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Home Forums Splitboard Talk Forum BD/Voile skins vs G3 skins, & Karakoram vs Spark bindings

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    Since I own both, I figured I would start a thread where I attempt to compare these two major options in splitboard climbing skins. I live in coastal Alaska on Kodiak Island, and we generally get a lot of wet, wind-blown glop, ice, and generally coastal/maritime snow. Take my ramblings with a grain of salt because the snow in your area may be very different.

    My skins are the stock Voile Tractor skins (aka Black Diamond Ascensionists) and a set of the G3 Alpinist skins that were originally sold for skis that I have modified for my splits. I have a Prior Khyber 165 and a Voile Mojo 166. Both sets of skins fit both boards. I have Spark tail clips on each.

    Today was the first day I put one skin on each half of my split, and I set out in freshly fallen, very warm and wet snow. We had a couple feet of dry, cold, wind drifted snow on the ground, and the recent storm laid a few inches of coastal mashed potatoes over the top. My climb was up a pretty well-packed road bed for a short distance, and then up a narrow skin track I had broken over the past few days that was now drifted in with damp spring-like snow.

    Here is my setup:

    Since I was breaking trail in pretty thick stuff, I did not get many opportunities to get a feel for passive glide. That said, the few times I did hit a flat or a slight downhill, I did notice the G3 skin would glide farther, and come to a stop less readily than the BD skin. If I was gliding an extra 2″ beyond my stride with the BD skin (right foot), the G3 would glide 4″ (left foot). At one point where I skied down a short slope, the G3 moved ahead more easily and it was actually a little awkward the way the BD skin was hanging back. From a passive glide perspective, I would have to say that the G3 was noticeably slipperier in today’s snow. All that said, I did not notice any difference at all when going up steeper stuff where I did not scoot forward beyond each planted foot step. Sliding each ski forward seemed the same. Maybe there was a tiny difference and if you had one skin on vs the other, at the end of the day it would make a difference, but from step to step I could not feel any additional friction from moving the BD skin forward compared to the G3. The only time I noticed it was during a short, couple-of-inch, passive-glide at the end of a stride on flat sections, not during the actual climb. This would make a difference on a long, low-angle tour. We normally claw straight up mountains and do laps in bowls here in Kodiak. I have not had a chance to test the raw grip of each skin on an icy track yet, but I will update as I gain experience. My skier friends who use G3 skins are usually having a hard time while we motor straight up the fall line on our BD splitboard skins, so I will be curious to see the diff.

    Both of my skins are pretty new. Both glopped up with snow as I got out of the warmer, truly wet snow and climbed into the pack that was cooling slightly. Both kicked the adhering snow free similarly, though the BD skin may have glopped up a tiny bit more. Hard to say. I will put glop stopper on both in the future, I think.


    Thanks for the great little writeup. Our pack is obviously a bit different here, but this is a great place to start my fact finding(I need to pull trigger on one or the other ASAP)
    Keep the obs comin’!


    Thanks for the side|side comparison. Looking forward to the followup.



    I should add that the BD skin as I have it configured with the Spark tail clip (which should make it functionally comparable to the G3 skin) weighs about 40 grams more than the G3 skin, per skin. I’d be surprised if anyone could feel that. Really surprised. 🙂


    Good thread. :thumbsup: I may be getting a set of the g3s for xmas so I appreciate the comparison (& weights)


    HFT… You are such a gear whore :thatrocks:

    I’ll be testing out the G3’s next week. They’re in the Juans waiting for me.


    To me it boils down this:

    G3 = better glide, glue is easier to rip, slightly lighter
    Voile = better grip, glue is stickier

    So why not have a skin quiver? Use the Voiles for days where skinning conditions could be difficult, use the G3s for everything else.

    Also, the fact that Voile has still not offered tip clips is ridiculous. For $170 dollars I want some damn tip clips.


    Nice comparission, have been wondering how the g3’s would stack up against the voile/BD’s

    I wonder if the g3’s use the same fabric as the Climbing Skins Direct? It is the old Black Diamond Ascension skins essentially and CSD does offer custom prints…

    I have noticed almost the exact same thing with the CSD’s compared to the voile/BD’s when traveling with splitters. I noticed that I could glide a bit further on every stride, but when it came to steep ascents in icy skin tracks, I would have to step off the track and make a new one in fresh to get the grip without slipping


    Today was cooler at about 25F with much drier snow. I went and did some laps in 1-2′ of new pow, and again took one of each skin along. I really could not tell any difference between the two skins in these conditions. When they slipped back it was because the unconsolidated snow under the ski was shearing. Both seemed to glide pretty similarly, though in such soft conditions there was not much glide to begin with. Just for kicks and giggles I also mounted one Karakoram Split30 binding and one Spark Burner binding. I really could not tell any performance difference between those either. The Split30 was more sensitive to snow packing, most notably under the little tab where the heel base plate overlaps the toe-side half of the board. Any snow under that and I could not lock the binding down: the forward pin could not find the toe plate slot. No obvious speed diff in the changeover between the systems that I can see. I am still trying to like the K clips, which are insanely tight and I am scared of taking a finger off opening and closing them. They do lock the halves together in a serious way, I’m just not sure I charge hard enough to care. The Burton straps on the Sparks are certainly better than the Karakoram straps, especially the toe strap. I also mounted the Karakoram crampons and Mr Chomps for a bit. The Karakoram models are easier to put on while underway. Impossible to say if the traction was any different in today’s conditions. The Karakoram single climbing bar is a bit taller than the low bar on the Voile dual height heel riser, but lower than the Voile tall one. I tried mounting the Split30s with the Voile dual height heels, but the angle is off just enough that I think it would destroy the heel risers eventually. The tall bar wants to fold back.

    Anyway, I will keep checking in, and this being coastal Alaska, I’m sure I will have a nice icy skin track soon enough to really check for skin traction and crampon performance.


    Just to chime in: My experiences on clogging are similar. I have been testing a Jones Hovercraft with G3 skings the last couple of weeks, so been jumping back and forth between G3 and Voile Tractor skins. On cloggy snow, the Voile (BD) skins will clog up ever so slightly more than the G3 ones.

    All in all, I’m gonna stay with the standard voile skins on my boards, the reason being the nose clip. In windy conditions I can still put the skin hook on the skis using only one hand, while the G3’s dual hook system takes a bit more fiddling to get perfect. Might just be habit, but still. I found myself annoyed with having to change my routine.

    Just my 2 cents.


    Talk about one pricy frankin split setup 😛 Nice side by side comparison Philip.ak btw. From your pics it appears the the K’s baseplate is slightly shorter than the Sparks? Is there more toe drag from the binding?


    Thanks for all your experiments and taking the time to share them!

    Based on some other people’s comments, I *almost* thought Split30 is so much better than Blaze / Burner – it doesn’t seem to be the case for you, and I like your objective feedback. Maybe the K-dawgs will shine on a steep icy side-hill… And yes – the Burton straps and ratchets rock, compared to last year’s / K.

    Also – interesting question on the baseplate length – would love to hear more on this as I thought even the Blaze / Burner is a tad short for size L.

    Regarding the K clips: I am with Barrows on this, he shared that while they do pull tight, they do not add that much torsional stiffness in the middle. I am not going to run and change mine because so far this has not been needed, but the chinese hooks done right seem to be stiffer



    I ride size 10.5 Burton Driver X’s (fantastic boots, btw). I have size large Burners and size medium Split30s. The Burners are set to the middle heel cup length (of 3 positions), and the Split30s are at the long heelcup setting (of 2 positions). In general, the resulting toe overhang is about the same- i.e. the base plates are comparable in length. From the back of the heel cup to the pivot point on the touring brackets is 10.5 inches on both bindings, almost exactly. I can push my knee pretty much down to the ski deck when I am skinning without the boot’s toe getting totally smooshed. I would love a toe ramp on the Split30s though, and I may make myself one. I get a hot spot on the ball of the foot in the Split30s, and I think it’s because my toes aren’t helping support my foot that much. Not that the Spark has much of a toe ramp either. It’s rather anemic.

    Chinese hooks and Voile pucks are great. Simple and effective. The board halves line up perfectly each time (on the first try), and since the Spark base plates are open in the back you don’t need to clean any snow off anything. You can just ram the plates over the pucks and pop the pin in. Done. With the Split30s I usually have to hit the heel half of the board with my hand to get it to settle flush with the toe half so that the cam pins can engage the slots they are supposed to. I often don’t notice this until I have set the binding in place and have tried to closed the locking lever. I realize it is missing the slot it’s aiming for, so I remove the binding, give the base plates a whack, and put the binding back on. And unlike the Chinese hooks, the K clips don’t align the board halves perfectly. Sometimes I clip them, realize the tip and tail hooks don’t match that well, I undo one K clip and smack the end of one of the board halves to line them up, and then finish snugging the bits down. This all makes the assembly of the board take just as long as with the Voile puck/Chinese hook system. So far for me, the Split30 system could not be sold on the basis of speed of transition, though I do like the way the binding engages with the touring brackets. The Split30 may offer other benefits I have yet to appreciate. It’s different, but so far not better or worse that I can tell.


    Thank you for the details, Philip!

    Sometimes I latch both Karakoram clips, and see that the tips are not perfect, and I can align them without undoing the clasps. No big deal, really – can’t happen once I have the Sparks on the pucks anyway. And if I am not careful, one clip plate may end up below the base while I fasten the other one (while it should be resting on the topsheet). All that said, I plan to continue using them as is. Not so sure what I’d choose if I set up another split, though



    I just measured the effective footbed angle that the climbing bars achieve on both bindings. The Voile dual height heel risers produce a 12 degree footbed angle on the Burners with the low bar up, and a 20 degree angle with the tall bar. The Karakoram single height heel riser offers a 16 degree footbed angle with the Split30, basically splitting the difference of the two Voile heights. None of the climbing bars had plastic tubing on them. The measurements are probably +/-1 degree.


    Not a great day on the Split30s today. We went and did a short lap on a slope on our way to go XC skiing. Half way up the climb one of my climbing bars folded flat. I reached down and popped it back up. About 15 paces later it folded down again. I raised it and about 15 paces later it snapped off. F**k.

    I was kind of digging the single height nature of the riser where it split the difference between the two Voile dual height risers. The Karakoram bars had at least twice the free play in the up position of any heel riser bars I have used either tele skiing or splitboarding. The Voile looks like it really would not play nice with the Split30s since the bar sits at an angle to the binding’s base plate and I can see how downward pressure will cause the wires to torque. I may try to make my own riser base plate out of aluminum or something.

    I went to transition for the ride back down and was having a hard time getting the forward ride pin to find the toe base plate slot. I look down and see something black laying on the snow. It was one of the little bumper grommets that hold the binding off the deck. It had fallen off.

    This got me thinking about what gives these bindings stability on the deck. A lot of the base plate parts are very wide and unsupported. I locked the binding in place and just using my hand rocking the highback from side to side, I could get the base plate to lift pretty far off the deck. Everything is tight and correctly adjusted, it’s just a long way from the mount screws to where the pins go into the base plate. The touring brackets also have a lot of play, even though they are new and the lever is locked all the way down. The way the touring adapter locks in is really cool, but the support is narrow and the parts just don’t grab very tight.

    Ben Reynolds

    Hi Philip,
    I dont think that your experience with your Split 30’s is a one off. I was really sold on them at the beginning of the season and so justified to myself that they would be worth the extra money. I toured around 8 days on them and had quite a few issues myself. I had a toe strap break and had a heel strap fall off because the plastic washer/spacer that the bolt goes through literally disintegrated, allowing the strap to pull over the bolt. In fact all of the plastic washers broke! I too thought that the amount the binding flexed off of the board in ride mode was a little much. In all I like the idea, however in use they need to get some things sorted out, including higher grade materials. So, I switched to the Burners. I only have one day on them, riding a line on TinCan Proper and in the Library at Turnagain, and I am really happy. I feel I have a better connection to my board with the Sparks.


    Agree the base plate does rock side to side and lift circa 1mm, & this looks to be caused by the large distance from the mount screws to where the pins go into the base plate.

    I am running +/-12, maybe other angles produce a different result mounting points.

    looking at the hole pattern in the board and the base plate.
    there would be an option to drill an extra hole in the binding base plates nearer to the point of attachment/engagement with the bindings. this could improve/reduce the flex.

    So far this has not troubled me and I still have a better connection to the board than the Fuse I ran before, side hilling is way easier…….

    the other issues mentioned in the post of plastic washers cracking is likely due to locktite and plastic not mixing- I have added rubber washers for the straps, these move less and are not degraded by locktite.

    also agree the K straps are crap, I exchanged them with some Rome Targa straps and now happy.

    other comments (which others have already mentioned with Ks) are:
    – the highbacks dont go far enough back
    – hot spot under the ball of the foot (on longer tours >2000m)

    All in all I would still spend the money on the Ks as is and accept the extra personal modifications as part of life to get to ultimate binding set up.
    however my view for 2012/13 is, the brothers need to fix/improve the “soft” furnishings to keep a pace with the spark team as most people want perfect right out of the box.


    Good points, but I’m not sure I totally agree on the sense of connection to the board. I took my Spark Burners out yesterday and the totally slop free LT touring setup was a nice change from the K’s. I also liked being able to slide the bindings right on without having to beat on the board in various places, and once mounted the bindings are totally locked down. The plates on the K’s flex quite a bit, and while you don’t really feel it while riding, it just does not seem like a desirable behavior.

    Bryce is sending me two new touring brackets, rubber bumpers, and a heel piece, so I’ll try to keep an open mind for round two. I had already put some Burton straps on, so at least that was sorted.


    Nice review philip!

    I’ll give my :twocents:
    I’ve had two days on my Karakoram SL’s (once in cold pow and once in warm pow) and without any practice my transition time is cut by 1/3 with Karakoram over a puck set up (my transition time just got even faster with geckos). So effing easy to use and not having to jam your clogged/iced bindings over pucks is nice. The Karakoram base plates are super simple to clear before putting your binding on. And having ridden Blazes (exact same as Burners) there is a pretty big difference in riding performance. And riding performance is most of the reason I’m using a binding. My boot rolls side to side in Sparks and feel really sloppy (for some reason I seem to be the only one that notices this as if I’m on crazy pills). Not so in Karakorams SL’s (or Rughtys :mrgreen: ) (Imho, the DIY rughty Ride SPI’s on Voile pucks is hands down the best split binding as far as riding performance) I like the SL straps but hate the buckles. I replaced my ankle strap buckles already cuz you can tell they will break on a cold day. In tour mode with the riser DOWN what I don’t like about Karakorams is your heel actually drops LOWER than your toe. This is a flaw that could easily be fixed by them or DIY though. Oh and they weigh nothing! :thumpsup:
    Oh yeah, forgot I hate that you can’t micro adjust your stance width with K base plates but it’s not that big of deal. And the LT touring bracket and K axle are about the same in performance. Oh again: those stupid rubber bumpers fall off right away. Kind of retarded.

    Geckos vs BD/Voile:
    1 day on geckos (vs a million on Voile) and they blow the Voiles the fuck outta the water. I’m sure I’ll experience their downsides in the future but the one day I used them (4 transitions) every aspect about them was better (yes even grip!…although they’re new and there weren’t too many shitty spots in skin track) Geckos are fucking light!!!

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