Forums Bindings Need help with which binding option to choose.
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  • #576997
    dmcclurg
    4 Posts

    So i’ve just dropped some big coin on a Split, skins, poles and other backcountry gear after some time in Utah this past winter. I’m down to the last piece of the puzzle (bindings) and in somewhat of a weakened financial state.

    Living in the Southern Hemisphere means i’m about to get my shred on in the coming months, my question is which direction to go with bindings.

    Options as i see them:

    1. Current solid board bindings with Voile Universal kit.
    Pros -> Cheap
    Cons -> Heavy, Clunky and increased height.

    2. Spark R and D with Voile kit.
    Pros -> Establish player, burton binding hardware, lighter and more specific than option 1.
    Cons -> The cost with the voile kit and binding is almost as expensive as Karakoram. Edison not released until December Spark tell me.

    3. Karokoram binders. (I understand they come with the interface needed)
    Pros -> Lightest and slickest. New heel lock-down on the horizon
    Cons -> Most expensive and reports of breakages.

    Interested to hear opinions and if anyone can point me in the direction of other binding options.

    Thanks heaps

    #656697
    barrows
    1490 Posts

    @dmcclurg wrote:

    So i’ve just dropped some big coin on a Split, skins, poles and other backcountry gear after some time in Utah this past winter. I’m down to the last piece of the puzzle (bindings) and in somewhat of a weakened financial state.

    Living in the Southern Hemisphere means i’m about to get my shred on in the coming months, my question is which direction to go with bindings.

    Options as i see them:

    1. Current solid board bindings with Voile Universal kit.
    Pros -> Cheap
    Cons -> Heavy, Clunky and increased height.

    2. Spark R and D with Voile kit.
    Pros -> Establish player, burton binding hardware, lighter and more specific than option 1.
    Cons -> The cost with the voile kit and binding is almost as expensive as Karakoram. Edison not released until December Spark tell me.

    3. Karokoram binders. (I understand they come with the interface needed)
    Pros -> Lightest and slickest. New heel lock-down on the horizon
    Cons -> Most expensive and reports of breakages.

    Interested to hear opinions and if anyone can point me in the direction of other binding options.

    Thanks heaps

    Do not be duped into thinking that Karakoram is the lightest system. That is hype. Note that weights often listed for Karakoram do not include the (heavy) touring bracket or the (heavy) interface plates. I think if you really weighed all of the pieces of the K system, and compared those weights to that of the Voile pucks and a Spark Burner LT set up you might be surprised at the outcome…

    In any case, you will find advocates of both Karakoram and Spark here, and both will have valid reasoning. The fact is, both systems can, and do, work very well. My one piece of advice is to not consider the Voile slider plate and traditional binding approach, that is a very poor performer in comparison with Karakoram or Spark. So choose your favorite between Spark and Karakoram, just do not opt for the Voile slider approach…

    #656698
    Skin up
    14 Posts

    Check out the firstlight bindings to keep you going until the eddisons come out. Should be pretty easy to find some cheap voile cramps for now too.

    If you’re planning on spending some time out there in the Aussie season this year (especially above tree line) you probably will want crampons depending on how far out there (and steep) you want to get.

    Rughty binders are another good option but will cost you more for postage. I’m using them and very happy about it.

    #656699
    firstlight
    721 Posts

    dmcclurg

    When you have you gear dialed in come on down to Splitfest Downunder

    You might even win some the gear your after!

    Cheers

    Adam West

    www.firstlightsurfboards.com.au
    www.firstlightsnowboards.com.au
    www.splitfest.com.au
    www.snowsafety.com.au
    www.mrbc.com.au
    www.backcountryglobal.com
    www.alpinefirstaid.com.au

    #656700
    philip.ak
    679 Posts

    I switched back and forth between the K-ram Split30s and Spark Burners (with LT touring brackets) for a good part of this winter. I had one board set up with the Ks and swapped the Burners between two other boards, and cycled through all the setups regularly. I even ran one K binding with one Burner binding on the same board for a half dozen outings just for a real apples-to-apples comparison on the hill.

    I ended up preferring the Sparks in almost every regard.

    The LT brackets are smoother and have less slop than the K touring system. The outboard pivot points are wider on the Sparks and the bushings have very snug tolerances. The K system had flex and slop to it. It was so bad on my first set that the K Bros swapped out my brackets, and while the replacements were better, they were not as solid and positive as the LTs. Given that I am using soft boots, the difference may be a little academic, but when side hilling I just had an easier time on the Spark setup. With the Ks I had to exaggerate leaning my knees into the hill to hold an edge, and that got old on a few long traverses. I did love how easy it was to engage the K brackets (drop the binding in place and fold flat), but after getting the binding set in the touring brackets, the Sparks worked better/were smoother/were more positive. I should add that the K touring brackets also have plastic nubs that stick up to guide the toe bar into the bracket, and these stick up so far that when you pivot your foot really far forward (like when you semi-kneel down to flip up/down the heel riser, or install a crampon, or are going up a really steep slope) those nubs dig into the toe area of your boots. My boots have wear marks in the sole from those nubs and I could feel them digging in periodically. It would be nice if they didn’t poke up so far.

    The cutouts on the K bases were a little too much and even with my relatively stout Burton Driver X boots soles I could feel the holes and it gave me some serious pressure points on the balls of my feet. It took me a while to figure out what was causing my metatarsals to burn, but doing the one-of-each binding days made the issue clear. I even introduced a friend to splitting this winter and started him on the K-mounted board. Near the top of the approach he said “does splitboarding make your feet fall asleep?” He is new to splitting but hes a very experienced and competent rider, and also uses Driver X boots. Maybe the problem is specific to those Burtons, but he seemed to have the same foot pressure issue I did. He never complained when he was on Sparks. By the end of demoing all my stuff, he bought Burners. I even made a plastic toe ramp for the Ks thinking that may be the issue, but even with my toes supported the burn never really went away. The solid bases on the Burners just works better imo.

    The straps on the K bindings are ok, but not great. The Sparks ship with Burton straps which I like a lot. I put Burton straps on my Ks after a few days too and that was better. If you have some straps sitting around you like that you can swap out then the K strap issue is moot, but if not that may be an extra expense for you.

    Since I own multiple boards, I wanted to own one set of bindings that I could swap between my decks. The Voile puck setup makes this totally painless. The Sparks just slide onto whatever board you are riding that day. Because every board has a tiny bit different hole spacing and because the K bindings adjust in length to match the base plates, you may not be able to pop them from one board to the other (assuming you can even get spare base plates for the Ks). The Voile pucks adjust to the length of the binding, so the puck spacing is identical between boards by definition. The Ks do the opposite- the binding adjusts to the base plate spacing, and that can differ between boards. If you only have one split this would not be an issue for you, but it was for me. One of the K locking mechanisms seemed to get stiffer and stiffer with time.

    The K setup was pretty sensitive to any snow sticking to the base plates, and I had to clean them more thoroughly to be able to get the bindings to mount. If the board halves were not perfectly in plane (which they often weren’t) I’d have to bang on the base of the heel half to bring it up high enough for the front pin to find the slot in the toe base plate. This was the case in about half my transitions and made the process a bit annoying and made the Ks no faster to transition than the Voile puck system. The wide K base plates also seemed to flex a lot when rocking the bindings side to side. Part of this was also that the side pins had some extra space to move vertically in the base plate slots. I could not feel this when riding (we’re on soft boots here, remember) but the amount of movement didn’t seem that desirable. Part of the issue may have also been that the little rubber bumpers on the K bases kept falling off, and they are supposed to rest on the board’s deck to prevent metal-on-top-sheet contact. The K Bros sent me a sheet of extra bumpers, but they kept falling off. Seems like a half-assed strategy. In the future I would just stick those things to the top sheet directly instead of the bindings. Maybe they would stay stuck there better.

    The K heel risers were not that great, and certainly were not as solid or smooth to use as Voile’s. I really like the dual height Voiles. The low is nice for gradual approaches and the high is perfect for clawing up steep faces. The K single-wire heel height split the difference between the two Voile wires (I measured the resulting binding base angle as 13 degrees and 19 degrees with the dual height Voiles, and 16 degrees with the Split30s). I was often wanting the K heel risers a bit lower on the gradual slopes and a bit higher on the steeper stuff. The K wires had a ton of slop and they folded down regularly until I bent them in using a vise. They were then very stiff to lift. I can lift the Voile wires with my ski pole handles without bending down, and can knock them flat again using my poles. The K wires made me bend over and do them by hand. It seems like a small thing, but when you are in rolling terrain, it adds up. You can use Voile heel risers with K bindings and I did this a little, but the wire does not meet the binding base at a 90 degree angle so it seemed to me that is was stressing the wire and plastic support. This may or may not have been a real issue.

    I have the crampons for both bindings. It is possible to mount both crampons while underway without removing the binding from the board. Both are a little bit fiddly to get mounted while standing on the hill, but the Spark Mr Chomps were a little easier. With the Chomps you can hinge your binding forward in the touring bracket nice and far (kneel down) and hook the crampon in without the crampon touching the snow- so you can keep your skis on the snow. There is no way to mount the K crampons without them hanging below the ski, which makes them very difficult to mount in hard snow since you basically have to lift the ski up a little. Try kneeling down while lifting the other foot on the the very last bit of a long, steep bowl. Any situation necessitating crampons makes installing them an extra challenge. Maybe my technique was bad and maybe I should have planned ahead each time, and the Ks are ok to mount in softer snow, but i though the Chomps were a bit easier to engage in dicey situations. The Mr Chomps can free-hinge and lift off the snow when you slide the ski forward while the K crampon hung farther down and was always digging into the snow. The K crampons do dig in deeper by about 1/2 an inch, but for me this was actually too much of a good thing. I preferred the amount of grab and hinging action of the Sparks, personally.

    With the LT brackets the complete Spark system was lighter than the Ks, if you care. I didn’t notice the difference on the hill, and my favorite board is my Venture Zephyr which is not known for its svelt weight, so I can’t claim to be a weight weenie. Lastly, I had to get a few replacement parts from the K Bros over the course of my Split30 ownership (which the Bros sent out free in each instance, generally quickly), but I never needed to replace anything with my Sparks. With the Split30s I needed to swap out the rear base plate due to limitations in the stance angle, a broken heel riser, lost rubber bumpers, and a set of very sloppy touring brackets.

    Anyway, sorry for the verbose dissertation but I felt like it was a good time to finally put my thoughts down on the two bindings. I suspect you would probably be happy with either, but when I tried both back to back, and even side by side, I know which I preferred. Some folks swear by the Karakorams, and more power to them. They just weren’t for me.

    Happy shopping. 🙂

    #656701
    dmcclurg
    4 Posts

    Wow. Thanks heaps for the amazing responses.

    I think I’m going with the sparks and will post my findings
    once the Aussie winter gets underway.

    #656702
    Powder_Rider
    498 Posts
    #656703
    Jason4
    443 Posts

    I’ve been on the K’rams all season and have not tried out any of the Voile setups but almost all of my friends are on them. The K’rams have been good but they are finicky. I haven’t had any parts break that have ended the day but I have lost hardware and have to keep up on it to keep it snug. The transition from touring to riding is quick and usually pretty easy and there isn’t enough slop in the system to notice when riding.

    That said, next year I’m going to sort out a good hard boot setup. I’m tired of getting my ass handed to me by ski mountaineers when things get really interesting. I’ll keep my softboot set up for pow days, short tours and as a loaner to take friends out with me.

    #656704
    dbfanatic
    3 Posts

    thanks philip.ak for the breakdown. I was curious on what you thought of the new heel lockdown function on the K’s? Would it swing your ‘ideal’ setup another way?

    thanks

    #656705
    PedroDelfuego
    758 Posts

    Love my Sparks! Love the Rughty bindings too…

    #656706
    philip.ak
    679 Posts

    @dbfanatic wrote:

    thanks philip.ak for the breakdown. I was curious on what you thought of the new heel lockdown function on the K’s? Would it swing your ‘ideal’ setup another way?

    I don’t have any long ‘ski-outs’ where I would want to do parallel turns when in touring mode, and the ability to side-step up slopes is not a consideration on our usual tours either. I personally would not be drawn to the ability to lock my heel down in touring mode in our local terrain, but I can see where that might be a benefit to others faced with long approaches/egresses. I guess I don’t really have an opinion on the lock down option either way and it would not be a factor in my buying decision, especially given all the other factors I outlined earlier.

    #656707
    provotrout
    130 Posts

    Something to keep in mind..

    Buy $700 board and buy $600 Karakoram bindings/interface

    or

    Buy $900 board and buy $300 bindings (sparks) & voile interface included w board

    So for $100 less you give up the easier Karakoram setup? I think their price point is very close to Voile when all is said and done.. though skins are another piece 🙂

    #656708
    Swedish-banana
    147 Posts

    You might be able to get a hold of the Ranger bindings.
    http://rangerbindings.com/
    Not out yet though but looking good.
    Hopefully they will be here this season.

    #656709
    russman
    689 Posts

    So I’m a little biased toward the Karakoram bindings, but Spark makes a fantastic product too. You can’t really go wrong. For me, the Karakoram Superlights have been the best performing, most durable bindings I’ve ever used (solid or split), and the touring performance is amazing. Here is last year’s Karakoram ISPO video:

    #656710
    rughty
    620 Posts

    I wouldn’t let a heel lock down option make or break your decision. Karakoram isnt the only binding with heel lock down capability.

    #656711
    Swedish-banana
    147 Posts

    @rughty wrote:

    I wouldn’t let a heel lock down option make or break your decision. Karakoram isnt the only binding with heel lock down capability.

    What other binding has heel lock down?

    #656712
    rughty
    620 Posts

    @swedish-banana wrote:

    @rughty wrote:

    I wouldn’t let a heel lock down option make or break your decision. Karakoram isnt the only binding with heel lock down capability.

    What other binding has heel lock down?

    viewtopic.php?f=16&t=14173

    #656713
    summersgone
    820 Posts

    @provotrout wrote:

    Buy $700 board and buy $600 Karakoram bindings/interface

    or

    Buy $900 board and buy $300 bindings (sparks) & voile interface included w board

    So for $100 less you give up the easier Karakoram setup?

    :scratch: So with Karakorum you get a cheaper board? I don’t get it.

    Voile with Spark (350 Blaze LT or 380 Burner), $100 for universal kit, so $450 or $480. You may also be able to piece out for less without the touring brackets, but I don’t care to look that up. Karakorum – $600.

    So what is the $100 less coming from? Or am I just missing something?

    #656714
    rughty
    620 Posts

    Triad price just dropped to $199 through the end of the year.

    #656715
    B-P
    134 Posts

    The technology in the karakorams is amazing. There is something like 130 parts to a binding. Being designed and mostly produced in WA state is pretty rad as well. They are however a very complicated binding from the initial setup to the construction. I was helping a friend set his split30’s up yesterday and it was a down right pain the the butt. Once they are setup they require no more maintanance than any other binding. For me, I just can’t spend the money for a majorly more intricate and complicated setup, I couldn’t even imagine plowing a screw or breaking a rivet on a tour. With that said though, guys have hundreds of days on them so there is def a bit of proven reliability.

    I just love the sturdy, simple and easy to use sparks. Been riding em for 3 seasons and have never had anything break. You simply bolt on your pucks, slide the bindings on and go. If you have a very good DIY or facotry split, the ride is great. Have taken many groomed runs on my splits and never thought, Damn I wish I spent more on my bindings or wished I had my solid board.

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