When I bought these: January 2020
- Days tested: 40
- Boots: Roxa R/FIT 130
- Boot Size: 26.5
- Skis: Line Vision 98
- Where I’ve used it: Pacific Northwest backcountry
- Terrain: Spring volcanoes, deep powder trees, steep chutes, and iced-out gullies.
How they perform
What I was looking for
I am a safety-focused skier who is always worried about injuring something important (looking at you knees). So I wanted a backcountry binding with a true DIN certification on both the heel and the toe that was not too heavy.
Why I chose this gear
The Shift changed the game. At the time I bought it, there was nothing like it on the market, and, as of today, there are really only two other competitors. While there are many other great touring bindings, none of them have a DIN-certified release system in the toe.
When I bought the Shift, the only other competitor was the CAST Freetour system, which was far heavier, complicated, and more expensive. I ultimately chose the Shift for its simple design (compared to the CAST) and balance of weight to safety.
What I love about them
- Release Reliability: While I have heard anecdotally that some people have had issues with premature release, I have had no such problems. I have always released when I wanted to and held strong when needed. Many issues regarding premature release are due to a poor adjustment or improper fit with the boot.
- Downhill Performance: In most conditions, these bindings are just as good as a standard alpine binding. I tend to have a dynamic and aggressive ski style, and I always feel supported by them.
- Uphill Performance (if applicable): For what they are, the uphill performance is amazing. I don't want the lightest binding available or the most efficient, so considering that these are pretty darn light (for a full toe and heel piece), they walk remarkably well, and any loss of efficiency is due to my own technique.
- Durability: Two years in, and nothing has broken. That being said, I take good care of my gear (and it takes good care of me). These bindings have a lot of moving parts and use some very light materials. Certain parts (heel lever and walk/ski mode lever) are particularly vulnerable, but they will stand the test of time with proper care and use.
- Weight: I mentioned earlier that these are “light for what they are.” Compared to other touring-specific bindings, these are quite heavy, lighter than Frame style bindings but heavier than all other Pin style bindings. I don't mind the weight. If I wanted a super light binding, I would have picked something else, but I prioritize safety. These are, without question, far safer than Pin bindings. In the end, these are light, considering what they offer.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Power Transfer: This is where these bindings fall short. They are light and low profile, and railing turns on these or skiing on ice can be harrowing. That being said, they do outperform lighter Pin bindings.
- Other: These bindings have many moving parts. They require extra care and adjustment, and that is not for everyone. The biggest downside to these is they are vulnerable to breaking in the backcountry more so than other full metal Pin bindings with few moving parts.
Favorite moment with this gear
One of the best characteristics of these bindings is their ability to handle more playful skiing. This coupled with the Line Vision 98 (a very playful backcountry ski), allows me to have a ton of fun on warm spring days. I was out for an afternoon lap on Mt. Hood, surfing off windlips and boosting over exposed rocks. I picked up some speed and attempted to gap a rather large boulder. The take-off was perfect. A slight ollie gave me plenty of air to spin 180 degrees, landing switch in an inch-deep puddle of slushy goodness, pressing into the soft tips of my skis. I buttered another 180, kicking up a satisfying cascade of warm slush. My thrift store Hawaiian shirt and jean shorts flowed in the wind. I rode out into the sunset, thankful for a binding that allowed me to look and act like a hooligan.
Value for the money vs. other options
This is tough to answer because there are so few competitors; answering this will require some context. I will not compare the SHIFT with Pin bindings because they really fill different niches. Pin bindings are great (and better) for long approaches, multiday remote expeditions, and mountaineering. The SHIFT created its own niche, a binding that is fully capable (and good at) backcountry missions while also having the ability to ski on the resort and feel like a traditional alpine binding. If someone wants the lightest, most durable backcountry binding, look elsewhere. If they want a binding that is plenty light for backcountry use while having excellent safety features, then the SHIFT is for them.
Currently, there are only a few competitors: the CAST Freetour System and the Marker Duke PT. The SHIFT is the lightest of the bunch and has similar efficiency and walkability to the Duke (the Duke is heavier). The CAST is the heaviest, has the best efficiency, as well as the capabilities of a real alpine binding (being that it is a modified version of the Look Pivot). I chose the SHIFT because of its simple design (compared to its competitors) and cost, being the cheapest of the three systems mentioned above. An important note is that the Shift was initially designed by Salomon and Atomic, both of which are owned by the same parent company that owns Armada (among several other sports brands). The Shift is branded and sold by all three companies. The bindings sold by these companies are identical besides the colorway.
This is the best option for someone who wants a binding that is very safe, light, and can handle resort and backcountry skiing. I use this as my exclusive backcountry binding because I don't mind the extra weight, and my trips are rarely over 10 miles and never more than two days. However, if you find yourself consistently taking long approaches and skiing in remote terrain, a simpler, more durable binding is better.