Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gear Review: Backcountry Boot Comparison Chart

Ismelda Marcos had a closet that looked like this.
You're ready to jump into the backcountry, but not sure where your investment in gear should begin.  Chances are that you already have downhill alpine gear including the boots, poles, skis and bindings.

You can always throw those skis and bindings on your back and hike to the top of the mountain on your daddy's old snow shoes.  Alpine boots, however, aren't designed for walking from the car to the ticket counter, much less to the top of Mt. Cardigan.  More importantly, your feet are usually the first part of your body to get cold if not properly cared for.  They are also your most important body part, and asset, when you're more than ten miles from your car.  Frozen or blistery feet = slow or no movement = searchers find your body in June.

Hands down, if you're going to spend money, spend it on a properly fitted, light and comfortable pair of backcountry boots.  To help you get started, I've put together a comparison chart of some of the more popular backcountry boots.

I've listed the weight per pair.  I made sure to use units that nobody else uses so that I had to calculate the weight for each and every boot.  Fun stuff.

There's also a column to indicate whether it is compatible with a "tech" or Dynafit/Onyx style binding. 

The "TGR Flex" number comes from the forums at Teton Gravity Research.  While the folks on the TGR forums haven't yet rated the new line of Scarpa and Black Diamond boots, I was able to calculate their values by comparing older boots' ratings with the Black Diamond and Scarpa proprietary ratings.  Unlike the TGR ratings, these come straight from the manufacturer and lack any real peer review.  So feel free to speak up if they are full of shit.

The Dynafit TLT 5 Mountain. Hubba Hubba.
The list is organized with the stiffest boots toward the top and those with the most flex toward the bottom.  As you move down the chart you go from boots best suited for backcountry free skiing, to all mountain boots, all the way down to rando racing boots.

Unfortunately I had no information to rate the newest Dynafit boots, including the TLT 5 Mountain, TLT 5 Performance, and the DY NA TF. Maybe if I had something like FREE DEMO GEAR, in say... size Mondo 26.5 ( Do you hear that Dynafit?) I might be able to give an informed opinion.  In the meantime, feel free to share your experiences with the folks who read this. 

Admittedly, the list is incomplete:  No Lowa, no Diabello and no Salomon.    I wasn't able to get any reliable info regarding their flexibility, and lean angle, so I've left them off the list.  I've also omitted tele syle boots and women specific boots.  If someone knows how they compare to the other boots feel free to educate me with a comment.

Lastly, wherever you buy your boots, make sure you go to a local ski shop to get them fitted correctly.

Boot  Weight Tech? TGR Flex Mx Lean Material Cost Retailer
Scarpa Mobe 7.9 Yes 110 22 Pebax Renew $675.00
Dynafit Titan TF-X 8.8 Yes 100 21 PU Plastic $759.00
Black Diamond Factor 9.4 No 100 22 Pebax $719.00
Scarpa Skookum 8.3 Yes 95 23 Pebax $647.50
Garmont Axon 9 Yes 95 25 Poly Fiber $680.00
Garmont Endorphin 9 No 95 25 Poly Fiber $600.00
Black Diamond Quadrant 7.6 Yes 90 18 Pebax $620.00
Garmont Radium 8.3 Yes 90 23.5 Pebax $400.00
Garmont Shogun AT 8.5 Yes 90 25 Polymer $600.00
Dynafit Zzeus 8.6 Yes 90 21 PU Plastic $670.00
Scarpa Spirit 4 8.4 Yes 85 23 Pebax $450.00
Dynafit Zzero4 C-TF 7 Yes 85 21 Pebax/Carbon $650.00
Scarpa Tornado Pro 8.1 No 85 20 Pebax $330.00
Black Diamond Method 8.8 Yes 85 22 Pebax $639.00
Garmont Adrenaline 8.9 No 85 25 Poly Fiber $400.00
Dynafit Zzero4 PX-TF  7 Yes 80 21 Pebax $650.00
Scarpa Maestrale 7 Yes 80 22 Pebax Renew $600.00
Black Diamond Prime 7.3 Yes 80 18 Pebax $569.00
Black Diamond Slant 7.8 Yes 80 18 PU Plastic $500.00
Garmont Mega Ride 7.3 Yes 75 24 Pebax/Poly $450.00
Scrapa Spirit 3 7.8 Yes 75 23 Pebax $447.00
Garmont G Ride 7.9 No 75 24 Pebax/Poly $450.00
Scarpa Denali (Red 4 Buckle) 7.4 No 70 23 Composite $350.00
Scarpa Matrix 8 Yes 70 22 Polymers $400.00
Garmont Daemon 8.1 Yes 65 25 Polymer $360.00
Scarpa F3 6.6 Yes 60 23 Pebax $370.00
Scarpa F1 6.4 Yes 50 22 Plastic $630.00
Garmont Megalite 6.5 Yes 50 22 Pebax $300.00
Scarpa F1 Race 4.9 Yes 40 22 Pebax $980.00
Dynafit DY NA TF 4.3 Yes NR 12 Carbon Wow
Dynafit TLT5 Mountain 5.4 Yes NR 15 Pebax $750.00
Scarpa F1 Carbon 4.0 Yes NR 22 Pebax/Carbon $1,699.00
Dynafit TLT5 Performance 4.9 Yes NR 15 Carbon $1,000.00

If you're looking for a good deal on backcountry boots, be sure to check out the deals at The Outdoor Gear Exhange.


  1. Scarpa Spirit 4 is heaver than listed... Lou Dawson has actual weight of 67.5 ounces per boot, or 8.4 pounds per pair.

    Thanks for putting together the list!

  2. Thanks for the correction. That makes more sense than the 5.4lbs I have listed. (Especially given that the Spirit 3 is 7.8lbs!)

    Now if I could only get some info on those newer Dynafits....

  3. Great chart, the max forward lean on the endorphin is 25 tho -

  4. I'll make a correction. Thanks for the feedback!