Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Backcountry Ski Boots

By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday March 29, 2022

The vast majority of our findings are based on using and comparing the boots in actual, human-powered backcountry skiing. Since this is how you will use them, we feel it is important to test them that way. We also know that truly robust findings are based on this "real world" testing. We also skied a little bit at ski areas and do a few simple "lab" tests.

backcountry ski boots - overall, at ski boot testing is a pleasure and a gift. we're happy...
Overall, AT ski boot testing is a pleasure and a gift. We're happy to do the dirty work to get you the info you need.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Uphill Performance


Mainly, we skinned uphill. We also cramponed and booted in each pair of footwear. While doing so, we monitor for range of motion and friction within that range of motion. Finally, we measure cuff range of motion with a table and an inclinometer placed on some rearward part of the boot. We remove the liner, flex the shell all the way forward, and take a measurement. We then take another measurement with the cuff flexed all the way back. The difference between these two measurements is the cuff range of motion, in degrees.

backcountry ski boots - uphill performance, uphill testing.
Uphill performance, uphill testing.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


Each pair of boots, in size 26.5 or 27, is weighed on our calibrated and verified digital postal scale. Our weight data in the primary chart includes metric and imperial units, shell and liner weights, and we've done some of the math for you on the weight of one boot and for the pair.

backcountry ski boots - our boot scale consistently delivers numbers consistent with the...
Our boot scale consistently delivers numbers consistent with the occasional calibration against other sources.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Downhill Performance


Again, we mainly just went skiing. Backcountry skiing, with backcountry skis and bindings, backpack, and wild snow, is different than resort skiing. We mainly tested this way for better information. That being said, resort skiing is also a handy way to make quick comparisons between different models. Similarly, immediate in-home comparisons of the relative stiffness and sort of flex range provide rudimentary information that you often wish to read about. In the end, miles of actual backcountry skiing are definitely the most valuable information we collect.

backcountry ski boots
Credit: Jediah Porter

Comfort and Fit


We wear them for long days. Also, we make sure to get a variety of different foot shapes in each boot. Each boot is tried on by at least a handful of different testers, with a known wide array of foot types, shapes, and preferences.

Warmth


Immediate comparisons of warmth are pretty difficult. A single tester's own perception of warmth can vary significantly from hour to hour and day to day. Further, warmth is a function of the boot itself and of its fit on a particular person. Nonetheless, we can pretty reliably correct for these variables and draw at least rough conclusions about relative insulation value. Skiing in the high and cold Tetons all winter long helps us assess warmth.

backcountry ski boots - high, dry, and cold. the warmth of ski boots is often overlooked...
High, dry, and cold. The warmth of ski boots is often overlooked, and varies from one model to the next.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Ease of Use


Extensive testing draws out the usability of a product. We look for transition time and complication, reliability of hardware, and complications or not with getting the boots and liners on and off. We also consider compatibility with bindings and crampons.

backcountry ski boots - crampon compatibility is one small factor in ease of use.
Crampon compatibility is one small factor in ease of use.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Conclusion


We test thoroughly, with a highly experienced team of testers. Our team knows how AT ski boots are typically used and tailors the testing and the findings to that knowledge. We might not report on what you wish to do with the boots, but rest assured that we have used them how you will actually use them.

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More