Splitboard binding technology has come a long way in recent years. This collaboration between Phantom and Spark RnD, the Tech Toes, is one such technological leap and has resulted in the best touring binding around for hardbooters.
There are a lot of choices to be made when you decide to start into the splitboarding world, and few of them are simple. Which is the best boot, which bindings should I buy, a freeride board or powder board? One decision is simple, and that’s if you are going to be a hardbooter, you’ve only got two realistic choices when it comes to touring brackets.
First, the unrealistic. You could custom order a board and have inserts pre-drilled for a pair of Dynafit Superlite toe pieces, but ain’t nobody got the time nor money for that. Realistic option number one is mounting adapters to the pre-drilled holes then attach Dynafit Speed Radical bindings that take seven screws per binding!
Enter the Tech Toe
The best alternative at the moment is the Phantom or Spark Tech Toe. This is a splitboard specific toe piece that excels at keeping you attached to the board on the way up. It functions just like the aforementioned Dynafits but with a few splitboard specific upgrades.
The first main difference is beef. These bindings are way beefier than their skiing focused brethren, both in the frame and in the toe lever. The toe lever is in fact so beefy that it can be tricky to lock out! It has three notches in it’s lockiness, and once you’re in, you’re in. You aren’t breaking these bindings. In a year of heli-skiing and touring I have only managed to scratch off some of the anodization, and that’s it.
The second advantage, and my favorite part, is the simplicity in mounting. Partially tighten the middle screw, slide the binding over it and its rectangular edges will grab the bolt. Spin the binding righty tighty until the middle bolt is now tightened down. Screw down the outermost two bolts and you’re done.
It’s that simple, and that’s the magic of these bindings. I’ve usually got two splitboards on deck but only one set of bindings. I can change my Phantom Alpha or Spark Dyno DH in under ten minutes but swapping the toe pieces was always a giant pain with so many bolts and the adapter plate. That’s all been solved with this binding. Easy set-up and removal so that swapping toe pieces to a second board takes under a minute.
An added bonus is weight savings. A pair of Tech Toes weighs 294 grams whereas the Speedradicals and adapters weigh 522 grams. That’s one of the cheapest ways to cut weight off a board I can think of, and leaves you room to bring along another Snickers for the day!
Tech Toes in the Snow
The Tech Toes are based off the aforementioned Dynafit bindings. Several years ago the Dynafit patent for this style binding ran out and myriad versions of tech toes for skiing have emerged. These are, to my knowledge, the first splitboard specific tech toes on the market.
Lining up the the tech inserts on your boots is always going to be the hardest part. Lining up the inserts with the pins and stepping down causes the pins to drive inwards, clamping down on your boot and entering tour mode. The Tech Toes close firmly, not with the snap of some ski bindings, but definitely with a good click.
Next up is to lift the toe into the locked position. There are three notches to get into, and it is a tough endeavour. The rotation is quite stiff and I was rarely able to lock out the toes with my poles. The G3 Via has the best pole handle I’ve found for this, but the only sure-fire way to success was to kneel down and lift via hand. The flip side to this coin is that you know you aren’t coming out.
Further proof that the engineers were paying attention to splitboarder’s needs is the fact that you can use both Dynafit and Spark D-Rex crampons. If you are changing over from most any other system you will not need to buy new crampons.
Phantom versus Spark
There is one minor difference between the Spark and Phantom versions of this binding, and that is blue. The Phantom bindings are all black everything whereas the toe wings on the Spark version are anodized blue to match the blue toe lever of their Dyno DH bindings. Phantoms ship with 6 lobe bolts so you’ll need a new tool bit to take into the backcountry.
Pros: Simple, efficient with a splitboard specific bolt pattern. No need for new crampons
Cons: A little stiff locking out the toe piece
Overall: I’ve used these bindings for a full season and their simplicity has been their boon, almost to a fault. I forget about them. They excel at what they were designed to do, nothing more and nothing less. They let me get my job done without any worry, and that’s why I recommend them.
Spark Tech Toes: https://www.sparkrandd.com/gear/spark-tech-toes/
Phantom Tech Toes: http://www.phantomsnow.com/shop/phantom-tech-toes
Blacksheep Adventure Sports was not compensated in any way for this review and the opinions expressed are entirely our own.