Plum has been in the tech binding business for 15 years now and is based out of Chamonix France. The company was started by family members who were CNC machinists and also avid ski mountaineers in their spare time. They wanted to create a metal-binding that would be more durable and reliable than what was currently being produced by other brands. We here at Backcountry Skiing Canada first heard of Plum (French for the word feather by the way) back in 2011 when we reviewed their original Guide Binding, the first teach binding we'd ever reviewed.
It makes sense for Plum to call their latest tech binding the ‘Pika’ as this binding shares a few similarities with this small mountain-dwelling mammal. They are both very small in size and weigh about the same with Plum’s Pika Bindings coming in at 280g each, just 40g more than your average American Pika.
From the start, Plum has had a reputation for making some of the most solid, all-metal bindings around. As with most companies though their product evolution was not always smooth, after recovering from a series of toe-arms failures on early products they’re now the go-to brand for ski mountaineers in Europe and now offer up a three-year warranty.
Plum has come a long way since their first tech binding design in 2005 and their latest product offering is much more expansive than back then, it even includes split board bindings now. Plum’s latest tech binding for backcountry skiers is the Pika which is a lightweight mountaineering style tech binding that is based off of Plum’s WEPA Binding but with an optional brake and heel support pad. The Pika combines the release-precision of Plum’s Guide Binding and the lightness of their WEPA Binding. The Pika is a good all round tech binding that can drive larger skis and be pushed by advanced skiers thanks to it’s all metal Aluminum 7075 construction and the fact that it offers a full vertical and lateral release adjustability between 4-10.
The optional brakes will add an additional 170g/ 6oz per pair which is a small price to pay for the additional safety they provide. The brakes come in three sizes, 85, 95 and 105 mm and replace the heel support pad located in front of the heel units. To install the brakes you simply need to screw them onto the binding without having to remove the heel piece itself, this makes for quick and easy removal should you want to save weight on a multi-day traverse or in a rando race. The brakes are ideal for resort skiing (mandatory actually) as well as free riding in the backcountry or anywhere a ski release and potential loss could be devastating (which is just about anywhere).
The Pika toe piece uses Plum’s “Too Facile” or Too Easy technology which means that their is a narrower distance between the toe jaws and the teach fitting in your AT boot which enables a much easier step-in when compared to other tech bindings.
Aluminum 7075 shaped out of one single piece
Steel U Springs
The all-metal design of the Pika Binding is confidence-inspiring and incredibly durable, unlike the mostly plastic bindings manufactured by their competitors. This bomber construction is what initially drew me to Plum nine years ago for my initial review of their Guide Bindings. Many design improvements and weight savings have been incorporated into the new Pika Binding that I’ve been testing for the last few months over the course of the winter season. The Pika is 110g lighter than the Guide Binding and also has an optional brake—something the Guide did not offer back in the day and even more of a reason to review the Pika.
While testing the Pika Binding I spend a lot of time skiing in-bounds at the resort on hard crusty snow and bumps, trying to find the Pika’s weakness. The short answer is, I couldn’t—there isn’t one. This binding is solid and you can feel the benefit of its full metal construction in every turn. Even from the very beginning when you step into the Pika binding and the “Too Facile” (or Too Easy) toe piece jaws snap shut with authority, you know this is a solid AT binding. The boot hold is pronounced and the ski experience is like that of a much heavier and bulky binding. Even on icey groomers, I wasn’t worried about pre-release or binding failure of any kind.
The all-metal construction is durable and trustworthy and weighs in at a mere 14g more than the G3 Zed Bindings, for comparison. The Zed’s, however, have a few more features than the Plum Pika’s, for example, the brakes release when you switch over to ski mode and the Zed’s have two risers instead of the Pika’s single riser option. But the G3 Zed’s also contain a lot of plastic and are more intricate in their design. Simple and solid is a good mantra to follow especially when it doesn’t add up to much additional weight. Knowing that the Pika Bindings can take a little abuse here and there is very reassuring when conditions deteriorate which they always seem to do in the backcountry.
The Pika Binding doesn’t come with brakes included unfortunately so you’ll have to save some cash to buy them separately for an additional $138CAN / $99US. They’ll also add a further 170g / 6oz to the Pika’s per pair weight of 560g / 1lb 3.8oz. This is still plenty lightweight for even the most serious ski touring fiend. Only Marker’s Alpinist Bindings weigh in lighter when looking at all the alpine touring bindings we’ve reviewed over the years, and then you are only saving a mere 60g.
Plum keeps the brakes independent of the Pika Binding’s design so adding or removing them is super simple and you don’t even have to remove the Pika heel piece. To engage and release the brakes is intuitive and easy but you do have to manually release them to ski which is an additional, albeit simple step at switch over.
The only aspect of the Pika that I would like to see changed in the next version is the integration of a second riser option. The current single riser could easily be designed asymmetrically so that it provides more of a height advantage when flipped to on one side than the other.
Overall the Pika Binding is a solid design which is surprisingly light and also appealing to looks at when combined with a pair of kick-ass skis like the RMU North Shoe 108’s. The Pika performs astonishingly well in bounds and out and of all the ultra-light tech binding we’re review on the site this would be the one I would trust most to hold up to super variable conditions and resort laps alike.
Price: $655CAN / $499US (brakes are an additional $138CAN / $99US)
Weight: 560g / 1lb 3.8oz (per pair with out brakes - brakes add 170g / 6oz per pair)
Release Value: 4-10
Riser Height: 0 and 50mm
Brake Sizes: 85, 95, 105mm (not included)
Heel Adjustment: 20mm
Warranty: 3 Years
|Ski/hike performance 2/2
Quality / Price 1.5/2
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