December 16, 2021

How to Choose Splitboard Bindings

by Roger

Table of Contents

In recent years, modern concepts in splitboard tech have made bindings lighter, more effective, and eased how they are used. As a result, the technology has led to the innovation of many more options. 

In this piece, we focus on the varying types of splitboard bindings. We also take a perspective on splitboards aspects that are of concern, including flex and forward lean, and weight, as we attempt to address the rider’s subject about how to choose splitboard bindings.

Splitboard: What is, the Appearance, and Set up Procedure

A Perspective into the Details of Soft-Boot and Hard-Boot Splitboard Bindings

A splitboard is usually divided twice through the central part to give it a similar appearance to the skis used for ski touring. Transforming a splitboard into a touring ski requires a few adjustments. A splitboard gives the user an effortless ascent in addition to gears that have much lower weight. When acquiring a splitboard, it is essential to pay attention to the following:

  • The height and body weight that determines the splitboard length.
  • The shape of the split board usually determines the application area and the riding range.

By and large, a splitboard refers to a snowboard that is divided by cutting it vertically to produce two skis. After acquiring the splitboard, an individual also finds a pair of skins that usually adhere to the splitboard base. The skins are the enabling factor that helps riders to walk uphill while avoiding sliding backward. The next step involves selecting bindings and collapsible poles that also enhance the ease of ascension.

A Perspective into the Details of Soft-Boot and Hard-Boot Splitboard Bindings

It’s factual that most splitboarders usually prefer a single type of binding. Even so, a consideration of all the varying options is paramount when taking a perspective on splitboard bindings. Broadly, there exist two specific types of bindings; hard-boot bindings and soft boot bindings. 

One of the significant debates in snowboarders is the pros and cons of hard-boot bindings and soft boot bindings. As such, there are innumerable opinions all over the internet that try to gauge the superiority of either. However, herein is a concise perspective on the differences. 

Soft-Boot Bindings Preference over Hard-Boot Bindings

Most splitboarders have an excellent preference for soft-boot bindings over hard-boot bindings. They have a distinctive traditional snowboard binding design. Their performance and Appearance compare much to that of regular snowboard bindings. Moreover, their ratcheting straps and highbacks are similar to snowboard bindings. They also perform perfectly with conventional soft snowboard boots. 

Soft-boot bindings exhibit firm attachment across the splitboard when a rider is riding downhill. The rider has to reposition the bindings to go onto each splitboard ski to ride uphill. The riders should then attach them to pivot up and down effortlessly. 

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Soft-Boot Bindings compared to Hard-Boot Bindings?

The Splitboard Binding Interfaces

Advantages of Soft-Boot Bindings 

General experience with soft boot bindings: Generally, soft boot bindings have an increased capacity to retain a similar feeling that snowboarders know and love. This fact has been at the center in making most splitboarders remain glued to soft-boot bindings without ever considering the hard-boot bindings.   

Cost of acquiring the soft-boot setup: Generally, one can spend a few bucks to acquire a soft-boot setup, especially when they already own snowboard boots that they can use.

Level of comfort: Soft snowboard boots are comfortable and require little time to break. 

Disadvantages of Soft-Boot Bindings 

Decreased durability: They are generally not as durable as the hard-boot bindings, primarily if someone uses them frequently. 

Limited level of efficiency: Soft-boot bindings do not have the level of efficiency that allows the rider to perform as much front-to-back range of motion while skinning with the hard-boot bindings. They are also not as rigid as the hard-boot bindings, making them less efficient when crossing over slopes on their way uphill. 

Hard-Boot Bindings

This is a setup preferred by a minimal number of riders; mountain guides and experienced backcountry riders. Their focus is usually specified to the attention of the boots’ uphill efficiency. Hard-boot bindings do not have traditional highbacks and straps, unlike soft boot bindings. However, they favor designs made to work with plastic touring ski- boots that backcountry skiers mostly use. 

Hard-boot bindings have heel bales and wire toes that usually hold onto the heel welts and toes to help the riders ride downhill. When going uphill, someone has to remove the binding components completely (unlike the reposition common with soft-boot bindings) and then step into the toe pieces usually installed on the splitboard skis. 

Advantages of hard-boot bindings 

Higher efficiency level than soft-boot bindings: They have greater efficiency than soft-boot bindings. This is because they have an excellent front-to-back range of movement, enabling riders to have longer and efficient strides when on an uphill journey. 

Higher level of lightness and agility: Hard-boot bindings have a narrow profile of ski touring, rotating cuffs, lugged soles, and hard-plastic shells. These elements confer the excellent capacity for the rider booting up the trails and kicking steps in the snow.  

Strength, lastingness, and durability: They are generally more durable than the soft-boot bindings since they have the hard-plastic boots of ski touring boots. 

Disadvantages of hard-boot bindings

Cost of acquisition: Hard-boot bindings are more expensive than soft-boot bindings due to the additional hard plastic boots, among other elements.

The comfort level: It takes more time to break in with hard-boot bindings due to the plastic ski boots, limiting comfort to some extent. For that reason, most splitboarders can try to customize them to their preferences. 

The Splitboard Binding Interfaces

How to Choose Splitboard Bindings Features and Specifications

Once someone has understood the splitboard differences, they can closely observe particular bindings. For some splitboarders, how the bindings attach to the board is sufficient to give them the preference for binding to another.

Understanding the differences found in binding interfaces is achievable when grouped into two categories: the puck-style interfaces and everything else.

  • Puck-style: These are characterized by metal pucks or plastics installed on the splitboard. When riders are riding downhill, they usually slide the bindings onto the pucks to secure them in the right place with the clamp, a fastener, or a pin. When riding uphill, they usually have to remove the bindings from the pucks. Afterward, they have to attach them to the hinges on the splitboard skis by securing each of them in place with a clamp, fastener, or a pin. These interfaces are light, simple, and highly reliable. They are the most common with the most popular soft-boot bindings and most hard-boot bindings.
  • Non-puck-style: These have different methods to attach the bindings to the boards when riding downhill. In most cases, the bindings usually twist or clamp on the interface installed on the splitboard. A good example is the Karakoram design which usually features bindings with mechanical locking mechanisms.

How to Choose Splitboard Bindings: Important Considerations

  • Ease of using the bindings: It is important to consider the ease with which a rider will put the bindings on for riding downhill and switch them over to tour mode. Many manufacturers try to make them in a manner that is as simple as possible. However, a rider may find their preference is on a given manufacturer rather than others. It is noteworthy that a significant percentage of riders prefer clamps and other fasteners to pin-style attachments. This is because; pin-style attachments are more challenging to work with, according to most people. 
  • How simple the design is: Ordinarily, some designs are simpler than others. Simple designs are more reliable since there are limited chances of breaking.
  • The weight of the setup: It is essential to pay attention to the weight of a given setup compared to another.
  • Price consideration: Typically, some interfaces are more costly than others. There are those interfaces that are made from expensive materials. They also have more sophisticated ways that one can use to connect the bindings to the board. Such are some of the reasons for price variations.
  • Compatibility with the snowboard: One of the main things that one should consider is that the type of binding commands the brand that one should get. Usually, not all types of bindings are compatible with various interfaces. It is crucial to ensure proper compatibility for perfect functionality.

How to Choose Splitboard Bindings: Features and Specifications

When choosing splitboard bindings, it is significant to take a keen look at the various features and specifications before settling on any selection. It is important to picture the terrain that someone is planning to adventure in, the frequency, and the amount they wish to spend. The picture will be crucial in helping to decide what to prioritize highly before settling on any selection. 

1. Weight of the splitboard binding

Various splitboard bindings have varying weights. High-end bindings usually contain lighter but more costly materials. Lightweight setup significantly eases uphill travel enabling the rider to stay longer and cover more distance. In other instances, weight may not be a factor, especially if the adventure will involve shorter but fast trips. 

2. Available range of Flexes

It is important to note that most splitboard bindings usually have more stiff flex than standard snowboard bindings. Typically, this is advantageous in providing excellent control when riding on steep terrain and deep snow.

Usually, there is a range of flexes that one can work with within splitboard bindings. As such, someone who prefers an all-mountain or freestyle feel can find bindings that showcase a medium or soft flex. People who like a stiffer feel should go for the stiff flex ones. 

How to Choose Splitboard Bindings Important Considerations

3. Highback forward lean adjustment

Soft-boot splitboards can switch the bindings from one ride mode to another. The highbacks are normally locked into a forward-lean position to tour mode. The highbacks are usually released back to enable the rider to have a varying range of motions when skiing. This feature lacks hard-boot bindings since they do not have a high back. 

Typically, the higher the highbacks can go, the better it is for the rider during the tour mode. Some bindings have an easier switching between tour modes and rides than others. It is, therefore, important to take note of this detail. Moreover, some bindings provide tool-free forward lean adjustments. These enable the rider to change the level of forward lean during a ride mode without breaking out a wrench.

4. The straps of the bindings

It is crucial to have lightweight straps on the binding. In addition, they should be easy to operate, comfortable, and able to hold the foot firmly in place. This feature applies to soft-boot bindings only since the hard-boot bindings do not have straps. 

Ascertaining the capabilities of the straps may not be easy, but playing around with ratchets and putting the boots into the bindings can help to know how well they will work with the straps. In case someone is shopping on the internet, reading manufacturer’s guidelines and customer reviews may be helpful to understand the straps.

In some instances, manufacturers sell additional accessory straps that usually attach near the top of the binding highback to provide more support during touring. The extra accessory strap may be vital in traversing steep slopes. 

5. Bindings Heel Risers

Typically, every splitboard binding has heel risers which are supposed to ease uphill travel. They usually achieve this by reducing strain on the user’s calves and Achilles tendons when traversing steep hills. A critical consideration should be looking at the riser heights the bindings provide. Most splitboard bindings usually provide two varying heights that are crucial in enhancing skiing of variable terrains.

Lower risers are good in low-angle hills, while the higher ones are good for high-angle hills. It is also imperative to consider the ease of deploying the risers. It is better if the user can quickly and easily access the risers with the ski pole without bending or using their hands. 

6. Heel lockdown and Crampons

Heel lockdown is a crucial feature that helps secure the binding heel to the board during the tour mode. When skating on a flat section, sidestepping up a steep hill, or skiing down short descents, plays a significant role. The feature is included in rare cases, with most manufacturers requiring interested parties to buy it separately. 

These are important when the conditions are highly icy and play great significance in helping the user to get up the hill during such conditions. Most manufacturers make them optional accessories custom-made for their bindings only.

When intending to buy crampons, it is important to take a close look and perceive their compatibility level with an individual’s binding. Someone may also want to consider how well the crampons will perform when the heel risers are up. 

Final Thoughts on How to Choose Splitboard Bindings

Choosing the right splitboard bindings requires thorough knowledge of all the aspects of an individual’s adventure. It is essential to consider all the crucial factors, features, and specifications of various bindings when making a selection. Making the proper selection will lead to great enjoyment, while a wrong choice may mean the rider will keep revisiting the stores from time to time. And finally, making a good choice requires a good understanding of how splitboards work.

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About the author 

Roger

Roger was born into a family of climbers. As the youngest of his siblings, he was also the most ardent climber of them. Small and agile, he practiced climbing all day. Today, Roger teaches children how to climb the large rock walls safely.

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