Of the splitboard specific bindings on the market today, the Karakoram SL’s, made by the Kloster brothers of Karakoram in Washington state, are my preferred choice. Top of the line materials including carbon fiber, titanium and high strength aluminum alloy combine to make this binding ultra lightweight, strong and responsive. Additionally, the Karakoram ride interface allows for a very secure attachment of the bindings to the board, while the touring mode interface eases transition time and provides for smooth secure skinning. The SL’s are not inexpensive, but you get what you pay for, which in this case not only includes quality components but the interface as well. This is my third season on the SL’s and I’ve been loving ’em on every tour.
General Impressions: The bindings are noticeably lighter and stiffer than Karakoram’s other binding, the Split 30’s. The Ride stride forward lean feature on the carbon fiber highback allows for quick highback adjustments between ride and tour mode, while the interface system provides for reduced time between changeovers from riding to touring. The binding straps and buckles are lightweight and built with quality materials, and the binding itself has adjustment features to accommodate different boot types and preferences.
Interface: The Karakoram interface is a different setup than the standard Voile interface. There are five solid points where the binding attaches to the interface, including three heel stay pins which really lock the binding to the board. Occasional snow and ice build up on the interface needs to be cleared prior to attaching the bindings, but I haven’t found this to be a problem requiring any more or less attention than the Voile interface. One limitation of the interface is that stance options are limited to 1 inch increments, which seems to be an issue for some, though I haven’t noticed any issues, since my stance is always within 1/2 inch of my preferred width.
On the Skin Track: The Karakoram tour mode interface is easy to use, allows for quicker transition times from board mode to skin mode (in fact you don’t have to remove the binding from your foot to go to skin mode) and operates without pins. The binding and tour axle system allows for minimal friction, which pays off on longer tours, and minimizes “slop” compared to traditional setups.
In Ride Mode: In ride mode, the SL’s feel and perform as good or better than my favorite resort setup. The aluminum alloy heelcup is durable and strong, while the carbon fiber highback provides excellent responsiveness. I’m not a fan of a flimsy highback, and the carbon fiber definitely provides the stiffness and responsiveness I’m looking for. After testing these bindings in the backcountry and at the resort in a variety of conditions, I have no qualms saying they work well in all conditions.
Bottom Line: If you’re a soft booter and want a lightweight, responsive and bomber splitboard binding, the Karakoram SL is the ticket.
More Info: More information about Karakoram SL bindings can be found at the Karakoram website