Jordan’s BD Factor 500 Mile Road Test

Post by blogger | June 9, 2009      

Backcountry skiing boot reviews.

Boot Reviews

My Black Diamond Factor factors this past season:
Miles covered: Somewhere in the vicinity of 175-200
Vertical Climbed: Around 100,000 feet
Snowmobile miles: Over 300

I guess that makes this the 500 mile road test. It also shows you that I’m using backcountry ski boots in a MAJOR way.

But that’s not the whole story — the rest is that I’m a big guy, and a fair amount of my use involves rock scrambling (common when doing ski alpinism in climates such as Colorado’s). Thus, harsh use like mine might not be everyone’s trend, but in my opinion still does an excellent job of finding the boot’s strengths and weak spots.

The first time I took the Factors out I noticed two things compared to my last boots. First off they tour much better. The walk mode actually feels like it flexes enough to make walking bearable. Second, they ski more like an alpine boot. This is obviously due to the overlap boot construction and their overall beef.

In my experience, the AT sole blocks are the area of the Factor that could use the most improvement. It’s June 7th and I have my 5th pair of sole blocks headed my way since I received the boots on December 9, 2008. The issue is not with the plastic but rather the rubber sole. From what I’m told, BD is working to improve this, which will help a lot seeing as I can’t seem to go more than about 3 days of climbing before I start to get ice buildup between the rubber and the plastic on the sole, and a few days of use later, major carnage.

Backcountry Skiing

Biggest problem with my Factors was lack of thickness and durability of sole rubber. Admittedly these are difficult problems to solve, because an AT boot with Dynafit fittings doesn't allow much for sole thickness, but the bonding and durability of the sole rubber could be much better in my opinion. (Also, the cleats on a snowmobile running board may be no easier on a boot than a scree field, and any freeride oriented boot WILL probably see sled time.) BD says these problems will be addressed by next winter's batch of boots.

Black Diamond’s customer service department has been VERY helpful in dealing with this. The first time it happened, they sent me a pair of blocks that were at the front door within a couple days. Since then, I’ve been able to swap blocks as needed thanks to BD.

Black Diamond Factor ski boots.

The Factor's plastic is holding up well considering the beating I put on the bottoms of these boots this year. You can see all of the scarring from rocks on the bottom. Kudos to BD and modern plastics technology for giving me a boot that can hold up to this kind of abuse!

Buckles are another issue with the Factors, and other AT boots as well. If you do anything more than ski tour in most AT boots your are likely to bend or otherwise damage the buckles, or at the very least, deal with them unbuckling themselves when boot packing or doing mixed alpine-climbing. There are other boot brands out there that buckle on top of the toe rather than on the side, this seems to me as though it would do a better job of preventing problems, and I suggest this would be a better configuration for the Factor. When it comes to the buckles themselves, I feel they could be stronger. For a boot like the Factor, weight isn’t as much of an issue as it might be with some other Rando boots, so it might be worth having stronger buckles.

Backcountry Skiing

One of my bending buckles, I've broken one as well.

People like to ask me why I use such a heavy boot for the stuff I do. I’m a heavy dude. If I don’t have a beefy boot, first of all it won’t ski well for me, and second, I’ll probably break it (not that I won’t break it anyway, but hopefully it will at least take longer to do so).

Backcountry Skiing

I’ve heard of people breaking the Factor's walk mode switch, but never happened to me. I'm impressed by its ease of use. A quick flip down of the lever and you are in ski mode, and you feel the 'click' so you know you're there for sure.

Backcountry Skiing

The boa liner system is interesting to me. I like how it tightens up the liner around my leg, but it's definitely not as durable as a set of well anchored conventional laces.

Backcountry Skiing

Me and my Factors on Capitol Peak, Colorado. When all systems are go, these boots do ski well. They are nice and stiff in the ski mode (for an AT boot), and live up to Black Diamond's motto of 'It’s all about the down.'

In the end, my Factors have been terrific boots, but in all fairness to WildSnow readers, as well as in providing honest feedback to BD, there is room for improvement in this past season’s freshman model. Knowing Black Diamond, I’m confident those improvements are already a done deal and look forward to seeing next season’s model!

Jordan White is the fifth guy to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. He blogs here.

Shop for Black Diamond boots here.


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12 Responses to “Jordan’s BD Factor 500 Mile Road Test”

  1. Jordan June 9th, 2009 1:42 pm

    One thing I should mention here: The Ute Mountaineer has been very helpful in swapping blocks for me, as they are the only full service Black Diamond Warranty center in the valley. Lauren over there is your man if you are having the same problems as I am.

  2. LeeL June 9th, 2009 4:39 pm

    gezus Jordan. You look like you took a chainsaw to those things. Frank Konsella always told me that us BC coasties are spoiled and that we have no idea what real rock scrambling is like. Well he was right judging from your boots.

    Frankly if you do that much rock scrambling and you’re on sleds that much I think most other boots are going to look as blown as those

  3. Lou June 9th, 2009 4:48 pm

    I’m thinking it might be a good idea to “de-tune” the cleats on the sled running board so they’re less abusive of boot sole rubber. Perhaps something temporary… Funny thing is, I drove my sled a few times with my boots that had traction nails, and really scratched the running board and the side of the tunnel. Yeah, I know, if I didn’t have that Ferrari sled I wouldn’t notice (grin), give it a few years and it’ll be a beater like any other.

  4. rod georgiu June 9th, 2009 5:27 pm

    I have about 30 days on my Factors and been very happy except for the liners, which are packing in something fierce, and also separating in the heal (fabric form the foam).

    Pretty hard to keep the lower two buckles tight when walking, so a few times I got them caught on rocks, and had to spend some time extricating myself from off-widths.

  5. Jordan June 9th, 2009 5:51 pm

    You might be right, but I’m not really concerned with the plastic. I just feel like the rubber should last for a bit more than 3 trips out (especially sans sleds).

  6. Mark W June 9th, 2009 8:27 pm

    Great info. I’m a little shocked at how fast the rubber has worn out on the tread, but with as much as Jordan gets out, perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised. The buckle layout was one of the things I knew would cause problems. I think BD might have used a more alpine race look with the buckles than is really practical for ski mountaineering, but sometimes a certain look sells. Will be nice to see next year’s changes.

  7. Frank Konsella June 9th, 2009 10:20 pm


    You guys just get that nice snow covering everything up. 🙂

    FWIW, I probably put in a similar amount of miles on my zzeus boots this year, and they look nothing like Jordan’s boots. I’m quite sure that I should be able to get all the way through next season on the original sole blocks.

    I’d love to see an AT boot (in the “beef” boot category) that recognizes the likelihood of snowmobile use and has some rubber on the instep. This would make for easier snowmobiling and less wear on the boots. I have a couple of friends who use the Salomon Ghost boots at least in part due to the rubber that they have in that area for snowmobile skiing.

  8. Ben W June 10th, 2009 8:14 am

    I’ve seen rapid wear on Spirit 3’s from hiking, scree scrambling, and mild mixed climbing (I wish I had enough days in the mountains in the last FOUR years to tear my boots up as much as Jordan), however, the 10 or so Factor users I’ve spoken with all said something like: “They’re great, except the (insert name of part) broke and the liner packed out in ten days.” Along with fitting properly the most important thing my AT boots can do is not break. Also, While the Factor walk mode is uncommonly smooth out of the box, it does not have as much range of motion as any of the competing models. Given that the Zzeus and Factor fit is pretty darn similar, I wouldn’t touch the Factor unless I was buying based on extremeness of color. Everyone knows radioactive green is more extreme than black.

  9. Pierce June 10th, 2009 8:51 am

    My garmont radiums are the first pair of AT boots I haven’t broken in a season or less. The lower buckles are a little bent from rock scrambling or postholing, but they have held up well in comparison to my other boots.

    The third buckle on the Denali TTs loved to get shorn off on rocks, and the cuff rivets on my adrenalins have been replaced about 8 times, both of which caused a major loss in downhill performance. I’ve always been disappointed in the durability of $700 AT boots, but then again, I probably fall into the same category as Jordan in terms of heft and abuse.

  10. Paul June 10th, 2009 1:37 pm

    Aside from breaking two buckles, breaking the walk mechanism (twice), and turning into a somewhat sloppy boot due to hollowing out of the plastic pivot point in the back, my Factors leak quite a bit of snow in through the flex part in the back of the boot (where cuff and bottom of boot meet). Have you had this problem at all? For a day tour it isn’t much of an issue, but dealing with soaking wet liners on an overnighter isn’t much fun.

  11. Jordan June 10th, 2009 4:46 pm

    I can’t say that I’ve noticed snow/water coming in the back of the boot thus far, but I am headed to a pretty wet area this weekend, I’ll report back.

  12. bullwheelrider June 15th, 2009 8:03 am

    I second rod’s comments about the liners packing out. Within 15 days my boots started to get a bit loose and I was wishing I had a size smaller. I also had the Cuff alignment/ canting come loose occasionally on deep pow days. Thankfully someone in my group had a hex wrench the first time that happened, and I carried one going forward.

    Otherwise they are great boots… and even became my boot of choice for resort ski days on groomers (with din blocks).

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