Spark R&D Arc Pro - Women's Review
Cons: Have to buy heel lock separately, soft pole baskets can struggle with riser bar
Manufacturer: Spark R&D
Compare to Similar Products
Spark R&D Arc Pro - Women's
|Price||$540 List||$385 List||$575 List||$830 List||$670 List|
|Pros||Lightweight, easy to transition||Uphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjusters||Lightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use buckles||Improved interface, downhill performance, comfortable straps, easy to deploy heel risers||Easy to deploy heel risers, comfortable straps, reduced icing issues|
|Cons||Have to buy heel lock separately, soft pole baskets can struggle with riser bar||Heel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer baskets||Might be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modes||Expensive, weight of entire system||Expensive, heavy field weight|
|Bottom Line||Our all-time favorite female-specific splitboard binding||This top-performing model is our first choice and has been for many years||This lightweight binding offers excellent performance at a reasonable price||Exceptional downhill performance with refined in betweens||Karakoram's entry-level binding is far from entry-level|
|Rating Categories||Spark R&D Arc Pro - Women's||Spark R&D Arc||Spark R&D Surge Pro||Karakoram Prime-X||Karakoram Prime Nomad|
|Uphill Performance (20%)|
|Downhill Performance (30%)|
|Straps Lean Risers (10%)|
|Specs||Spark R&D Arc Pro...||Spark R&D Arc||Spark R&D Surge Pro||Karakoram Prime-X||Karakoram Prime...|
|Measured Weight (pair)||2.4 lbs||2.8 lbs||2.7 lbs||3.18 lbs||3.18 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||Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime Crampons||Prime Crampons, Ride Mode 2.0|
Our Analysis and Test Results
One of the only flaws that we found with this binding is the lack of a heel lock when in touring mode. You can buy the T1 Step Locker to add this feature, but we do wish that Spark had come up with a clever way to integrate into the binding rather than forcing you to buy an additional accessory. It's the same when it comes to additional footbed padding. You can buy it separately, but it would have been nice to just have it in the first place.
Like most backcountry splitboarding tours, we started our review off by looking at the performance of the R&D Arc Pro when it came to skinning uphill. This metric accounts for 20% of the final score for each pair of bindings and is based on climbing efficiency, comfort, and control when sidehilling, as well as how freely they pivot. The Arc Pro delivered an exceptional performance.
The R&D Arc Pro is both lightweight and articulates freely, making for an easy and efficient day of climbing. The highback conforms well to most of the popular boots currently on the market and tilt back for maximum comfort during ride mode. This lets you maximize your stride and save some energy for the descent, even after extended tours.
The R&D Arc Pro is fairly comfortable even though it doesn't have any padding underfoot. You do have the option to purchase pre-cut EVA foam cushions from Spark if you want additional warmth and padding.
These bindings provide plenty of support when sidehilling on steeper terrain, giving you plenty of control over the angles of your edges when it comes to cutting into the snow.
Closely tied to uphill climbing performance, we compared and awarded the weight of each set of bindings for our next metric, which accounts for 10% of the final score for each product. Even a little more weight on your feet can be significantly more fatiguing than extra weight in your pack. The Women's R&D Arc Pro again impressed us.
The Arc Pro are some of the lightest splitboard bindings we have tested to date, tipping the scales at around 2.4 pounds for the pair in the XS/S size.
This makes these bindings a fantastic option if you are planning on taking your splitboard on extended tours with lots of traversing or climbing — or if you want to make your climbs as painless as possible.
Next, we rated and scored how easy it is to transition from touring to downhill mode with the Women's R&D Arc Pro bindings, which makes up 30% of the total score for each product. If you hate to be the one struggling with your bindings and holding up the group, these are for you. They are fast and generally painless to transition.
All you need to do to get the Spark's out of touring mode is lift the ramp — Spark calls this the "Snap Ramp" — under where your toe would go and slide the entire binding sideways to release the pins from the touring bracket.
There aren't any finicky latches or small clamps to engage, so this is easily accomplished with even fairly thick gloves on. Once you have removed both bindings and assembled the splitboard, you just have to slide each binding over the pucks and push the Snap Ramp down into position to secure them in place.
They aren't prone to icing up, and any accumulated snow and ice is usually cleared when you slide the bindings over the pucks. These bindings have overall given us some of our fastest touring to downhill transitions that we can remember — even giving some of our skiing companions a run for their money on a few of our backcountry trips!
Finally, we get to the fun part of the day. Responsible for 30% of the final score for each binding, our Downhill Performance metric is based on how much control each pair of bindings offered, their responsiveness, and stiffness, as well as their overall feel on the descent. The Arc Pro continued to dominate here.
While splitboard bindings — particularly lightweight — can traditionally have some stiffness issues and feel too soft when riding, we were pleasantly surprised with the Arc Pro. This binding does a fantastic job of offering plenty of support and control while still giving a surfy and playful feel on the way down. These bindings are an absolute blast in powder while giving you enough control to cut through crud and other snow that has lost its prime. However, the bindings can feel a little soft if you are riding at high speeds in very firm snow — typically more of an issue in resort riding than out in the backcountry.
Straps, Lean, and Risers
The last 10% of the score for each pair of bindings is based on the straps, lean adjustment, and rise bars. The Arc Pro continued to excel, earning a high score for the functional and intuitive design of these critical components.
The straps offer plenty of adjustability to accept the vast majority of common boot sizes. The Pillow Line straps are very comfortable even when cinched very tight with the ratchets, which operate very smoothly and are fairly easy to use with gloves on. These ratchets firmly grip the straps, and we didn't see any signs of wear and tear after our testing.Lean
When it comes to the angle of the highback, the Arc Pro offers a ton of adjustability with their "Rip 'N' Flip Highback". It's very easy to switch back-and-forth between touring and ride mode, by pivoting a small stop. Moving it out of the way lets the highback lean back up to 13 degrees for maximum comfort in touring mode. Pivoting the stop back locks the highback into ride mode, with the tool-free Forward Lean Adjuster (FLAD) allowing you to set the ride angle from 0 degrees to 22 degrees to match your personal preference.Risers
The riser bar for the Women's R&D Arc Pro is integrated into the base of the binding and offers a low (12°) and a high (18°) mode for climbing steep terrain. It's fairly easy to activate the bar with a pole basket, though it can take a little extra time if you have softer pole baskets. You can also always reach down and grab the side arm lever if you are having a hard time with your poles.
The Arc Pro bindings are great for practically any splitboarding excursion. These are just about are favorite ladies-specific bindings you can get and absolutely kill it in all types of terrain and snow conditions.
Unfortunately, these bindings are a bit on the pricey side. Being the best comes with some cost, but we think these are totally worth the price.
If you are sick and tired of struggling with your splitboard bindings and want the best of the best, then we can't recommend the Women's R&D Arc Pro highly enough. They are great for both touring and riding, all while allowing you to transition between modes without a lot of fuss. These lightweight bindings have all the features we wanted — and a few we didn't even know we needed — and overall impressed us.
— Marissa Fox