Plum Ski Bindings — They Even Kiss Great

Post by blogger | May 9, 2013      
Plum backcountry skiing binding lineup.

Plum backcountry skiing binding lineup. J'Envoie du Gros aka Phat Boy at top, Plum Guide, then the diminutive Race model. Click all images to enlarge.

Do tech bindings break? Ask people who ski the now myriad brands, you’ll hear mostly good reports mixed with a few slasher stories. Unique to tech bindings? Nope, any ski binding can malfunction or break, and I’ve never seen anything definitive that makes me think the tech form-factor is any less durable. Indeed, the opposite is frequently true. Proof: in my travels I see more decades old tech bindings in play than all other geriatric AT bindings combined.

The classic tech ski binding design, now more than a quarter century old (!) is still going strong, with hundreds of thousands of the tiny grabbers in play around the world. And yes, now that the fundamentals of the tech binding are mostly out of patent, newcomers to the genre seek to make evolutionary improvements. Enter the one with that flirty name only some French guys could have come up with: Plum.

(For more Plum technical details, please see our comparo post.)

Plum began producing full function tech bindings in 2007, with focus on skimo racing. A few years later they delved into the touring and ski mountaineering market. Present offerings are diverse; eight (depending on how you count) models ranging from the super lightweight Race to the freeride wide-base Yak and J’Envoie du Gros. Rental bindings and a unit for lightweight skiers round out the portfolio. Guide model is the sweet spot by standards and popular worldwide.

Plum length adjustment is the only inherent weak point in this design.

Plum length adjustment is the only inherent weak point in this design. A narrow shaft star 20 driver is ideal, and the bindings come with a small right-angle star driver as well that can reach the fasteners without the need to rotate the binding out of the way. The screw heads strip easily.

Plum Torx-20 star drive too for adjusting backcountry skiing binding.

Plum Torx-20 star drive tool. It's too easy to torque this at an angle and bung the star socket in the screw head.

After mounting, adjusting and using Plums all winter, one Achilles heel stands out. Rather than the threaded spindle for/aft boot length adjustment common to most other tech bindings, you adjust Plum by moving the heel unit for/aft on a track, then affix with short machine screws. Two problems: First, the star drive screw heads strip out easily — observe on demo bindings where you’ll see this as a somewhat common problem. Second, the machine screws rotate into a thin aluminum plate and the threads easily strip. In the first occurrence, so long as you can get the screw out you can easily replace with a new one (spares recommended for shop and repair kit.) The second concern is more troublesome. Strip the base plate threads and you’re looking at a complete tear down of the binding and swapping a fundamental part that’s doubtless expensive.

To be fair, Plum’s method of length adjustment has an upside. Unlike other tech bindings that use the ski top surface as support for the binding spindle base, the Plum backcountry skiing binding locks everything together and the larger base thus gives max support. Bindings that rest the spindle on the ski top can eventually wallow a depression in the ski material, thus introducing play and damaging your skis. On some of the geriatric setups I’ve repaired, I’ve seen the spindle base eat so far into the ski it went almost to the core. But that’s after an unusual decades long use cycle (as in, “I love my 65 mm wide 210 cm long skis; why should I change?”).

Plum heel unit, spindle base (indicated by red circle) is integrated into the main base plate via attachment with machine screws.

Plum heel unit, spindle base (indicated by red circle) is integrated into the main base plate via attachment with machine screws. With other brands, the spindle base rests directly on the ski top surface and uses the ski as support without integration with the remainder of the base plate. In heavy use this results in inevitable damage to the ski topskin and added play as the spindle base wallows out a pocket it sits in.

Many users attest that the overall appearance of the Plum models inspire confidence. Some even say they sound better. Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing about how well they kiss. How much of that is a value bias (pay more for something, it’s of course the best) or due to the beautiful monoblock machining is an open question. For example, though it appears to be black anodized aluminum the heel unit housing is actually plastic. Thus, a common misperception is that the binding is “all metal,” or “all aluminum.” Kudos to the mind control of industrial design.

Plum machine work is indeed impressive but the only significant strength improvements over other tech bindings are the heel lifter and the heel unit internal spindle (and perhaps the type of screws used to attach the heel top plate). Other than those items, any other perceived strength enhancements are psychological and like any other ski binding out there, Plums have been known to break.

Another thing about how Plums look. No problem with good looking design that doesn’t add weight for backcountry skiing. Compliments to Plum for making these sexy things without one tiny bit of faux material. We didn’t need to cut or grind anything off!

Plum Yak is simply a guide model on a 5mm thick baseplate, different color.

Plum Yak is simply a guide model on a 5mm thick baseplate, different color.

Form and perhaps function are also enhanced by the Yak and J’Envoie du Gros (Phat Boy) model’s wider base plates. Most certainly, it’ll be nice when all bindings are better matched to wider skis. If for no other reason than it looks odd having that wee thing on a 110mm platform. On the other hand, since the boot in a tech binding still attaches at the same exact width fasteners it ever did, thinking of a wider binding base as a blue-pill performance enhancer is suspect. In other words, make the tech 2.0 wider boot and binding, then I’ll listen. Oh, and the wider base of the Yak and Phat raises you off the ski 5 mm, thus exaggerating any play or movement in the system, and perhaps obviating any improvement in control.

Up to you. Ski a wider binding and see if you ski better. Doubtful. Oh, and are wider binding bases less likely to rip screws out of skis like a drunk frontier dentist pulling molars? Perhaps yes in some cases, but not to the extent where we need to go raising all ski bindings up a half centimeter so we can have our wider base plates.

Ultimately, have you ever ripped a properly mounted tech binding out of a ski? If not, don’t start crying in advance. Just make sure all your bindings are craftsman mounted.

And who knew? ISO 8364:2007 defines the reinforced binding mounting area on skis. Apparently the wider pattern of the J’Envoie du Gros and Yak bindings falls outside this, thus adding more mystery to if the wider binding base would actually make your binding screws hold better. Adding confusion, while ISO 8364 does define the _minimum_ width for binding reinforcement area, some brands do cover the whole binding area (from left to right) with the reinforcement, and for skis with metal layer this could be a non-issue. Only problem with that is knowing for sure the size of the hidden reinforcement area.

Tech bindings are not exactly the most ISO compliant consumer product out there and it’s been fun to watch an industry ignore mandated standards that stifle innovation. But it’s putting the cart before the horse to make a wider binding that may locate your binding screws outside the standard reinforced area. Style and appearance can be everything, however, and how your skis look on the Téléphérique du Midi could indeed make or break a fine day in Cham’.

No ski brakes available for Plum. Many (even most) core ski tourers around the world appear to have little interest in ski brakes, so this hasn’t been an issue yodeled from the mountain tops. On the other hand, using leashes instead of brakes is neanderthal in some situations — it’d be nice if Plum actually had a functional ski brake option. It’s said Plum is blocked from developing decent ski brakes by a slew of existing patents. Aftermarket, where are you?

Optional stomp block pad has proven value for aggressive skiers, but introduces uncontrolled friction into lateral safety release.

Optional stomp block pad has proven value for aggressive skiers, but introduces uncontrolled friction into lateral safety release and also raises heel up in lowest heel-height touring mode, a concern for flatter terrain. Easy to remove-replace.

Uphill, we find no significant difference between the way Plum performs as compared to any other properly functioning and adjusted tech binding. Some users might prefer rotating the heel unit to adjust heel lift as compared to other brands with flip-up lifters. Also note, if you use the stomp block it makes for a less “heel flat on ski” flatland touring angle. For skiers who do a lot of low angled slogging that could be a factor. Otherwise, non-issue.

Diminutive Plum race model does not have adjustable safety release, locks automatically when you step in.

Lastly, check out the diminutive Plum Race model. Release doesn't adjust so we didn't test. We're also a bit leery of race bindings for long term abuse, since they put a premium on less material rather than long life. Plum version locks automatically when you step in. Popular in Europe, where almost everyone skis with their tech bindings locked, uphill and down. 6.5 ounces 184 grams with screws. Heel rotates for flat-on-ski walking mode.

Weights (one binding with screws, the gram numbers are direct from scale):

J’Envoie du Gros total 18.3 oz 520 gr (widest footprint, Yak model is also wider than normal)
J’Envoie du Gros heel 11.2 oz 318 gr
J’Envoie du Gros toe 7.2 oz 202 gr

Guide total 12.6 oz 358 gr (without 1.4 ounce 40 gram stomp block option)
Guide heel 8.4 oz 238 gr
Guide toe 4.2 oz 120 gr

Race total 6.5 oz 184 gr (without tiny crampon mount option, which weighs 6 grams)
Race heel 3.2 oz 89 gr
Race toe 3.3 oz 95 gr

Longest duration of test kiss: 2.32648 minutes, 70 dB.

Check out all our Plum ski binding posts.

Shop for Plum bindings.

Plum website, go French!

Information on shopping for Plum in North America


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44 Responses to “Plum Ski Bindings — They Even Kiss Great”

  1. Miles May 9th, 2013 11:03 am

    So, for a cut-to-the-chase direct comparison:

    Would you buy the Plum Guide or the Dynafit Speed Radical?

  2. Rudi May 9th, 2013 11:29 am

    In the last caption I saw you said that [in] “Europe, where almost everyone skis with their tech bindings locked, uphill and downhill”. I was a big proponent of this until recently when I obliterated my knee while in tour mode. To be fair though I was… “jibbing” something when it happened. Coming away from it I was first obviously extremely sad about my knee, but then kind of relieved that I had learned my lesson about tour mode while at a resort and not in the middle of nowhere. I guess my question is whats your take or anyone else’s on skiing downhill in tour-mode? I pretty sure the first comment will be ” why were you in dynafits at a terrain park…!”

  3. Lou Dawson May 9th, 2013 11:29 am

    Trying to pin the wily fox down, eh (grin)? Sorry, either one. I like the Speed’s flip lifters and easier length adjustment, while I like the Plum’s solid heel spindle. Pretty sure you’ll find the Speed for less money… there you go. Flip a coin if all else fails, or try kissing both and see which one responds the best. Lou

  4. Lou Dawson May 9th, 2013 11:31 am

    Rudi, my take is that locking the binding while skiing downhill is mental illness other than when extreme skiing. Sorry to hear you got sucked into the delusion. Lou

  5. Buck May 9th, 2013 11:36 am

    Not quite Plum related, but you spend quite a few words on it in this review, so I’ll ask here. I have some Vertical STs that have developed lateral play in the spindle. I’ve pulled off the heel piece and checked that the spindle hasn’t cracked at the base (had that failure once before on an older binding) so it appears that the play is the kind you write about here – the base plate moving against the ski topsheet. It is quite apparent when testing for play by hand without a boot in the binding, but when a boot is locked in downhill mode the play is barely noticeable, if at all.

    Is this a safety concern? What is the best fix?

    If I should move this question to a more appropriate post, let me know.

  6. Lou Dawson May 9th, 2013 11:45 am

    Buck, no it’s not a safety concern and does not affect your skiing unless the play is excessive. On the other hand, that kind of movement will exacerbate wear of the ski top skin. First thing to check is if the binding rear baseplate is not screwed tightly down on the ski. Sometimes a bit of epoxy or the rim of a screw hole holds it up. Best way to work on the play issue is to remove the binding from the ski and start over with the mount, first making sure the ski is perfectly flat in the mounting area, and so on, while first evaluating the heel unit for wear or damage when you can look at it from underneath.

  7. David May 9th, 2013 12:28 pm


    I skied one year on 1st gen speed radial and kept breaking anti-rotation pins (x4 each binding). I ended up putting my own anti-rotation nob on the ski which worked but wasn’t ideal.

    Then I sold that setup and went with Plum guides this year. While I do like the radial heel lifters, I would go again with the guides not wanting to play Russian roulette with breaking the pins on the radial (some have trouble, so don’t). To my knowledge Dynafit still hasn’t fixed this on the radial speeds (cuz no brakes)…and good luck navigating that Italian website for an aftermarket solution.

    Of course, I got the plums used for $400..retail for these is too much IMHO.

  8. Brian May 9th, 2013 12:34 pm

    Rudi- you mean you got injured with the binding locked, not in tour mode, correct? Doing any jibbing while in tour mode sounds crazy.

  9. water May 9th, 2013 3:35 pm


    I too was confused by what Rudi said (and he can clarify too..) but when he said in ‘tour’ I believe he just meant with the toe locked–which for the toe is tour mode as far as dynafit is concerned. But he did not actually mean he was touring.

  10. travis May 9th, 2013 8:09 pm

    David – the 12/13 Speed Radicals did have an external rotation stop instead of the internal pin.

  11. Lou Dawson May 9th, 2013 8:44 pm

    David, Let’s watch out for the disinformation here, Radical Speed has no internal pin and an external anti-rotation system that’s simple.

    No current Dynafit has the internal pin, all have the external anti-rotation.

    (Edit: If you buy a new Dynafit binding and it has the defective pin, return it immediately.)


  12. Greg Louie May 9th, 2013 10:30 pm

    Lou, the Yak and the J’Envoie du Gros are not the same (you don’t picture a Yak) – the Yak has a narrower 50mm footprint while the J’Envoie du Gros/Phat Boy is 70mm. I get 492 grams for one Yak with screws, 518 for one J’Envoie du Gros with screws.

    Dynafits in a terrain park? Because you saw Hoji do it?

  13. Greg Louie May 9th, 2013 10:33 pm

    PS The 2014 Plum catalog shows a unique front-facing brake that mounts to the toepiece baseplate . . .

  14. Jesse May 9th, 2013 11:09 pm

    Hi Lou,
    I got a pair of brand new Speed radicals shipped directly from Salewa(purchased pro deal) in december 2012, and they definitely have the anti-rotation pin. And one of them currently has a broken housing due to the pin. So there were still speed radicals with pins on the market not that long ago.

  15. Kate Brown May 10th, 2013 12:18 am

    I have plum guides on 1 set of skis and dynafits on most of the rest. I find my dynafits are way easier to step into cleanly. The plum springs seem stronger requiring more precision and carefulness to ensure you don’t mislocate one side. Not a major issue unless also true on the race versions but annoying on icy cambered surfaces.

  16. Lou Dawson May 10th, 2013 6:00 am

    Greg, thanks, I’ll correct. And yes, I picture the limited edition du Gros. I don’t know why I got confused, as I’ve got product here and was also studying their catalog. Both bindings look pretty similar, I guess that’s why. My bad.

    Jesse, sure, any time a product is changed former versions are kicking around unless they do a recall, which they did not and perhaps should of.. “In line” changes such as the pin debacle are really difficult to organize and communicate. Some of this is buyer beware, for sure.

    When I write “current” when referring to a product, I mean the latest version including all in-line changes.

    Kate, Plums do have strong toe springs. I didn’t notice the downside you describe during my testing, but I have no doubt it’s possible. Thanks for pointing that out.

  17. Lou Dawson May 10th, 2013 6:36 am

    Greg, regarding the brake, sure, it could be available in 2014. And some might be available now. But it’s not a current product and we do not have one to test or review. If I had a nickle for every time I’ve spoken about it or emailed about the brake with Plum folks I’d be buying Lisa a delux dinner here in Carbondale.

    One thing I’m leery of here and still get conned into (by myself or others) is reviewing or heavily covering products that are still in the prototype stage. This seems to happen pretty frequently with ski bindings these days. For example, if you look around the web you’ll see well done and sometimes enormous reviews of prototype ski bindings.

    Sometimes covering prototype or pre-production product is appropriate (though doing so can result in a lot of misinformation once the production product comes out.)

    With the Plum vapor-brake, I’ll wait till it’s being sold and we have a test sample. Like I wrote, brake or no brake is a non-issue for most tech binding users.

  18. Frisco May 10th, 2013 8:06 am

    Would there be any advantage to install some sort of stump block on a speed radical? I do worry about the heel of the ski just being supported by the pins, especially when on the back seat. My bias is that I have skied regular alpine bindings until just recently switching to dynafit. I have always had some support below the heel sole.

  19. Lou Dawson May 10th, 2013 8:28 am

    Frisco, depends on your style of skiing and the results you get using stock bindings. The tech binding suspension of the boot between toe and heel units is one of the best things about the binding system, as it eliminates all issues of variable friction interfering with safety release. I’ve always loved it.

    In terms of whether your heel is supported or not, it is in any case, only from a different point. So thinking your heel is not supported is just psychological.

    At any rate, if you’re an aggressive skier and have problems with things like the boot popping down _below_ the heel pins during harsh skiing, or worse, breaking the heel spindle, then yeah, stomp block might be an option. Otherwise, it’s a cool looking option that might do more harm than good.

  20. Frisco May 10th, 2013 9:09 am

    Thanks for the reply. I didn’t think of the gap as allowing for suspension, but it does make sense.

    The bindings do feel pretty solid and I am a pretty conservative skier, so I wont go the stomp block route.

  21. Lou Dawson May 10th, 2013 9:16 am

    Frisco, yeah, about 1.5 million other backcountry skiers don’t seem to need the stomp block either. Be really careful of this kind of stuff, you can easily get off on a tangent that’s mainly supported by mythology or what .0001 % of skiers out there need.

  22. David May 10th, 2013 12:56 pm

    Lou and Travis,

    Thanks for the correction on the new speed radials. In any event, the fact dynafit didn’t offer a fix/upgrade on the 1st generation left a bad taste in my mouth…even with conversations directly with Salewa in Boulder.

    BTW I do agree with Lou on the guide BSL adjustment. It is a PIA.

  23. Lou Dawson May 10th, 2013 2:16 pm

    Indeed, the breaking Radical was a real debacle, no doubt about that. It was really too bad as otherwise it was a truly great iteration of the tech platform. Made for some tough blogging, that’s for sure! The thing is, however, that no company is immune… early adopters will continue to get burned when they use stuff that essentially conforms to no industry standards in a highly competitive environment.

    To Dynafit’s and a few other binding maker’s credit (G3, for example), they told me some time ago that they’re going to slow down a bit on the binding development and do more testing. Hence the beta release of the prototype Beast, for example.


  24. ptor May 12th, 2013 12:23 am

    I like the ‘stomp’ block. I like Plums. Good times for 2 years now with same pair of Guides. Walk/ski lever just needs to be oiled once in a while. Although I’m still hoping tech bindings will be obsolete someday 😉

  25. SimonC May 12th, 2013 11:42 am

    Plum-owners out there be warned I have 2 friends who have found sheared-off screw heads on the heel unit (the screws in the top of the unit that do effectively hold the whole thing together…

  26. mike May 12th, 2013 11:59 am

    hey Lou can you test what the din value is on the race just wondering?

  27. Lou Dawson May 12th, 2013 12:04 pm

    Mike, no, I can’t, and besides, I’d have to test a dozen and get an average. Also, no tech binding has a “DIN” value. Release value, sure, but not a “DIN” value. Lou

  28. ChrisC May 14th, 2013 10:00 am

    I picked up some Yaks this season and have been very pleased. However, like SimonC above I have sheared 5 of the 8 small #9 torx screws that hold the heel plate on the plastic block. Fortunately I was able to get replacement blocks as the screws sheared flush and it was not possible to remove.

    I skied pretty aggressively on challenging snow with only 2/4 screws on 1 ski and 1/4 on the other in place while waiting for replacement, more to test the system and see if I could get failure. It still held fine. Local shop thinks the screw size selected is too small and I was curious if there was much other experience with this issue or if it will change for 2014.

    Also, trying to get an answer from Plum about the correct torque to tighten those screws?? I never touched them before breaking and heard it’s easy to over tighten.

  29. Cat June 10th, 2013 9:17 am

    I am heading out to Banff on my Gap Year with Basecamp Ski and Snowboard to complete my BASI Level 1 and 2 Ski Instructor Course. These blog posts have been great for checking what equipment would be best for me. Thanks and see you out there!

  30. Jeremy August 30th, 2013 11:18 am

    Hi Lou,

    Plum’s newly revised website finally has the long awaited brakes on show for the Guide, with availability in mid-Oct. The Yak also has brake option.

    There is no indication of the brakes are backwards compatible, but they appear to be a direct mount under toe piece, using the same bolt pattern.

    It also appears that the Guide toe piece has been revised. The arms which are now in black, appear to be thicker where the pins are mounted.

  31. Lou Dawson August 30th, 2013 12:04 pm

    Hi Jeremy, thanks for the heads up! We’ll see when the product makes it off their website and on to this one (grin)! ‘best, Lou

  32. MTJon September 16th, 2013 4:01 pm

    Hey Lou,

    Fist of all, thanks for developing a great ski blog! I spend more time than I’m willing to admit reading about gear. This year I’m venturing into the world of Tech bindings. I’m interested in Plum and want to mount them on a pair of BD Justices. What model would you recommend? Thanks!

  33. Lou Dawson September 16th, 2013 4:06 pm

    MT, the Guide would do you fine. Lou

  34. MTJon September 18th, 2013 1:55 pm


  35. Tom October 5th, 2013 10:47 pm

    Hey Lou,

    Planned set up is 4frnt renegades 196 with plum yaks. The renegade is stiff and wide (122mm waist). I am an expert skier with a very fast aggresive style. Mostly ski in New Zealand where the snow can range from amazing to very rough bumpy rime ice. I am 85kg and 5’11”. This might be a long shot, but in your opinion how would the yaks cope with:

    a.) fast aggressive skiing with ~20ft airs to hard landings?
    b.) horrible icy chattery rime ice (skiing adjusted to conditions)?

    Any feedback you have would be greatly appretiated. I ask because this is my first foray into tech bindings!

  36. Pete November 13th, 2013 4:06 pm

    Hi – quick question –

    Do the race and guide bindings use the same drill pattern? I’ve had a set of guides for a couple of years, and am considering some skinnier / lighter skis for a bit of easier touring / maybe a race or two. To cut costs I’ll put quiver killers and my guides on initially. Wondering if I’ll be able to switch to lighter binders in due course without re drilling.

    Also, in case anyone’s interested, I love my guides, but had to return them after the first season to get coarser threaded screws to replace the threaded machine screws holding the top cap on the rear on, and last winter is snapped the toe lock lever on one. They just jammed up and refused to lock, with no ice / grit etc in evidence. As I applied a bit of persuasion I got one to lock and the other lever snapped off. Thankfully only a short tour, but a pain having to click in again regularly, especially as some of best conditions i’d had in Scotland! Anyway, Plum customer service is pretty great. Sometimes a couple of days email turnaround, but they replaced both toe units no problem. Will be looking at their lighter offerings in fullness of time!

  37. Jeremy November 20th, 2013 9:22 am

    Hi Lou,

    I now physically have my Plum Guide brakes, 115mm in my case to fit my 112 RPs. They are engineered to the same standard/appearance as the bindings.

    Let me know if you want any pictures.

  38. Raymond Timm November 22nd, 2013 10:29 am


    Where did you get your brakes for the Plums? Directly or from a NA shop?

  39. Horseman December 12th, 2013 10:50 pm

    one season of light touring (new baby, didn’t get out much) — end of season noise, upon inspection — both toe piece mounts where cracked!

    lame –

    heal pieces constently loosened on me – lock tight, in groove, etc, kept coming loose, all season, even before the toe piece brakes where discovered.

    they look nice, but for a 240lbs Horseman, couldn’t hold me in to place for more than 30 days… max.bummed, and no reseller in UT now that Wasatch Powder Skis is under — come on Frenchy’s hook a warranty up

  40. Alex December 21st, 2013 5:45 pm

    Here in France lots of people complain about the breaks from Plum.

    Many customers returned their breaks back in the shop(Au viuex campeur), and I’ve been advised not to purchase them, as there’s incompatibility with Dynafit boots. Plum’s site says nothing about it.
    It is real pain for me, as I have not yet mounted my plum yak… I don’t want to go for dynafit radical ft, nor using plum yak with leashes.

    Have you guys had this problem?
    Thanks a lot

  41. Boris December 29th, 2013 10:09 am

    For a break alternative, perhaps this might do the trick:

    They go in the machined slot for crampons.

    Not sure on the higher toe hight of the yak (5mm higher) compared to a more traditional touring binding and you would need to do some modification in case your ski is larger than 90mm.

  42. Lou Dawson December 29th, 2013 5:15 pm

    Boris, those are cool, thanks for the link!

  43. Alex December 30th, 2013 2:08 am

    Boris, thanks for the link.

    I have an agreement with plum to pass by the factory (Annecy) to modify their existing breaks to suit my dynafit vulcan boot.

    By the phone they insured me all will work out fine (on my plum yak). Will drive tomorrow 200 km go and back..

    I hope I’m not mistaking by doing so.. as Rossignol soul 7 cost me a fortune..

  44. Lou Dawson December 30th, 2013 9:03 am

    Well, best wishes on that!

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