Best Backcountry Boots of 2013

The Scarpa Maestrale RS is an upgraded four-buckle Alpine Touring Boot with a self-proclaimed 120 flex for all things backcountry

(Scarpa)

Gear Institute's Best Backcountry Boots of 2012-13: Scarpa Maestrale RS

THE GOOD
    •    Substantially stiffer than the predecessor.
    •    Walk mode has a big range for long strides.
    •    Intuition liners are warm; accommodate many foot types.
    •    Quick “step in” tech fittings make clicking in a cinch.

THE BAD
    •    The asymmetrical tongue is still awkward to negotiate.
    •    Forefoot buckles are clustered too close together.
    •    Buckles are still a little clunky.

THE VERDICT
This year (winter 2012-13) Scarpa upgraded the Maestrale, which was already a good boot, and made it bad ass. The flex is notably stiffer, but the boot didn’t gain any significant weight. Scarpa has made gains in balancing substantial tour-ability with high performance on the down. It can hold its own in bounds, but it really shines in the backcountry.

Read the full review at Gear Institute, a network of the best outdoor gear testers in America, dedicated to providing the most professional, objective, and helpful advice you can get about the gear you depend on.

Gear Institute's Best Backcountry Boots of 2012-13: Dynafit Vulcan

A very lightweight, three buckle, alpine touring/freeride boot with tech fittings

(Dynafit)

THE GOOD
    •    Strength to weight ratio is very high.
    •    Walk mode provides optimum tourability.
    •    Very light and nimble for making quick work of bootpacks, or tackling long slogs.
    •    The widened last accommodates more foot widths.

THE BAD
    •    Tricky to get in and out.
    •    They’re not cheap.
    •    Walk mode is activated by fully disengaging top buckle.
    •    Liners are a bit chintzy for such an expensive boot.

THE VERDICT
No question—the Vulcan is an excellent AT boot that can tour and ski any and all backcountry conditions. It’s light and nimble, but very stiff—with a serious strength to weight ratio, and the boot has more everyday-user appeal than Dynafit's popular TLT5. We really liked this boot, but the steep, $1,000 price takes some thunder out of our applause.

Read the full review at Gear Institute, a network of the best outdoor gear testers in America, dedicated to providing the most professional, objective, and helpful advice you can get about the gear you depend on.

Gear Institute's Best Backcountry Boots of 2012-13: Lange XT 130

The Lange XT 130 is a four-buckle freeride boot with a walk mode

(Lange)

THE GOOD
    •    Very smooth and consistent flex on the down.
    •    Clean design and appearance—it just looks smooth.
    •    Robust rubber sole/tip and tail attachments—excellent on your feet.
    •    Dual last options allow skiers to dial in the best possible fit.

THE BAD
    •    No tech fittings.
    •    Fairly heavy compared to other four-buckle freeride boots.
    •    Walk mode is sufficient but range of motion is limited.
    •    Heavy on the tour, but about average weight for freeride/frontside.

THE VERDICT
The Lange XT 130 is a performance-driven option that can drive any ski around the resorts in true alpine fashion, but will have no problem bootpacking or skinning just outside the gates. The flex might not be quite 130, but it’s the consistency that shines more than the stiffness. Long tours? Not its forte.

Read the full review at Gear Institute, a network of the best outdoor gear testers in America, dedicated to providing the most professional, objective, and helpful advice you can get about the gear you depend on.

Gear Institute's Best Backcountry Boots of 2012-13: Dalbello 2/8

The Dalbello 2/8 is a three-buckle, freeride-oriented Alpine Touring boot

Dalbello 2/8. (Dalbello)

THE GOOD
    •    Strength to weight ratio is high.
    •    Walk mode is easy to negotiate.
    •    Split tongue is still pretty cool for overall walkability.
    •    Intuition wrap liner.

THE BAD
    •    The one boot in the Dalbello line that doesn’t have tech fittings.
    •    Forward lean is moderate, could be more aggressive.
    •    Walk mode is tough to activate while wearing ... pants.

THE VERDICT
The 2/8 is ostensibly an 80-percent backcountry boot, but we felt its talents were best realized charging around a resort and nearby sidecountry. The rockered sole and ergonomic walk mode excel in bootpacking to harder-to-reach sidecountry stashes, and the boot still has the chops to kill the line in view of the après patio. Because the 2/8 isn't quite as stiff as a Scarpa Hurricane Pro or Lange XT130, tech fittings would have given this boot a serious boost in tourability—and overall value.

Read the full review at Gear Institute, a network of the best outdoor gear testers in America, dedicated to providing the most professional, objective, and helpful advice you can get about the gear you depend on.

Gear Institute's Best Backcountry Boots of 2012-13: Garmont Cosmos

The Garmont Cosmos is an extremely lightweight, four-buckle AT boot, with a claimed flex of 125

Garmont Cosmos. (Garmont)

THE GOOD
    •    One of the lightest four-buckle boots on the market.
    •    Comfy from the get-go—without even cooking liner.
    •    Buckles are well designed—very easy to negotiate.
    •    Rockered sole enhances walkability.

THE BAD
    •    Very soft for a four-buckle boot.
    •    Forward lean could be more aggressive.

THE VERDICT
The Garmont Cosmos is a very comfortable alpine touring boot, with welcoming fit and a forgiving on-snow feel being its primary virtues. It’s light and agile, ideal for longer backcountry days and more technical ski mountaineering objectives, though the power for this four-buckle boot leaves room for improvement.

Read the full review at Gear Institute, a network of the best outdoor gear testers in America, dedicated to providing the most professional, objective, and helpful advice you can get about the gear you depend on.

Gear Institute's Best Backcountry Boots of 2012-13: Crispy Skr!!m

The Crispi Skr!!m is a three-buckle, alpine touring ski boot made of Pebax with a Vibram outsole

Crispi Skr!!m. (Crispi)

THE GOOD
    •    Buckles are well placed for max performance and ease of use.
    •    Svelte cuff design screams fast and light.
    •    Ergonomic walk mode.
    •    Compulsory tech fittings for true AT designation.

THE BAD
    •    The liners are a little junior varsity; comfy but not high scoring.
    •    The flex is soft compared to others in this category.
    •    Price is a bit high.
    •    Not a ton of rocker for a lug-sole touring boot.
    •    Wait, how do you pronounce “Skr!!m?”

THE VERDICT
The Skr!!m is a fully functioning AT boot that is best suited for chasing powder deep in the backcountry. The modest stiffness is similar to the Garmont Cosmos, with which it shares the highly lauded and comparable day-long comfort. Bottom line: the boot can do everything expected of it, but the Skr!!m didn't shine above the others in this category for either touring or skiing performance.

Read the full review at Gear Institute, a network of the best outdoor gear testers in America, dedicated to providing the most professional, objective, and helpful advice you can get about the gear you depend on.

Gear Institute's Best Backcountry Boots of 2012-13: Tecnica Cochise Pro Light

The Tecnica Cochise Pro Light is a lightweight, three-buckle touring version of a proven freeride champ, with self-proclaimed 120 flex and tech or DIN soles

Tecnica Cochise Pro Light. (Tecnica)

THE GOOD
    •    Swappable AFD/Tech soles.
    •    Light for hiking and skinning.
    •    Buckles are stripped down and easy to use.
    •    The longitudinal flex is smooth, if a little soft.

THE BAD
    •    Price is a little steep for a stripped-down boot.
    •    There’s no rockered sole, making your stride a bit drastic.
    •    Stock liner could offer more support.

THE VERDICT
The Cochise Pro Light is an excellent hybrid of freeride and touring DNA. The overlap cuff design provides a consistent, predictable flex, and the interchangeable tech soles and AFD give it versatility and sole longevity. It's not as stiff as it looks, but it's not as heavy either. Get the Tecnica Cochise Pro (more like the Lange XT 130, but with tech fittings) if you want to charge around the resorts. Save the Light for sweat-labor adventure deep in the hills.

Read the full review at Gear Institute, a network of the best outdoor gear testers in America, dedicated to providing the most professional, objective, and helpful advice you can get about the gear you depend on.

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