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Spark R&D Arc Pro Review

If we had to pick one binding over any other, this would be the one
spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review
The Arc Pro splitboard bindings are some of our all-time favorite bindings to date.
Credit: David Wise
Price:  $589 List
Manufacturer:   Spark R&D
By Isaac Laredo ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 23, 2023
82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 7
  • Downhill Performance - 30% 8.0
  • Transitions - 30% 8.0
  • Uphill Performance - 20% 8.0
  • Weight - 10% 9.0
  • Straps, Lean, Risers - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

The Spark R&D Arc Pro is our favorite binding yet. It is the winner of our Editors' Choice Award because of its surfy and responsive ride that also provides one of the best touring experiences. The Arc Pro is a lightweight binding that offers great stride quality and provides a streamlined and user-friendly transition experience. Transitions are easy, and the T1 system is our favorite system found in splitboard bindings. Ease of use is at the forefront of this bindings design which is seen in the Rip 'N' Flip Highback and other touring-specific features. We observed a few manageable cons in this product, like having to tighten the hardware more often and some difficulty when deploying the heel riser. Despite these drawbacks, the Arc Pro is one of the best, and the one that we recommend to any rider looking for a surfy and fun binding that is easy to handle and suited for most terrain types.
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Easy to use
Easy transitions
Resistant to icing
REASONS TO AVOID
Hardware requires tightening
Hard to accurately adjust forward lean
Heel riser can be challenging to deploy
Editor's Note: This binding has been updated since our test period with Spark R&D's new ST manufacturing technology. Read on for details.

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spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review
This Product
Spark R&D Arc Pro
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award   
Price $588.95 at Backcountry
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$628.95 at Backcountry
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$428.95 at Amazon
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$699.95 at REI
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$325 List
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Pros Lightweight, easy to use, easy transitions, resistant to icingLightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use bucklesUphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjustersEasy to deploy heel risers, comfortable straps, reduced icing issuesAffordable, comfortable straps, forward lean adjustment
Cons Hardware requires tightening, hard to accurately adjust forward lean, heel riser can be challenging to deployMight be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modesHeel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer basketsExpensive, heavy field weightHeavy, wet snow clumps in pin box, pin based binding
Bottom Line If we had to pick one binding over any other, this would be the oneMeticulous engineering to make the good even betterTop-notch performance that keeps your wallet in mindA capable and versatile offering that is a little more friendly on the walletA comfortable and user-friendly binding that is nice on the wallet
Rating Categories Spark R&D Arc Pro Spark R&D Surge Pro Spark R&D Arc Karakoram Prime Nomad Voile Light Rail
Downhill Performance (30%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Transitions (30%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Uphill Performance (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Weight (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Straps, Lean, Risers (10%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Specs Spark R&D Arc Pro Spark R&D Surge Pro Spark R&D Arc Karakoram Prime Nomad Voile Light Rail
Measured Weight (pair) 2.5 lbs 2.7 lbs 2.8 lbs 3.18 lbs 3.34 lbs
Compatible Systems 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 Prime Crampons, Ride Mode 2.0 Voile Pucks, Voile Splitboard Crampons

Our Analysis and Test Results

Product Updated — January 2023
Since our testing, Spark released the Arc ST Pro binding, which includes the new ST (Smooth Touring) technology. This is a change in manufacturing that utilizes injection molding, where aluminum or steel parts are "overmolded" with a proprietary thermoplastic blend with the goal of making the components even more cold tolerable and durable than before. Above, compare the two bindings; the Arc Pro we tested is shown on the left, and the Arc ST Pro is on the right. We're linking to the ST version in our review.

Performance Comparison


The Spark R&D Arc Pro is a standout splitboard binding because of its transitional interface, weight, and downhill performance. The Arc Pro is based on the same design as the Spark Arc but uses premium materials to reduce the weight. Spark even made custom aluminum hardware in-house to reduce the weight even further.

We previously also tested the women's version of this binding, but it's now a unisex product that comes in a variety of sizes to accommodate large or small feet.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - the arc pro was our first pick for tours with lots of elevation gain.
The Arc Pro was our first pick for tours with lots of elevation gain.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

Downhill Performance


Ah, the reason we're out there: the downhill. The allure of fresh powder turns or smooth corn snow lies central to the motives of many backcountry riders. To help manifest that reality, a great set of snowboard bindings will offer a responsive and stable ride with a feel that fits the rider's desires. The Arc Pro thrived when going downhill and offered a great balance of surf and responsiveness.


spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - we found the arc pro to be supportive on the downhill and...
We found the Arc Pro to be supportive on the downhill and appropriate for most North American terrain.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

This model offered plenty of response and quick turn initiation that was easy to control. It's a slight step up in stiffness from the Spark's Arc (due to a carbon-reinforced highback) but still maintains that surfer character to help slash the tail out or tweak a grab. The stiffer construction helps support your boot so you can drive forward using your knee like a joystick to deal with variable conditions. Light to average-weight riders will likely enjoy this model because it provides a nice balance of flex and response.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - the r&d arc pro gave us efficient and fast transitions.
The R&D Arc Pro gave us efficient and fast transitions.
Credit: David Wise

Transitions


Binding companies often differ quite distinctly in their transition systems and are a notable reason why a rider might prefer one brand over another. Transitions can sometimes be a frustrating process when the elements are not on your side. That means it's important that our gear works to make this potentially challenging time as easy as possible. The Spark T1 Tesla System is a fast, easy-to-use, and intuitive transition system that resists icing and other potholes that might complicate transitions.


Spark uses a passive system, meaning that there are minimal moving parts, and the board is held together by trapping the puck inside of the baseplate. The T1 transition is quite simple; lift the Snap Ramp, place the binding in the desired mode, and close the Snap Ramp. The passive system doesn't require any active parts or small components to handle; this makes it easier to use in all conditions.

The Snap Ramp in the closed position.
The Snap Ramp in the closed position.
Snap Ramp in the open position ready to be removed and placed in...
Snap Ramp in the open position ready to be removed and placed in ride mode.
The Snap Ramp in the closed position (left) and open position ready to be removed and placed in ride mode (right).

We rarely had any issues with the Arc Pro icing over. The motion of sliding your binding onto the board will usually remove all the snow out of the way. The lack of moving parts reduces the opportunity for critical icing to occur as well. This model and the T1 system offer one of the best transition experiences in the industry. Whether it's your first time or you are transitioning on the summit of Denali, these will perform to help you be faster than before.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - the medium flex highback is fun on wavy open terrain to produce...
The medium flex highback is fun on wavy open terrain to produce rounded turns that engage the torsional flex of the board.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

Uphill Performance


Backcountry skiers and riders spend a substantial amount of their time hiking uphill. Our favorite gear is specifically tuned to provide the best uphill experience possible. Uphill performance becomes increasingly important as objectives get more technical and remote. We evaluated performance in this metric based on comfort, sidehilling ability, and stride quality. The Arc Pro is one of our favorite bindings for great performance on the uphill.


The Spark R&D Arc Pro has a very low friction pivot point that moves easily and with very little drag. This makes each stride easier due to the reduced friction in the touring bracket. A well-designed negative lean system is essential to maintain good stride quality and user experience. This model has -13 degrees of lean to move the highback further away from the boot to increase the stride distance. -13 degrees is plenty and more than you can capitalize on with a standard soft boot. The Rip 'N' Flip Highback system is fast and straightforward. The only drawback we have found with this system is that it's challenging to get equal amounts of forward lean on each highback. If you rotate the forward lean adjusters, you need to be very intentional about counting the number of rotations to ensure they are even with each other.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - the highbacks have more than enough negative lean -- just remember...
The highbacks have more than enough negative lean -- just remember to release the forward lean adjuster!
Credit: David Wise

We found the Arc Pro to be a comfortable model for full days of touring. The straps were free of pressure points, and our feet never experienced any premature fatigue. It doesn't have any EVA padding on the baseplate, which can help reduce foot fatigue and add some dampening properties. Most splitboard bindings, especially the most technical, will forgo this feature to reduce weight and rely on the padding and midsole structure of the boot for some added cushion and dampening properties. However, EVA padding is likely to increase the comfort of any binding, and Spark offers an aftermarket EVA pad for all of their bindings.

These bindings sidehill very well without the use of a very long or tall sidebar. We were able to obtain purchase in icy conditions due to its responsive and stiff nature.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - weight really matters, especially on overnight objectives...
Weight really matters, especially on overnight objectives, traverses, or big days.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

Weight


Weight is directly correlated to uphill performance. Ounces and grams can matter on distant and challenging objectives. Weight becomes even more critical when it is placed on your feet rather than in a backpack. This is because you have to move the extra weight further and repeatedly use the same isolated muscle group. To accurately assess weight, we looked at both the weight per pair and also the total weight of the ride-ready setup.


The Arc Pro is one of the lightest bindings in both the per pair and ride-ready categories. A size medium weighs in at 1.25 lb per the binding and 3.4 lb for the ride-ready setup. Its light weight made it our first pick for snowboard mountaineering and tours with longer and flatter approaches.


Spark went to great lengths to shave weight on the Arc Pro. Shown...
Spark went to great lengths to shave weight on the Arc Pro. Shown here are the hollowed-out touring pins.
Custom hardware is made in-house for the Pro series.
Custom hardware is made in-house for the Pro series.
To shave weight, Spark R&D created their own hardware for these bindings, like hollowed-out pins.

Straps, Lean, and Risers


Straps, lean, and risers are a common place to improve the user-friendliness, efficiency, and weight of a splitboard binding. We evaluated this by using, learning, and investigating the material and design intentions of these experience-enhancing features.


Straps

The Straps on the Arc Pro are incredibly light and durable. The Pro series uses Pebax plastics in their straps, ladders, and adjustment to reduce weight by nearly 20%. The straps are comfortable for a full day of touring.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - pebax plastics are used in the straps of the pro series, which...
Pebax plastics are used in the straps of the Pro Series, which significantly reduce weight.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

The ratchets are made by Burton and have proved to be very durable. One set of our Sparks bindings has over 100 days on it, and the buckles still operate very well.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - the aluminum buckles have shown no signs of critical wear on any of...
The aluminum buckles have shown no signs of critical wear on any of our Spark bindings.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

Lean

The Rip 'N' Flip Highback is incredibly easy to use to switch between walk and ride modes. It is a simple toggle to switch between the modes, requiring one visually obvious move, so you are less likely to forget to switch between modes. Moving the toggle off of the heel cup will provide you with -13 degrees of lean to increase stride length. Placing the toggle on the heel cup provides vast forward lean options from 0 to 22 degrees. To select your forward lean angle, you need to rotate the base of the toggle. It can be difficult to get the same amount of lean on each binding because of its freeform approach and the vast number of nondescriptive settings.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - the rip 'n' flip highback pictured here is a quick and easy way of...
The Rip 'N' Flip highback pictured here is a quick and easy way of transitioning the highback from walk to ride.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

Risers

The riser bars of these bindings offer two heights, a low 12 degree option, and a high 18 degrees setting for climbing steep terrain. The riser is attached to the underside of the base plate to reduce weight even further. These risers have a Whammy Bar on the side, so riders can easily engage the riser with their pole basket. However, it can be challenging to do with softer pole baskets, and we have damaged some in the process. Overall, we like these risers and find them generally easy to engage once you figure out the technique of "out and then down".

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - the riser is in its lowest setting, which is engaged using the...
The riser is in its lowest setting, which is engaged using the Whammy Bar on the right of the frame.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

Should You Buy the Spark R&D Arc Pro?


The Spark R&D Arc Pro is one of the best splitboard bindings on the market. Its easy transition system stands out whether your goals are casual laps or saving essential time when the conditions are sub-optimal. They find a great balance of surfy and responsive that provides control in lots of conditions. If you're looking for a lightweight, easy-to-use, and fun binding for your next objective, then look no further.

Splitboard bindings are simply expensive. The Arc Pro is a great value considering the premium materials used to reduce the weight of their classic binding. If you are a weight-conscious backcountry user whose objectives will benefit from the reduced weight then this is a great deal.

What Other Splitboard Bindings Should You Consider?


There's no getting around it: splitboard bindings are simply expensive.

If you're hoping to save some cash and weight is less of a priority, check out the Spark R&D Arc. For riding big technical faces with speed, we would choose the Spark R&D Surge Pro.

spark r&d arc pro splitboard bindings review - you can't go wrong with the arc pro.
You can't go wrong with the Arc Pro.
Credit: Isaac Laredo

Isaac Laredo
 
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