Karakoram Prime X 2019 Review (& Karakoram History Lesson)

 

While the Karakoram Prime system certainly isn’t entirely new for 18/19, we must admit that in our opinion they have been a long time coming.

Karakoram has been one of the major players in splitboard specific bindings and accessories since their inception in 2009. Since day one they have brought an unbelievably high degree of engineering expertise and rock-solid construction to their splitboard bindings. Unfortunately, we often felt that this overengineering was almost to a fault.

Their original binding, the Split-30 was rock solid in terms of durability but the external parts and aluminium baseplate constructions resulted in issues with ice build up and potential for poor binding alignment. Compared to other bindings of their time however, the ride quality was unmatched.

When the first Prime system was released a few years back, the new lighter weight baseplates and cleaner hinge points were a great step forwards in creating a lighter weight less complicated binding that rode even better than before thanks to their new 4-point active joining attachment system. The tolerances however were so tight that the bindings required a substantial break in period before they became easy to use. As the season progressed a few other issues arose that couldn’t be overlooked. Heel risers had never been a strong point for Karakoram, but this latest version was probably a step backwards and one of their least reliable designs, and even in the cold dry Rockies their aluminium touring bracket tab was prone to ice build-up.

The Prime X was released last year and we were truly impressed. For the first time I was fully sold on the Karakoram binding system. The baseplates were redesigned to allow for a better initial fit reducing the break in period.  The bindings were incredibly light weight but still felt like they would take years of backcountry abuse. The heel risers were again redesigned for easier use and far better reliability. Overall, we were stoked. They weren’t perfect however, the heel risers would still occasionally collapse, and the heel lockdown just wasn’t holding. The new touring bracket with breakaway point was a great idea to prevent any catastrophic failures but was just a touch to brittle, and the baseplates still required the user to have a fairly dialed in process for changeovers to prevent ice buildup in wet or spring like conditions.

Enter Prime X 2019;

New this year is Ride Mode 2.0 which really did address any previous concerns we had. The heel risers were beefed up and the lockdown wire reworked to prevent pop outs or difficulties engaging the wire. The touring brackets were re-engineered to decrease the ease of the safety tab from popping out prematurely.

The baseplates have been given a tongue and groove style snow and ice clearing channel which seems to do an even better job of stiffening your center joint while simultaneously clear away any ice buildup. The bases were also topped with their solid DuPont composite nylon blend which does an amazing job of expelling snow and ice.

Of course, like every year time will tell just how well Karakoram did and addressing previous concerns. I can say with absolute certainty however that the 2019 Prime X is the best binding Karakoram has made to date, and I’m stoked to get out on them again soon!

Hopefully for those of you, like myself, who tried Karakoram’s Split 30 system or early Prime models and were not converted, this will entice you to give Karakoram a serious look.

-Tom Stewart