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Karakoram Prime Nomad Review

A capable and versatile offering that is a little more friendly on the wallet
Karakoram Prime Nomad
Photo: Backcountry
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Price:  $670 List
Pros:  Easy to deploy heel risers, comfortable straps, reduced icing issues
Cons:  Expensive, heavy field weight
Manufacturer:   Karakoram
By Isaac Laredo ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 19, 2021
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 11
  • Uphill Performance - 20% 7
  • Weight - 10% 5
  • Transitions - 30% 7
  • Downhill Performance - 30% 8
  • Straps, Lean, Risers - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Karakoram Prime Nomad is designed for comfort and efficiency, making it an excellent option for all-mountain adventures. The binding provides enjoyable performance on the up and down. The AirPod straps eliminate pressure points, and the heel risers are easy to operate. These details create an all-around pleasant experience. Karakoram has refined their transition system to mitigate icing issues of the past. While they are still present in select circumstances, the issue is well managed and much less frequent. The binding itself is relatively lightweight; the field weight of the entire system is on the heavier end of the spectrum based on the active components. The Nomad is a good choice for splitboarders who enjoy the active system and are looking for a responsive all-mountain style binding.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Karakoram Prime Nomad
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  
Price $670 List$540 List$385 List$575 List$830 List
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Pros Easy to deploy heel risers, comfortable straps, reduced icing issuesLightweight, easy to transitionUphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjustersLightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use bucklesImproved interface, downhill performance, comfortable straps, easy to deploy heel risers
Cons Expensive, heavy field weightHave to buy heel lock separately, soft pole baskets can struggle with riser barHeel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer basketsMight be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modesExpensive, weight of entire system
Bottom Line Karakoram's entry-level binding is far from entry-levelOur all-time favorite female-specific splitboard bindingThis top-performing model is our first choice and has been for many yearsThis lightweight binding offers excellent performance at a reasonable priceExceptional downhill performance with refined in betweens
Rating Categories Karakoram Prime Nomad Spark R&D Arc Pro - Women's Spark R&D Arc Spark R&D Surge Pro Karakoram Prime-X
Uphill Performance (20%)
7
8
8
7
8
Weight (10%)
5
9
9
9
5
Transitions (30%)
7
8
8
8
7
Downhill Performance (30%)
8
8
8
8
8
Straps Lean Risers (10%)
9
8
8
8
9
Specs Karakoram Prime... Spark R&D Arc Pro... Spark R&D Arc Spark R&D Surge Pro Karakoram Prime-X
Measured Weight (pair) 3.18 lbs 2.4 lbs 2.8 lbs 2.7 lbs 3.18 lbs
Compatible Systems Prime Crampons, Ride Mode 2.0 Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime Crampons

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Prime Nomad is the company's entry-level binding, and it's fully...
The Prime Nomad is the company's entry-level binding, and it's fully featured.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Uphill performance


The Karakoram Prime Nomad is a comfortable and efficient uphill binding system. Its stride quality and side-hilling performance make it a good pick for demanding mountain adventures. It's comfortable for all-day mountain objectives despite the standard metal baseplate found on most splitboard bindings. It was comfortable enough that we elected to take this binding on our Japan trip. Here we used it as a splitboard binding and resort binding through the use of their Quiver Connectors system.

The binding has a low friction touring system derived from its active and bearing based touring point; this allows for a high-quality stride step after step, especially compared to a pin-based binding system. The Nomad has a lower sidearm, which resembles a resort snowboard binding. This binding is still very capable of sidehilling. If things get dicey, the Karakorum has a system to increase stability called Flex Lock.

Flex Lock works to reduce the overall flex of your boot to stiffen your boot and binding interface, which then increases sidehilling performance. While this system is effective, it requires an additional purchase, and the same result is achievable through the strategic use of a ski strap. The heel of binding can lock down when it's in tour mode for fixed heel skiing. Our testers appreciated this feature for short and or firm/challenging split ski descents. It takes a small amount of time to utilize this feature in the field, and we found ourselves using it quite often.

Based on stride quality, the Prime Nomad was efficient when touring...
Based on stride quality, the Prime Nomad was efficient when touring on flatter terrain.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Weight


Karakoram bindings are getting lighter every year. The Nomad shaves off 40 grams and features a more responsive high back than its predecessor. It falls on the heavier end of the weight spectrum for the splitboard binding category. It weighs 723 grams per binding. The Ride 2.0 system weighs 839 grams. It's important to look at the entire field weight of the system as that's what we will be carrying up the hill. The field weight of Prime Nomad is five pounds, six ounces. The elevated field weight of the system is explained by the active system, which requires more moving parts and adds to the weight of the system.

The binding its self is in on the lighter on of the category...
The binding its self is in on the lighter on of the category average. The weight of the entire system is one of the heavier options on the market.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Downhill Performance


The Nomad provides a responsive all-mountain styled ride that doesn't neglect some side to side motion for a tweakable and playful feel. It felt very similar to a pair of resort snowboard bindings, and we appreciated the lower sidearm and softer high back, which allowed for weight movement along the board and flex when trying to tweak. This binding performed on the downhill well enough to skip bringing a downhill-specific binding to Japan. Instead, we rode the Nomad every day in on our split and solid boards.

The Prime Nomad finds an enjoyable balance between response and...
The Prime Nomad finds an enjoyable balance between response and tweakability.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Transitions


Karakoram bindings use an active system for transitions; different components move to secure the binding in place. On the downhill, two pins extend from the back of the binding to secure into the mounting plates. For the uphill, two small hooks come up and over the barrel-shaped bearing at the toe ramp of the binding.

Karakoram has spent time refining the Ride Mode 2.0 to mitigate the issues that the first ride mode system was having. The main issue on the previous ride mode was the metal plates would ice up; this could make the transition longer and more frustrating. The main way we were impacted by ice on the Ride Mode 2.0 was through the build-up of ice on the base plate of the binding or the mounting plates. This can change the binding angle, which raises the height of the pins just enough to inhibit them from seating in the mounting plates.

In our testing, the icing issue has improved by a large degree but is not as foolproof as a passive system. We still carry a small tool to get ice off for the few occasions when icing did occur. The active system has some inherent advantages that our testers appreciated as it relates to transitions from tour to ride mode. The active system allows for the bindings to be installed while the board is upright, which is nice in small areas or deep snow. It reduces the amount of space required and increases board security.

The release tab on the touring interface of the Karakoram Prime...
The release tab on the touring interface of the Karakoram Prime system can take some force to release, especially in cold temperatures.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Straps, Lean, Risers


At the top tier of products or professions, the details begin to differentiate the good from the great. The straps, lean adjusters, and risers are a key point in differentiation for the Nomad.

Straps

The Nomad straps are flexible and soft, which allows them to be form-fitting and pressure point free around your instep. They are made of a supple rubber, allowing for all-day comfort. Together this creates one of the most comfortable straps in the category. The buckles are a lighter-weight version of a standard snowboard buckle.

The Airpod design of the straps is very comfortable and still...
The Airpod design of the straps is very comfortable and still responsive.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Lean Adjuster

The lean Adjuster on the Nomad is intuitive and consistent. The hourglass-shaped, turn-based adjuster is easy to use without instruction. It has three main modes; more forward lean, less lean, and negative lean. The two ride modes have micro-adjustments to provide more lean within their specific range.

The Nomad provides -8 degrees of lean in touring mode. This is generally the industry standard when it comes to the quantity of negative lean and is about how much most snowboard boots allow to be utilized.

Simply rotate the lean adjuster of the Prime Nomad to access three...
Simply rotate the lean adjuster of the Prime Nomad to access three different lean options.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Risers

Amongst our favorite features in the Karakoram system is the heel risers. They are easy to engage and adjust. They can be simply engaged with the basket of your pole and provide more than enough height for touring.

The Prime Nomad has two riser heights. Pictured here is the highest...
The Prime Nomad has two riser heights. Pictured here is the highest setting.
Photo: Isaac Laredo

Women's Model


The Prime Nomad is also available in a women's model. The women's model is the exact same product in terms of features. Karakoram has reduced the footprint of the bindings and sized each piece to provide an optimal fit for a women's foot.

Value


Karakoram is notoriously a more expensive option in the splitboard category. For reference, the Nomad is the base model in the lineup and comes at a price higher than most companies' premier offerings. The added cost comes from the complexity and components demanded by the active system. Unless you advocate that the active system provides an advantage in downhill performance, then the value is there. However, other bindings exist on the market that provide comparable to improved performance at a lower cost.

Conclusion


The Karakoram Nomad is a comfortable binding with plenty of response yet also exhibits a playful feel. This binding is a good option for splitboarders looking for an active binding system that requires strong performance on the up and a responsive, playful feel on the descent.

Isaac Laredo