If you’re on the hunt for an affordable ski touring boot with decent performance characteristics and lightweight construction, the Atomic Backland Carbon is a good option to explore. These boots will provide you with better-than-average touring performance both uphill and downhill, but the fit can run wide, which poses an issue for some skiers.
- Where to buy: Amazon
- Best for: Backcountry and touring skiers who want a relatively affordable ski boot.
- Pros: Decently priced for a touring boot and built to handle everything that comes your way, these can be a go-to option for anyone looking to get outside of the resort boundaries.
- Cons: Runs a little wide, so not recommended if you have narrow feet. This design flaw can be alleviated slightly with an extra pair of socks, but if you’re looking for precise performance you might want something else.
- The Alternatives: Technica Zero G, Scarpa Maestrale, Dynafit Hoji Free
Why Trust Me
Born and raised in the mountains of Colorado, I’ve been skiing almost as long as I’ve been able to walk. I’ve skied all over the world and have decades of experience skiing on, testing, and reviewing different skis and skiing equipment. I rented the Atomic Backland Carbon boots for a week-long hut trip last season. Below you’ll find my detailed review.
Overall, the Atomic Backland Carbon is a quality ski touring boot that will meet the needs of any novice-to-intermediate backcountry skier. They earn decent marks for performance, but have some slight issues with comfort and fit. They are a relatively affordable option for a ski touring boot, so they pose a tradeoff between their attractive price and the critical marks I noticed while using them.
Comfort and Fit
Before we get into the performance characteristics, I want to start off with some words on their comfort and fit because that’s the biggest issue I encountered when using them. Put simply, they run wide. I have slightly wide feet and the boots were still too much for me. When I doubled up on socks (something I don’t really like to do), they filled out just fine.
So, if you have narrow feet, I would suggest looking for another option for your backcountry touring needs. If you aren’t an experienced skier, you might not notice it that much, but most backcountry skiers are in tune with what a performance fit feels like. These boots fall flat of that mark. Unless you have wide feet. If you do, I think these are a great option, especially for the price.
On the comfort front, these boots provide good ankle support, especially on uphill ascents. I didn’t really notice issues with them being wide when headed uphill, only when skiing back down did it become a problem. Even so, they provide decent comfort characteristics and their lightweight build was definitely noticeable from the start.
On The Up
Nearly every backcountry trip starts with the uphill ascent so it’s only fitting we start this review of a backcountry touring boot with a look at how they perform while you’re on the up. The Atomic Backland Carbon gets excellent marks for their abilities to get you headed uphill. Comfortable and effective for every trek I took them on, both long and short, these boots excel at helping you get to where you need to go.
The solid uphill performance has a lot to do with the boot’s design elements. The range of motion they provide you with while unclipped and in touring mode is impressive. That flexibility makes them excellent for skinning and hiking because they work wonders on long uphill stretches. I encountered little rub or discomfort when moving uphill with them.
I was using a rented pair, however, so I had the advantage of the boots already being broken in. I would plan for a break-in period of a week or so of daily use if you’re purchasing the boots new right out of the box. Once they’re there, you can expect high-end uphill performance characteristics that will help you get to where you’re going and keep your feet comfy at the same time.
I wasn’t quite impressed with the downhill performance of these boots. They are capable, don’t me get wrong, but I wouldn’t throw them into the high-performance alpine touring boot category. I attribute most of this average-at-best downhill performance to the fact that they are an ultralight boot and that focus inherently limits how much material is built into the boot to keep everything secure and stable when you are headed downhill.
The same reason why these boots are great going uphill comes back to bite them a little bit when going back down. That flexibility and range of motion they provide is limited when you lock the back latch into place for downhill skiing, but gives the boots a flexy feel when you start to ski. On moderate terrain, this wasn’t that much of an issue but when I was really cruising or going down anything technical, I wanted more out of these boots.
That’s not to say these boots aren’t capable of getting you effectively downhill and providing enough support to ski well for a backcountry trip – they are sufficient. But they aren’t a boot built for high-end performance in mind. That is the sacrifice that is a result of the ultra-light movement and if you’re more considered with uphill ease than downhill preciseness, these boots provide a lot to work with.
Weight and Warmth
Another area where these boots truly stand out is in their weight. They are fully in the ultralight touring boot category, which makes them great for long tours and increases their comfort/uphill performance. The size I used weighed in at just under five pounds, which is lighter than my warmest winter boots. That impressed me and I really enjoyed the lightweight feel.
I didn’t have any issues with the warmth of these boots, but I did wear two pairs of socks to make up for the wide fit. I also run pretty hot, especially when touring. When the temperature dropped, my toes did get cold briefly and I would expect these boots to not be the warmest option for anyone with cold feet/toe issues. Limited insulation is one downside to the lighter design.
Price and Value
The Atomic Backland Carbon is a decently priced ski touring boot. They are actually more affordable than a lot of other boots in the ultralight category, which is good for people on a tighter budget. Ski boots are expensive, however, and these are still far from cheap. All things considered, they are a somewhat budget boot with good performance that represents better than average value.
What I Like
My favorite aspects of the Atomic Backland Carbon boots were their uphill performance attributes alongside the lightweight design. Both of those are ideal for a backcountry boot because it allows you to have more comfort and flexibility when you’re headed towards the top. And let’s face it, the majority of your time touring is spent heading up to where you want to ski. The minimal design and flexible construction stand out when it comes to those hikes.
I also truly enjoyed the way the boots held up and performed off of skis. Walking around camp or exploring areas near the trail was easy and to be honest, it didn’t feel like I was wearing ski boots at all. When in touring mode, the boots are flexible, comfortable, and provide you with an easy way to get around on or off your skis. They were also quite simple to get in and out of. That’s especially great for early mornings or a long day on the trail.
Another reason to love the Carbons is their price. They make a great somewhat budget touring option and serve as a good first set of touring boots for anyone who’s starting to explore everything backcountry skiing has to offer.
What I Don’t Like
My main issue with these boots is their downhill performance and wide fit. Downhill performance is always going to be an issue when you get an ultralight touring boot that intentionally sacrifices strength and stability to shed ounces. This might not be a problem for some backcountry skiers, but I’d rather lug an extra pound or two on my feet and be able to rip harder going downhill.
As I mentioned earlier, they also run wide. Even for someone like myself who has a wide-ish foot, I found that these boots didn’t have the snug fit that helps give me a bit more underfoot control when on the snow. If you have narrow feet, I would probably avoid these altogether because you’ll be sliding around and might even experience some looseness or loss of ankle stability.
If you want an alternative lightweight touring boot built for the backcountry that’s similar to the Atomic Backland Carbon, check out these options:
- Technica Zero G – These are another solid option in the world of lightweight touring that provide quality performance both uphill and down. They are comfortable and flexible with a focus on downhill performance.
- Scarpa Maestrale – Another option for anyone who wants lightweight touring boots, these rival the weight of the Atomic Backland Carbon and have a few other features that cater to downhill performance.
- Dynafit Hoji Free – These are another excellent alternative that will give you strong backcountry performance both up and downhill. They aren’t the most comfortable option out there, but I value the ankle support and snug fit.
Do you need an ultralight boot to go backcountry skiing?
It’s not a necessity, but the style is becoming more and more popular. Some skiers really like the idea of fewer pounds to make the uphill ascent much easier. However, the lighter your boot, the more downhill performance you will sacrifice.
How does the Atomic Backlands Carbon perform going downhill?
Being an ultralight touring boot, they do sacrifice some downhill performance for the sake of shedding weight. If you’re new to backcountry skiing, this might not be an issue. Experienced skiers will notice limited performance under demanding conditions.
Are the Atomic Backlands Carbon a resort boot?
No, they aren’t. I wouldn’t recommend using these boots at the resort at all. They are intended to be used for backing touring and work best for that purpose.
The Atomic Backlands Carbon is a well priced, lightweight touring ski boot that provides good value in terms of performance and price. They excel when going uphill due to their flexible nature and wide range of motion. Downhill performance is where they don’t quite live up to my personal standards, and I would expect other seasoned skiers to have a similar opinion.
I would recommend these boots for any backcountry skier with wide feet who wants a lightweight option that’s both comfortable and effective. I would not recommend them for anyone with narrow feet or experienced skiers who really enjoy the benefits of stiff boots that focus on downhill performance.