Union Explorer Binding Review

For 2022 there’s a new splitboard binding on the market, the  Union Explorer Binding, an upgrade to Union’s Expedition 2.0 Binding. To be honest not a ton has change aside from the name and some fun new colors.  Why would you change something that works?

Union Explorer Pin Binding

Union Splitboarding Binding

Union Explorer Splitboard Pin Binding | Photo Ryan Ariano Mountain Weekly News

What is that makes Union Bindings different from Spark Bindings? Let’s start with the pin? In touring mode the Explorer Binding attaches to the board by sliding a metal pin through the tip of the binding. Union made this area smaller in width which helps the pin go through the rivets will less friction.

Once the pin is pushed through the touring brackets it locks into a slot on the side of the binding. The ability to lock the pin into place with stronger plastic is a great improvement Union has been working on the past few years.

One pro tip we have learned, ALWAYS carry an extra pin with you. The same way you ALWAYS want to carry extra screws and ladders.

Spark R&D vs Union

Spark R&D really made splitboarding what it is today.  From their first pin binding to the pinless bindings over the last few years they are truly innovators. So when Union used a pin binding, and continues to use pins in the Union Explorer Splitboard Binding it’s understandable some people thought the brand was taking a step backwards.

Explorer Heel Riser

For the heel riser, the Union Explorer Splitboard Binding is similar to Spark R&D Bindings as the heel riser is built into the binding.  The main difference is Union was able to forgo the climbing  riser pad that’s normally screwed onto the board under the climbing wire by using thick plastic for the climbing riser that sits directly on the board when in up mode.

Union Explorer Binding

Union Explorer Binding in Deep Snow | Photo Mike Hardaker Mountain Weekly News

This means 4 less screws than Sparks as you don’t have the riser pad attached to the board, the tradeoff becomes only 1 climbing riser height on the Unions. I found this to be fine as I rarely use my climbing wires! You should try getting get used to not using yours. For the most part if the skin track is so steep that you need to be up on wires, perhaps it’s time to put a more mellow track in?

Weight

The Medium Union Explorer Bindings have a weight of 1.78 lb. (810 g) per binding. If we want to get technical the total weight with all the hardware including 4 split disks + 4 adapter plates+ 4 washers and all the screws the weight is 288g 2 touring brackets + screws weight is 90g which adds an additional 378 grams to the entire setup.

Riding

I mention this often but I ride light, fast and surfy.  I find myself dancing on snow never really putting too much weight in one place at a time. For this style of riding, a softer flexing plastic highback like what’s found on the Explorer work’s wonders.

Mike Hardaker Mountain Weekly News

Mike Hardaker testing Union Explorer Splitboard Bindings on Korua Escalator Splitboard Photo Ryan Ariano | Mountain Weekly News

If you’re riding some gnarly hold on for dear life line in AK, perhaps consider opting for a stiffer binding from Spark R&D. Or meet in the middle and try the Union Explorer FC Binding, however I found the highback to be a bit to stiff for my liking.

To make things simple, think of the Union Binding Company as what the freestyle guys are using. And Sparks as the bindings the big mountain guys are using and we just easily simplified the difference between Sparks vs Unions.

For ride mode the binding gets put onto the pucks and spun for 90 degrees.  After that you take the pin and insert it through the middle of the binding and then it locks into place on the side.

Union Binding Spinning

Union Explorer Binding Setup | Photo Mike Hardaker Mountain Weekly News

Binding Feel

Union has the whole comfort thing dialed.  It’s going to be darn near impossible for any of the other splitboard binding manufactures to compete.  Union was the first to have a padded base plate.  Both Burton and Nitro are doing the same now on the bindings Spark is building for them. That’s one of the reasons Union Splitboard Bindings work equally as well at the resort.

Union Binding Pad

2022 Union Explorer Splitboard Binding | Photo Mike Hardaker Mountain Weekly News

Union makes snowboard bindings first and foremost, all their bindings have foam padding, bushing in the corners to dampen vibration. They understand what a snowboard binding should feel like. And that in turn makes your splitboard respond with a natural board feeling.  The goal is to not notice the board or bindings, and just ride with gravity.

The Explorer Binding rides, looks, feels and performs like a traditional snowboard binding.  Union knows this and now includes a kit with every Explorer Binding and Explorer FC Binding so you can mount these to your solid board for resort and backcountry riding too.

Splitboard to Solid

Union Explorer Binding Kit | Photo Mike Hardaker Mountain Weekly News

If you remember from my Expedition Binding review, I took them cat skiing and heli skiing in BC.  Unions Splitboard Bindings are as good as any regular snowboard binding I have ridden over the years.

Burton Compatibility

Please note: Union Splitboard Bindings are not currently compatible with the Burton Splitboard Channel Hardware.

Overall Impression

 

View from Splitboarding Top of Mountain

Union Explorer Binding Pucks on Slash Brainstorm Splitboard | Photo Mike Hardaker Mountain Weekly News

Comfort is king here, if we want to get super technical Union uses their Exoframe 4.0 ankle strap and TS 2.0 tow strap.  All you really need to know is these hold your feet into place and won’t hurt even if spending long days in the mountains.

The only downside to these bindings you may find is they are going to be heavier than Spark’s. They may rotate a hair when you first mount them, but it’s not noticeable if you give the bindings a chance and take them for a spin.

So depending on your objectives, think fun powder freestyle for the Union Explorer Bindings ($399.95), and long burly mountaineer days for Sparks.

Related Articles:

  1. Union Expedition Splitboard Binding Review
  2. Spark R&D Surge Splitboard Binding Review
  3. Spark R&D Arc Splitboard Binding Review
  4. Top 10 Splitboard Bindings

About the Author

Mike Hardaker
Mike Hardaker grew up surfing and snowboarding in Orange County and followed his love of surfing to Hawaii before eventually moving to the mountains to concentrate on snowboarding. He went on to found Mountain Weekly News based in Jackson, Wyoming.

3 Comments on "Union Explorer Binding Review"

  1. Hi…. Same here. I have the FC 2.0 and love them.

    Only downside is that the pin slides out sometimes. It loosen up often and slides out completely around three times which scared me.
    Only way to fix it is to (recommended by Union Austria) secure the over length of the pin cable by laying it under the heel strap when closing the binding in ride mode.
    So the pin could get loose but is not able to slide out as it is locked via the cable in my heel strap.

    Price / Performance ratio is good and i would recommend this binding.
    Only alternative would be Spark for me.

    • Armin,

      Thanks for the comment, I did the same thing “Only way to fix it is to (recommended by Union Austria) secure the over length of the pin cable by laying it under the heel strap when closing the binding in ride mode.” works really well.

      Wait till you see next years Union binding, without a pin!!

      Mike

  2. Fons Sparreboom | January 23, 2022 at 4:11 AM | Reply

    Hi.. I just bought and used them for the first time. In regular boarding and splitting.
    I like them too as they a normal binding feel.

    Yet I have also encountered flaws. The pin in riding mode easily came out a few times.
    Getting the pin plastic lever in the side lock patch can be difficult with frozen snow in, and it came loose easily. Very frigthing to realize the pin was completely out when boarden high speed. Then the front letch.. also came loose.. It is adjustable without tools, but apparenatly can also come loose under pressure…

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