Confessions Of A Ski Bum

Pika vs Oazo

This afternoon I opened my IG inbox to find a simple question: “Pika or Oazo?” I had meant to write up a comparison review before the global pandemic started but I had forgot about it amidst the chaos of preparing for isolation. Anyway, here it is, a complete review of which Plum binding I would put on which type of ski setup.

Before you read any further I suggest reading my individual reviews of the Oazo and Pika bindings. I’m not going to dive deep into either binding in this review, rather I will be focusing on what makes the bindings different and what context they work better in.

What Is The Same

First off lets get what is the same out of the way. Both bindings have the same toe piece and have ski crampon slots. Since the release settings are the same, they are both suitable for skiers weighing between 40-100kg and the lateral release are both adjustable from 4 to 10. The adjustment length for the baseplate is 20mm and both are shaped out of a single piece of Aluminum 7075.

What Is Different

The Oazo is 80g lighter than the Plum, which is one of the big difference points and will speak to what setups I prefer it for the most but there are some other differences too. The Oazo has 3 heel positions, 0, 40 and 52mm, whereas the Pika only has 2 positions, 0 and 50mm. The forward release on the Oazo is fixed at 8 and is not adjustable, whereas the Pika has an adjustable forward release of 4 to 10. Finally the Pika has the option of a removeable break system, the Oazo does not.

Weight Difference

Weight is always something on my mind and when comparing these two bindings it is hard to not first look at that difference. 80g per foot may not seem like a lot, and in the grand scheme of things it probably isn’t, but if you are looking to build the lightest setup you can for big/long/fast missions then this factor will pay a big role. A total savings of 160g underfoot is roughly the same as taking 800g out of your pack.

Heel Risers

Both bindings can run flat and the higher setting of both is roughly the same (50mm and 52mm). The Oazo has a third setting at 40mm (and if you were being picky a fourth setting when turning the heel block 180 degrees but no one is doing that). The other difference is how each is used, for the Oazo you have to twist the heel piece between running flat and either riser (but not between the 40 and 52mm). You can switch between flat and 50mm on the Pika using a pole basket very quickly. For me I never found the difference in the riser heights to be of any concern but I did prefer the quick switching of the Pika. With the Oazo it took me a short time to get used to switching between flat and a higher riser, in the end it didn’t really matter all that much though.



Forward Release

The non-adjustable forward release of the Oazo could easily be a deal breaker for people that need something other than a 8. The Oazo does also come in a fixed 6 though, my partner has been using a Oazo 6 this year and loves them, other than the release difference it is the same binding.

Breaks

The Pika has the option to attach a break, the Oazo does not. Both bindings can have leashes attached to them. Why people do either of these things is beyond me but if you are looking to use your setup inbounds at a resort then you might want to consider the Pika with the removeable break addon.



Deal Breakers

When deciding between the two bindings it is easiest to figure out if either has a “deal breaker” for you.

Oazo Deal Breakers (aka buy a Pika):

  • You need breaks on your skis (remember, Pika breaks only go up to 105mm)
  • You refuse to twist a heel piece with your hand to switch from running flat to a higher riser setting
  • You need a forward release that is not 6 or 8

Pika Deal Breakers (aka buy a Oazo):

  • You need the lightest non-race binding
  • You need more riser options

Core Differences

If you don’t have any deal breakers then what is left? Two bindings that are almost the same, to be honest, and that makes the decision even more difficult. For me the core differences are weight and heel piece usability, the Pika weighs more but I prefer the way you switch between running flat at a riser. But I also don’t care about Pika breaks, the one extra riser setting of the Oazo and I set my release to 8 regardless.

Matching The Setup Use To Binding Model

What is important is that your setup matches the style in which it will be used. For example, you don’t want a skimo race boot for charging pillow lines and you don’t want a resort boot for winning a skimo race. The same goes for bindings, although the differences are less obvious in this case. If your setup is for big, long and/or fast missions then weight is a big point and the Oazo is probably a better option, (although one of Plum’s race bindings also might work, but I have yet to try one and can’t speak to them). If you are looking to yo-yo powder laps or for general backcountry use then the Pika might be a better option as you can switch from running flat to a riser on the fly and you probably won’t notice the weight difference. In some regions the need to switch between running flat and a riser a lot isn’t a priory (in the Rockies we usually have flat areas between climbs) and in that case the Pika doesn’t even have that advantage over the Oazo. My partner rarely puts her Oazo flat, often she runs the riser at the 40mm setting and doesn’t find it to be an issue for her.

Still Not Sure?

In the end you have to decide which binding is better suited for the setup you are looking to build, how it will be used and weigh your personal preferences into all that. The Pika and Oazo aren’t that different so for general backcountry use it probably won’t matter which you get. Again if you need to bring the setup inbounds than the Pika, with its break system, is probably the route you want to go. Likewise, if you are planning a massive ski traverse why not go with the Oazo and save the weight? One thing is for certain, both of these bindings are workhorses and they have served me well, currently I have over 100 days on each of them with zero issues, so why not buy both?!

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