Garmont Radium Backcountry Skiing Boots — The New Zealand Review

Post by blogger | August 24, 2009      

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Backcountry skiing boot reviews.

Boot Reviews

The Garmont Radium is one of the well farmed and tasty crop of overlap cuff boots that came out over the past year or so. By using a shell design similar to an alpine shoe, these backcountry skiing boots have a better ski flex and have more flexibility for walking because your stride isn’t blocked by the stiff tongue of “tongue” boots. Up and down better — always a good combo. I skied the Radium a bit last spring, then during a few months of “winter” in New Zealand as my only boot (both alpine and AT). About 40 days total.

Me in the New Zealand boot testing lab.

Me in the New Zealand boot testing lab.

Overlap boots tend to be stiff on the down, and Radiums are no exception. Although not quite in the realm of an alpine boot, there is plenty to push against when you’re maching the steeps. Even so, they still have great flexibility for touring during backcountry skiing and are reasonably light for a four buckle boot (1948 grams with my orthotics, size 28).

Another thing that makes Radiums a strong boot on the downhill is the high cuff. When compared to other downhill performance oriented boots the Radium does not appear that much higher, but apparently a centimeter or two makes a huge difference, because you can really feel a solid wrap high on your calf with this boots, and of course the shell is high in the front because of the extended overlap (which is sort of a tongue, but is out of the way when you’re touring).

Garmont Radium review

Tecnica Agent AT to left, Radium to right. Notice how the Radium shell comes up high in the front, and the liner cuff is higher as well? You can feel it.

It’s amazing how just a few millimeters of height makes a backcountry skiing boot feel so much more solid. All this makes the boot ski great. Not only is it stiff, but it also has a progressive flex, something that I think is very important in determining how a boot skis.

Radiums have a unique catch system that keeps the buckle in its slot until you press a release button. It took a little bit of getting used to this at first, but it is a useful feature. I’ve been keeping the buckle in the same slot all the time, simply releasing it on the hike and clamping for the down. The catch mechanism makes buckling the boot up at the top much quicker.

The Radium ski/walk mode switch is the simplest design I have seen, with with all components on the outside of the boot shell. I was worried about ice problems because of this, but haven’t had any. Most AT boots that I’ve handled and tested over the years had a considerable amount of play in the ski/walk mechanism. A few boots we have here at Wildsnow HQ have as much as 5 millimeters of movement in the cuff. This translates to over a centimeter of back and forth movement at the top of the boot, which allows the knee to move quite some distance for/aft without flexing the plastic at all! Most of this play seems to come from parts that are not machined or assembled to tight specs, so they wiggle quite a bit (especially after a bit of wear).

Radiums down under!

Radiums down under!

It has always puzzled me why boot manufacturers make boots with play you can feel from day one. Tightening this up would be a simple way to make a boot ski quite a bit better without adding any weight or compromising walkability. So, I’m happy to say that the walk mechanism on the Radium is the best I have seen yet. It offers quite a bit of movement in walk mode, but it locks down super solid in ski mode, with no noticeable play at all. Impressive.

Radium lean lock

Radium lean lock, ski/walk switch. After 40 days of use, still as tight as off-the-shelf.

Although the ski/walk lean lock switch works well, it has one flaw. The switch has quite a small space between it and the boot plastic when it is in walk mode, this of course doesn’t change the boot’s performance, but it makes the switch hard to operate with gloved fingers. The Scarpa Spirit 3s and 4s, for example, have a nice switch I can operate even with my pants draped over it. With Radium, while wearing thick gloves I had to take them off to work the switch. I tied a loop of string through the switch, which made it much easier. There is no forward lean adjustment on the Radium. They feel fine to me with the stock forward lean, but it would have been nice to be able to fine tune it. It seems like it would be easy for Garmont to put a few more holes in the boot that you screw the switch in to in order to change the lean.

Another moderate but nonetheless downside of the Radium is that the low volume toe area seems to require significant extra length for a given size. (What’s more, some folks have found that an interior ridge in the shell on top of the toes causes fit problems unless they go to a larger shell size or work with a boot fitter). For example, my size 28 Radiums are 325mm long, while the same fit in a Scarpa Skookum requires only a 313 mm sole. As a result, I had to remount my Dynafits in order to fit the Radiums.

Garmont Radium (right) hight comparo with Tecnica Agent AT

Garmont Radium (right) length comparo with a same size Scarpa Skookum. More than a centimeter of difference, albeit some of this is caused by the Scarpa's slightly shorter sole/toe shape.

Beyond the fact that some skiers might need a remount, a centimeter or so of extra sole length is perhaps not a big deal. But when you’ve already got large feet and you’re looking for efficiency, longer boot shells work against you in several ways: Mainly, the extended distance from your toes to the end of the boot results in a less efficient stride both in bindings and on foot, also, a larger boot is heavier. But whatever, I got used to it and cranked these shoes, so what’s not to love?

I should also mention that another reason Radiums ski downhill so nice is the liner. These have plenty of dense foam around the calf area, and a plastic stiffener on the tongue which I’m sure adds to the beefy feel of these guns. More, they come up nice and high around the calf. Front and bag grab loops you can actually get your fingers in are also a nice touch, as is a section of slick interior fabric that your heel slides down when you enter the boot, thus making what’s admittedly the sometimes difficult entry into overlap boots a bit easier.

In all, Radiums are a fantastic choice if you are looking for an AT backcountry boot that skis almost as good as an alpine boot, but tours well and is still fairly light. What is more, from the buckles, to the lean lock, to the liner — note quality and craftsmanship that no other boot maker I know of has surpassed — and that only a few others equal. Honestly — I’m impressed.

Louie Dawson self portrait.

Yours truly in NZ. Yes, I'm wearing the Radiums. Why do you think I'm smiling?

More Radium ramblings here at WildSnow.

Shop for Garmont boots here.

(Guest blogger Louie Dawson is Wild Snow progeny. He’s attending college at Western Washington University and Mount Baker, with summer spent on ski resort staff in New Zealand.)


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20 Responses to “Garmont Radium Backcountry Skiing Boots — The New Zealand Review”

  1. Tom Gos August 24th, 2009 9:32 am

    Louie, good review. I’m still curious about the sole length and fit. Right now I’m skiing a size 28 Zzero, which is a bit long at 316mm sole, and a bit too high volume. Should I expect a size 27 Radium at 315mm to fit significantly shorter, lower volume, or both than my Zzero?

  2. Jonathan Shefftz August 24th, 2009 10:12 am

    “It’s amazing how just a few millimeters of height makes a backcountry skiing boot feel so much more solid. All this makes the boot ski great. Not only is it stiff, but it also has a progressive flex, something that I think is very important in determining how a boot skis.”
    – Curious how tall you are? I have this little pet theory (entirely unproven), that taller skiers (especially with regard to length of lower leg shaft) are more sensitive to boot cuff height. (That said, even at my height of 5’8″, many years ago when I tried on a Garmont G-Ride side-by-side with a Dynamite, even though the plastic was the same stiffness on the two boots, the lower cuff height of the Dynamite made me feel like I was in danger of going over the handlebars whenever I flexed it aggressively.)

  3. Jonathan Shefftz August 24th, 2009 10:14 am

    link for Lou’s own amazingly detailed boot fit specs:

  4. NickD August 24th, 2009 1:49 pm

    The sole length issue has another big downside if you view the Radium as an upgrade to the Megaride. I (naively) assumed that the Radiums would have the same sole length for the same size as the generation of Garmont AT boots they were replacing, allowing me to match boots to conditions (e.g. use the beat up older boots when tours involve lots of kickstepping, and the new ones inbounds or nearcountry. If do a lot of kickstepping/climbing in thin-soled Garmont AT boots, you know how quickly they get chewed up).
    Much to my chagrin, my new 26.5 Radiums have a 305mm sole, while my old 26.5 Megarides are 300! So everytime I switch boots I have to adjust my bindings. This is more than just a pain in the butt – it will almost certainly result in a faster deterioration of the binding (particularly Dynafits), as I don’t think they were designed to be readjusted dozens of times a season. This seems like a serious oversight by the Garmont designers – or perhaps even conscious planned obsolescence.
    Either way, it sucks. I blame myself for not checking on the sole length before buying (and skiing on) the Radiums. I think the readjustment hassle outweighs the performance improvement, and had I to do it over again, I would have bought a new pair of Megarides instead of the Radiums – particularly since Megarides are selling at big discounts now that the Radium generation is all the rage.

  5. Lou August 24th, 2009 2:20 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for linking to that. This fall I plan on adding more boots. Time consuming but worth it. Interesting thing to me is how similar most boot shells are, thus working with liner and boot fitting are as key as we’ve always thought…

  6. Lou August 24th, 2009 2:26 pm

    NickD, I don’t think doing length adjustment of Dynafit binders is too much of a wear point, though it would definitely have a limit as the only screw threads it uses is a short section in the heel post/pivot. Going a centimeter a few dozen times a season wouldn’t seem that big a deal, as the Dynafit rental bindings use the exact same mechanism (only longer) and they can take quite a bit of adjustment before they develop more play than normal. Of more concern is the time this takes on a powder morning :angel: and in my case, I like to figure out where the sweet spot is on the ski and I don’t like it when different length boot soles take me off it, even if that’s mostly in the mind… Lou

  7. Louie August 24th, 2009 2:27 pm

    Tom- I bet the 27 radium would fit shorter, and lower volume. The Radiums seem to have a bit less volume in the toe area than Dynafit boots.

    Jonathan- I’m 5 10, so maybe I am a bit more sensitive to cuff height than you.

    Nick- Yeah, that is definitely a downside. I would love to be able to use my spirit 3s for lighter boots when I need them, but it does necesitate adjusting the bindings quite a bit, which also messes up the boot midpoint lining up with the one on the ski.

  8. Dave B. August 24th, 2009 7:53 pm

    Just the review I’ve been waiting for, Louie. Thanks. This boot really interests me. I see you like the design of the liners. Can you comment on how fast they pack out? I currently have Megarides and like the fit (the narrow toe box suits me), but I was really unhappy with the original, mushy, instapackout Garmont liners and had to replace them with a Scarpa liner. I’d just as soon avoid having to do that again if I can.

  9. Le Pistoir August 24th, 2009 9:52 pm

    Oy! Louie! Sweet as, bro!
    While you’re at it, how about reviews of that NZed skiing, eh? We’re jonesing hard up here in the northern hemisphere in late August…

  10. Pierce August 25th, 2009 8:34 am

    Dave B., I put about 70 days on a pair of radiums last season in and out of bounds, and am 6′ and 200#’s. The liners in these are a big step up from the ones that came in my endorphins, which packed out in a week. I’m still partial to the scarpa wrap liners, but these are a very close second. I’ve heard of several high-profile skiers fitting intuition liners to these, but I didn’t feel the need right away. Maybe next season. I, too, found these boots to be the best constructed AT boots I’ve owned or tried. They are a bit less stiff than my endorphins, but have a much smoother flex, and the walk mode is light years beyond, not to mention being a decent amount lighter. My auto-latching buckles and walk mode switches have taken a beating but still function fine. I’ve had the locking feature freeze up on me a time or two, but nothing a few minutes in the hut or a good whack with a hand or pole couldn’t fix. In contrast, I’ve had enorphins and denali tt’s before those repaired at least twice a season, with no repairs on the radiums yet. This is a fantastic dual-use set-up, though I prefer these in the pow at the resorts and the endorphins on less than ideal snow.

  11. JW August 25th, 2009 9:11 am

    Louie, you didn’t say how you addressed the fit issue in the toe box that has been so much talked about online. Its a liner issue. That is the only thing keeping me from buying a pr of Radiums.

    I know from owning a pair of G-Fits that Garmont boots are a good match for my low volume, flat feet. But I also how painful that toe-box bang can be. Multi-day hut trip = loss of both lg toenails and a forced break from skiing while the nails heal. :cwy:

  12. Louie August 25th, 2009 10:39 am

    Dave- I have noticed a bit of packing out in the liners, but not too much, they still feel solid and comfortable. I do have to tighten the buckles down a bit more than I used to. I think that Garmont liners have a thin layer of soft foam in the liners to make them feel better in the store, and this packs out pretty easy. However, the layer is thin enough to not be much of an issue.

    JW- I didn’t have any problems with the toe box issue. They felt a little weird when I first tried them on, but after heat molding they are super comfy. I normally fit in 26 or 27 boots, but the 28 radium even feels a little tighter than my 27 Scarpas, perhaps partly due to the toe box being narrow.

  13. JW August 25th, 2009 12:04 pm

    Louie, you went from scarpas, a boxier boot, and sized up one size? And you still had a normal 2-finger shell fit with the larger size Radiums? Perhaps I need to look at the next size as well. Perhaps they just run a bit short, compared to other makes. Anyway, you kept the stock liner and didn’t have to do anything special to it. reassuring. Now to find an online sell who has2both 9.5 and 30s….


  14. Louie August 25th, 2009 2:10 pm

    The size 28 radiums actually have a 3 finger shell fit, but they fit fine. Before I molded them they even felt a little tight, in the toe area.

  15. JW August 25th, 2009 8:24 pm

    Thanks very much for your replies.

  16. Bar Barrique August 25th, 2009 9:08 pm

    I am another Megaride user looking for a replacement boot. Garmont has apparently chosen to make their different boots models fit differently. The Axons have a shorter shell size to the Megarides, and, the Radium has a longer shell size that may feel smaller than the same size in another boot. I know from trying on the Axons; that they will not work for me. I have yet to try on the Radiums, but I will say; when I find something that works for me, I will continue to patronize the company that makes the product. In this case, I feel that I am starting over in my boot selection process.


  17. Justin Wilcox August 26th, 2009 8:12 am

    I think Garmont kind of goofed up with the fit of the Radium. Of course fit is personal, but they lost a lot sales from people like me who used to love Garmonts. There is so much volume over the instep in the shell of the Radiums I literally could not buckle the instep buckle enough to even make contact with my foot there, even with Intuitions in them it wasn’t very good. I was bummed because otherwise it seems like a great boot. Maybe the Dalbello Virus will be an option for us low volume foot people…

  18. Pierce January 26th, 2010 5:30 pm

    Has anyone else had cold-feet problems (boot related!) with their radiums? I’ve been in scarpa intuition liners until last season with no problems, and I now have frostbite from a few cold ski days here in CO with the radiums. I’ve also noticed a decent amount of folks putting aftermarket intuition liners in their radiums (think I saw a davenport photo on this site as such). Is there some sort of consensus on garmont vs. intuition liners and how warm they are? I’m trying to decide if I need to get a new liner or just chop off my big toes.

  19. Brian Whittred April 1st, 2010 5:34 pm

    I can vouch for the intuition Freeride Liner, now there touring liner, in the Radium. I could not get the stock liner to fit me properly las year so bought intuitions. They are very warm and resistant to packing out.

  20. Marc October 22nd, 2010 7:41 pm

    I did send in something earlier this week, but I’m sorry I haven’t been able to locate a response to my inquiry, did you get it or are you away right now,
    please send me a link to your response.
    PS was it the water reply to the question that booted me out?

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