Some things in the backcountry are immutable, like the motivation to reduce weight. One way or another, cutting weight usually involves some compromise in performance. That axiom remains true with La Sportiva’s RT binding, but less than you might expect. Even though it only weighs around ½ pound/foot it has some impressive features built into it.
The main thing you get with the RT that you wouldn’t expect for a such a feather weight tech binding is adjustable release settings, not only for the heel unit, but for the toe as well. That does not mean that the toe has an adjustable release setting for downhill mode. It does mean the precision of the release value when “locked out” for touring is leagues more adjustable than however many clicks you feel when you lift the lock out lever like most other tech bindings. Instead of adjusting the resistance to the wings opening up by increasing the pressure via a cammed lock out lever, the height of the bar the front lever presses against is raised or lowered with a screw. According to La Sportiva, the adjustment yields a release value equivalent to DIN 8-14. The practical reality is I had my toe lockout set for a moderate value of 7 and never had it pre-release, either while skinning or telemarking.
Telemarking in a tech binding? Yes, I used the La Sportiva toe as the front half of a Telemark Tech System binding. Pinheads never follow the rules and the main piece of info locked heelers can glean from this isn’t that you can tele with an RT binding, but the all aluminum toe frame and wings are tough enough to withstand tele abuse without any noticeable consequences — knock on wood — so far. Thus, regular AT skiing should present no problems.
In addition to a more adjustable toe release, the RT offers the option of a ski brake that only adds a few ounces of weight and mounts to the toe piece. It comes in three widths, 75mm (65 g), 91mm (69 g), and 107mm (75 g). It can and needs to be locked in the retracted position when skinning. As its weight suggests, it is minimalist in size and form and thus not immune to abuse so don’t forget to lock it up for skinning, or before tossing your skis in a rocket box.
Crampons are also available that are compatible with other tech bindings, not just the RT.
The stock RT binding is a bit spartan for recreational skiers, but a great choice for weekend rando racers who want a lightweight binding with full release capabilities. There are lighter tech bindings available, but they all seem to compromise the safety release functions in the process of shaving weight. The RT heel offers adjustments for both frontal and lateral release similar to beefier offerings from Dynafit.
Out of the box the heel doesn’t come with a high climbing post attached, but there is one in the box. The athlete this binding is aimed at would rarely use it, but recreational skiers would. Prior to this year the post was plastic, now it is metal. If you want to upgrade to the metal version, prepare to part with three Jacksons and some change back ($50). While it can be argued the climbing pegs aren’t necessary with an efficient skin track, without it you’ll have a hard time rotating the heel with your ski pole so I’d recommend adding it at least for that bit of functionality in the field.
There are only a few things not to like about the RT. The most obvious is the price – over eight Franklins with tax. It is unlikely many of these are ever sold for full pop, but that’s a tall point to begin price negotiations from. On the other hand, reducing weight while maintaining performance never comes cheap and this binding is not for your average turn earner, but aimed at the rando racer who doesn’t want to compromise a safety release too much for weight.
The other factor is the ease of rotating the heel to change climbing peg heights. You can do it with your pole if you add the optional, included climbing post, but getting the tip of your pole in the hole to rotate it may take more agility than simply reaching back and rotating with your hand. Compared to other tech bindings it isn’t a friendly twist.
This isn’t really a negative, just something worth pointing out that you may prefer, or not. The binding doesn’t come with any riser blocks, except for a plate that allows you to adjust the position of the heel for different sized boot shells. To save weight and keep the ramp angle a bit flatter you can mount the heel direct to the ski. One other minor difference from other tech bindings is the lack of slots machined into the tech pins that help to eject snow that may be packed in the inserts of your boots. Theoretically it may cause the toe to release prematurely but I never experienced that. YMMV.
Weight/binding: 8½ oz. (235 g)
Optional ski brake: $125
Lou’s take on Sportiva RT