(Editor’s note: Hey Wildsnowers, we’re at the temple of gear (otherwise known as OR show). Not much backcountry skiing to do out here due to lack of snow, so we’ll probably just focus on gear a bit more, intermixed with a few reports I have from recent EU travels. But for this morning, here is a good boot review from Lee, for those of you shopping the later season opportunities… Lou)
Dynafit Titan Ultralight (“Titan UL”) is an evolution of Dynafit’s Titan boot which has previously been reviewed here at Wildsnow.
With the judicious application of carbon, tweaks to some parts of the shell/liner, as well as other sundry changes, Dynafit’s goal is to keep Titan UL at the forefront of the stiff AT boot wars.
I’ve now had a number of days testing the Titan UL, mostly backcountry skiing, but lift served as well (a good way to really work a boot such as this).
Your tester: I weigh 160 lbs and ski mainly in the Coast and Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia. My skiing is usually in high moisture-content snow. Accordingly, my preference is for bigger skis and relatively stiff boots.
I weighed the Titan UL on a calibrated digital scale. In size 27 configured as stock, Titan UL massed at 1820g (1750g weight claimed by Dynafit). That’s 180 grams lighter than the previous model — a noticeable difference in real world use.
Weight breakdown: 1516g; liner – 284g; footbed – 20g). Titan UL ships with a fiber “volumizer” which can be inserted in the boot to take up a bit of volume. I didn’t weigh the volumizer.
Weight comparables (all size 27 or 27.5):
2010-11; Dynafit Titan with TFX liner: 2000g
2010 -11; Dynafit ZZeus with TFX liner: 1950g
2008 – 09 -10 TFX liner: 400g
Intuition Luxury liner: 220g
Even after thermo-molding the TFX liner I’m decidedly happier touring in Titan UL with my personal Intuition liners (no footbeds) which drops my boot weight to 1740g (more on the decision to use Intuitions in the “Fit” discussion below). This is of course a personal preference and the stock liners may work fine for many if not most skiers. Nonetheless, my use of aftermarket liners does support our contention here at WildSnow.com that anyone who wants the most out of a stiffer beefier AT boot should consider experimenting with different liners, footbeds and so forth.
Titan UL is one of Dynafit’s overlap construction boots (Titan and ZZeus are the others). Construction methods are unchanged. Significant change is in the shell materials. Pebax plastic is used in replacement of PU, and the area around the heel portion of the boot is now replaced with carbon. This ostensibly stiffens an area which would otherwise have gone soft with the use of Pebax. The TFX liner has also been changed. All this results in weight savings without degrading performance (more on performance below).
Alpine and AT sole blocks are included. The screws to attach the blocks still go into plastic with no backing steel. I always ski with the AT blocks and wonder how the plastic screw holes will stand up to repeated changing of soles (Lou relates that he sees most people pick one sole or the other, and don’t seem to do much swapping, so perhaps having the screws thread into plastic is a non issue).
The walk-mode lever is unchanged. Some people reported that the lever was a pain to use with gloves. Personally I haven’t had that issue.
Titan UL has no cuff alignment (cant) adjustment. While I don’t use this myself, it is a good feature that’s common across the ski industry. Scold to Dynafit for not including this on their boots.
Rivet holes in the boot interior are covered with tape; a nice touch!
All four buckles are magnesium, slightly cammed. The lowest buckle is flipped and recessed. I had previously wondered if the third buckle would be vulnerable to rock strikes when hiking but my experience has shown that this is not a concern.
The buckle paint scrapes easily. That’s purely cosmetic but the reason the paint abrades is because the 2nd and 3rd buckles hit each other if the boot is flexed forward. On the smaller boots, it looks like it’s fairly easy for buckles to hit (perhaps someone with smaller Titan Ultralights). This is somewhat disappointing as this flaw was pointed out in the Titan and ZZeus and seems to not have been fixed.
White boots look nice initially but get dirty easily. They are cooler on hot spring days when the sun might cook your feet, but conversely are not as warm in mid-winter due to less solar absorption.
If you like to slacken off power straps when in touring mode, you may find that the Titan power straps are a bit short. I’m one of those rare and disparaged individuals who don’t seem to receive much ‘power’ from power straps, so for me leaving them undone all the time works fine.
Regarding that thought, here at Wildsnow we’d suggest anyone experiment with not using power straps on your touring boots. You might be pleasantly surprised at how little power strips offer on the downhill with a well fitted boot — in comparison with the fiddling they entail when you’re changing modes. Saves weight as well. (Heresy, yes, so take this as you will.)
I’ll replicate my observations from the Titan article since fit remains unchanged. I have a traditional Asian foot; meaning my forefoot is wider then most and I don’t have any arch to speak of. Dynafit factory lasted the Titan UL’s TFX liners with more room. Even so, when unmolded, the liner was narrow and pinched my foot at the arch. Molded with double toecaps, the TFX liner could still have given me more space, but did expand substantially. Given these were demo boots, I was reluctant to mold the liner more, and turned to my Intuition liners (size 27 liners for the size 27 Dynafit shell). As it’s turned out, I’ve not had fit issues after some 12 days of use (2 inbounds, 10 touring).
I’ll add that Titan UL has the same flat boot board as Titan and ZZeus (good for bootfitters as it’s easier to work with) and also reiterate that Titan Ultralight ships with the volumizer which can take up volume in the boot.
Performance – downhill
Titan UL is still among the best performing alpine touring boots I’ve had the privilege of skiing. It’s so stiff that I’d put it in the same class as a somewhat soft alpine boot. Yet it doesn’t have the skiing-like-a-brick feel of some other stiff AT boots. Instead of inarticulately waxing rhapsodic as I embarrassingly tend to do when talking about all things Dynafit let me just conclude that a skier who’s looking for downhill performance out of a boot that has meaningful touring capabilities MUST consider the Titan UL.
As did Titan, Titan UL has two forward lean angles; 15 and 21 degrees and I set Titan UL at the 21 degree angle for skiing.
In terms of beef, I can’t quantify whether the UL version is stiffer than the PU Titan but it certainly feels at least as stiff. If you have questions as to how Titan UL compares to other boots please ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer comparisons.
Performance – touring
Titan UL has the best touring performance of any stiff touring boots that I’ve tried. Titan UL has a walk mode that is useable which can lean back past upright (30 degrees of cuff movement). Unfortunately, as I pointed out above in my review of construction details, you can’t readily loosen Titan UL’s buckles all the way (in my opinion, proper methodology for testing touring performance), as the plastic catches. Even with this crippled attenuated touring mode, Titan’s walk mode permits a comfortable relaxed motion with relative ease in cuff movement permitting relatively long skinning strides.
A few quibbles
Dynafit is a premium brand and Titan UL is a premium boot. Accordingly, it is fair to our readers here at WildSnow.com that we be picky about this boot. Other consumers and I have pointed out design issues and possible ways to improve Titan UL (2nd and 3rd buckles hitting, inadequate powerstrap, plastic contact points that impede walk mode). Thus, we’d be be remiss if we didn’t raise these points again and urge Dynafit to consider changes and/or possible improvements. Make a good boot even better! Or, do you have something else up your sleeve? Is that why Lou is over in Europe?
Enough of our quibbles. Titan UL is still, in my opinion, king of the beef boot category. All alpine touring boots are compromises. Light weight, walk mode, downhill performance… all by their nature demand a balance of materials and comfort compromises — Titan UL Dynafit provides the balance that works.
Titan UL MSRP is $870. Sizes are 25 – 30.5. Shell sizes change on the full size (ie shell size 27 and 27.5 are the same sizes (boot sole length 312mm) but the liners are different). You can shop for Titan UL here.
(Guest blogger Lee Lau is an avid skier and outdoorsman embarking on many adventures with his loving, and sometimes concerned wife, Sharon. He has over fifteen years of experience backcountry skiing and dabbles in mountaineering. In the “off-season” he is occasionally found working in his day job as an intellectual property lawyer — when he’s not mountain biking. As a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Lee’s playground extends mainly to western Canada, including southwest B.C. and the Selkirks. Lee blogs here.)