Phantom Splitboard Bindings – TESTED


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 13, 2017      
Out for a beautiful sunny tour in the Cascades with Freya Fennwood and friends. After you’re done checking out this review, give her photography a look!

Out for a beautiful sunny tour in the Cascades with Freya Fennwood and friends. After you’re done reading this review, give her photography a look!

For those that are skeptical about the ability of an AT-split system on the descent, maybe this will help you reconsider.

For those that are skeptical about the ability of an AT-split system on the descent, maybe this will help you reconsider.

The hardboot, or AT-splitboard, technology has seen growth in the last few years. Initially, guides traveling on a splitboard used this type of system, as the versatility and added efficiency is beneficial to this type of work. Since I have been utilizing an AT-split setup I have seen more and more recreationalists making the switch.

I have been touring and riding on the Phantom Splitboard Binding for almost 2 years now and have put it through the wringer of conditions and tours. Everything from low-angle powder riding to steep and firm conditions, and a long multi-week ski traverse in the Coast Range of B.C.

So, what companies are offering a hardboot system for splitboarding? There are a few, namely Voile, Spark R&D and Phantom, as well as some in Europe. The Voile, and Spark systems utilize a plate with a toe and heel bail that slides on to the standard Voile pucks. Phantom uses a unique interface system and binding plate. All companies currently use an AT pin toe piece for touring, such as a Dynafit Tour Lite.

A full AT-splitboard set-up.

A full AT-splitboard set-up.

The Phantom system uses a unique interface to attach the binding plate to the board for the descent. During the ascent, the binding plate stows inside of your pack, and you utilize a tech-toe and a tele-style heel riser. Phantom purchases Tour Lite tech toes from Dynafit and sells them included with an adapter plate to fit factory splitboards. This format, although slightly inconvenient to stow the plates, allows the underfoot weight to be significantly lessened. The set-up I have is on a Jones Solution 164cm length, and each ski weighs in at 1948 grams, and each binding plate weighs 440 grams. Compare this to the same board with Karakoram SL bindings where each ski weighed in at around 2600 grams (tour ready). The idea here is that less weight under foot is significantly more efficient. I had heard it described as 1 kilo on your foot is the equivalent of 5 kilos on your back.

Like I said, I have been touring and riding on these bindings for two full seasons with 100+ days on them. I am generally impressed with the quality and functionality of the system. Of course, I see a few areas for improvement, but isn’t that the WildSnow lens?

Phantom has engineered a very tightly fit system, which helps to stiffen the board halves together when in downhill mode. The binding plate, combined with a plastic AT boot provides one of the most responsive splitboard bindings I’ve used. The caveat to this, is that it takes time getting used to, some of which is dependent on if/how you modify your AT boots. While touring, the interface on the board is low profile and fairly minimalist, which I have found to be great for packing skis on your pack for a steep boot pack. Similarly, the binding plates are low profile and packable, and I find them easy to slide in to my tool pocket on most packs next to my shovel.

One minor complaint that I had was during the initial set-up of the bindings on my board. Since the interface has two plates, one for the board, and one that dictates angle, it was a little finicky trying to get everything lined up accurately. I also needed to make sure to lock-tite every screw well, as the rotation of the binding onto the interface could put added force here, especially in iced up conditions. However, once I got everything set-up, I haven’t had to looked at it since.

You simply rotate the binding plate onto the board and close the pins.

You simply rotate the binding plate onto the board and close the pins.

The pins snap into place and secure the plate to the interface plates.

The pins snap into place and secure the plate to the interface plates.

The binding plates are canted.

The binding plates are canted.

The cants provide an increase in comfort, a natural stance, and to help balance the opposite canting found on most AT boots (specifically the TLT6).

The cants provide an increase in comfort, a natural stance, and to help balance the opposite canting found on most AT boots (specifically the TLT6).

Heel riser and heel lock down option

Phantom’s heel riser is a simple tele-style riser with two heights. Where the innovation is in this component is how it can be used to lock the heel down during those long flat skates, or the slightly more treacherous downhill section of the skin track. There is a gap in the plate that allows a ski strap to be threaded through and then allowing it to wrap around the boot. My first impression of this was, “wow that’s awfully low-tech and janky”. However, since I’ve used it, I actually enjoy the slight dampening flex that the ski strap provides. Obvious pitfalls of this are the lack of release-ability and the subsequent injuries that could ensue. Sometimes the low-tech simplicity is the most effective. I am still holding on to the idea of a better heel lock down option that utilizes the tech heel fitting, while also doubling as a riser bar.

The ski strap threaded through the heel riser plate to fix the heel to the split-ski.

The ski strap threaded through the heel riser plate to fix the heel to the split-ski.

Ski strap threaded through the heel riser plate.

Ski strap threaded through the heel riser plate.

While I think the engineering on these bindings is high quality (after all John Keffler’s day job is as an engineer for NASA), I have had a few issues during transitions. With the benefits of a tightly fitting system, do come some drawbacks in regards to being prone to icing. There are two places where I have found the interface to ice up on occasion (I would say 90% of the time I have no issues), one of which are the pins, and the other is on the board around the interface. The pins can ice and not retract when you flip the lever to remove the binding plates. Using the tip of a ski pole to manually push them back in can solve this occasional issue. When the interface system has a lot of snow and ice build up, it can take a little more attention to detail (and I am talking about less than a minute). The binding plates themselves are actually great ice scrapers, and once the area around the interface is clear the plates usually rotate on without any issue.

One of the interface plates.

One of the interface plates.

Compact binding plates fit easily inside of the tool pocket on most packs.

Compact binding plates fit easily inside of the tool pocket on most packs.

The binding plates are a quality design with a heel bar and a toe bar/bail to secure the boot to the binding. All AT-split bindings I have seen use a similar version of this combination. I have seen a number of benefits to the toe bail lever; one being ease of entry and exit, and the other is overall security once the angle is adjusted correctly. I see benefits (at least theoretical) to this binding system in the event of an avalanche where you can release yourself from your gear with an easy flip of a lever. The binding plates themselves have a canted platform, and Phantom has a few different options for canting angle based on preference. One area that John and I have discussed for possible improvement is a heel bar that is somewhat fixed in place for an even easier entry. Currently, you have to flip the bar up and hold it there to make sure it sits on the heel welt of your boot. While this is a slight pain, the benefit of a collapsing design for the lowest profile plate for the pack seems to outweigh this minor drawback.

Ski Crampon Compatibility

Since Phantom uses a Dynafit toe piece for touring, you can simply purchase a Dynafit ski crampon to use for spring time missions. The only crampon that will fit is the 130mm wide one (gold). This is a touch wider than my split-ski, but is not too wide that it flexes and bends while using. These are lightweight ski crampons and pack decently well, compared to splitboard specific ski crampons that I have seen.

This season Phantom is offering a few different options for interfaces. A fixed angle interface, which is even lower profile and less material. Additionally, they have a new cleat design that supposedly allows for better snow/ice clearing. I will update this review once I get to try these new interfaces out to compare them both. Finally, Phantom has been focusing on creating a boot modification kit to give you direction and some tools to modify TLT6’s, which has been a crux for people transitioning to an AT-split set-up.

Overall, Phantom Splitboard Bindings offer a quality system for those looking for a different approach to traveling in the backcountry on a splitboard. Now, deciding to make the switch is up to you. As always, comment with questions and I’ll be sure to offer my insight.

The quality photos on this post are by Freya Fennwood of Freya Fennwood Photography. Check out more of her photography on her website, and follow her on social media.

Happy touring!

Happy touring!



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Comments

9 Responses to “Phantom Splitboard Bindings – TESTED”

  1. Paul S. March 13th, 2017 11:21 am

    Thanks for the review!

    I have been on AT boots all season, and have found it to be an easier transition than I expected. I started the season with Voile mountain plates which I’ve had for forever, but just purchased Spark Dyno DH plates. So far, I have only living-room surfed the Dynos, but they are noticeably stiffer than the Mountain Plates. Unfortunately, I believe the flex in the Mountain Plates comes from a weaker toe/heel bail-to-boot connection. I understand the Phantom system has some flex built into it somewhere, and so could provide the comfort of the Mountain Plate AND the security of the Dyno DH. I am using the canted pucks with the Dynos, but did not need those with the Mountain Plates (fairly narrow stance on a hovercraft 156).

    I would have liked to get some gear from Phantom, and I like that they are a “little guy”, but they were sold out of heel lifters in early January. I wish they could produce enough accessories/parts to keep stock through at least mid-season. It’s difficult for me to commit to a complete (>$800) setup in November that I have no chance to even fiddle with beforehand. The Spark setup has allowed me to build my hardboot setup one piece at a time as I can afford it.

    I hope they can either turn it into a bigger business (as Spark did back in the day), or license their designs to a company that can provide that level of support. Either way, I wish them more success!

  2. Jonathan Mastin March 13th, 2017 1:27 pm

    Thanks for the review Jonathan. I’ve also used the Phantoms + TLT6’s for the last two seasons, and echo the annoyances at holding the heel bar in place while securing the boot, and scraping ice before re-attaching the binding plate to the board. But like you, I also find these to be minor concerns on a system that has worked very well for me in all conditions. I’ve been overwhelmingly satisfied both with the end product and the great customer service, and like commenter Paul – I wish huge success to Mr. Keffler and the Phantom binding!

  3. Paul S. March 13th, 2017 1:53 pm

    Oh, and I dealt with the falling heel bail issue on the mountain plates. VERY frustrating. I am excited that the Spark Dyno DH seems to have solved it, but I’ll try it in the field before I pass final judgement.

  4. Yurtmiester March 13th, 2017 7:32 pm

    Just run with Dynafit Tourlite Tech heels vs. silly wire bails.
    And join the “lord of boards”, ride it, tour it, or ski it fixed heel! Trade-off is wider stance if ya got big feet to fit toe/heel combo with lift and release. Leave ur straps in ur repair kit

  5. Kyle March 13th, 2017 9:55 pm

    I made the switch as well and I am loving it. Not using phantoms, I couldn’t afford at the time, but I am using the Dyno DH with canted pucks. I have always liked pucks as I never have had an issue with icing even when I used soft boot bindings. They always go on super easy and I tour on the south coast so theres lots of freezing going on. I am also hoping for a better heel hold system, but not too worried about it if it doesn’t happen. Using slightly moded tlt6 boots. Surf style rider with a duck stance and it works perfectly. Its a very reactive system and I find myself hitting windlips so hard now I just blow them up! I am addicted to the hardboots, and plan to get a set of phantoms for my solid board. I am DONE with cheap toy r us bindings boards and boots that snowboard companies offer us. Bring on quality like we are seeing from the smaller companies and custom board builders.

  6. XXX_er March 14th, 2017 9:12 am

    I toured with a guide who splitted with some ancient AT hard boots, he had his bindings set at 45degrees and he had his poles out almost all the time, must be easier to pole at 45 than standing sideways?

  7. Paul S. April 2nd, 2018 7:47 am

    Checking in again after another season on hard boots… I am still not 100% sold. I ride on the east coast, so bush-whack approaches and tight tree runs are a big part of the equation here. When I do bust out into the alpine, I am often on terrain that requires jump turns. I got some of Phantom’s heavily modified TLT6’s a month back, and I normally ride with Fisher TransAlps.

    Compared with Spark Tesla bindings and softboots, the hardboot system feels less responsive to quick changes of direction in the trees. It is also much harsher. I am hoping to find someone with Phantoms that will allow me to do back-to-back comparisons with the DynoDH. Interestingly, the Phantom-modified TLT6’s were not an improvement over my stock TransAlps in the feel department. If anything, they felt less responsive edge-to-edge.

    The quest for the Unicorn Splitboard setup continues!

  8. Paul May 24th, 2018 10:37 am

    Great Review! Thanks! I work on Mt Shasta for the USFS the last 2 years and although I feel like I’m in great shape the skiers I work with climb the mountian faster. I have an old Voile Mojo and Light Rails and am in desperate need of a lighter, more efficient set up. The cost is what scares me not to mention my lady and I have a baby on the way! ? I have a gov email and people are constantly ask me about my splitboard while patroling. I still see people packing up park boards. Do you have any suggestion on pro forms to cut costs? Can you outline a complete hardboot setup: board, bindings, skins, boots…you would buy and associated costs? Thanks!

  9. Paul S. May 24th, 2018 11:13 am

    Paul,
    My impression is that Phantom is too small to do a pro-form, but you can always ask. You are more likely to get a positive response from Spark R&D. Voile actually sells a kit that is very cheap, but still fairly heavy for hardboots.

    Any board will do, you don’t need to retire your old Mojo and it’s skins. Finding some low-profile boots which fit your foot is the biggest challenge. Is there a local shop that sells skimo-style boots and gives discounts to USFS employees?

    Hope this helps!
    (Other) Paul





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