Tech bindings have definitely taken over the ski touring market, just consider at all the major brands that now have tech bindings in their line up: Salomon, Marker, Dynafit, Fritschi, Black Diamond, and G3 to name a few. Even heavier frame bindings now incorporating tech toes such as the Salomon Shift and Marker King Pins. It’s, therefore, no surprise then that Black Diamond wanted to have a tech binding tech binding to call their own. One that’s super minimal and lightweight to compliment the Fritschi Tekton and Vipec bindings which they currently distribute.
The Helio 200 Binding is super minimal and very rando-race like.
The Helio line of bindings includes four options with the name of each representing the binding’s weight. There’s the Helio 110 (retails for $624.95US), the Helio 145 (priced at $499.95US), the Helio 180 (costing $574.95US) and finally the Helio 200 Binding which we’ll focus on in this review. The Helio 200 is the only version to have an adjustable DIN on the heel unit, the other versions offer a choice of spring tensions for release values of 6, 8 and 10. They also use a U-shaped pin instead of the independent pins found in the Helio 200. For this reason, the Helio 200 is the heaviest of the lot but also the burliest and most feature rich. All of the Helio toe pieces use the same Monolink Technology 1.0 which keeps the Helio 200’s ultralight since one of the two arms is spring-less . Black Diamond states that this “creates a higher clamping stiffness” while remaining light.
The Helio 200 Binding is actually built for Black Diamond by Italian binding manufacturer ATK and are crafted from premium aluminum alloys, titanium, and POM. The Helio 200 is pretty much identical to ATK’s Haute Route 2.0 – 165 GR Binding. Both utilize a new toe geometry that makes the boot step-in process much more simple and accurate. A roller bearing is found in the toe piece to facilitate smooth lock-out and in the heel piece the pins rotate in a specialized-system that ensures a smooth release. The Helio 110, 145 and 180 version use a U-pin design which does not rotate. The 200 are also the only binding in the Helio line up that allows for up to 30mm of adjustment thanks to the integrated adjustment plate under the heel.
Black Diamond’s lineup of Helio products includes not only the bindings but also the Helio 116, 105, 95, 88 and 76 skis, the Helio Crampons, the Helio Fixed Length Carbon Ski Poles, the Helio Three-In-One Gloves and the Helio Active Shell/pants for both men and women which we reviewed here. The same mantra of lightweight and simple design goes into every item in the Helio line and creates Black Diamond’s lightest products which are squarely aimed at backcountry skiers. The Helio 200 Bindings were mounted on Black Diamond's Helio 105 Skis which have a new top sheet design but are the same great skis from last year, read our full review over here.
Three climbing positions include flat, low and high.
Black Diamond’s Helio 200 Bindings are not a real revolution in the binding world since they’re already being manufactured by ATK, and identical binding by another name. It is, however, nice to see this design come to a Black Diamond who has a much larger presence here in North America and will bring their light weight, minimally designed Helio line to a new audience. This aside, the Helio 200 Bindings are well worth considering if you are in the market for an ultra-light pseudo skimo AT binding.
To save on weight there is only one spring in the toe piece, however, in my testing I found that it still provided a solid snap at step-in with a firm hold when you need it. The crampon compatibility is a welcome option however I can honestly say I’ve never had to use crampons on any of my ski touring days or traverses but if you live in the Rockies then this option will be your friend. The Included Kevlar Core Leash is light weight and easy to use but I’d prefer to see a brake option for the Helio Bindings as I just don’t think that possibility of run away skis at change over and the hassle when you fall is worth the weight savings of not having a brake.
Even though there is no bumper on the toe piece to aid in step-in, the process was surprisingly easy even on the first attempt. Similarly the toe lock-out lever was simple to engage and snapped in with authority, disengaging it took a little more effort but ensured me that it was doing its job. When not in use it is stowed securely out of the way so that it doesn’t flap around.
On the heel unit, the risers are easy to deploy with a pole while still being minimal in size and weight. The only beef I have with them is that you need to turn the heel post in order to use no riser and engage the high rise climbing aid. The middle riser on the other hand can be flipped into play with out having to turn the heel post. This inconsistency could confuse users and lengthens the learning curve, but once performed a few times it’s easily remembered.
One feature I really appreciate on the Helio 200’s is the 30mm of heel travel thanks to the installed adjustment plate. Since I am often testing and skiing in various AT boots it’s very handy to have this amount of adjustment. If you choose the Helio 110, 145 or 180 Bindings then you’ll not have this adjustability since the heel post is fixed to the ski itself.
The rotation of the Helio 200’s heel piece takes some force and there is no trick to be used like with the G3 Ions sadly. While this does instil confidence in the Helio 200’s strength you’ll need to get used to bending over and muscling it around each time.
Overall the Black Diamond Helio 200 Binding hits the sweet spot for those looking for a super light and minimal touring binding without having to give up reliability or quality. For the extra 90g per foot I’m sold on the 200 model over the lighter Helio version—add a brake to this and I’d be smiling even wider..
Price: $874.99CAN /$699.95US
Weight: 400g / 14.1oz (per pair)
Release value: 5-10
Materials: Alu Alloys, Stainless Steel, POM
Risers: 3 levels
Ski/hike performance 1.5/2
Quality / Price 1.5/2
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