How to Choose Splitboard Bindings
Splitboard bindings often take a backseat in the process of building out a splitboard setup. Many see bindings as just "something to hold me to the board,” but they are actually one of the most important pieces of the setup—choosing the right binding can make or break your experience. Oftentimes, I'll tell this to folks who're just starting out: “If you’re price-conscious, spend the money on bindings and cheap out on the board," or, "just wait an extra paycheck.” It really makes that much of a difference.
As with everything related to splitboarding, bindings fall on a spectrum. While this spectrum varies from what is offered on splitboard boots, we will be sure to go over what’s available, the positives and negatives, and what you should expect from each binding.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when you’re shopping for new splitboard bindings:
- What kind of snowboarder are you? Are you hoping to go far, while being fast and light?
- Are you just looking to rip some pow runs with your friends?
- Do you normally ride a stiffer binding, or do you like a binding to be a bit more forgiving?
- Are you looking to ride trees and find hidden powder stashes all winter, or will you only take your splitboard out for a couple of times each season?
- Are you looking for something easy?
- Are you looking for a ride that mimics your solid snowboard? Or are you just trying to get your hands on something cheap to get you out there?
Many of you know the name Jeremy Jones. In his films Deeper, Further, and Higher, you see Jones climb and shred a hairy line on the Grand Teton and travel to the technical spines of the Himalaya—among other gnarly feats.
The gearhead in me immediately asked: "What bindings does Jones chose to use to get to these exotic places?" That's how I stumbled upon Karakoram. Karakoram Bindings are known for being high performance, but they do come with a higher price tag. Here are their offerings:
Karakoram - Prime SL
The Karakoram Prime SL was designed as a lightweight binding that can tour and ride without sacrificing downhill performance. To maintain that performance on such a lightweight binding, Karakoram uses what they call active joining, which pulls the board together for better edge-to-edge control. Combine that with aerospace-grade aluminum for the heel cup, and you’re looking at one light—and super-durable—splitboard binding. If I had to choose any one binding, the Prime SL is where I would look to.
Karakoram - Prime 1
The Prime 1 gives you all the board performance that Karakoram is known for, without the added expense of the Prime SL's super-lightweight materials. You get a pretty standard ankle strap—it's comfy and will hold up, but it's not as light as their airform straps (to which you can always upgrade). The real draw of the Prime 1 is that you get the performance of Karakoram's active joining at a lower price point—though that price point (at MSRP) is still higher than the rest of the bindings you are about to read about. When you want that ultimate performance though, you really can’t beat it.
Karakoram gets its own section because of how uniquely they perform. They are a complex binding that, once set up, are very easy to use. If you are someone who has been riding other bindings, and are looking for something new that can improve your ride, then they are the way to go!
Pinless Splitboard Bindings
There are a few options on the market for what are known as pinless splitboard bindings. If you want to splitboard and have a great time, but don’t want to drop the money on Karakoram bindings, this is where you want to be. All of these options are straightforward to use, and ride very well.
Spark R & D - Surge (Women-Specific version available)
The Surge is Spark’s stiff, high-performance splitboard binding. If you’re a bigger person, or a ripping rider who likes a responsive feel, this is the binding for you. Stiffer pillow line straps and a more rigid rip n’ flip highback will give you back everything you put into it.
Spark also partners with Burton and other brands to develop their splitboard bindings. This is great for splitboarders, because Spark uses Burton buckles on all their bindings. If you (somehow) break their bomber buckles, you can go to any snowboard shop in the world and likely find a Burton buckle to replace the broken one with. Additionally, Spark offers a 5 year warranty (and I’ve had my Sparks for 6 years and never had any issues, anecdotally).
Spark R & D - Arc (Women's Specific available)
I would say that this is currently the most popular splitboard binding on the market. With an MSRP of $385, that's understandable—it's a steal for what you get! If you're looking for a binding to do it all, the Arc is it.
Like it’s older sibling, the Surge, the Arc offers a pinless connecting system which Spark refers to as its Tesla T1 binding anatomy. This easy-to-use system is just one of the reasons why Spark is among the top of the splitboard binding field. The rip n’ flip highback offers a great range of motion when touring, and lets you flip the easy adjustment down for the perfect ride. If I were to recommend one binding to anyone who's looking to get into splitboarding, or upgrade from a pin system, this is the binding.
Voile - Speed Rail
The Voile Speed Rail is a unique splitboard binding, with minimal moving parts to keep a sturdy reliable setup. Priced just under the Spark R&D Arc binding, this is a great pinless option for the price-conscious.
The touring option on the highback and the heel lockers can be finicky sometimes, but overall it has never affected my experience—I've had great luck using this binding. Voile also offers a 1 year warranty, and their buckles are super-easy to use. Slide the binding on from the heelside first, and lock it down with a plate that your boot will keep down for a reliable, secure connection. For its touring mode, the binding uses hooks at the toe to allow for ease of use and a bomber connection.
The Top Pinless Bindings?
For this category, I would choose the Spark R&D Arc binding as the overall winner. I like the Arc for its simplicity, and especially its versatility as it's great for all types of splitboarding. Them being made in Bozeman, Montana (keeping things local), their 5 year warranty, and their use of Burton buckles are also all big pluses in my book. Additionally, I've had excellent service when working with the folks over at Spark many times.
Pin System Bindings
Pin system bindings are where splitboarding begins for most people. Generally, if you talk to someone who has pin bindings, they'll say they can’t wait to go pinless. BUT! If you're building a setup and trying to get out into the backcountry on a budget, then they could be just the thing for you.
Voile - Light Rail
The Voile Light Rail is a modern-performing binding that uses a pin system to attach the binding to the board. Its design is simple and makes sense, but it can often be a pain in the backcountry—talk about cold fingers and ice buildup! If you go this binding route, remember to always carry a spare pin—because if you break one or lose one and don’t have an extra, you’re walking back (which could be rather dangerous). Once attached, and once the pin is set, the binding rides great; you just have to have your systems totally down for it to work well and be worthwhile.
Sizing for all of these bindings is available in both men's and women’s. The women’s models tend to have a slimmer platform for a slimmer/smaller foot and the men’s have a slightly larger platform for a wider/larger foot. They are all adjustable, and each (small, medium, large) binding fits a good variety of sizes of boots.
As always, we are available on our social media DM’s, online chat through out website, phone lines, and best of all right in our awesome shop on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont. Come say hi!