So far we have talked about my obsession to get started splitboarding, the trials of choosing a splitboard, now it’s time for the rest. Thankfully there are fewer options for bindings and other necessary accessories. For bindings there are a few questions to answer
- Do you want to
- Interface with your existing bindings?
- Use the Voile interface system with Voile or Spark bindings?
- Use the Karakoram setup?
Having already made the determination that I wanted splitboard specific bindings, the challenges I faced were 1) there were no women specific bindings and with a size 7 women’s boot, it was a bit tough to find a good fit 2) nothing was in stock when I tried to order…Spark is sold out of small bindings, Voile hadn’t released them yet, and Karakoram which has notoriously small production was out of stock.
These are basically the three players in the splitboard binding game – Spark R&D, Voile and Karakoram. We’ll take a look at the Karakoram Split30, Spark R&D Blaze, and Voile Light Rail. They all have their pluses and minuses…here are just a few of them.
Karakoram makes the Ferrari of splitboard bindings. They offer an innovative release mechanism that makes it very easy to go from touring to riding mode.
Here are some of the main features Karakoram bindings have:
- The transition from tour to ride and back is made with the flip of a lever and the binding clips right in.
- There is a wide pivot support to make side hilling more efficient.
- Cored out highbacks save weight but still provide medium flex and utilize Dupont Zytel ST.
- They also have ride-stride forward lean which allows forward lean of 0-22 degrees while riding and a quarter turn will get you to tour mode at -8 degrees providing a more natural and longer stride while touring.
- The open binding chassis allows for torsional flex of the board giving you better boardfeel. Wide contact points also contribute to this boardfeel.
- Parts are all CNC machined to save weight wherever possible.
- The Touring Axle System has independent sleeves rotating freely on a fixed through axle creating the stiffest and smoothest touring pivot. And it makes for a rattle free trek. Tour Mode clip locks binding’s sleeved touring pin in cradle for the most secure touring connection available.
- Touring Interface has a wide support cradle for increased rigidity.
- Offset cradle allows for snow clearing during entry. Quick release touring brackets allow for the quickest and simplest transition.
- There are dual height heel risers and on the fly heel lockdown.
Karakoram is made in the USA and the pricetag for the Split30 is $599. With Karakoram bindings you do not need an additional interface. They have their own. They have a Small size available that is still pretty large for a women’s size 7, but there will be a women’s model available next year-woo hoo!
Long story short I started with a pair of small Spark Blazes bought at retail. They said that they were for men’s size <8 or women’s size <9. That may be true. They were still large for me, but I have to admit that I did not make all of the adjustments to see if we could coax them into working. There was a delay with my board so there was no longer the urgency to get the bindings, so I ended up ordering the Voile Light Rail because they were built for smaller feet.
Overall, the quality of the Spark Blaze binding seems more impressive, but Voile has made improvements with their mid year release. They retail for the same $299 and both require the Voile interface priced at $99.95. Spark bindings are also made in the USA. Spark has a new system on the way next year called Magneto. This system will definitely be a contender as soon as it is available. It makes for a transition that could rival the ease of Karakoram.
Notable features of the Spark Blaze include
- Pre-curved ankle and toe straps for increased comfort and convenience and the toe strap can be used as over the toe or toe cap
- Excellent quality buckles and ladders from Burton, for smooth, consistent, reliable performance
- Highbacks offer angle range of -5 degrees-25 degrees for extra comfort and efficiency when touring and excellent response when riding.
- Increased glass content in highbacks make for more response with moderate flex both torsionally and directionally
- Highbacks can be rotated
- Tighter pin with fold over, tuck in design does not require a lock…one less part to get in the way or malfunction
- Baseplate incorporates cutouts for traction, snowshed and weight savings
Voile Light Rail features include
- Improved buckles and ladders. They still feel a little plasticy and they are not pre-bent so they will almost undoubtedly end up tangled up in my pants
- Ankle straps are substantial and comfortable. Toe straps are a piece of foam…the durability of which seems suspect
- Highbacks are stiff both torsionally and directionally
- An avalanche cord is included and can be installed in avy prone areas
- Wider pivot bushing for better durability and stability (new Light Rails come with this wider touring bracket)
- Negative angles are also possible on the highback for touring
- Locking pin has a cord that seems like it could get in the way or get snagged when riding. There is probably a way to keep it contained…and I’m sure once I actually get out there I will figure it out.
- Base plates length has been increased on all sizes for better heel side support
- The binding base plate is cut away to eliminate ice build-up and reduce weight. The baseplate aluminum rails are CNC machined from solid 7075-T6 bar stock aluminum for amazing durability.
- These are noticeably heavier than Spark and Karakoram
In addition to the bindings you will need skins. Voile, G3 and Gecko are three big names. Mark has Voile skins from a couple of years ago and they are heavy and stickier than I wanted to deal with. We have used all kinds of crazy methods to try to separate them. I was ready to go with G3. They are supposedly not as sticky as Voile (a plus in my case) and they are lighter. G3 also has built in tail clips and retail for $169.95. But they were sold out from Spark like the bindings, so I ended up with Voile again. When we took them out to cut them down, I was horrified to see that they did not come with a cheat sheet to make separating them from themselves slightly easier. We stood there looking at each other dumfounded for a bit. Then we took the paper off the back to stick the skin to the board and realized they now have a non-sticky stripe down the middle, which makes the separating process pretty darn easy…thank you for that. Voile skins retail for $149.95. Gecko is a whole different system that does not use glue. It is lighter weight, won’t leave sticky residue on your board, doesn’t need to be re-glued and only lightly sticks to itself. I have not tried them, but have read mixed reviews of their reliability and grip on the snow and they are more expensive at $229.
Other items that you want to have are
- A backpack
- Avalanche safety gear and the training to use it if you are in avalanche prone areas
As with any trip in to mountains, don’t go alone, layer well, bring water (more than you think you will need), snacks, extra socks, sunscreen and backup parts.
After 6 weeks of ordering, backordering, receiving, returning, and receiving again my setup is finally set up! I ended up with the Gnu B-Pro splitboard (yay for purple unicorns!), Voile Light Rail bindings, and Voile skins. Now all I need is some more snow so I can try it all out. Come on Ullr…I’ve been really patient…and my birthday is coming up…
Tags: splitboard bindings for women, splitboard bindings, womens splitboards, voile splitboard bindings, women’s splitboard bindings, karakoram bindings, bpro splitboard, spark splitboard bindings, karakoram splitboard bindings, womens splitboard bindings, splitboards for women