Atomic updated their Backland series of boots for the 22/23 season. I plan to test the Backland Carbon. Before diving into more comprehensive field testing for this season, here’s a first look.
The Atomic Backland Carbon is one of the SIX new flavors in the Backland series. The Backland boots vary from more affordable and less stiff to less affordable and stiffer. The Backland Carbon is the least affordable and most stiff in the series. Here’s a graphic to help with the related manufacturer’s model mayhem:
The Backland Series goes from Carbon > Pro > Expert > Sport. The distinctions between models are material type, liner type, and power strap type. All the boots appear to be built with the same molds and use the same notions (buckles, liner covers, ski/walk mechanism, pivot materials).
There is a complementary series to the Atomic-declared ‘ALL ROUND’ Backland series called the Backland UL series (called ‘FAST AND LIGHT’ in contrast). The Backland UL series differs by having a velcro cuff buckle, no power strap, a lighter liner, and a BOA shell closure system. I imagine this saves a bit of weight and money at the expense of durability and downhill performance. As a disclaimer, I haven’t seen any of the Backland UL series; this is strictly speculation from catalog browsing.
Okay, what’s changed with the updated 22/23 Atomic Backland Carbon?
Atomic replaces the BOA system with a buckle system: The new shell buckle system is called the Cross Lace 2.0. It has similarities to the 18/19 Atomic Backland Carbon (hence the 2.0 as an improvement on the past buckle design). I imagine the extra zig in the zig-zag cable pattern will provide a more uniform closure over the top of the shell. The move away from BOA has turned into a market bifurcation within the two-buckle boot world: some companies are sticking with the BOA (ex., the Salomon MTN Summit, the Scarpa F1 LT, and the Dynafit Blacklight), while others are moving back to the buckle (ex. the Tecnica Zero G Peak and the Dalbello Quantum), and the Skorpius CR II evolved from a buckle to the BOA. (The upside to all these closure systems is you’ve got options.) I look forward to comparing both the merits and drawbacks over this season.
New power strap: The new power strap is a minor, albeit helpful, improvement. The difference is there’s now a locking system on the cam strap buckle. The locking system allows the cam lock open or remain closed and makes threading the cam strap easier while putting on the boot. I’m curious if this added complexity will lead to more opportunities for something to break; for now, it’s convenient and a pleasure to operate.
New liner: The new 3D Platinum liner is made from Atomic’s proprietary Dry Fit Foam. Atomic advertises this foam as providing a phenomenal and longer-lasting fit that improves foot hold over previous Backland boots. Designwise, they moved the perforated red foam from the toe box to the heel and Achilles area. The red foam is designed to improve venting and reduce foot sweat. Maybe there were complaints of cold feet with the past liners having the perforated foam in the toe box? Also new is a more durable outer fabric that is placed on higher friction areas to improve the liner’s durability. Knowing liner rub is a pervasive problem across two-buckle boots, I’m excited to see this. In general, the liner feels high quality. Most ~1000g boots have a skimpy liner to save on weight. This liner feels substantially more plush – made with denser foam, a reinforced tongue and calf cuff, and a noticeably high construction quality.
New snow gaiter: The snow gaiter received an update too. The gaiter is a common failure point for most two-buckle boots. It’s difficult to bond fabric to plastic, and it’s in the high friction zone where the cuff articulates on the shell. The old snow gaiter has two magnets that attach the fabric to the liner. The new one has a velcro tab connecting to the liner’s tongue. More noticeably, the new gaiter reaches higher up the boot and doesn’t have a stitched seam in the center. I’m looking forward to testing the durability of the new snow gaiter this season.
Aside from these changes, the 22/23 Backland Carbon looks similar to its aged brethren. Similar shell and cuff. Same great cuff buckle (one of the best in the category because of its large amount of travel for remaining buckled while in uphill mode without hindering range of motion). Similar outsole and ski/walk mechanism. I look forward to seeing how these design changes play out throughout the season. In particular, I’m thinking:
Will I miss the BOA?
Will I want to replace the liner for something more substantial in less than a season?
Will the snow gaiter hold up through the season?
As a preface to my description for the Backland Carbon’s fit, I’ll describe my foot as narrow and low-volume. The Scarpa Alien RS fit my foot shape great, but the volume was too high. The Salomon MTN Summit was an appropriate volume, but too wide in the toe box (as two related points of reference). With that in mind, the Atomic Backland Carbon feels narrow in the toe box and has an appropriate volume for my foot size / arch height.
The shell buckle provides more macro adjustment to the boot but lacks micro adjustment (the BOA system, in contrast, felt the opposite. It provided great micro adjustment but lacked a wider range of macro adjustment). The cuff is slightly too high volume for my calf and ankle. This surprised me because I have bigger than normal calves and ankles.
This is my first take on out-of-box boots. I’ll update later with a more informed opinion.
The First Impression
I went for my first tour with the Atomic Backland Carbon boots. Here are a few notes from the outing:
-Smooth, low resistance range of motion
-Convenient power strap (with the updated locking mechanism)
-Great cuff buckle that allows me to avoid moving the buckle in between uphill and downhill mode without compromising the range of motion
-Surprisingly progressive flex for a carbon fiber cuff
-Secure shell fit with shell buckle system
-Lower-than-I’d-like cuff height
-Strange off-axis cuff overlap
What I like:
-The boot has a narrow fit that feels comfortable but not spacious (think performance fit)
-The progressive flex is better than other carbon fiber two buckle boots that I’ve tried
-The shell buckle system is an improvement to the BOA for durability and fit.
-The liner feels nicer, more durable, and higher performance than the old Backland liner
-The color scheme screams Disney villain, which I’m into.
What I don’t like:
-The liner tongue doesn’t sit well while the boot is in downhill mode. It will slide to one side or the other, which is noticeable while skiing. A velcro strap connecting the tongue to the rest of the liner could be an easy remedy for this issue.
-The cuff overlap sits asymmetrically on the shin. I don’t know if this helps or hurts downhill performance.
What I look forward to finding out:
-How do the liner, snow gaiter, and hardware hold up over normal use in a season (general durability)?
-How would a few upgrades, like a thicker liner and wider power strap, add to the downhill performance of this boot?
The Basic Stats
Claimed weight: 1162g (size 26.5)
Construction: Carbon cuff, shell is carbon infused polyamide
Forward lean: 13, 15, and 17 degree options
Range of motion: 74 degrees
Thanks for tuning it. Will check back later with more comprehensive opinions!
Slator Aplin lives in the San Juans. He enjoys time spent in the mountains, pastries paired with coffee, and adventures-gone-wrong. You can often find him outside Telluride’s local bakery — Baked in Telluride.