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?

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.

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.

Heel Riser

For the heel riser, Union like Sparks is built into their binding.  Union was able to forgo the climbing  riser pad that’s normally attached 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?

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 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 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.

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

Price Comparison

Union Explorer Binding

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 where he is still CEO and Editor in Chief.

1 Comment on "Union Explorer Binding Review"

  1. 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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