Reviews You Can Rely On

Plum Race 99 Review

The absolute lightest bindings we recommend for any sort of "real" backcountry skiing
plum race 99 at bindings review
Credit: Plum
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Price:  $619 List
Manufacturer:   Plum
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 8, 2022
71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 21
  • Weight - 35% 10.0
  • Downhill Performance - 25% 3.0
  • Touring Performance - 20% 6.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8.0
  • Durability - 5% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Plum R99 is tiny, beautiful, simple, clever, and light. That is high praise. For advanced backcountry skiers in special circumstances, the super simple design is adequate and the performance will be great. The weight savings on the uphill will definitely be noticed. In ski mountaineering settings you will lament the lack of the option to attach a crampon directly to the binding. Beginning backcountry skiers will suffer for the lack of usability features like adjustable release, ski brakes, and multiple heel riser levels. Those with multiple boots will want adjustment in their heel piece that this Plum does not offer. Durability and ultimate strength are limited.
REASONS TO BUY
Wicked light
All metal
Clever release value variation
REASONS TO AVOID
No crampon slot
No length adjustment
Editor's Note: We conducted initial field testing of the Plum R99 in the latter half of the 2021-22 Teton Region ski season. We will continue to test them into 2023.

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Plum Race 99
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Price $619 List$599.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Wicked light, all metal, clever release value variationLight, solid, adjustable, three heel lifts, good brakesLight, innovative downhill performanceLight, adjustable release, three heel elevations, included sturdy crampon slotSurprisingly durable for how light they are, killer price, lighter than most
Cons No crampon slot, no length adjustmentNo certification, limited release adjustmentUnsophisticated heel lifters, untested aftermarket brakeLimited other featuresNo brake option, heel risers are more of a pain to learn
Bottom Line The absolute lightest bindings we recommend for any sort of "real" backcountry skiingThis minimalist binding has exactly what most of you should want, and nothing you don’t needThese are excellent all around functioning bindings made for human powered skiingThe lightest bindings we know of with adjustable releaseA simple binding design that has been proven over decades now, available for a fraction of the price of others
Rating Categories Plum Race 99 Atomic Backland Tour Marker Alpinist Dynafit Superlite 150 Dynafit Speed Turn 2.0
Weight (35%)
10.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
Downhill Performance (25%)
3.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
4.0
Touring Performance (20%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Ease of Use (15%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Durability (5%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
10.0
Specs Plum Race 99 Atomic Backland Tour Marker Alpinist Dynafit Superlite 150 Dynafit Speed Turn 2.0
Weight (pounds for pair) 0.53 1.26 1.18 0.79 1.63
Weight of one binding and screws, grams. Lightest possible configuration (no brakes). 121 286 297 179 370
Weight of 2 bindings, grams. Multiple options are noted where we have tested multiple options. 242 572. 770 with brakes 594. 796 with brakes 358. 492 with adjustment plate 740
Release value range 6 or 8 "Men", "Women", "Expert" 4 to 10 4 to 13 4 to 10
Stack height (mm. average of toe and heel pin height) 30 37 36 36 38
Toe/heel delta (mm difference in height between heel pins and toe pins) -1 10 3 10 17
Brakes? No Optional Optional Optional No
Brake width options N/a 80, 90, 100, 110, 120mm 90, 105, 115mm 75, 90, 105mm N/a
ISO/DIN Certified? No No No No No
Ski Crampon compatible? No Yes. "Standard" style. Not all crampons will be cross-compatible Yes. "Standard" style. Not all crampons will be cross-compatible Yes. "Standard" style. Not all crampons will be cross-compatible Yes. "Standard" style. Not all crampons will be cross-compatible

Our Analysis and Test Results

This is a ridiculously light AT binding. In fact, it is the lightest binding we recommend for actual backcountry skiing. There are lighter options on the market, but those are suitable only for "skimo racing" in controlled environments. In the "real" backcountry you will very reliant on your equipment. The simple, strong construction of the Plum R99 hasn't let us down.

Performance Comparison



plum race 99 at bindings review - these the bindings you use for those high pressure ski...
These the bindings you use for those high pressure ski mountaineering missions or training days when everything is tracked out.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


On our scale and in our standardized practice (weighing everything needed to use the bindings. In this case, screws and the binding parts) one of the Plum R99 bindings weighed 121 grams. That's 242 grams for the pair, or 0.53 pounds. The "R99" model name implies a weight of 99 grams. Other places on the web indicate a weight between 99 and 101 grams. We have to assume that none of these other weights include screws. We did not weigh the bindings without screws, but we can confirm that 8 binding screws weigh 20 grams. In any event, if those few grams matter to you, make sure that you are comparing binding weights with all the parts factored in. In the end, it doesn't matter too much with the Plum R99; no matter how it is weighed it is the lightest product in our test.
plum race 99 at bindings review - the plum r99 could be mounted on a pair of ultralight powder skis...
The Plum R99 could be mounted on a pair of ultralight powder skis for maximum efficiency in the heroic, blower days.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Downhill Performance


You choose these bindings for optimum uphill efficiency and when you require minimal downhill performance. That said, the Plum R99 works real well downhill. Better, even, than some other slightly heavier options. It is releasable and offers a secure feeling retention during normal skiing. There is no forward pressure or meaningful elasticity. On the small skis and small boots you are likely to pair these bindings with, these drawbacks won't matter too much. The most clever downhill performance attribute is the release options at the time of mounting. Mount the heel piece one way and you get a release value of 6. Turn it the other way and it is 8. Either way, the heel tower turns to face forward for use. These numbers are approximations of the scale used in third party certifications. The Plum R99 release values are not certified.
plum race 99 at bindings review - we paired our tester plum r99 bindings with small ski mountaineering...
We paired our tester Plum R99 bindings with small ski mountaineering skis. It is a great combination.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Touring Performance


Minimal weight enhances your touring experience, overall. But beginner skinners, especially in stiffer boots, will miss more and higher heel lifters. Otherwise the toe piece offers full range of motion and the tiny construction collects minimal icing.
plum race 99 at bindings review - the toe piece of the flu r99 offers full range of motion. most...
The toe piece of the Flu R99 offers full range of motion. Most lightweight touring bindings have this.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Ease of Use


Simplicity is an ease of use attribute. You don't have much to adjust or decide with the Plum R99. Getting in and out is average. In most cases, switching from downhill to uphill requires nothing more than engaging the touring flap. That "touring flap" covers the heel pins and serves as a lower mid-range heel lifter. Switching from uphill to downhill, as with many tech bindings, can be done with the skis still on one's feet. In this case, lifting the touring flap from the pins requires a fair amount of effort. It snaps between the heel pins during tour mode. It has to be unsnapped from there to get to downhill mode. Other race style heel pieces are easier to flip from uphill to downhill mode.

Durability


We have two things to say about the Plum R99 bindings, in terms of durability. First, they are all metal. This inspires confidence and lends meaningful strength and resilience. Other bindings in this weight range include some plastic here and there. Those other bindings, though, don't necessarily suffer a ton for the well-placed and engineered plastic. Next, the heel pins are all one piece. This "u-spring" method of integrating the heel pins with the spring for upward release is simple and clean and dates back to the earliest of tech bindings. U-spring heel pins present the same surfaces all the time to boot fittings. Wear forces are concentrated on u-spring heel pieces. Individual, rotating heel pins, as found on some heavier bindings, spread out the wear forces. In this case, that u-spring/heel pin is made of titanium for weight savings. Others are made of steel. Titanium is cool, but is also less hard than steel. Downhill skiing and stomping into the bindings introduces a ton of steel-on-titanium (boot fitting on heel pins) action. The pins will wear out quite rapidly. In our first 10,000 vertical feet of skiing we noticed visible wear on the heel pins. Our experience with other heel pins like this suggests that in about 50000 vertical feet the wear will impact performance. As of this writing, replacement heel pin/springs are available for retail purchase.
plum race 99 at bindings review - two interesting attributes are visible in this photo. first, between...
Two interesting attributes are visible in this photo. First, between the left and center visible screws is the number "6", indicating, mounted with that part forward, a release value of 6. The other end is stamped with "8". Next, the pin on the left shows wear after just our first 10000 feet of testing.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Should you buy the Plum Race 99?


Plum recommends the R99 for "racing and training only". We don't contradict manufacturer recommendations lightly, but we also don't subscribe to all dogma. These are just barely enough to use in the real backcountry. We have used them in serious settings and wouldn't hesitate to do so. We recommend that only very high end practitioners do so. A good application for these bindings is for a skimo racer that is looking to assemble a ski package that is mainly for training but will be very occasionally pressed into duty for specific and carefully assessed backcountry missions. Or vice versa: this is a quiver item for specific missions and the occasional skimo race.

What Other AT Bindings Should You Consider?


If you like the idea of race-style bindings in the backcountry but want greater durability and the manufacturer's endorsement for real backcountry use, check out the Top Pick Dynafit Superlite 150. The Superlite is 2x as robust for 1.5x the weight. That's a good deal. Similarly, the ATK Trofeo is a good step up in durability for only a few dozen more grams.

Jediah Porter
 
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