2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Touring Boot — Review

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 22, 2019      

Jamie Caudill

This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.

2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon.

2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon.

First impressions of Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Touring Boot:

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Comfy as a slipper made from clouds and puppy fur
  • Obscene range of motion — good boots for yoga
  • For years I have dodged the oncoming tide of flimsy “skimo” twigs with teeny low-tech bindings and neon morphsuits, But alas, the lure of lightweight long-distance touring has won out over the desire to slog uphill dragging five-to-ten pounds on each foot.

    Sure enough, I found myself in the market for a lightweight pair of boots. I envisioned them wrapped in flashy euro-inspired neon stripes sporting an exotic name that is reminiscent of Italian race cars and spelled incorrectly like syclone, syber, or sychology. Instead, I landed on the 2019-2020 Atomic Backland Carbon (retail available this coming fall).

    For months I sampled each and every brand and make of skimo boot that I could find and kept running into the same problem: they were too narrow. Sure, this can be fixed with custom molding, but there is only so far I can punch a boot before I look down in shame at the misshapen frankenboot that once was a well-machined piece of equipment, and am forced to accept the fact that my abused feet will never live up to the European standard of foot-beauty. And then there is the cost and time that boot fitting incurs. In contrast, as soon as I slipped my foot into the Memory Fit 3D goodness and 98mm last of the BL Carbon, I felt accepted. It was like a foot hug from a teddy bear.

    If Batman wore ski-boots, these would be the ones; not only because they are black as night and one could easily fight crime in them, but they also boast all sorts of fancy high-tech gadgetry.

    For example, the Boa system comprises a series of cables that act as constrictors (get it…) around the forefoot: you tighten by twisting the large knob on the front of the boot. It’s a cool idea, but it lacks in functionality. It felt flimsy, failed to secure my feet enough for demanding turns, and needed to be re-tightened throughout the day. The classic lever that can be snapped closed for the downhill and then released for the uphill is much more confidence inspiring. And, something so small as knowing exactly which catch you usually clip the lever onto is underappreciated.

    The next gadgetry is the magnetic cuff-closure, designed to hold the fabric cuff in place around the liner, thus keeping snow out of the boot. Also a cool idea, but with the 78 degrees of motion available, the magnetic attachments came loose and flopped around on the outside of my test boots. Perhaps a longer cuff might fix this, but I think the magnets are a gimmick.

    Disk shapes on the ears of the gaiter are the magnets.

    Disk shapes on the ears of the gaiter are magnets. They eliminate hook-and-loop but in my opinion are no better as they tend to detach.

    As for the range of motion, 78 degrees is even more than some of the better touring boots in this category. Combine it with the Frictionless Pivot cuff-rivet bushing, and the walk-mode is comparable to that of a hiking boot. I was so impressed by how this felt, I performed several high ninja kicks in the boots, with great success.

    Lean lock bar is the now ubiquitous external type.

    Lean lock bar is the now ubiquitous external type. At first I was skeptical as it does not have an extra safety catch, but I have not had a problem with it.

    To transition into walk mode the lever on the back of the boot is flipped up by pulling the string attached to the end. When flipped back down, a small hook snaps onto a bar for ski-mode. At first, I did not trust the transition hook (not sure about the technical name). Besides the spring-tension, there is nothing to hold it in place, and I figured that it would be easy for it to come undone and send you sporadically into 78 degrees of ludicrous mode. However, once I took them on the most heinous wind-scoured 55-degree slope I could find, they quickly gained my confidence, and despite the claimed 110 flex, I was impressed with how they skied.

    I trusted the Backland Carbon enough to use them in the Power of Four, a 24-mile 11,000 vert skimo race, and not once did they transition unexpectedly. But I would prefer a transition lever directly attached to the top buckle, as other brands provide.

    Your's truly, Power of Four skimo race, Aspen, in the Backlands.

    Your’s truly, Power of Four skimo race, Aspen, in the Backlands.

    The top buckle attachment was another issue for me. After a quick jaunt up the resort one day, I walked into work with the buckles in walk-mode. When I looked down, the wire bit was attached to the catch, but the buckle was detached from the wire. The wire is a sort of “G” shape which threads through a clasp that attaches the wire to the lever. Somehow it had been pulled loose, and the clasp was missing. Having this sort of thing occur during a race, or while deep in the backcountry, could be catastrophic. I was able to find the clasp under a bench and pulled out the engineering draft-table to fix the problem. The solution: duct-tape. I hope that Atomic finds a better way to secure these in place, but a hefty dose of tape does the trick for now.

    The top buckle came loose, repaired with d-tape.

    The top buckle came loose, repaired with d-tape.

    The Backland Carbon is a state-of-the-art lightweight touring boot that is impressive, but is unlikely to be a game-changer. I would not be surprised if gadgetry such as the Boa system and magnetic cuff closure get trashed in the models of the future, but the carbon fiber reinforcement, extended range of motion, and fit are remarkable, and will are likely the future of the Backland series.


  • Boa system fails to consistently secure feet
  • Issue with top buckle detachment
  • Not quite a total “race” boot as top buckle is not integrated with lean lock
  • Magnetic cuff-closure comes loose in walk-mode
  • Pros:

  • Sleek and stylish (we all have the right to our own taste)
  • Comfortable for wider feet
  • Memory Fit 3D liner is highly moldable, shell easily molded as well
  • Flex 110 feels sturdy enough
  • Lightweight (1130 grams per 27.5 boot according to Wildsnow scale)
  • Range of motion: 78 degrees, translate that to “plenty”
  • Frictionless pivot bushing that’s user serviceable (wonderful feature)
  • Jamie Caudill is a climbing guide, ski instructor, and photographer based in Carbondale, Colorado. To see more adventures on snow and stone, check out his instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jam.caudill


    Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


    29 Responses to “2020 Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Touring Boot — Review”

    1. Charlie March 22nd, 2019 9:34 am

      No tongue? I have the current backland carbon, and it is a much more powerful boot with the tongue. What’s going on here? It almost looks like they did a hybrid of the backland carbon and ultimate. No tongue, but also no single-lever operation for the cuff.

    2. Yellow Snow March 22nd, 2019 12:11 pm

      I give him credit for composing what appears to be a fairly well considered review with an attempt to display the things he did not like in the boot as much as the things he appreciated. Unfortunately, blanket statements about the Boa system and mis-categorizing the product leaves the reader wondering if he understands the equipment well enough to give any credence to the rest of the review.

      This boot is not intended to be a race boot. It’s an ultra-light touring boot in the category of other boots such as the Fischer Travers Carbon and the Dynafit TLT7. Calling this out as a “con” is pretty darn misleading. If the reviewer wanted a race boot he should have used the Backland Ultimate.

      The Boa system DOES do a good job of securing feet as it has proven in other boots such as the Scarpa F1, Alien RS, Alien 1.0, Fischer Travers Carbon, etc. What’s more likely is that this boot did not fit the reviwer’s foot very well over the instep (as most current Atomic boots, particularly the Backland series, tend to have more volume in the instep).

      The author states that his feet are too wide for other boots, but that this boot is “like a foot hug from a teddy bear.” A 98mm last is quite narrow, yet the reviewer states that this boot was “like a foot hug from a teddy bear” with no mention of molding, punching or other necessary modifications. What gives? Was a shell fit even done by a qualified fitter to determine how the stock width of this boot differed from that of others?

      Additionally, there is no mention of what ski and binding combinations were used, which is critical to determining a boot’s performance. Too little boot on too big of a ski will make every boot seem to ski crappy, and the opposite is true as well. Even crappy 1kg boots ski like gods on top of a 65mm race ski.

      I think that these reviews would be more informative to the readers if the reviewers actually understood the different categories of equipment and fit dynamics. This reviewer does not appear to have the requisite knowledge.

    3. Lou Dawson 2 March 22nd, 2019 1:16 pm

      Hi Yellow, thanks for the feedback. I’ll let Jamie chime in, but can offer that the “98” last is perhaps just the usual marketing spreech, every company measures last slightly differently, there is no standard, and they tend to sometimes pick a number that sounds good. Not sure what the case is here, but the fact that Jamie could fit the boot without punching the shell is reality, and means this “98” last is wider than other “98” lasts. We did heat mold the liners, but did no punching. I’m a MasterFit certified boot fitter and worked with Jamie on how they fit, FYI. Lou

    4. bill March 22nd, 2019 2:32 pm

      Thanks for the review and your veracity.
      Very helpful.

    5. Patrick March 22nd, 2019 4:50 pm

      Thanks for the review and sneak peak. I have the 2017 backland carbon and it’s one of my favorite boots and am due for a new pair next fall. That being said, I’m surprised they got rid of the removable tongue in exchange for the boa system. Even though I ski 80% of the time without any tongue at all, it’s nice to have that option available.
      I’ve found that the effectiveness of the BOA system is heavily influenced by what material is between the boa system and your foot and of course how much instep room there is.
      While I’ve never had the walk mode lever come un-done while skiing, I have had issues with the catch bar icing up while going uphill, making it difficult to switch into downhill mode without knocking of the ice. I can tell immediately though before even trying to ski downhill.

    6. James March 23rd, 2019 10:42 pm

      Anyone have any insight into the stiffness of the boot compared to other boots in the category? Fischer Travers, Scarpa F1, TLT series, etc. comparisons would be incredibly helpful. Any insights into the performance differences between the 2020 version and the prior Backland? How about the lean angle of the boot? What are the angles and is it adjustable on this version?

    7. Eric Steig March 24th, 2019 8:47 am

      The BOA system has the advantage that it doesn’t catch on thing when bootpacking in crusty snow. This is an issue with the previous generation Atomic boots.
      I would prefer they just did what Arcteryx does with the AR boot though: put the buckle on so that it sits on top, rather than on the side.

    8. Jim Pace March 24th, 2019 9:18 am

      I too thought the reviewer’s comments about the Boa system were overly broad. The Boa closure is my favorite feature on my Fischer Travers Carbon boots. I think manufactures have to shape their boot shells differently to take advantage of the cable closure’s even squeeze, and Fischer seems to have figured that out. I can vary my socks from thin to way thick, depending upon the weather, and my feet still fit fine, with no heel lift. The metal cable and machined (brass?) pulley wheels help too. All in all, it seems like the Atomic boot is a sincere attempt at mimicking Fischer’s, and other manufacture’s, modern boot design. Perhaps his prototype pair of boots will get the kinks out before more get sold next season. RE James’ earlier request for comparisons of stiffness, all I can add is that my Travers boots ski much better than my DYNA race boots, even though the DYNAs are much stiffer. The Travers boots have a nicer progressive flex, and the toe-in offset is not a gimmick. My skis don’t fishtail. A carbon footbed, reducing flex between the front and rear binding pins, helps in performance too. Flex numbers are marketing fluff. Kind of like promoting clock speed on microprocessors when buying a new computer.

    9. Matt March 24th, 2019 10:34 am

      200 days on my original Backland Carbons and am a tongue in/tongue out skier. If not for putting in the tongue at the top every time I’d only have to flip the ski lock lever and rip skins. Instead its a full buckle change process Excited to see these new versions if they ski like the originals.

      Would love to know how these compare to the tongue in version of boot in ski mode.

      Never had a problem of accidental ski to tour. My only beef is the mangled state of the cuff fabric after many days of use. A few holes in high use areas and parts have separated from the cuff.

    10. Jim Milstein March 24th, 2019 3:34 pm

      Tastes differ on boot flex. I found having the tongues in was less pleasant for me with the Backland Carbon Light boots. I agree with Matt about the literal wear and tear of the gaiter fabric. Seems wrong; however, I am ignoring it at least until the season’s end since I am not having a problem with snow getting inside the boots.

      The boa closure, if it works well, also solves the problem with lower buckle damage when hiking on talus, not that I want to hike on talus, but sometimes ya gotta.

    11. Nigel March 24th, 2019 3:51 pm

      Thanks for the review! Any leads on finding these this spring in EU stores or a prerelease? Need a new boot and drooling over these

    12. Apingaut March 25th, 2019 6:39 am

      98 mm last question, could we please get some pictures of the forefoot, perhaps with some measurements?

      I for one, struggle with the standard 2 buckle ~98mm last and have had to do extensive work/punching for the forefoot and little totes on every two buckle boot I have had (TLT5/6 and the original backland carbon). I can’t even dream of a race boot as my feet will not tolerate a shell fit two sizes up. It’s a little depressing as my feet don’t even qualify as wide. I’m not sure who’s feet the 98 mm last actually fits, I just wish it was mine.

      Also the feedback on the BOA system is pretty common across many boot models, it definitely makes me hesitant… But if the boot fits : ) I’ll jump in with both feet!

    13. Lou Dawson 2 March 25th, 2019 9:19 am

      Apingaut, I’ll see what we can do. Jamie?

      As for Boa, it seems to work for some skiers and not for others. In my experience, it needs to be beefy due to the amount of force the system applies to the cables and anchors. But mostly, like Jamie alluded to, it’s not the same as snapping a buckle with the bail in a known position on the buckle ladder.

    14. HBS March 25th, 2019 9:42 am

      I’ll chime in on the BOA – I really like it on my F1’s. It lets me get the forefoot snug for touring to get rid of slop and then quickly tighten for the downhill. The only times I’ve noticed needing to re-tighten are when the liner tongue got shifted around during the uphill and I didn’t tug it up before switching to downhill.

    15. Nomad March 25th, 2019 10:08 am

      VERY glad to see that there is still the mounting points for the regular forefoot buckle seen in the last Backland. Seen too many blown up BOA’s on the Scarpa RS’s

    16. Darin Berdinka March 25th, 2019 10:36 am

      Definitely looks like an imitation of the Traverse with the Boa and the tongueless cuff system BUT they added a place to clip your leashes! Which in all seriousness is a nice thoughtful touch. I find the BOA system to be finicky, requiring frequent re-tightening and often impossible to crank down as much as I would like. But it’s not a deal breaker, certainly never feel like my forefoot is being crushed.

    17. Kevin Woolley March 25th, 2019 2:07 pm

      I’ve skied Alien (regular or “O.O”), Alien RS, and F1 pretty extensively for several years and over 100K of vert without any BOA problems. N of 1 of course. I’ve never seen anyone with BOA problems with F1 or Alien amongst my ski companions either, although I have certainly read many reports of BOA problems in the first iteration of Alien RS. I ski my F1 pretty hard in the resort also with no problems in a couple of years. I’m a huge fan of the way it tightens the forefoot and can be adjusted in a much finer and more precise way than a conventional buckle. But if I ever had a failure on a big trip I would be more cautious. I’ve had way more trouble with the dyneema string on the old Alien, but that’s a well known thing. Had a buddy break the lower cheapy plastic buckle on the Syborg also, I think these lighter weight (relative to metal buckle) things are a little less robust.

    18. Insider March 25th, 2019 5:13 pm

      Let’s just say working inside the outdoor industry you hear a lot more about BOA’s overall returns/ failures. Hell even just breaking BOA dials while in a clean office where the product hasn’t even ever been outside doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in products where that BOA is mission critical. That being said, one of my favorite water shoes has BOA on it, and that’s one of the reasons I like it.

      Kevin, be careful drawing conclusion off your small sample size…

    19. VtVolk March 26th, 2019 9:45 am

      I’ve been using the Fischer Travers for the past three seasons with probably about 180 days on them total, both skinning and at the resort. I did snap a boa dial off my first pair post-holing through deep crust, but consider that a freak accident and certainly less of a concern than constantly having the forefoot buckles of my old TLT5s open in similar conditions. When that happened a Voile strap got me through the rest of the trip.

      I love the comfort and adjustability of the BOA, especially on long trips when my feet tend to swell and shrink. I’ve never had any issues with the actual BOA cable breaking or loosening.

      In case anyone is not aware, BOA has a pretty amazing warranty program and will send you replacement parts for free, no questions asked. I got a replacement quickly when I snapped my dial off, and also asked for a second replacement set that I now keep in my repair kit and have with me on all tours. I’ts tiny, weighs nothing, and will be there if I ever need it.

    20. Ryan March 26th, 2019 9:50 am

      Nice review, thank you.

      I’m interested in the comments on fit. Do you know if the last has changed on this version relative to the 2018 version?

      I’ve tried the 2018 on, and in many respects this proto doesn’t seem an improvement to me. I don’t like the boa, although the pivot sounds nice. The 2018 would generally work for me in terms of fit, but it would need a fair bit of punching. If this version is a better fit (for wide forefoot particularly, but maintaining a narrow heel pocket) it could maybe swing me depending on what they do in the retail version with the closures etc.

    21. Arnie March 27th, 2019 2:30 am

      @Ryan (et al)
      Careful with numbers, schmumbers. Last width is a blunt tool at best. My 110mm forefoot is comfortably accomodated in a mondo 25 Backland (16/17 I think) after a shell bake because of the memoryfit(tm other molding technologies are available). I was in 26 dynafit tlt6 green, heavily punched for width, which of course brought the instep down. Backland has a higher instep so the effect has been less pronounced. I also swapped to a wrap liner. A foot is 3d afterall!
      What’s great is choice within a category of boots. These aren’t really race weight boots, they are up against f1, travers and tlt7. None of which now have “conventional” buckles. However these are easiy retrofitted!

    22. Matt April 10th, 2019 12:53 pm

      Watched a video about this new boot and it says to get rid of the tongue they incorporated it into the liner. What does this mean for aftermarket liners with this boot. I’m running an Intuition Liner in my Backlands now as the original packed out quickly. The original liner like many other light weight boots are not performance oriented.

    23. wayne D April 18th, 2019 3:44 pm

      The review sounds as for another boot, really?? Not like my ABC’s. My problems are with ankle bruising and too much forward lean preventing my leg from straightening. Looks like the shell at the heel could be heated or ground to allow straightening but has anyone tried remoulding the lower shell??

    24. Jim Milstein April 18th, 2019 5:07 pm

      Wayne, have you tried reversing the cuff latch’s hinge? The two forward lean settings are made at this hinge. Or, modify the latch lever by making a new notch. Or, make a new hinge. Why suffer?

    25. Joel Hakala April 25th, 2019 11:48 pm

      Does anyone know the BSL on these things yet? Intrigued.

    26. wayne dalzell April 26th, 2019 7:52 am

      Jim -I’ve added additional padding (wet suit material) to the inside of both boots below the ankle to move my ankle contact away from the liner. I’ll try it out in a week and get back. May be the inner boot has just packed down and giving ankle abrasion now.

      Joe- What is BSL?

    27. Jim Milstein April 26th, 2019 8:08 am

      Boot Sole Length

    28. wayne dalzell April 26th, 2019 8:24 am

      sz 27/27.5 is 11 3/4″ BSL.

    29. Joel Hakala April 26th, 2019 10:49 am

      So 298mm, right? 268 in 24.5 sounds fantastic for my purposes.

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