rear entry binding

Rear-Entry Snowboard Bindings Pros and Cons

One of the big decisions riders need to make when choosing their gear is between rear-entry and strap-in snowboard bindings.  On the surface the promise of fast and easy entry and exit with rear-entry snowboard bindings seems irresistible.  Is that promise too good to be true?  To help you decide for yourself I'll share my experiences with both styles and summarize rear-entry snowboard bindings pros and cons.  Then I'll tell you why I switched back to strap-in snowboard bindings.

When I started buying my own snowboarding gear I first bought Burton Cartel EST strap-in bindings which I rode for a few years.  Then I rode two different models of Flow bindings over 5 years.  I went with the Flow Alpha initially then upgraded to Flow NX2-AT.  I’m now back to traditional strap-in bindings (Union Atlas) so I’ve definitely got some experience with both designs.

To get the discussion started I'll summarize the rear-entry snowboard bindings pros and cons in the tables below.

Rear-Entry Snowboard Bindings Pros and Cons

Strap-In

Pros

  • Can be put on in almost any position
  • Can be just as fast as Rear Entry
  • Easy to get consistent tightness
  • Plus Circle
    Fewer components
  • Plus Circle
    Lower folded transport height

Cons

  • Ladders must be fed into ratchets
  • Straps can flop around while skating unless they are fastened

Rear-Entry

Pros

  • No ongoing adjustments (if worn loosely)
  • Slightly faster to put on (if worn loosely)

Cons

  • Must stand to put on (or while kneeling)
  • Ongoing adjustment required to achieve consistent tightness
  • More parts that could fail
  • Minus Circle
    Initial set-up can be more difficult
  • Minus Circle
    Higher folded transport height

Now that you've seen an overview of rear-entry snowboard bindings pros and cons let's discuss some of my personal experiences with both styles of bindings so you can get a better idea of what to expect.

Ok with standing up to put your bindings on?

One of the big things to consider is if you like to sit down on your butt to put your bindings on then you will likely find rear entry bindings to be a pain in the…ummmm butt.  Ok that’s a weird sentence but basically the problem is if you’re sitting down then the highback will not have enough room for you to get your boot in easily.

If you have the balance to stand up while you put your rear foot into the bindings then you should be fine.  If you are interested in rear-entry bindings you should be prepared to learn to put the bindings on while standing.  Alternatively, they do go on fairly easy when kneeling.  You can fully lower the highback and slip your foot in and raise the highback.  But putting them on while sitting is a big challenge.

Versatility in how the bindings are put on is another promise some rear-entry binding manufacturers such as Flow brand bindings will make.  With Flow bindings you can fully loosen the ratchets and un-strap them without lowering the highback like with traditional strap-in bindings.

I have found this is actually a must have in certain situations.  For example, when strapping in on an icy peak.  In these high stakes situations, it is more reassuring to sit on your butt and get your bindings on through the top of the bindings and strap-in in a traditional manner.   So while Flow bindings do offer this versatility, it is kind of a clunky process and for me defeats the whole purpose of rear-entry bindings.

No adjustments (set it and forget it)?

Part of the rear entry promise is no adjustment is necessary (after initial set-up).  If you are not picky about the consistency of the tightness of your bindings or like to wear them a little looser then this promise may come true for you.  On the other hand, if you’re like me then you need your bindings perfectly adjusted to the same tightness every time.

With rear entry bindings, my typical process is at the end of a run I lower the highback and step out of the rear of the binding then raise the highback.  Next, I slightly loosen the ankle and toe ratchets.  This is in preparation for getting back into the bindings after getting off the lift.

I do this because it makes it a lot easier to get my foot in far enough before raising the highback. To prepare for rear entry I first find a nice place to balance.  Then while standing I lower the highback and slip my foot in and raise the highback.  Next I need to tighten the ankle and toe ratchets similar to what I would do with traditional strap in bindings.  The main difference is that I don't need to feed the ladders into the ratchets like with strap-in bindings.

The point I’m trying to get across is if you are particular about how tight your bindings are then the dream of just stepping in and raising the highback and your off is just a dream.  There are a few extra steps as I’ve described.

If I don’t follow this process, then I often find I can’t get my foot in far enough into the binding. This means my foot is toward the rear of the binding which means when I try to raise the highback it needs to push my foot forward in order to close.  But if my foot doesn’t slip in because the straps are not loose enough or I have some extra snow on the bottom of my boot or on the footbed of the binding then the strap is too tight.  So I need to loosen the buckles and then retighten.

Are rear-entry really faster?

Considering all the extra adjustments I just described before and after each run with rear-entry snowboard bindings are they really faster?

My conclusion is they can be slightly faster.  If you are not picky about the consistency of the tightness of your bindings and you’re ok with wearing them a little looser.

My feeling is all that extra adjustment before and after a run cancels out a lot of the perceived time savings.  My experience with well-designed ratchets on traditional strap-in bindings is they come off pretty quick.  And the ladders can be fed into the ratchets easily so you just need to do a few pulls of the ratchets and you are off and running.

Why is fit consistency and tightness important?

Ricky Bobby said, “I wanna go fast!” which he took from his father whose sage advice was, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

So...I like to go fast.  I like to ride in a lot of different styles.  But I also like to go fast and make high speed carving turns.  I need the confidence which comes from consistent fit and tightness which gives the responsiveness to alternate between fast toe and heelside turns.  I was able to achieve this with rear-entry bindings but it was not without careful adjustment before each run.

Folded Transport Height

Since Flow’s strap design has the toe and ankle straps connected into a mono-strap (or a Powerstrap as Flow calls it), when you open up the straps and fold the highback down into the footbed and re-strap you still end up with a pretty high profile.

Figure 1: Flow Bindings are considerably higher than traditional bindings when folded down for transport

The top of the strap is quite a bit higher from the top of the board surface compared to traditional strap-in bindings.  Due to the mono-strap design the top straps cannot be moved forward to reduce the height.  This means that if you pack your gear in a board bag you will probably need to take your bindings off for sure or at least totally remove the strap.  Which means a little extra work when you get where you’re going and when you leave.

If you remove the bindings this also puts more wear and tear on the screws that attach the bindings to your board.

The other consideration is if you throw your board into a roof carrier on your car with several other boards it reduces the available space in there.  And if you put them in a roof rack you will likely need them facing up if you want to avoid them touching the roof of your car.   This can be a problem when transporting several boards at the same time.

Why I Switched Back to Strap-In Snowboard Bindings

Now that I've come full circle, the rear-entry snowboard bindings pros and cons seem much more clear to me.  I'm glad I tried both so I can share my experiences with you.

But why did i switch back?

Overall, I switched back to traditional strap-in bindings because I am very particular about the tightness of my bindings.  With rear-entry bindings I needed to compensate for the shortcomings of the design by using extra procedures and fiddling to adjust them each run which killed most if any time savings.  I also like the low profile of the binding when the highbacks are folded down for transport.

I think the bottom line is you need to consider how picky you are about consistent fit and how tight you like to wear your bindings. 

Hopefully this gives you something to think about and helps you decide when considering which is the best binding entry design for you.

Whatever your preference, if you're ready to start shopping then you should check out our top picks for snowboard bindings including choices equipped with rear-entry and traditional strap-in designs.

11 thoughts on “Rear-Entry Snowboard Bindings Pros and Cons”

  1. Avatar

    One of your arguments against rear-entry is that you have to loosen the straps in order to get your boot in all the way. Newer Flows automatically loosen the straps a little without having to un-ratchet them when the high-back is lowered, so this is a non-issue.

    1. Scott Stiles

      Ken, you’re right that the newer generation of Flows do lift up the straps some when the highback goes down. This is a big improvement over the old design and works great for a lot of riders. But I’m super picky about the consistency of the fit and tightness of my bindings. I’ve found that even with the newer Flow design it was not consistent enough for me. So to achieve the fit I wanted consistently I got into the habit of loosening the straps every time. If you’re not as picky as I am about it then they may work great for you.

  2. Avatar

    Hmmm transport height? Never heard of anybody caring about that. Guys give me crap for my flows all the time, but I never have to “adjust every run” like you say. And yes, it’s kindof annoying trying to strap in on the side of a mountain, but they really lock my heel in better and their straps, being all one big piece, have much more surface area, resulting iness pressure on the small bones in my feet vs. traditional straps when really wrenching ’em down.
    I’ve been riding for 12 years now, n had em the last 4 years on my NS Proto and now my Capita DOA.

    1. Scott Stiles

      Thanks for the comments Dustin. It’s great to have your experiences included here. Sounds like they’re working great for you and the unique strap is a special benefit. I agree their design does tend to distribute the pressure more evenly across the foot.

  3. Avatar

    Flow is not the only brand with rear entry out there. I have the GNU B-free bindings and upon releasing the highback the angle strap also loosens significantly. I have to click this shut after entry but that is only a second. The constant strap adjusting with traditional bindings takes a lot more time (I always have to adjust those every time while riding because i never seem to get it right initially). The B Free I set up once and from that point on it’s “kick, click, click” and go. Nice and tight 🙂
    They also aren’t higher when transporting. Flow for some reason feels the need to connect toe and ankle strap, which seems to me like the main cause of your problems with them.

    1. Scott Stiles

      Hey Ester I checked back in with Emily (also a SnowGearTracker.com contributor) since she’s been riding the GNU B-free bindings too for a few years. Emily reported she’s having a similar positive experience to what you’ve shared. They definitely have the biggest space to get into them and the highback is out of the way. As you pointed out they don’t have the fused strap so the toe goes right into the toe strap. They do have a two-step process which involves raising the highback and then clipping down the ankle strap. But it is super fast and automatic upon release. I need to get Emily to write a full review of her experiences with the GNU’s. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and providing a great content idea!

      1. Avatar

        I just want to jump in and affirm Ester’s comment on GNU rear entry bindings. I have been riding the Mutant bindings for a few years now and their design varient does fix most of the cons you listed for the flow bindings. I can be off the lift and cruising down the run without stopping, or stopping very briefly, and have the ability to adjust to fit on the fly. This is especially important for me because most of my time one the slopes is spent with skiers (try not to ignore my review because of this ?).

        1. Scott Stiles

          Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences with the GNU style bindings. It’s great to hear about why they’re working well for you.

  4. Avatar

    I use both types of bindings. When I am climbing with my board on my pack and I want light weight, I use strap bindings. I also use strap bindings if I am looking for highest performance. If the day is brutally cold, and I am wearing big mittens and many layers, I use rear-entry bindings to avoid having to feed the ladders into the ratchets. Not having to feed the ladders into the ratchets is the main benefit of rear-entry bindings, in my opinion. Big mittens and many layers (or just having eaten a big lunch) make the feeding of the ratchets a bit of a challenge to me. When I use rear-entry bindings, I need to loosen both ratchets in order to loosen the system up enough to lower the highback so I can exit the binding, even with the newer Flow designs. Then, upon entering the binding, the ratchets are already loose enough to enter the binding and raise the highback. Then I must tighten the ratchets again. I always stand up to enter the bindings, regardless of strap or rear-entry style.

    1. Scott Stiles

      Hey James,
      Good point about feeding ladders with mittens. And the all-important lunch factor. Ha!

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