Fall Update 2019
Union released the Expedition 2.0 in the fall of 2019. Union has redesigned the binding and made modifications to the interface, which addresses the main issues from the previous expedition. Conceptually, the interface remains the same; a pin that slides in the middle. Last year, even when set up correctly, the bindings have a few degrees of play. Union tightened up the allowance between the pucks and the receptacle on the base tray of the binding to address the swivel issue. The pin also rotates toward the heel in a receptacle rather than the toe and in the way. The binding itself received a few updates to boast durability and potentially shave weight and has a different highback with more cutouts and a flatter baseplate. Below, compare the updated Expedition 2.0 (first photo) to the model we tested (second photo).
While testing is in progress, we cant not speak to whether or not the updates improve the experience of Expedition 2.0.
Hands-On Review of the Expedition
The Expedition is the company's take on a splitboard binding. Their goal was to make a binding that is less rigid, more comfortable, and feels more like a standard snowboard binding. The binding is one of the few pin-based systems that still exists on the market. However, it is differentiated by the location of the pin, which is located in the middle of the binding.
A good pair. The freestyle character of the Expedition complements the medium flex of the Jones Explorer well.
When the bindings are in tour mode and its time to ascend, the Expedition tours in great comfort. The base plate has a plush layer of EVA foam that is nice for long days of touring, while the robust side arms provide solid sidehilling performance. The touring pivot offers the range of motion required for all uphill travel but doesn't have the amount of range relative to some in the category. The touring action is fluid but also seems to have the above-average friction relative to other options on the market.
The Expedition on challenging firm and gently sun-cupping conditions near the trailhead.
The field weight of the Expedition weighs 4 pounds 9.6 ounces. This includes the touring brackets, riding pucks, screws, and bindings. If we break it down to weight per binding, you'll find yourself looking at 1 pound 12.22 ounces per binding. This is pretty average for a splitboard binding as it falls in the middle of the ultralights and the heavyweights.
The Expedition is 803 grams per binding. Not too heavy but not too light.
Transitions on the Expedition facilitate the function. They transition but require more steps than the average system. We find the pin system to be outdated, especially when placed in the middle of the binding. This is easily complicated when challenging environmental are present. We are excited to see an update to this system because it would advance this binding in the market place. In its current system, the Expedition is best for shorter, simpler days, where fewer transitions are required.
The Expedition utilizes a pin system. Unlike most, its pin is in the center of the binding which has some trade-offs, especially in inclement weather.
Going down is the bread and butter of the Expedition, and it provides a very consistent, playful feel that doesn't compromise response. It carries that classic, smooth Union feel that has made the brand a beloved binding company. This model is more freestyle rather than freeride inspirations to encourage tweaks airs, and playful supported turns.
The drawback to the downhill performance was the slight disco foot on the bindings. We set them up multiple times and just couldn't avoid the disco foot. When descending, we had about three degrees in both directions of rotation; other non-OutdoorGearLab users have had the same issue. Union heard the cries and states to have addressed the issue in the 2.0, which is currently being tested.
Straps, Lean, and Risers
Union has been in the binding game for some time, and their straps and buckles are representations of that in comfort and user-friendliness. The lean adjuster isn't necessarily intuitive and can be challenging to pitch and use with gloves on. The lean adjuster provides a little less lean than other binding options, and can be felt at the peak extension of the stride of flatter terrain.
The heel riser is easy to deploy with a ski pole and provides sufficient height but only offers one height setting. The Expedition lacks a strike plate. The heel riser has a rubber bumper, and the base plate has small foam pads in the corner to absorb shock. This design could put more abuse and force on the board when touring, especially if ski kicking wind slabs to get information.
The Expedition is a lower priced splitboard binding that has excellent downhill performance and could be a good value for the correct person. Options exist on the market for a marginal increase in price, but will offer better well-rounded performance.
The Union Expedition offers exceptional downhill performance, and stays true to the feel of Union bindings. We find the transition system to be difficult to use, especially in challenging conditions, and its features could use some additional refinement to tune to the backcountry environment. We are looking forward to an improvement in this area. The Expedition is good for beginner to intermediate splitboarders looking for that freestyle feel and are willing to sacrifice some uphill efficiency and ease of transitions.