Expert Review: Union Explorer Split Snowboard Bindings
This review is my honest opinion of the snowboard bindings, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2021.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the snowboard bindings, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2021.
The Union Explorer split snowboard bindings are simple and straightforward splitboard bindings with top-end performance on the downhill. They are best for splitboarders in slackcountry or on day trips into the backcountry who are looking for the best downhill performance without doing any intense climbs.
About the bindings I own
- Model: 2022 Union Explorer Splitboard Bindings
- Size: Large
- Burton channel compatible: No
- Mini disc (reduces footprint of the binding on the board to enable more board feel): No
- Height: 6’0”
- Weight: 195 lbs
- Experience: 30 years snowboarding
- When I bought these: August 2021
- Days tested: 50 days in the backcountry, three resort days
- Board: Snoplanks Snodisc Split and Capita Neo Slasher
- Boot: Burton Tourist
- Where I’ve used it: Mt. Bachelor, Oregon backcountry
- Terrain: Powder, ice, groomer, steeps
How they perform
What I was looking for
I needed a secondary pair of splitboarding bindings that are durable, simple, and excel on the downhill. I wanted something that can be used in the backcountry or resort.
Why I chose this gear
Union makes outstanding bindings, and the split interface is pretty simple. Based on my experience with Union bindings, reviews, and specs, I knew the Explorer would ride really well on the downhills and in varying conditions and terrain. The Explorer was the only binding I considered at the time. I didn’t want a metal base or technical binding, as I already have the Karakoram Straight Line. I wanted something that would excel in the slackcountry and short day trips; so the Explorer was the natural choice.
What I love about them
- Binding adjustability in boots: Union has great adjustability. The heel cups can be adjusted to line up the boot exactly to the board. The straps are easily adjusted.
- Stance adjustability: The puck interface system makes it easy to adjust the stance. It doesn’t have the ease of the channel system for adjustments though; once set, I have to remount to adjust my stance.
- Comfort: These are really comfortable bindings. In my opinion, the most comfortable splitboarding bindings on the market, and I believe they rival resort bindings in comfortability.
- Shock absorption: Better shock absorption than other splitboard bindings with metal bases.The carbon injected Duraflex baseplate and light padding does a good job of eating up chatter and absorbing shock.
- Responsiveness: These are mid-stiff flexing bindings with a pretty stiff base and a high back that give me a little flex. This provides great responsiveness and quick turn initiation. For splitboard bindings, I’d say the Explorers are middle-of-the-road as far as responsiveness goes.
- Carving: These get me up on the edge of the board to lay a good carve. Their effective power transfer allows me to hold a carve too.
- Ease of turn initiation: The bindings have quick and fairly easy turn initiation. The carbon-injected Duraflex base and aluminum heelcup do a good job of transferring energy to get me up on the edges of the board quicker and with less energy, so I can make quicker turns and more precise turns.
- Straps: Union straps are outstanding. The Explorers have the Exoframe 4.0 ankle strap (same as the Forces) and TS 2.0 toe strap (same as the Atlas). These really lock the boot in without any pressure points; low-profile and really comfortable.
- Buckles: Union’s magnesium ratchets are the best in the game. They are super durable, reliable, and smooth.
- Durability: Really durable bindings. Union has a reputation for making bombproof bindings, and the Explorers live up to that. My Explorers still look close to new after pretty hard use, with just some basic superficial scratches. The Duraflex bases are really strong and durable, and if they ever do happen to break, they are covered by Union’s lifetime warranty.
- Other: Splitboard bindings come down to the interface system. The Explorer uses a disc interface that is really easy to set up: I just spin the binding onto the disc to mount and slide a pin through to hold it in place. It’s really simple and easy, and it provides a secure feel. It’s not as fancy as other systems like the Spark R&D Tesla or Karakoram Prime, and it doesn’t boast quite as fast or smooth switch overs, but these bindings work well and do their job. Plus the lack of metal in the base provides a better feel on the way down. The single heel riser is built into the base of the binding; it’s easy to engage with the pole basket and works well. And the forward lean system is really fast and easy.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Buttering: These bindings aren’t made for buttering, as splitboarders aren’t doing much buttering. However, when I put these on my Jones Mountain Twin, I can get some flex and bend out of them.
- Weight: The Explorers are heavy for splitboard bindings. They are pretty beefy compared to others, and the focus on the downhill splitboarding is evident in the build. They don’t weigh me down much, but it is noticeable on the uphill and not a binding I choose for long treks.
- Other: I’ll reiterate the fact that the Explorers weren’t made for long treks. I have used these on some pretty steep climbs, and they don’t provide the same stability and traction on steep and icy traverses. Neither through kickturns; the Karakoram or Spark R&D bindings with metal bases are more geared towards uphill performance. The Explorers will do fine on most climbs, but not for the adventurist or extremest of the splitboarder.
Favorite moment with this gear
I’ve had a lot of favorite days in the backcountry with these bindings, but my ultimate favorite was following a storm that dumped 3’ of pretty heavy powder over a couple days. The interface of the Explorers cleared the sticky snow easily so I wasn’t stuck spending extra time on the change overs, and the responsiveness of the bindings really helped cut through the deep and heavy snow but also had enough flex to get surfy. So spent the day with unlimited face shots.
Value for the money vs. other options
These are one of the cheaper options for splitboard bindings when the included interface and discs are factored in. The Spark R&D Arc are in the same range, but they require one to buy baseplates for an extra $75. Karakoram’s Prime Grizzly is the same price as the Explorer, and it includes this interface, but it’s a very basic version of Karakoram split bindings and geared towards the beginner. Voile Lightrail is in the same range when including the cost of the pucks, but also more for the beginner and lightweight riders. So overall, the Explorer is a good value.
The Explorer are great bindings for the slackcountry rider or for basic day treks. These are geared towards a snowboarder who wants the best downhill performance and a straightforward and easy interface.