If you want to be able to handle any type of terrain, from the park to the backcountry, investing in a solid pair of snowboard bindings is a must. The binding is the part of the snowboard that connects your board to your feet and can be considered crucial for overall stability and control over your movements. In this guide, I will go over some of the best all-mountain snowboard bindings on the market and show you some of their main pros and cons. Along with that, we will also dive deeper into the subject of bindings and see what are the main advantages of getting an all-mountain model instead of a regular one.
Below you will find a comparison chart between all the top models for 2020 with their core features put against each other…
Snowboard Bindings Comparison Chart
Best All-rounders – Union Contact Pro Snowboard Bindings
The Union Contact Pro snowboard bindings are one of the more impressive options you have out there. They are solid all-rounders with a few minor disadvantages. One of those disadvantages is the fact that their toe strap doesn’t always hold very well, compared to their old toe cap design which held you much more firmly. Still, the new straps still have aluminum ratchets and are quite durable. In fact, the whole binding construction is made out of expensive and durable materials, adding to the functionality and longevity of the model. If you can spare the few extra dollars for these, then you’d have yourself a solid pair for any type of snowboarding.
Best For The Park – Flow Alpha MTN Snowboard Bindings
Even though they don’t fall into the sub-one hundred dollars category, the Flop Alpha MTN snowboard bindings are still one of your best budget options currently. With their unique step-in rear-entry feature, as well as the fusion straps, they are excellent for anyone looking for a solid pair of all-mountain bindings that aren’t particularly geared towards any type of snowboarding. However, you might find that the flexible highback and baseplate make these a good choice for park snowboarding and tricks. One of the few disadvantages they have is the overall material quality and the ratchets which don’t last as long as the other components. Luckily, everything here is backed by a 1-year full warranty.
Best Step-In Bindings – System MTN Step in Snowboard Bindings
The System MTN rear-entry step-in snowboard bindings are yet another budget option that will give the premium brands a run for their money. The convenient design of their highback is what makes them super easy to equip and unequip when you’re out on the slopes. What’s better, they have a few unique features to them one of which is the self-opening and tightening ankle strap which makes the process of putting them on and off even easier. In an age where bindings are easily costing more than two hudnred dollars and are featuring new step-in designs, this simple yet unique design is what makes the System MTNs a preferred choice for both beginners and advanced snowboarders.
Top Burton Model – Burton Malavita Snowboard Bindings
The Burton Malavitas are every snowboarder’s dream when it comes to funtionality and performance. They are packed full of Burton’s patented technologies and have a medium response, which should fit most of your all-mountain snowboarding needs. The ankle strap has a 3D design and a slightly wider cosntruction which adds a lot to comfort. The toe cap strap doubles as a simple toe strap if you prefer it that way. Bot hstraps have the double-take buckles and the helix pattern meaning loosening up isn’t what they will ever do. The baseplate is a single piece across the whole binding, equalizing the feel and response from heel to toe. The actual response here is medium mainly thanks to the highback’s features. To learn about them and more, head over to my full review!
Best Budget Option – 5th Element Stealth 3 Snowboard Bindings
Budget snowboard bindings don’t have to be poorly made or of low quality and the 5th Element Stealth 3 proves just that. They are relatively small in terms of their footprint compared to other bindings on my top 5 list for this year. Still, their padded base plate and the relatively short highback provide excellent control over your board no matter if you’re a beginner or a pro. Their flex is also one of the best in this guide, meaning they are the easiest to control when riding in the park. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t good for some slope fun, though, as they have a good amount of high-speed control to them. They are also slightly geared towards freestyle snowboarders but where they would shine the most is on the snowboard of a beginner. You can easily progress through your snowboard skill levels with these without having the need of replacing them. Having that low price tag also helps a lot, especially if you’ve decided that you want to alocate more of your funds towards the rest of your gear!
All-mountain snowboard bindings buyer’s guide
Snowboard bindings do a lot more to your ride quality than you can imagine and this is why it is important to properly pick the perfect pair for you. Whether you are looking to freeride your way down the mountain or just enjoy a day at the park, versatility is something you should be after, and most bindings don’t really offer it. This is why people are opting more and more for all-mountain models which have a little bit of everything and a good enough for any occasion.
A common misconception is confusing all-mountain bindings with freeriding ones. While all-mountain snowboarding can include some freeriding, it is essentially different and far more inclusive of other types of riding, while freeriding by itself is generally riding in the backcountry where you can find steep slopes, hard carves, narrow chutes, and a lot of powder! Another misconception is confusing freeriding with freestyle. Freestyle is basically riding your snowboard and doing tricks that mainly rely on man-made obstacles such as rails, ramps or even quarterpipes.
All-mountain bindings features
There are a few things that you need to understand and keep your eyes open for when shopping for your first bindings. Some of them are specific to all-mountain models, while others are relevant for any type of binding out there. I generally like to divide them into the following categories:
- Riding style
- Board compatibility
Now, let’s take a deeper look into each of those features and see how much they matter to the overall experience and how can they affect your final choice.
The flex of your bindings is what will determine how they feel out in the mountains. A good all-mountain binding should have enough flex for you to ride it comfortably in the park but should also be stiff enough to be taken on the trails in the backcountry.
The part of the binding that mainly determines the flex is the highback. This is the part which extends up to your calves and does most of the support job of a typical binding. The materials from which the highbacks are made and their overall composition determine their flexibility. While there isn’t a standardized measuring system, flexibility is usually measured from 1 to 10 with 1 being the softest and 10 being the stiffest. 1 and 2 are considered soft (very flexible) bindings, 3 to 6 are considered medium, and everything from 7 to 10 is quite stiff.
As a rule of thumb, the less experience you have the softer your bindings should be. Getting bindins with medium flex should do the job for almost all tasks. If you mostly do backcountry snowboarding and need great responsiveness from your snowboard, getting stiff bindings is a good idea.
The highback can also vary in length. Freestyle and all-mountain bindings usually have slightly shorter highbacks in order to provide more flexibility and better freedom of movement.
As you’ve already noticed, most of the features heavily depend on what your riding style is or will be. Matching the bindings to what you will do with them won’t be a bad idea. But what if you don’t know where you will mostly ride? Well, in that case, I will lay out the default bindings of each riding style and you can decide for yourself…
- Freestyle (park) snowboarders will spend most of their time in the park and will require softer (more flexible) bindings with a baseplate that offers at least some cushioning to dampen the impacts. Flexible bindings will also make your landings easier.
- All-mountain snowboarders will pretty much need a little bit of everything since they will be faced with groomed slopes, fresh powder, park rails, and others. Medium-flex highback and a stiffer (less cushioned) baseplate should be a good choice for all these conditions.
- Freeride snowboarding requires stiff flex due to the deeply powdered slopers and trials you will mostly encounter. The stiffer flex and baseplates will give you better control and energy transfer to your board when going fast.
There are three main types of bindings you should consider. These are strap-in, rear-entry, and step-on bindings. Let’s take a look at each of those now and see what are the main advantages that they have over the rest…
These are the most common bindings out there and are a good universal choice. Their main advantage is that they are very easy to find, easy to use, quite secure, and are decently responsive. Putting them consists of putting your feet in and strapping it to the snowboard. The simple process makes them a good choice for beginners. They are also cheaper in general.
These are a bit different than the standard strap-in binding. They consist of a reinforced highback with only one strap on top of the front part of your foot. To slide in, you will need to pull the highback backwards, put your foot in, and then lock the highback in its upright position. They are sometimes referred to as “step-in bindings” as well.
The company that pioneered these bindings is Burton and they are one of the easiest bindings to equip. To do so, you just need to slide your boot inside and click-lock your heel. While easy to use, they offer less stability and control.
Every snowboard attaches to the bindings through bolts that run through the board and the baseplate. Depending on the number of bolts your binding will use to attach to the snowboard, there are different hole patterns. The most common one is the 2×4 which has holes 2cm apart along the board’s length and 4cm apart across the board’s width. Another common bolt pattern is 4×4 which has bolt holes 4 cm apart in both directions.
Some more specific patterns include Burton’s 3D and Channel patterns which work with all of Burton’s bindings and other models from the rest of the major companies. Still, make sure your bindings will be compatible with the board you are using.
The baseplate of the binding is its actual connection with the snowboard. There are a few aspects of it that will determine quite a lot of things. For instance, the materials used in manufacturing the baseplate will determine its flex-to-strength ratio which in turn determines the power transmission.
Another important factor of baseplates is their cushioning. It determines how comfortable the ride will be and how much of the vibrations will be absorbed. If you are planning on mostly riding in the park (freestyle), it is a good idea to choose a baseplate with more cushioning to dampen some of the rougher landings. That will eliminate some (or most) of your board feel, though, so make sure you have a good idea where you will spend most of your days. With cushioning I usually boil it down to whether you want greater comfort or greater feel.
The straps’ job is to secure your feet onto the snowboard so you have maximum power transfer and control. The more the straps fit your boots the better you will feel when riding.
There are a few kinds of straps that all play their role in securing your feet. The most important one is the toe cap strap which pushes your boots back into the heel cup adding comfort and stability. The traditional toe strap is found in normal bindings and the ones used for children. It is the same as the toe cap strap but instead sits above your toes and holds your boots in place. In most cases, it can also be used as a toe cap strap.
In the case of a toe cap strap which can be used as a normal toe strap, we are talking about a hybrid toe strap. I usually prefer hybrid toe straps as I can strap them around different parts of my boots for different occasions (front for the park and above my toes for freeriding).
The ankle strap is the one responsible for holding your boots well into position. It is also responsible for power delivery and the overall response of the bindings so it pretty much is the most important strap and you must try adjusting it until your boots aren’t loose anymore but you still feel comfortably tucked into the binding.
Some rear-entry bindings have a strap which is one big piece acting as an ankle strap and a toe strap covering the whole area from the ankle to the toes at the same time.
In terms of fit, there are a few simple rules you need to follow if you are trying new bindings in a snowboard shop. First of all, your heel should fit well into the heel pocket of the binding. When the binding is strapped, you should have enough room to move and flex but your boots shouldn’t be able to sway left and right.
Bindings usually come in sizes – small (S/M), medium (M/L), and large (L/XL). It is very important to match your boots to your bindings, so always check the official size charts of different manufacturers and see if the binding will be able to accommodate your boots. As a rule of thumb, your boots shouldn’t hand out excessively from the end of the binding and the binding shouldn’t feel tightened from both sides before you strap it (nor should it have a lot of slack).
Look & Style
This isn’t at all important for your riding quality but if you want to ride in style, it might be worth considering to colour-match your bindings to the rest of your gear (boots, pants, top of the board, etc).
I usually prefer brighter colors so that other people on the slopes or park see me easily.
Last but definitely not least, the price should be something you consider. Snowboards, in general, aren’t the cheapest so when you start buying all the parts for a good snowboard gear separately, the price can easily add up to something quite out of your pocket. This is why you need to plan ahead and stick to a predetermined budget. Divide the budget into money for a board, money for bindings and boots, and money for pants, jacket, gloves, goggles, helmet, and other clothes. If you are new to snowboarding and want to build your gear from the ground, don’t invest a lot in the board initially, as you will most likely change it in a year or two. Invest in quality boots, pants, and jacket, as well as goggles and helmet, as those will be the things that keep you safe and warm. If you have the money to spare, getting some good universal or all-mountain bindings for starters will be a good investment since you won’t likely change them at least for a few years (in case you want to ride in a specific location only).
If you want to learn some of the best tips for a beginner snowboarder, head over to my detailed article on the topic where I’ve listed some of my best advice for beginners that will help you take things to the next level!
The best all-mountain snowboard bindings don’t have to be perfect for a specific type of snowboarding but rather cover a wide variety of activities you can do with your snowboard. They are typically good for freeriding, freestyling, and generally going down the slopes. When shopping for yours, make sure you pay special attention to the flex of the bindings, their baseplates, and also keep an eye on the price, as it can easily stack up if you are getting other gear components as well. As a whole, your taste for boards and bindings might change over the years but getting good universal ones right from the start is a rather safe bet.