The Hagan Core 12 is an impressive, lightweight and fully featured alpine touring (AT) binding. It keeps things beefy with all-metal construction and is made for Hagan in Italy by ATK. It’s essentially the same binding as ATK’s Raider 12 2.0 which up until now, has been hard to get on this side of the pond. Thankfully Hagan is now bringing them to North America under the Core 12 name, the only change is the colour difference. ATK is well respected in the industry for their for high-quality design and craftsmanship, so much so that Black Diamond also uses them to produce their new Helio series of bindings. Hagan's production values are durability, performance, ease of use and value and I’d say they achieve three out of four with the Core 12—read on to discover why.
We first discovered the Haga Core 12 at the Outdoor Retailer Show last year and created this overview video of the binding:
At just 350 grams, the Core 12 is said to be the lightest high-performance free ride touring binding in the world. This, however, does not take into account U-Spring bindings which can be much lighter. The Core 12 uses two independent pins which reduce wear on your boot’s tech fittings and provide superior performance. The Core 12’s cam heel system also controls the pins stabilization and is able to adjust to impact forces, providing better control than a simple U-Spring.
The Core 12 has relatively wide toe and heel mounts that are able to transfer power more effectively to the edges of your skis. With an all aluminum construction, the base plate and main frame are rigid and solid, providing for a more confident boot hold and skiing experience.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Core 12 binding is that the brakes are fixed to the toe piece and not the heels where they are traditionally found. The reason they’re located here is that it provides braking power in both uphill and downhill mode. If you’ve ever have a run away ski while in walk mode you’ll appreciate this feature.
The jaws of the Core 12 toe piece close with confidence, securely clamping your boot to the ski and lining up the pins is surprisingly easy—more so than most tech bindings. Located just behind the toe pins you’ll find the integrated crampon mounts for when the pow isn’t as deep as you’d like.
The heel unit has an integrated elastic response system which absorbs energy during ski compressions and releases it during the ski extension which creates consistent retention and release. At the top of the heel unit, the Magneto Heel Risers provide five different walking positions being flat, 38, 41, 48, and 58mm of height. The risers are magnetic which increase their ease of use and prevent inadvertent risers flipping around. The risers are easily engaged and disengaged with a pole or by hand. Two climbing positions can be selected without the need to twist the heel piece, the other three can be accessed by turning the heel piece in any direction.
Injection-molded POM thermo-plastic
The Hagan Core 12 is a super lightweight AT Binding that’s designed for dedicated ski touring and mountaineering and those who want reliability not to come at the cost of performance.
The Core 12’s toe piece is quite easy to step into despite the obvious lack of any kind of toe bumper. The jaws open up nice and wide and clamp down with authority so you can ski and climb with confidence. Machined from a solid piece of aluminum the base plate and main frame are not overbuilt and similar in design to most other tech toe pieces, with the exception of the brake. Typically, most tech bindings have the brake located on the heel unit so it’s kinda weird to see it front mounted like on the Core 12. The advantage of this mount location is that the brakes are deployed in both walk and ski mode when the toe piece is not locked. In order to retract the brakes, you simply step into the Core 12’s and then push down on the large over-designed plastic piece to lock them into position. Given the brakes minimal design they do not provide a heap of stopping power but will help with runaway skis and if you prefer not to use them, you can remove them and lighten things up by about 100g per binding.
It’s impressive that the Core 12 don’t use a U-spring for the heel retention and that they come with brakes all for under 400 grams (per binding). The fact that they have two climbing positions without the need to rotate the heel piece is a huge time saver and a big plus for keeping things simple.
The heel piece is similarly well designed from aluminum and feels equally robust and strong. However, unlike other ultra-lightweight tech bindings the Core 12 do not use a U-spring, instead, they employ two independent pins that are able to rotate during step-in which reduces wear and tear on the inserts of your boots. The heel also has two independent adjustments that provide both vertical and lateral release values which offer up an easy step in and release. The best thing about the Core 12’s heel piece has to be the risers or “Magneto Heel Flaps” as Hagan calls them. The elegance is in their simplicity, with just two risers Hagan was able to provide five different riser configurations, more than any other binding I know of. Two of these positions can be gained without having to even rotate the heel piece which saves a lot of time fussing around on the skin track. The built-in magnets keep the risers out of the way until you activate them with a pole. When two risers are engaged the built-in magnet combines the two so it’s a simple one flick to get them both back out of the way. In order to implement the other two heel risers, you’ll have to turn the heel unit by hand which is not that easy given its small shape. If you wish to tour flat without any rise, then you’ll have to turn the heel piece to achieve this which is not ideal and requires a surprising amount of force.
Thanks to their all the aluminum construction, the Hagan Core 12’s feel like a solid/burly binding when skiing down. While I wouldn’t want to use any teach binding for solely resort skiing, I’d be confident spending some time inside the boundary rope with the Core 12’s—this is something I can’t say about most other tech bindings except perhaps the Marker Kingpins. Skiers looking for a fully-featured, well built yet simple AT binding (who are willing to pay a premium) look no further than the Core 12.
Other bindings in the same weight category would be the Black Diamond Helio 200 and the Salomon MTN bindings. Both of these bindings weigh more than the Hagan Core 12 and of the two only the Salomon MTN has a built-in brake. Both bindings will, however, save you some serious cash over the Core 12’s $845 Canadian price tag.
Price: $845CAN / $650US
Weight: 350g / 14oz (per binding)
Release Values: 5-12 (independently adjustable lateral and vertical release)
Riser Levels: 5
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