Left To Their Own Devices

The Device binding is an unbelievably simple idea. Designer Rick Alden decided to just remove the straps from a conventional highback binding and attach the boot to the board using a hook and locking pin on the heel.


Of all the step-in snowboard bindings available this year, the Device seems to stay the most true to the soft-boot ideal. While boots from K2 have been described as Hardboots in softboot clothing, Device’s boots feel “just like” soft boots. The only difference is a hook under the toe and a pin on the back on the heel.

For all the writing I’ve done about step-in bindings, the Device is the first system I’ve actually ridden. The boots felt good right out of the box and after the carpet test I was completely stoked. Stepping in is cake. Just hook the sole of the boot under a small cross-bar that spans the baseplate at the toe and then center the heel in the cup and step down. Once in it felt rock solid. It made a little noise when I tweaked around but so do most bindings.

I wear a size 11 boot so I didn’t have to adjust the cross-bar like people with smaller feet will have to do. Also, because the cross-bar is adjusted all the way out, I didn’t have to worry about the bar slipping to a larger size. If it slips too far forward then the heel piece can come up short and the heel pin won’t reach the locking mechanism. Several people I’ve talked to say they had a problem with this.

When I got the bindings on snow and rode up the chairlift I was surprised by how comfortable it is to ride in a binding that has no painful straps across the top of my foot. The only pressure I felt was from the laces on the boot, and that was fine.

Riding the Device is interesting. Because the boot is attached to the board from the bottom it feels much more responsive than conventional bindings. Rolling to a heelside edge was simple and smooth. Going to a toeside edge was a different story. Because there is a hook on the sole of the boot, the toe is lifted slightly higher than the heel. It’s like wearing high heel shoes backwards. This means going to a toe-side takes more effort than a heel-side. Device owner, Brett Conrad says this is being fixed, however, he said the fix would be to raise the heel meaning their would be even more space between a riders foot and the board.

Another problem with the Device bindings seems to be a problem for all systems: snow clogging. The day I took the binding out for spin on Mammoth Mountain it was 24 degrees in the morning and slowly warmed up as the day continued, until by late afternoon it reached about 50 degrees.

As the day warmed the sloggy snow began clogging in and around the binding’s cross-bar. Because the bar basically closes off the binding from the front, and the sides of the tray are high, the snow had no where to go. At one point I had to carry a stick in my pocket to use as a scrapper.

Though it was annoying to have to constantly clear the snow, it seemed like nothing compared to the trouble I seen K2 clicker riders have.

The Device system is the perfect binding for recreational, all-mountain riders who value efficiency and like the idea of step-in ease, with softboot performance. Ripping huckers may not like the bindings because they push the rider higher off the board than normal bindings would. But for those of us who just want to slide off the chair and step into a binding without having to stand around and buckle two straps, the Device Binding is a great product.