So I'm pretty much set on board and boots, but still debating on bindings.
I've decided to buy everything together as my shop will give me a discount that way. So I'm set on the Bataleon Goliath, either 157W or 158 (I'm 155lbs), and seems like I'll be getting some Nike Vapens, size 11.5 or 12.
Now I'm stuck between Cartels and Forces. I've heard really good things about the Forces this year from everyone I've spoken to, but I've ridden Cartels before and I really liked them (this was 5-6 years ago, so I'm guessing they've changed a lot since).
I would choose the Forces over the Cartels. Both are good bindings, with similar specs but in terms of long term reliability I would choose the forces. I have seen more broken ladders on cartels/burtons than unions. Though one good thing is that most shops have replacement burton ladders, and they will fit on unions and work smoothly in the ratchets with no problem.
I've tried other brands but keep coming back to Burton bindings. Right now I have three pairs of Cartels plus some Missions and CO2s. My 2012 Missions remind me a lot of the Cartels from a few years ago, might be worth checking out.
I have 2012 Cartel's and I love them so far. I find the ankle strap to be comfortable and the toe cap is great. I had a toe slider tear and Burton had 2 sitting at my door within 5 days of emailing them. You can't beat the customer service.
I honestly don't really know the difference between the two, it sounds as though the tech is pretty similar. I'm quite tempted by the Cartels just because they look a bit nicer than the Forces (Cartels are green and black to go with a green and black board) but I know that's a really stupid reason. Just can't seem to see any obvious advantages.
I demo'd a few libs with cartels. They were cool. I ended up buying Force SL's. Love 'em.
I don't think you can go wrong with either. Both solid units. Leave it to best deal or personal preference.
Cartels are lighter, rachets work better, (Union are notorious for being sucky), and I do not like metal heel loops, the Forces are AL heel loops. I also find the adjustments on Union to be somewhat a hassle, having to move the heel cup. For some people though, that does not matter. Most people who shop for Union, shop for colors, so I think you are OK liking the cartels for the colors...its ok, be a fashonista.