Snowboard bindings are the only connection you have between you and your snowboard, so before you buy it's important to know as much as possible about the different types, styles, and models that exist.
Types of Snowboard Bindings
Snowboard bindings designed for use with soft-boots come in two forms today: the traditional two-strap, or rear-entry (sometimes referred to as the Flow system, named for the Flow brand of rear-entry bindings).
The majority of snowboard bindings are traditional two strap setups, with an ankle strap and a toe strap. They have an adjustable highback, and a rotatable plate or disc in the center that secures the binding to the snowboard.
Two-Strap Pros and Cons
- The most popular type, which means the largest selection in snowboard shops.
- Allows the highest degree of control.
- Large range and ease of adjustability.
- Replacement parts are easily located; bindings are easily repaired.
- Slower exit/entry compared to rear-entry bindings.
- Inexperienced riders often need to sit down to strap in.
- Two straps = two pressure points. Improperly adjusted bindings can cause foot pain.
Rear-Entry Pros and Cons
- Getting in and out is quicker and easier than with two-straps.
- Ability to strap in while standing up means no more wet rear ends.
- Pressure is spread over a larger area, leading to less chance of foot pain.
- Easiest binding for small children to get in and out of on their own.
- Not as many models compared to two-straps means less choice in the shop.
- Getting the bindings to fit "just right" (by fiddling with the micro-adjust ratchets) can take several days.
- Webbing has a tendency to stretch over time, requiring further adjustments.
- More difficult to find replacement parts and to repair.
What About Step-In Bindings?
Although step-in bindings existed for freestyle/freeride "soft boots" (which 98% of snowboarders use) in the past, a lack of demand gave manufacturers no reason to continue production. The only step-in systems available today are used with hardboots, which resemble ski boots and are designed only for alpine snowboarding.
Getting the Right Size
Snowboard bindings are sized according to the riders boot size, and generally come in small, medium, and large sizes. The proper size binding will hold your boot in the binding snugly. Each manufacturer specifies what size boots fit each size, but a general rule of thumb is:
- Sm. Binding = Men's size 3-8, Women's size 4-9.
- Med. Binding = Men's size 8-10, Womoen's size 9-11.
- Lg. Binding = Men's size 10+, Women's size 11+.
Highbacks, Baseplates and Performance
The highback and baseplate are what transfer all your power to the board. Stiffer highbacks and baseplates, translate into quicker edge response, but they can also lead to lower leg fatigue, and cramping because the rider is fighting the material at every turn. Because of this, beginners and intermediates should stay away from carbon fiber highbacks and aluminum baseplates.
Let the staff in the shop know how long you've been riding, what type of riding you typically do, and your ability level. Let them know you're looking for something with an adjustable highback and adjustable straps.
Discs and Hole Patterns
Snowboards come pre-drilled with threaded holes for binding screws. Most board manufacturers produce boards that accept four screws, also known as a 4 hole pattern. The exception to this is Burton Snowboards, which uses a proprietary 3 hole triangular pattern for most of their boards, although some Burton boards use a two-screw "slider" channel that allows infinite adjustments to be made. Make sure you know what hole pattern your board uses, then confirm the bindings are compatible. Most bindings today come with several different disc inserts designed to fit each different mounting pattern, but it never hurts to ask.