For as long as splitboarding has been around, it’s been about a compromise in ease of climb vs quality of descent. This really sucks because when you spend hours hiking up a mountain for untracked powder turns, you want the ride down to be epic. Union Binding Company has stepped into the Split Board Binding Game to try and solve this compromise. They are hitting the market with the first nylon plastic binding and I suspect they will blow the market wide open with these.
Stance: Regular 23″ 15/-18
Conditions: End of day groomer.
Bindings: 2018 Union Expedition
Board: Capita NeoSlasher
Edit: I do not intend for this to be an extensive review due to my unfortunate lack of experience on a splitboard. This is just to explain the most basic parts such as assembly, fit, etc. I was merely excited to see Union step into the game. Consider it to be more of a press release with added information from someone not trying to sell the equipment.
Climb: Since I had never been splitboarding before, it took me a while to get used to how the process works. However once this was out of the way, the bindings perform admirably. They fit your normal snowboard boots and the climbing wires seemed to work well when going up steep terrain. The wires are attached to the binding, have one position, and can be deployed with the basket of your hiking poles. This is to reduce the hassle of deciding which wire to use and making sure you’re on the same wire per binding. There is some concern that the hole in the bottom of the binding will cause issues in fresh snow. However unless Union sends me a pair for my Australian summer, I won’t be able to speak on this. The highback opens up beyond vertical for the climb to allow for more ankle flexion and longer strides.
Assembly: First thing you should do after removing the skins is to turn the highback forward lean adjuster. All you have to do is pull out on the adjuster, turn it 180 degrees and let it fall back in. The binding mounts work with a single pin. The pin goes through the toe for climbing mode, and through the discs and center of binding for riding. When you place the board together, you set the binding 90° to your ride angle, push onto the discs, turn into ride position, and insert the pin. If there does happen to be snow build up on the hydrophobic plastic, the pin can be used to remove the snow as well. It took me a bit to get the binding slipped over the disc, but I suspect that will get easier after a few times of being mounted. I was somewhere between the 1st and 4th person to use these.
Ride: When I rode the board down, the board felt solid. The bindings have the same contact with the board that any normal binding would, as well as a very tight fit on the discs. I could carve and jump rollers without the board feeling like it had been compromised by the split. The only chatter I heard was off the nose where the hook came loose and allowed it to come apart a little. The board is still able to flex under the bindings like you would expect on a solid deck. Union did a really good job with limiting compromise of being on a split board.
Cost: Union is coming in under the price of most any other binding out there. The Expeditions are $350 and the Full Carbon Expeditions are $500. This makes it a lot easier for someone like me who has been kept out of the split binding game due to cost. These bindings also come with clips and all the mounting hardware. There is no piecing them together being nickle and dimed through the whole process.
Overall: The bindings are about the same weight as the average nylon based binding. The function was simple, and the ride down was great. I was really looking for the board to not ride like I wanted it to because of being a split and for the most part I just couldn’t find that to be true. If you have more questions about the function, click the pictures to enlarge. If that doesn’t answer them, feel free to ask me. I will be doing everything I can to get a pair of these before fall, but I was told only 10 or so pair exist, so I’m doubting I will get any.