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union ultra vs strata reviewed

Comparison Review: Union Ultra Vs. Strata Bindings

For the 2023 season, I am using both the Union Ultra and Union Strata on my two main snowboard set ups. This is an in-depth comparison review to help you decide which binding you should buy.

So let’s get right to it.

Overview of the 2023 Union Ultra Bindings

Union Ultra Bindings






The Union Ultra bindings have been newly designed for the 2023 season with features that will take your park riding to the next level. These bindings are designed specifically help you tweak your board for tricks in ways that other bindings can’t, to soften your landings, and offer an unmatched level of comfort while keeping you locked in.

Here is an image that shows all of the new features that Union worked into the Ultra bindings.

In addition to its lightweight, the primary selling features of the Ultra are its flex pattern and shock absorption. These bindings use Union’s Duraflex ST material, which is an engineered material that remains playfully flexible in all temperatures and conditions. You will notice the flex capabilities of the Ultra bindings the most in the S15 Ultra Duraflex ST Highback bindings. The highback has a four out of 10 flex rating. You can twist it left or right easily. However, there is virtually no flex when you try to push it back as if you were to make a heelside carve. The flex in the highback will help you land spins and perfect your balance on jibs without losing too much of the responsiveness in the binding. For the 2023 Ultra, the highback was upgraded to also include six degrees of forward lean. The additional forward lean will help you keep your knees bent to absorb landings and help your board react faster when carving edge to edge.

The Ultra’s S11 ASYM Duraflex ST Baseplates are perfect for butters and presses. The baseplate uses the mini-disk mounting and the same Duraflex material Union used in the highback.

So what makes the baseplate so park-friendly?

If you look at the picture above, you will see that Union removed some material that would be under the ball of your foot and heel. By removing the material, they made the overall weight lighter and dramatically improved the torsional flex and maneuverability of this binding. The unique shape gives this binding a skate-like boardfeel.

These bindings have exceptional shock absorption capabilities. Union added a new Molecular Bushing to line the footbed of the Ultra bindings. These bushings are designed to help you soften landings and get a more natural flex pattern out of your snowboard. The Molecular Bushings are 15% lighter than the standard Union bushing. While you ride, these bushings will reduce chatter and prevent the fatigue you feel in your ankles and knees, allowing you to stay out longer than you normally would.

The ankle strap in the Ultra is called the Forma X Ankle Strap. It features comfortable padding, the perfect level of flex, and is lightweight. Union added a soft lycra padding to comfortably line your boot and a responsive Exoframe exterior to keep you locked in. The straps are stretchy and will mold around your boot so perfectly that it seems like they aren’t even there.

The TS 4.0 toe straps are lightweight and comfortable. The parallel design allows the strap to mold around your toes to keep your boots locked in without adding any extra pressure points. Both the toe and ankle straps feature magnesium ratchets that are durable and extremely fast to get in and out of. To get out of these bindings, you simply pull up on the ratchet, and you will be out.

If you are looking for a lightweight, flexible, yet still responsive binding, check out the Union Ultra.


Pros

  • Shock Absorption
  • Lightweight
  • Tweakability / Flex in highback and baseplate
  • Minidisk compatible
  • Soft and skate-like boardfeel
  • Upgraded no-slip hardware

Cons

  • They are on the more expensive side and well worth it for all of the features you get.
  • They might be too soft / flexible for some riders.

Sizes

Small (US Men’s 6 – 7.5), Medium (US Men’s 8 – 10), Large (US Men’s 10.5+)




Overview of the 2023 Union Strata Bindings

Union Strata Bindings






Union just released an upgraded version of the Union Strata.

The Strata is mid flexing freestyle binding that excels all over the mountain. This snowboard binding is perfect for park riders who want a little extra response when they launch jumps or rip trails outside of the park.

Outside of its versatile flex pattern, the Strata’s best feature is in its shock absorption. Union added in an OTE Fused Vaporlite Bushing that lines the entire baseplate. The bushing looks like this.

The benefit of this bushing is that you will feel fewer vibrations when riding on rough, rutted-out terrain. Additionally, when you’re launching off jumps in the park, these bushings will help absorb the impact.

The Stata’s baseplate was made with Union’s Stage 6 Duraflex ST material. It is an insanely durable lightweight material mixed with fiberglass to endure cold temperatures. The mounting plate used in the Strata’s is the mini disc. It can fit any standard 4×4, 4×2, or channel mounting system. Altogether, the Strata is very pressable and works best when you match it with a snowboard around the mid to softer mid-flex rating. Altogether the baseplate and mounting disc feel like they have a four out of ten flex rating.

The highback of the Strata is the Duraflex ST Highback.

This is the same mid-flexing material used in the base. It is a little more rigid torsionally than some of the other highbacks from the other bindings on this list. While it still offers maneuverability for jibbing, the rigidity offers more response when you are launching off jumps or carving powder lines.

The ankle straps in the Strata have been upgraded to the Forma Elite Direct Connect Ankle Strap. These straps have a six out of ten flex. They feature the Union forma cushion to softly rest against the inside of your boot and a more rigid plastic to offer a response on the outside of your boot. The toe strap is Union’s Helixgrip 2.0 strap. It has a soft and stretching helix pattern that grips to the toe curvature of your boot and keeps you locked in against the heelcup. Both straps allow for tool-less adjustments and are made with aluminum.

If you’re looking for a beast of a park binding that is perfect for the entire mountain, get the 2023 Union Strata.


Pros

  • Freestyle / Park focused yet still perfect for All-mountain riding
  • Phenomenal shock absorption / Damp binding
  • Comfortable straps that still offer response
  • Mid to slightly stiff highbacks
  • 3º of canting

Cons

  • The toe strap gets in the way when you’re stepping into them.
  • It has a medium to stiff flex (6.5 / 10). It is very pressable and works well for jibbing. However, if you enjoy a very soft flexing binding you might want to check out the flite pro or contact pro instead.

Sizes

Small (US Men’s 6 – 7.5), Medium (US Men’s 8 – 10), Large (US Men’s 10.5+)


Union Ultra vs Union Strata Comparison Summary

Union UltraUnion Strata
Who It’s ForThe park rider who also rides all mountain / Park focus first and all mountain secondThe all mountain rider who also rides in the park / All mountain first and park focus second
Main AppealIt’s lightweight, damp, and tweakable for park riding. It includes innovative tech features.It’s versatile and a little less expensive with tons of tech that has been incrementally perfected over the years.
Issues I HadNot a single issueI’ve had the ankle strap loosen on landing some jumps / swapped the ankle buckles, and the issue was fixed.
Tool-less featuresNo, you’ll need a Phillips-head screwdriverThe ankle and toestrap are tool-less
HighlightsTweakable yet the most locked in feel you’ll get in a freestyle binding Easy in / Easy OutVersatile and damp
Low-Lights1) The mini disk cover is plastic that pops in rather than screwing in. You need to be careful when you’re pulling it up to tighten your bindings.
2) The toe straps don’t match the high tech feel of the rest of the bindings.
1) The ankle strap tends to get in the way when putting your foot in
2) Need to tighten ratchets often.
Forward Lean AdjustmentNo it is a stock six degrees of forward leanAdjustable with a Phillips-head screwdriver
Canted footbedNoThree degrees of canting

Who Are These Bindings Intended for?

The Union Ultra bindings are a great fit for the type of rider who spends most of their time in the park. The bindings have many tech features that make them responsive, lightweight, and maneuverable. They offer shock absorption while giving you the proper boardfeel to adjust while pressing on rails.

Think of the Ultra as a park-first and all-mountain resort binding second type of binding.

The Union Strata bindings are perfect for the all-mountain resort rider who spends some of their time in the park. However, they want a slightly stiffer, versatile binding and don’t need the latest innovative tech.

Think of the Strata as an all-mountain first and park-focused second type of binding.

The Highlights to Determine Which Is Better

While both bindings have exceptional designs that will be perfect for the all-mountain freestyle rider, some key differences might help you decide which is the best.

Here are the highlighted features that stand out the most when comparing the Union Ultra Bindings to the Union Strata Bindings.

The Highbacks

Summary: The Union Ultra’s highback wins here for its freestyle flexibility while still offering exceptional response while riding the entire resort.

The Union Ultra features Union’s brand-new S15 Ultra Duraflex ST Highback.

This highback has no forward lean adjustment. It comes with a stock six degrees of lean. The highback itself has an excellent freestyle-type flex to it. Union worked in a layer of molecular bushing into this highback, giving it an excellent freestyle flex.

The Strata features Union’s tried and true. Team Highback the Strata Duraflex ST.

It offers a little flex side to side. However, it is the more rigid of the two highbacks. It is the better option if you are looking to carve more than hit jumps and rails.

The Ankle Straps

Summary: The Union Ultra’s ankle strap wins by a long shot. It feels flexible yet still does an excellent job of keeping you locked in. It offers a better balance between being playful for park riding and responsive for resort riding. An excellent bonus feature is that it has a perforated rubber section to help keep it out of the way while you are strapping in.

Overall, the Ultra’s ankle strap has better tech. It has a soft padded lycra section that rests against your boot, while a hard rubber acts as its exoskeleton to give it structure and keep you locked in. The ratchets are easy to slide in and out of and keep you locked in.

Here is a closeup image of the outside of the Ultra bindings strap.

The Ultra’s strap is a hard rubber with a firm plastic band that runs across the center. The inside of the strap is a squishy lycra material that comfortably rests across the front of your boot. Here is a closeup of what the inside of the strap looks like.

Here is a closeup of what the outside of the Union Strata looks like.

The Strata’s strap is a hard yet flexible rubber with a cutout section that rests against the inside of your boot and a stretchy lycra section that rests against the outside of your boot. The inside of the strap matches the outside identically, where there is a squishy lycra material only lines half of your boot.

Here is a closeup of what the inside of the strap looks like.

The Ultra’s ankle strap is the more comfortable and secure strap.

One extremely useful bonus feature of the Union Ultra’s Ankle strap is that it has a perforated rubber section built in to help keep the ankle strap out of the way while you are strapping into it.

The Strata doesn’t have this feature, so it tends to always be in the way.

The Toe Straps

Summary: The Union Strata has the better toe strap from a functionality standpoint.

The one potential downside with the Union Ultra is that The Ultras toe strap doesn’t have much to it.

It does its job and keeps the overall weight of the Ultra bindings down. However, the same research and development team devoted energy to the rest of the binding seemed to skip over the toe strap. Instead, Union gave the toe strap the same one used in the Flite Pro.

The Strata’s toe strap is made of a hard rubber with a flexible rubber hexagon netting that keeps your boot locked in place.

Both toe straps do an excellent job of keeping your boot locked in. However, I prefer the Strata toe strap’s design. I find that the rubber netting does a better job with forming to the shape of my boot’s toe box.

The Ratchets

Summary: The Union Ultra has the better ratchet technology.

The Union Ultra features Union’s Magnesium S1 Ratchets, while the Strata features Union’s standard aluminum ratchets.

The Ultra’s Magnesium S1 ratchets are built to withstand the elements.

They are very simple to get in and out of while keeping you securely locked in. In addition, the springs are guaranteed to last longer than the standard binding spring.

The Strata’s ratchets are also easy to get in and out of.

Here is where I have to admit, the one issue I ran into with the Union Strata was that my ankle strap’s ratchet would dramatically loosen when I landed some jumps. I wound up replacing the ratchet and haven’t had an issue with my Union Strata since. I likely had a bad ratchet. If you run into an issue like that, reach out to Union through their warranty page.

I haven’t had an issue like that with the Ultras.

Tool-less Adjustments

Summary: The Union Strata wins in this category as there are no tool-less adjustments built into the Union Ultra Bindings.

Both the Ultra and Strata have the same ankle and toe strap adjustments. The Strata’s strap adjustments are tool-less, while the Ultra’s adjustments require a Phillips screwdriver. The Union Ultra has no forward lean adjustment. The Ultra bindings come with six degrees of forward lean.

The Level of Dampness

The Union Strata wins here by the slightest margin. The truth is that there isn’t much of a noticeable difference. The Ultra has 95% of the same level of dampness while also emphasizing adding a level of pop that the Strata bindings don’t.

It is difficult to tell which of these two binding offers a better job of decreasing unwanted vibrations. While the Ultra has the new tech, which matches your board’s natural flex pattern well, the Strata bindings are the slight damper option of the two bindings.

Here are the main reasons why.

In the Strata, there is more foam and rubber that you stand on. The Union Strata has a footbed entirely lined with a soft Eva foam. A significant difference is how the mini disk cover is also lined with foam.

The footbed you stand on in the Strata looks like this.

Additionally, the Strata’s bushing that lines the underside of the Strata is a soft rubber that Union calls its OTE Fused Vaporlite Bushing. It looks like this.

The combination of foam you stand on and rubber to line the bottom work exceptionally well to absorb shock and make riding the Strata feel like a damp, smooth ride.

However, the Ultra has new tech features that, while nearly as damp as the Strata, it is also designed to give you spring-loaded pop. The Union Ultra features Union’s new Molecular Bushing with TPE Outsole. Here is what the Ultra Bindings would look like if you flipped the Ultra bindings over.

There is a foam that lines the entire bottom of the binding. It is a foam that feels similar to the EVA foam you would find in a running shoe. It offers dampness and shock absorption while also giving you that rebound sort of spring-in-your-step type of feel that a running shoe would give you. That springiness helps give you an additional level of pop.

Here is a close up of the footbed of the Ultra bindings.

In the image above, take notice of the black pieces. The darker black sections are part of the soft, foam bushings, while the more grayish center is the entirely plastic mini-disk cover.

The overall construction makes the Ultra lighter by around 15 grams. However, the plastic that the center of your foot stands on in the Ultra makes the Strata the winner in the dampness category. It comes down to the fact that you are standing on a footbed entirely lined with foam in the Strata.

It’s worth noting the plastic mini disk cover in the Ultra does a better job at repelling snow from collecting on the bindings footbed. The foam in the Strata tends to collect snow.

The Overall Weight

Summary: The Union Ultra wins in this category. The Ultra’s are lighter by 15 grams per binding

Union UltraUnion Strata
Weight (g)815830
Weight (lbs)1.7961.829

The Ultra’s construction was designed to be as light as possible. Union didn’t use any glue and made an active effort to reduce the materials used where they could. The result is a binding that feels like its one cohesive solid feeling unit.

The Base Plates

Summary: The Union Ultra wins in this category for freestyle riding, while the Strata’s baseplate offers more response for all-mountain riding. Both baseplates are designed to be light, offer better boardfeel, and match your board’s flex pattern.

Here is a comparison image of the baseplates used in both bindings where the Ultra’s baseplate is on the left, and the Strata’s baseplate is on the right.

Both bindings removed some excess material from the heel and toe area to keep the weight down while improving the binding’s flex pattern. The Ultra design is easier to press and jib with, though.

The asymmetrical shape of the Ultra’s baseplate makes it the more park-friendly option. Ultra’s baseplate gives the binding a better torsional flex pattern. The additional torsional flex is one of the main benefits of going with the Ultra over the Strata for park riding. Push your toes down in the Ultra Bindings, and you will feel a few additional degrees of torsional flex that you don’t get with the Strata. The additional flex is a useful feature when pressing on rails and boxes.

The Ultra gives you more flexibility while pressing, so you can maneuver against the object in any way you need to to stay balanced.

Union Ultra and Strata Snowboard Bindings Size Chart

Both bindings have the exact same sizing specs.

US Men’s Shoe SizeUS Women’s Shoe Size
Small6 to 7.54 to 6.5
Medium8 to 107 to 8.5
Large10.5+9 to 11

What color options do you get with the Ultra and Strata Bindings?

Both the Union Union Ultra and Strata bindings are available in black, orange, and white.

The Ultra is available in blue and red, while the Strata is available in green.

Which is the better value for its price?

The Union Ultra bindings offer a better value for their price due to their lighter weight, durable construction, and versatility.

Currently, the Union Strata is $50 cheaper than the Union Ultra. I still recommend that you consider going with the Union Ultra for the extra $50. It comes down to what you can afford, and the style of riding you will be doing most often. If you ride park features often, go with the Union Ultra. If you carve the resort more than you ride in the park, go with the Strata.

Should you buy the Union Ultra or Union Strata Bindings?

If you can only get one and you ride park often, I recommend going with the Union Ultra Bindings. They offer a unique locked-in / stable yet pressable playful feel. Additionally, they are lighter and have tech built into them that is designed to help your board get additional pop while working to help soften your landings.

They are Union’s premium park binding and worth the additional $50 price tag.

Get the Union Strata bindings if you’re more interested in carving all over the resort while hitting side hits and the occasional rail.

Overall Rating of the Union Ultra Bindings

ConsiderationsRating Out 5
Comfort5.0
Shock Absorption4.6
Customizations4.2
Responsiveness4.4
Support4.5
Playfulness5
Board Feel4.9
Jibs5.0
Jumps5.0
Presses / Buttering5.0
Ease of Entry / Exit5.0
Overall Quality / Build5.0
Total Score4.8

Editor’s Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars for the Union Ultra snowboard bindings

Also, check out our full in-depth Union Strata Review to see our rating of the strata.

Where to Buy the Union Ultra Bindings?

You can get both of these bindings from Evo.com.






About the Reviewer

Rider Name: Steve Weber

Home Mountains: Big Boulder, Jack Frost, Montage – North Eastern Pennsylvania (Lots of east coast ice.)

Pre-Season Mountains: Big Snow

Size / Model: The bindings I used were the men’s size medium Ultra Binding in White and the men’s sized medium Strata in Acid Green.

Rider Weight: 142lbs

Rider Height: 5′ 6″

Boards Used: The Jones Tweaker, Bataleon Evil Twin Plus, Yes Dicey, and Capita Ultrafear

Boots Used: DC Phase Snowboard Boots

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Steve Weber is an avid snowboarder and skateboarder. He has been snowboarding for 26 years, skateboarding for 20, and is always looking for a new board sport to try out. When he is not riding or skating, he runs a marketing agency. Board of the world is Steve’s blog for skateboard and snowboard gear reviews. The blog’s goal is to help people find the right board for them and encourage people to have fun outside.