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Atomic Backland Carbon Review

Relatively inexpensive lightweight touring boots that have more than satisfactory performance and a relatively wide fit
Atomic Backland Carbon
Credit: Backcountry
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $800 List | $559.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Light, high volume fit, proven buckles and closures
Cons:  High volume fit, compromised downhill performance
Manufacturer:   Atomic
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 29, 2021
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57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 14
  • Uphill Performance - 20% 9.0
  • Weight - 20% 8.0
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 2.0
  • Comfort and Fit - 10% 8.0
  • Warmth - 10% 5.0
  • Ease of Use - 5% 5.0

Our Verdict

We call the "lightweight touring boot" market a niche, but that is fast changing. Most everyone that tries lightweight AT boots is a quick convert. The lower-priced, but still very high performance Atomic Backland Carbon will only push this trend forward. The boots aren't perfect, but for the price and for the way Atomic strikes the uphill/downhill performance ratio, they should and will have a loyal following. The fit is the primary limiting factor. Either you have wide feet and will be stoked, or you have narrower feet and will need to pony up for customizations that put the overall price more in line with higher-end options that might fit better "out of the box". Read on for more elaboration on all we found with the Backland Carbon.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $559.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$629.96 at Backcountry
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Compare at 2 sellers
$599.96 at Backcountry
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$650 List
$400.05 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Light, high volume fit, proven buckles and closuresExcellent downhill performance, lightweight, proven styleLight, free-pivot cuff, appropriate stiffness and flexBalanced up and down performance, wide/high volume fitExcellent downhill performance, durable, warm, reliable, familiar
Cons High volume fit, compromised downhill performanceModerate insulation, hard to get in and out ofCold, finicky transitionsSki/walk mode prone to issues, recall to past versionsVery limited uphill and foot-travel performance, heavy
Bottom Line Relatively inexpensive lightweight touring boots that have more than satisfactory performance and a relatively wide fitWhether a newcomer adjusting from the resort or a seasoned expert gunning for 100+ backcountry days a season, here is a top of the line shoe contenderBalanced, all-around ski touring boots that lean in the light-and-fast direction; these are optimized, probably, for what you like about the mountainsProven ski boots with modern updates and an overall performance profile that is optimized for the majority of bc riders; if you have high volume feet, even betterThese are lightly modified resort boots, built to optimize the downhill and be minimally functional on the way up
Rating Categories Atomic Backland Carbon Tecnica Zero G Tour... Scarpa F1 LT Scarpa Maestrale RS Lange XT3 120
Uphill Performance (20%)
9.0
6.0
8.0
4.0
1
Weight (20%)
8.0
5.0
9.0
5.0
2.0
Downhill Performance (35%)
2.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
10.0
Comfort and Fit (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Warmth (10%)
5.0
7.0
5.0
8.0
9.0
Ease of Use (5%)
5.0
7.0
5.0
9.0
7.0
Specs Atomic Backland Carbon Tecnica Zero G Tour... Scarpa F1 LT Scarpa Maestrale RS Lange XT3 120
Weight Size 26.5, pair 4 lbs 12 oz 6 lbs 0 oz 4 lbs 7 oz 6 lbs 5 oz 7 lbs 11 oz
Weight of One Boot Shell 0850 g 1119 g 0809 g 1080 g 1398 g
Weight of One Stock Liner, No Footbed 227 g 204 g 214 g 252 g 352 g
Weight of One Complete Boot, No Insole 1077 g 1323 g 1023 g 1432 g 1750 g
Range of Motion; Degrees 66 55 72 60 34
Binding Compatibility? Tech Only, or Tech and DIN AT standard, or Tech, DIN AT and DIN Alpine/WTR Tech only Tech and DIN AT Tech only Tech and DIN AT Tech, DIN AT, Grip Walk
Stated Flex Index 110 130 95 125 120
Stated Last width 98 mm 99 mm 102 mm 101 mm 100 mm
Alpine Wrap or Tongue Tongue Wrap Tongue Tongue Wrap
Shell Material Grilamid PA, carbon Grilamid Grilamid, Carbon Core Carbon Grilamid Polyurethane

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Atomic Backland Carbon is an excellent "speed touring" or fast ski mountaineering boot for those with wide feet and/or those who are on a budget.

Performance Comparison


Atomic Backland Carbon backcountry ski boots - skinny skis and quick transitions. this is the home of the atomic...
Skinny skis and quick transitions. This is the home of the Atomic Backland Carbon.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Uphill Performance


This is what you choose these boots for. They go uphill like a dream. One of our testers said they weren't much different, on the uphill, from skimo race boots. The cuffs have a wide range of motion and, within that range of motion, there is precious little inherent friction. With a further break-in period, the boots loosen up even more than you'll note at first try-on, with little to no impact on the downhill performance. Keep a thin liner (the stock liner has been pretty good for our wider-footed testers) in there to really maximize touring performance.


Whether skinning, booting, climbing, or driving your car, you will appreciate the low profile and easy ankle articulation of the Backland Carbon. For their downhill ski quality, these boots tour amazingly well. Overall, despite the hyperbole of one tester cited above, we found that true race class skimo boots will tour a little better, but not by much. For anything but racing, you will readily justify the minor compromises. These boots tour as well as you would ever want in normal backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering.

Atomic Backland Carbon backcountry ski boots - a full rubber, burly sole graces the bottom of the backland carbon...
A full rubber, burly sole graces the bottom of the Backland Carbon. Race class boots will slim down the lugs and eliminate some rubber, both of which inhibit traction.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


One of the tested, size 26.5 Atomic Backland Carbon weighs 1077 grams. A few backcountry skiing boot models weigh less, but they bring significant compromises in performance or price. We have a hard time imagining lighter boots, with this level of performance, that aren't hundreds of dollars more.


We separate weight from "uphill performance" for our scoring, but really they are closely intertwined. Low weight matters a ton on the uphill. All else equal, you will arrive to your summit fresher with more options and more energy with lighter boots. With the Backland Carbon, the lightweight construction flies uphill but lends enough support for skilled skiers on the downhill.

Downhill Performance


The Backland Carbon is an ultralight boot. You inherently make some compromises for the downhill. You will make tighter turns, at lower speeds with smaller skis than you can with bigger kicks.


Downhill performance is limited by cuff height and stiffness. To save weight and improve uphill performance, this Atomic cuff is up to a couple of inches lower than "free ride" type touring boots. Once adjusted, you might hardly notice this. You will forever, though, notice the stiffness differences. Forward and back, the boots just don't have the support of bigger boots. Laterally the carbon cuff seems to hold up to higher energy but doesn't match the big dogs.

Atomic Backland Carbon backcountry ski boots - the buckle arrangement of the atomic isn't as sophisticated as that...
The buckle arrangement of the Atomic isn't as sophisticated as that on other options, but it employs proven components.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Comfort and Fit


The cushy liner and relatively high volume fit give a very favorable initial impression of the Backland Carbon. In touring mode, these feel like fleecy apres ski slippers more than ski boots. There are drawbacks to this initial comfort (soft liners like this "pack out" faster than stiffer versions), but you will certainly notice the plushness at first.


A thicker, stiffer liner can take up some space for narrower feet, but this negates some of the touring performance attributes and keeps the all-important shell further from your foot in downhill mode. We find, over and over again, that ultralight ski boots need to fit closely for optimum downhill performance. This is true across the board, but especially true in the ultralight class. Whether the liner is stiff or soft, it is the shell that does the "heavy lifting".

Space between you and that shell is a literal gap in energy transmission in downhill mode. Choose these boots as a value, for sure. But realize that if your feet are narrow to average, you might need to soon accessorize with costly aftermarket liners. High volume feet can use the stock liners with greater success and reap better performance.

Atomic Backland Carbon backcountry ski boots - the shell of the atomic backland carbon is heat moldable. within...
The shell of the Atomic Backland Carbon is heat moldable. Within some range, this means that accommodation for different feet is possible.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Warmth


Light boots are limited in insulation value. There is no way around this. They have to fit close to perform well, and the materials are inherently thinner. Your feet will be colder than in beefier boots, all else equal.


The flip side of this bad news is that lighter boots (and accompanying lighter kit throughout) enable quicker movement in the mountains. Higher pace travel is warmer travel. Many, many high-end users are keeping their toes and using ultralight boots like the Backland Carbon. However, this is a high consequence game. Those same high-end users relying on movement for warmth and safety are very vulnerable to the elements when something forces a stop. Break a binding or get benighted, and you will get cold feet very fast in the Backland Carbon and its ultralight cousins.

Ease of Use


Ultralight boots generally employ unique and innovative closure systems. The Backland is no exception, but the innovation is proven and reliable. The forefoot tightens with the BOA system. This is new to Atomic, but proven for years in other applications. It is also ultralight, spreads the holding force out evenly, and is readily adjusted. Concerns about icing and durability of the BOA are natural, but extensive use suggests that there are virtually no actual problems.


The upper cuff closures of the Backland Carbon are pretty standard. A cam-lock power strap, ladder-lock main buckle, and separate, spring loaded, external cuff lock work together to close you into downhill mode. Other boot companies have been able to combine these three elements into one, but that introduces more complications and vulnerability. The Backland Carbon takes longer to transition than some close competitors.

Previous versions employed a removable tongue for touring optimization and downhill stiffness. The Backland series of boots was the last holdout in this annoying trend. Atomic eliminated this attribute as of 2020, and we are thankful to have moved on. No skier liked to change their tongues, so few did. Manufacturers had good intentions, but the execution just wasn't worth it. We're glad to see the removable tongue trend gone.

Atomic Backland Carbon backcountry ski boots - pair the atomic with smaller skis and bindings for optimized...
Pair the Atomic with smaller skis and bindings for optimized performance of your whole kit. Conditions might dictate your pace of downhill travel, but uphill efficiency will always benefit.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Value


The Backland Carbon wins our highest value award. Among the lightweight "speed touring" ski mountaineering boots, we can't envision a less expensive way to achieve this level of performance. You can spend less, and get significantly heavier form and/or lower performance. You have to spend a lot more to get marginally better weight savings or performance. These are a good value. Atomic's wide distribution system and economy of scale means that the Backland Carbon is likely to be found on sale too. Previous versions are acceptable, but this latest iteration is the best.

Conclusion


You will choose these as a quiver item. They aren't all-around backcountry ski boots. Rather, they are a specialized product for light and fast applications. When building a niche kit, it is hard to justify spending top dollar. If you are diversifying on a budget, the Backland Carbon is an inexpensive way to get into lighter footwear.

Jediah Porter
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