For the last few seasons I have been using a K2 Wayback 88 with a Dynafit TLT Speed Radical binding as my deep backcountry, steep skiing, recon setup – this is the ski I use most of the time. The ski was getting soft for steeper skiing (200+ days on it) so it was time to look for a replacement. After having some issues with my other Dynafit bindings I decided to go a different route and heard outstanding reviews about Plum binding brand. I talked to Joel at SkiUphill in Canmore and he helped me acquire a new K2 Wayback 88 with a Plum Oazo Binding to test out.
I’ve now used the Oazo Binding for about 50 days of skiing this season and have come to love and trust it completely. The materials and manufacturing process have created a solid binding, while the design and usability standout from the many other bindings I have used.
The Oazo Binding is a new model from Plum this year and the design falls between their race binding and heavier all purpose binding models. The category of this binding is what drew me to it over the others in the Plum line. I am not a competitor in the context of the race world but often my trips are demanding for both downhill skiing and distance covered. It sounded like the Oazo would find that sweet spot between the fast & light and freeskiing applications which I needed it for.
At 200g per binding the Oazo deliveries on providing a solid binding at a light weight. Admittedly it is comparable to other lightweight bindings on the market for weight with the features it provides.
This is probably my favorite thing about Plum bindings. Last season I had two bindings break on me while out skiing, once during a 4 day trip, as I was about to ski off a summit and the second time as I entered a couloir feature from a cliff drop. Breaking a binding is completely unacceptable. I had friend who ran over her Plum binding with a car, she took all the pieces inside and put it back together – this was possible because there was no parts which could break in half. This points to easy infield rebuilds and is huge for big trips far from the road.
The Oazo is shaped out of a single piece of aluminum 7075, it is not forged. Although, I’m sure issues with forged aluminum parts are rare, there are still known problems that can occur in the process. In the end I’m happy to know that a machined aluminum part has the least amount of chance of having a defect.
These bindings tour great but I did have a slight issue with the way the risers work when I first started using them. To switch from running flat to the risers you must hand turn the heel piece. This is not a game changer for me but it took a little getting used to after having bindings which a ski pole can be used to switch between flat and riser settings. Now I either reach down to switch over, or if I have a large pack I lift my ski, take it off, turn the heel and put the toe back in. I know taking off your ski sounds like more work than it’s worth, and people tend to look at my funny in the field when doing it, but I have come to find this method very fast and easy. Once in riser mode you can switch between the two riser settings using a ski pole.
The toe pieces are awesome for touring. They are solid when track setting and packing down snow for my more novice partners and I rarely needed to lock the toe piece out. Not locking the toe piece out while on the up is important on the avalanche safety side. In the past I always felt just a little unsettled while working a piece of questionable terrain while having my toes locked in. I have stomped around a fair bit unlocked now, in order to test the limits of the toe pieces and outside of extremely firm snow (hard wind slab, ice, etc.) I can travel confidentially without locking the toe. While unlocked they still come off when any kind of twisting motion is applied and therefore I am still confident they will come off in an avalanche or wipe out. It seems Plum found the perfect balance in their toe pieces in this regard.
The heel piece turning mechanism is also fairly stiff. You might think this is a flaw at first but I have yet to mistakenly clip my heel in while touring. Mistakenly putting my heel into ski mode has become an issue in some of my other bindings and I know several other people who deal with the same problem. This is not an issue with the Oazo heel piece.
The Oazo has a forward release equal to DIN 8 which is not adjustable, this was a non-issue for me as I set all my bindings to 8. The lateral release is adjustable from 4 to 10, which works fine for me. If you need a higher DIN then obviously this binding isn’t for you.
In a nutshell they feel solid and ski great. I have more confidence in a binding without any plastic and I don’t feel any play in the system. I’ve taken some good airs and skied very fast though variable and/or breakable snow without ever feeling anything but solid. I’d like to some day mount these to a bigger ski to try to find their downhill limits but I have a feeling the limits would be past my downhill abilities anyway. I’ve even taken the setup inbounds and for a couple of easy park laps to see if I was missing a weakness for their intended use (well, probably just outside of their intended use!) but have yet to find an issue.
I’m a big fan on ski crampons, I carry a pair 95% of the time while in the backcountry (and only use them less than 1% of the time but when needed they are a life saver). I’ve had more than a few chances to try out the Plum ski crampon this season and I much prefer the design of them over other brands. The main difference here is how easily they attach, they simply insert down into the binding at 90 degrees. Many ski crampon styles slide into the binding from the side and have a bit of play sideways while using them. Once inserted the Plum crampons are firmly in place with no sideways play.
The Binding For You?
I would describe the Oazo as “solid, light & dependable” – for me this is the ultimate combination for backcountry gear and Plum nailed it in this design. Bindings tend to be less personal than something like a boot or ski and the Oazo will end up being a great choice for most backcountry skiers. If you set your DIN somewhere around 8 and want a light weight binding that can you can depend on, the Oazo is a sure winner.
For more information about the Oazo Binding please visit https://www.fixation-plum.com/en/nos-fixations-race/9768-oazo.html
To check out these bindings in person head down to SkiUphill in Canmore https://skiuphill.ca/collections/bindings/products/plum-oazo-binding