2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon

Boot: 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon

Stated Flex: 110

Available Sizes: 24-30.5

Stated Last (size 26.5): 98 mm (heat moldable)

Stated Range of Motion: 74°

Stated Forward Lean: 15° (adjustable to 13° and 17°)

Size Tested: 27.5

Stated Boot Sole Length (size 27.5): 298 mm

Blister’s Measured Weight (size 27.5):

  • Shells, no Liners: 882 & 884 g
  • Liners, no Footbeds: 228 & 230 g
  • Shells + Liners = 1110 & 1114 g

Buckles: 1 micro-adjustable upper buckle + BOA closure

Powerstrap: 40 mm cam-style

Shell Material:

  • Cuff: Carbon Fiber
  • Shoe / Clog: “Carbon-Loaded Polyamide”

Soles: full-rubber, rockered, fixed

Binding Compatibility: tech bindings w/ pin toes and pin heels

Tech Fittings: yes

Blister reviews the 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Boot
Atomic Backland Carbon
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Review Navigation:  Specs //  Intro //  Weight & Comparisons //  Design & Features //  Bottom Line

Intro

This year Atomic overhauled their line of lightweight touring boots — the Backland series.

Serving as the more uphill-oriented complement to their hard-charging Hawx Ultra XTD series, the Backland boots slot into the class of very light touring boots with excellent uphill mobility, while reportedly still delivering enough stiffness and power to ski relatively hard in the backcountry.

Paul Forward reviewed the previous Backland Carbon and came away quite impressed. But while that boot compared favorably to its competitors, it was a bit finicky with its removable tongues and Paul ended up making a lot of modifications to try to make it ski better (as he has with many boots in this class). Well, Atomic seems like they’ve been listening to what people have been saying, and the updates to the new boot have us very excited.

We’ll be getting these boots up to Paul ASAP so he can get them on snow, but in the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the new design.

2019-2020 Atomic Backland Boot Lineup

The 19/20 Backland boot line consists of 7 boots. At the most uphill-oriented end of the spectrum is the Backland Ultimate, which Atomic markets as an “endurance touring boot” and some would call a skimo race boot, and that features a lower cuff (vs. the other Backland boots), ultralight Grilamid & carbon shell / cuff, and walk mechanism that’s integrated into the cuff closure for quicker transitions. At the most downhill-oriented end of the spectrum is the boot we’re reviewing, the Backland Carbon, which features a carbon-fiber cuff, carbon-reinforced shoe / clog, and a stated flex of 110.

For reference, here’s a quick breakdown of the whole 19/20 Atomic Backland boot line. And if any of the talk about different plastics and constructions is confusing, we highly recommend listening to our GEAR:30 podcast with Atomic Ski Boots product manager, Matt Manser.

Backland Ultimate

  • Stated Weight (size 26.5): 750 g
  • Stated Flex: 70
  • Shell / Cuff Material: Grilamid & carbon-loaded Grilamid / carbon fiber

Backland Expert W

  • Stated Weight (size 26.5): 1160 g
  • Stated Flex: 85
  • Shell / Cuff Material: True Flex PU / True Flex PU

Backland Sport

  • Stated Weight (size 26.5): 1206 g
  • Stated Flex: 90
  • Shell / Cuff Material: True Flex PU / True Flex PU
  • Note: this budget-oriented boot retains the removable-tongue and non-BOA design of the previous Backland boots.

Backland Expert

  • Stated Weight (size 26.5): 1173 g
  • Stated Flex: 90
  • Shell / Cuff Material: True Flex PU / True Flex PU

Backland Pro W

  • Stated Weight (size 26.5): 1097 g
  • Stated Flex: 95
  • Shell / Cuff Material: polyamide / polyamide

Backland Pro

  • Stated Weight (size 26.5): 1102 g
  • Stated Flex: 100
  • Shell / Cuff Material: polyamide / polyamide

Backland Carbon

  • Stated Weight (size 26.5): 1094 g
  • Stated Flex: 110
  • Shell / Cuff Material: carbon-loaded polyamide / carbon fiber

Weight + Comparisons

The new Backland Carbon is a bit lighter than the old version, and it still slots right around the middle of the “lightweight touring boot” category in terms of weight; not as light as the very minimal Scarpa Alien RS, but not as heavy as the Salomon S/Lab X-Alp. And even compared to some of the lightest “freeride touring boots” like the Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro and Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130, the Backland Carbon is significantly lighter.

For reference, here are some of our measured weights for several boots in this class, and then two boots in the heavier, more downhill-oriented touring category. Keep in mind the size differences to try to keep things apples-to-apples.

988 & 991 Scarpa Alien RS, 28.0 (18/19–19/20)
1014 & 1023 Dynafit TLT Speedfit, 26.5 (18/19–19/20)
1064 & 1070 Fischer Travers Carbon, 27.5 (16/17–18/19)
1065 & 1069 Dynafit TLT 7 Performance, 28.5 (17/18–18/19)
1110 & 1114 Atomic Backland Carbon, 27.5 (19/20)
1167 & 1170 Atomic Backland Carbon, 27.5 (15/16–18/19)
1232 & 1232 Salomon S/Lab X-Alp, 27.5 (17/18–19/20)
1288 & 1286 Arc’teryx Procline Carbon Support, 27.5 (16/17–19/20)
~1310 (avg. weight) Scarpa F1, 28.0 (17/18–19/20)
1309 & 1311 Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro, 26.5 (18/19–19/20)
1406 & 1414 Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130, 26.5 (19/20)

Heat-Moldable Shell

Apart from the Backland Sport, all of the new Backland boots still feature Atomic’s “Memory Fit” heat-moldable shells. Heat-moldable shells are fairly rare in the lightweight touring category, and this is something that sets apart the Backland boots from much of their competition.

Blister reviews the 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Boot
Atomic Backland Carbon

One notable update to the shells of the new Backland boots is that their cuff height has increased slightly, which is a plus since the old Backland boots’ low cuffs didn’t do a great job of transferring power evenly across your shins, particularly for larger skiers. This was a big reason why Paul decided to modify his Backland Carbons and swap the stock liner for a much taller Intuition Power Wrap liner. That said, the new Backland Carbon is still a bit shorter than most “freeride touring boots” like the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD.

Liner

The liner in the Backland Carbon is pretty standard fare for a boot in this class. Its liner is quite thin, very pliable, and much less substantial compared to the liners in heavier touring boots. It has the standard “flex zone” near the Achilles area, minimal reinforcements around the back of the calf and the tongue area, and is fully heat-moldable.

Blister reviews the 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Boot
19/20 Atomic Backland Carbon — Liner

To align with the slightly higher cuff height of the shell, the liner in the new Backland Carbon is also a bit taller than the previous version’s liner.

The Backland Carbon’s liner is also fully machine-washable, and it has a perforated sole that’s meant to increase breathability.

Walk Mechanism & Range of Motion

The new Backland boots’ “Free/Lock 4.0” walk mechanism is nearly identical to the previous versions. It’s still fully external, comprised mostly of a big chunk of aluminum, and seems bomber, based on our experience with the old Backland Carbon and Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD boots, which use a walk mechanism that’s essentially the same. According to Atomic, the difference between the Free/Lock 4.0 mechanism on the 19/20 Backland boots and the previous Free/Lock 2.0 system is the ability to change the forward lean on the 4.0 version without removing the walk mechanism and using a flip chip like the previous version. Instead of using a flip chip, you simply loosen two bolts with an Allen key and slide the walk mechanism up or down to adjust the forward lean. The Backland Carbon comes standard in the 15° forward lean setting, and you can adjust it to 13° or 17°.

The large bar on the back of the Backland boots has a hook that locks into a bar on the lower cuff of the boot, locking the cuff for ski mode and freeing up a claimed 74° range of motion in walk mode. It also has a small plastic / cord tab on the end to make it easy to grab.

Blister reviews the 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Boot
19/20 Atomic Backland Carbon — walk mechanism in ski mode (left) and walk mode (right)

One key difference between the Backland Carbon and one of its most notable competitors, the Dynafit TLT8 Carbonio, is that the Backland Carbon’s walk mechanism is not integrated into any of its buckles. Dynafit’s “Ultra Lock” walk mechanism not only engages its cuff when in ski mode, but at the same time tightens down its upper buckle (and vice versa in walk mode). That system makes for even quicker transitions, though in past Ultra Lock Dynafit boots, we’ve had experiences with the walk mechanism disengaging during high-impact scenarios. So as always, there are tradeoffs to be made. With the Backland boots, Atomic seems to be opting to lose a bit of efficiency during transitions in exchange for a potentially stronger / more reliable ski mode. We’ll see how that pans out on snow.

Buckles (or Lack Thereof)

As you probably noticed as soon as you looked at the new Backland boots, this is one of the other areas where the boots saw significant change. Instead of the buckle / cable system on the old Backland boots, the new versions have a single BOA dial closure. The BOA system is designed to accomplish the same goal as a traditional buckle (securing your instep and forefoot) but does so with a single dial adjustment and cable system that’s hidden underneath the Backland’s textile gaiter. Atomic says the switch to the BOA system was meant to make it easier to transition and make it more durable since the BOA dial over the instep is reportedly less prone to damage while scrambling (vs. the buckle on the side of the old boot).

Blister reviews the 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Boot
19/20 Atomic Backland Carbon

The new Backland boots’ gaiter covers the instep and forefoot area and extends about halfway up the cuff to help keep out water and snow. It has magnetic tabs that are designed to connect it to the liner. Taking the liners in and out of the boot, that gaiter tends to get in the way (a slight annoyance with the old version, too). Though while messing with the boot inside, the gaiter is barely noticeable once the liner is in the boot since its secured under the cuff of the boot. We’re curious to see if that gaiter presents any issues in the backcountry.

While playing with it in Blister HQ, the Backland Carbon’s BOA system is very easy to use with gloves or mittens. Interestingly, the adjustment range of the BOA dial doesn’t seem super large — there isn’t a massive difference between the perceived instep / forefoot volume when the BOA is fully tightened vs. fully loosened. But the size 27.5 Backland Carbon is not the right size for me, so I won’t make any conclusive comments on the fit, though we’re interested to hear what Paul Forward thinks, especially with his high instep.

What’s really interesting here is the decision to ditch the old Backland’s removable tongue. That tongue was where the old boot got most of its stiffness in ski mode, but Atomic is claiming that the 19/20 Backland Carbon still has the same 110 flex as the old version. Like the Scarpa Alien RS, the new Backland Carbon’s stiffness in ski mode will come from the connection and rigidity of its cuff and lower shell, rather than a tongue. Atomic’s Matt Manser said that the new Backland Carbon’s max stiffness is identical to the Atomic Hawx Prime 110, but they aimed for a more progressive flex pattern with the new Backland Carbon (i.e., softer initially, but with a smooth ramp-up). The old Backland Carbon did not have a very progressive flex pattern, so this could be a big improvement. And just while flexing the boot indoors, the flex does feel quite progressive for a boot in this class.

Up top, the Backland Carbon has a single buckle that’s similar to the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD boots, in that it has a slider that lets you significantly loosen the buckle, even when it’s still attached to the hooks on the boot’s cuff.

I’m personally a big fan of these buckles as they can make for quicker transitions since you can flip the buckle open and get good range of motion without fully removing it from the hooks on the cuff, and therefore just need to close the buckle and tighten the power strap to secure it in ski mode. To keep the buckle on the hooks, even when the buckle is disengaged, there is a small metal latch (the silver bar shown above) that covers the buckle-latch / hook interface.

Power Strap

Another update: the new Backland Carbon now has a wider, 40 mm power strap, and this one has a cam-style ratchet, rather than the narrower, velcro-style power strap on the old version. Many of us have become fans of cam-style power straps on other boots, and the wider power strap on the new Backland Carbon seems like a sensible update, given how insubstantial the power strap was on the old version.

Blister reviews the 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Boot
19/20 Atomic Backland Carbon — Power Strap & Upper Buckle

Like the power strap on the 19/20 Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130, the material on the 19/20 Backland Carbon’s power strap is extremely thin, but its wider shape should still help it more effectively and evenly distribute pressure than the thinner strap on the old version.

Soles & Binding Compatibility

Not much change here — the 19/20 Backland Carbon still has a rockered, fixed, full-rubber sole. The tread looks basically identical to the old version’s sole.

The 19/20 size 27.5 Backland Carbon has the same stated BSL (298 mm) as the old size 27.5 Backland Carbon. Like most boots in this category, the Backland Carbon’s BSL is shorter than more downhill-oriented boots of the same size, which is in part due to the Backland Carbon’s very short toe welt. This is meant to move the pivot point closer to your toes when skinning in tech bindings for a more efficient stride, and it also often equates to a more comfortable and natural walking experience when you’re off your skis.

Blister reviews the 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Boot
19/20 Atomic Backland Carbon — Sole

 The Backland Boots are only compatible with traditional “tech” or “pin” bindings with pins at both the toes and heels. The Backland will not work with MNC bindings (e.g., Atomic Shift MNC, Atomic Warden MNC, etc.) or hybrid tech bindings with alpine-like heels (e.g., Marker Kingpin & Fritschi Tecton).

Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About

(1) With no tongue, just how stiff will the new Backland Carbon be? We’ve found most of the boots in this weight class to perform very similarly on the downhill, so will the new Backland Carbon be similar, better, or worse than its competitors when headed downhill?

(2) While the old Backland Carbon was stiff for its weight, its flex pattern was not very progressive (i.e., kind of felt like hitting a “brick wall”). Without a stiff tongue, will the new Backland Carbon’s flex be more progressive and / or offer better damping and suspension when skiing through variable snow and terrain?

(3) The new Backland Carbon has the same stated range of motion as the previous version (74°), but it should be quicker to transition due to its lack of a removable tongue. But will we notice any other upsides or downsides in terms of skinning, walking, and transitions?

(3) How effective is the BOA closure in terms of securing your instep and forefoot? And will we run into any durability issues while scrambling around in the new Backland Carbon?

Bottom Line (For Now)

With the 19/20 Backland Carbon, Atomic seems to have addressed many of the qualms we had with the old boot, and we’re very excited to see how it compares to the boot it replaced — and numerous other boots in this category. Stay tuned for our full review.

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7 comments on “2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon”

  1. I think that Scarpa F1 should be included in the overview of alternatives, too. And it would be interesting to compare these boots with Scarpa F1.

    • Good call — just added our average measured weight of that boot for reference, and Paul will definitely be comparing that boot in his full review.

  2. Luke is this some kind of experimental math you guys at Blister are pioneering?
    Blister’s Measured Weight (size 27.5):
    Shells, no Liners: 1110 & 1114 g
    Liners, no Footbeds: 228 & 230 g
    Shells + Liners = 1110 & 1114 g

    On topic:
    I did one day of frontside skiing in different piste conditions on this boot and I was amazed. Yes I was tired and my feet said no at the end of the day but I was using it in a way it was not designed for. It was a nice boot to ski on in good conditions and it was some work in bad conditions. But overall they didn’t suck and thats why I was amazed.
    I’ll be glad to read your opinion of actual backcountry usage and leave some room for the subtleties to you guys.

    • Ah, my bad. Some copy & pasting errors there — the total weights were correct, but they accidentally got pasted in as the shell weights. Updated with the correct weights. Glad to hear your initial impressions have been positive!

  3. When are you expecting to get some real world skiing and then review up on here?
    Really looking forward to hear how they ski compared to the original Backland Carbon.

    I forgot my tongues once skiing groomers at my hill and it was a very different boot and not in a good way.

    • Paul should be getting the boots on snow within 2 weeks, after which he’ll post a Flash Review with his initial impressions. Then for the full review, we’re probably aiming for a mid-January to mid-February publishing date.

  4. I bought previous version last season. I have normal feet feel most comfortable in 101 last, those were painful , too short cuff, my calf was squeezed , terrible fit for me! sold them after skiing once. Bought Scarpa alien 1.0

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