Magic Boots – the 2010 Dynafit TLT5 Performance TF
We backcountry folk are living in a time of unprecedented plenty. The advancements in product design in the last 5 years is remarkable. Better boots, skis, bindings, avy gear…all of it making alpine touring easier, more comfortable and safer. No where have the advancements been as significant in these last few years as in the boots that are now available to us. They are lighter, more comfortable, ski like alpine boots should, but go uphill with an efficiency unknown previously. Dynafit has been a brand at the forefront of these product developments and their new boots are arguably the state of the art. Prepare to be impressed.
When we saw the Dynafit DNA race boot launched this year, it promised a new era in touring boot design with several completely new features and design ideas. The extraordinary cuff design allowing unprecedented support with range of touring. The sculpted anatomical shape, the simple Ultra-Lock down mechanism for minimal transition time and hassle, and the Acti-Flex forefoot flex design that provides amazing comfort and energy for every step. These were features that hopefully, logically would trickle down to a less expensive, more versatile range of products for non-racers. Dynafit has a new category they are calling Speed Touring. Basically products for people doing big one day traverses, big vertical. Equipment that places a premium on lightweight, on efficiency. This is what the new TLT series represents, formula one race tech for the rest of us. But the Dynafit designers have gone one better and added a couple of other features that make these boots much more than a piece of trick gear for weight freaks.
We have now had several days of skiing and touring on these remarkable tools in all kinds of conditions with a variety of ski types. The TLT series takes the best of the stripped down DNA boot and adds more power, greater durability and comfort with only a few grams of added weight. They have added a full vibram style sole thru the instep with harder durometer wear pads at the toe and heel. Added a removable tongue for more power, a redesigned liner that is more comfortable and a power strap.
Where is the magic? Walk Mode. The other unique feature is the Ultra-Lock mechanism. In our experience we have had problems with EVERY lock down mechanism on the market at one time or another, although arguably the Garmont version now is the best because it is easier to fix with all the parts located on the outside of the boot. The best locking mechanisms need to be positive with no play, maintenance free and simple to use. The magnesium Ultra-Lock mechanism is so simple and so effective that it makes all the others seem unnecessarily complicated and heavy. The top buckle has a patented toothed tab that inserts into a slot when closed that locks the upper cuff to the lower cuff assembly. Positive, simple, maintenance free. Plus the added benefit of one step to tour mode because when you loosen the top buckle you automatically activate your tour mode. It was a great feature for racers and an even better feature for ski tourers who hate fiddling around with multiple buckles, powerstraps, ski/walk mechanisms at every transition. You do this several times a day in a tour and the simpler and easier it is to do the better.
Perhaps this is the most distinguishing feature of this boot series is the 60 Degrees of cuff rotation. Unprecedented in a boot that skis this well. What this gives you is a more natural stride with greater efficiency and a longer stride length. This is especially apparent on lower angle terrain where you can really open up and travel quickly with less effort. On steeper terrain, it allows your quads and hip flexors to relax almost like the rest/step technique for mountaineering. Coupled with the Acti-Flex of the forefoot, you can get a kick at the end of every stride. Normally with a locked or rigid boot, no flex at the ball of your foot means you can’t push off like your foot and leg anatomy were meant to function. You can’t get that last kick of momentum and energy….it is lost and so your muscles in your feet, ankles and legs have to compensate for this constraint in efficiency and mechanics. It is like riding your mountain bike without being able to bend your knee, partially locked, you can still ride but it is just not as efficient or comfortable.
To further increase the efficiency of your stride, you can remove the tongue (Downhill booster) and have a virtually resistance free walk mode. We found we only did this if we were facing a long climb since the walk mode with the tongue is still very, very smooth and comfortable. But the removal and installation of the tongue is very easy and very quick. A great idea that is well executed. Lastly the detail of the Flex zone in the liner that allows the liner to flex backwards under pressure. Just one more nod to efficiency in stride. This in itself provides a extra measure of comfort and smooth walking movement. Note the new Intuition Pro Tour liner has the same feature.
Presto Changeo – How does it ski? We knew going in that the DNA skied awfully well for a super lightweight. With the additions for better skiing performance on the TLT series, we expected more downhill fun. The fact that it skis better than the DNA is not surprising, what was surprising however was that for a boot that only weighs 1050gr, it can power pretty much ANY size of ski with fairly solid precision. The carbon cuff has a lot to do with that as it has extraordinary torsional stiffness. But even with this stiffness, there was absolutely no shin bang or abrupt stiffening of the flex curve. Rather the flex is smooth all the way thru, linear but with solid support throughout. When you need to really drive the ski edge and put some power down, the boot doesn’t give up on you. While it is NOT a Titan in power, it is as good or better than most typical touring boots in the 1800 gram range. We skied on Movement Goliaths, the new Dynafit Stoked, Manaslus, G3 Zen Oxides, G3 Tonics, BD Justice as well as some lightwt speed touring setups like Movement Randoms and Dynafit Seven Summits SLs. We skied these combinations on ice, powder, spring-like corn, slow speed and ripping groomers. With the bigger skis, pushing the speeds on hardpack would eventually challenge the TLT’s, but most AT boots are challenged at this level. In every combination to a lesser or greater degree the boots were very comfortable with excellent power transfer. The only area that they have a “different” feel is with the Activ-Flex. This 5 mm of flex in the forefoot, makes the boot almost feel like it has a damper installed in the feedback loop from ski edge to the soles of your feet. The Scarpa F1 series with a bellows are particularly vague in this feel and sensitivity. The TLT has a much more positive feel underfoot, but this is an area where it differs from a pure rigid sole AT setup. Some people may not like that feel and not want to make the compromise. But given the extra efficiency gained in stride, personally, we feel it is totally worth the small amount of desensitizing because the power is still there.
The dark art – Fit. The radically shaped shell at first look seemed perhaps an area of concern because it is made of Grilamid which is a plastic that is not necessarily easy to mold or modify. Plus it is thin to save weight. This was a concern to me in particular because although I don’t have a high volume wide foot overall, it is widish in the midfoot (D+/E width) and very sensitive due to decades of footwear abuse in climbing shoes and ski boots. So even a couple of mm’s of space is the difference between extreme pain or total comfort. And I have never had a touring boot or ski boot where I did not have to blow out the shell for width and for other various bone spurs. However, all I had to do with these boots is to mold the liners and PRESTO!!! Pure comfort, snug with toe room, no hot spots, blisters, no hint of discomfort even after hours and hours of touring and skiing, walking on roads…you name it. In short, this is the most comfortable ski boot I have ever skied or toured in. Period. I am inspired to want to do mega long tours, point to point, giant packs…whatever, these boots will be pure comfort the whole way. This clearly comes from the remarkable shape of the last and it will be interesting to see how this last works with a variety of foot types. Our experience with the DNA however is that this last works on a large variety of foot volumes and shapes but the DNA is on a limited number of feet at this time = small range of foot samples. But the initial results are promising.
The Finale. In short, this series of boots has likely reset the bar in touring boot performance. The innovative ideas, the simplicity of design, the extraordinary light weight would be enough to satisfy that remark. But when you add in the phenomenal skiing performance, there really is nothing to compare. (Note – we have tested or worn most of the new boots from other manufacturers for next season). Over the last 4 years I personally have skied Scarpa Tornados F1s and Skookums, Garmont Adrenalin and Radiums, Dynafit Titans and Zeus as well as other power AT setups. My favourite to date is the Titans for power/tour/weight combo but I have been using Radiums as my longer distance tour boot. The TLT5 Performance TF has a lot to offer the backcountry skier that is more than the sum of its parts. It is much more than a super light boot, it is more than mid-power AT boot. What it is not, is a boot to do battle with Titans or other heavier power AT ski boots. But it is so good as a general AT boot, a proper ski mountaineering boot, with so many advantages over the power boots, you have to wonder….perhaps? It is so much lighter, so much more efficient with only minor compromises in downhill performance…it really challenges the majority of the boots out there with AT labels.
These boots are as significant a design and performance improvement in AT equipment as the Dynafit/Tech binding was to touring or fat skis and early rise tips are to powder skis. Only, because your boots are the most important piece of gear you can own, these boots are even more important in making touring more fun, more efficient, and simply, better. Congratulations Dynafit, you have accomplished a remarkable trick.
Materials – Grilamid, Carbon and Pebax
Forward lean – 15 degrees
Cuff Rotation – 60 degrees
Weight – (27.5) 1050 grams, 1115 with downhill booster tongue
Price: 995$ MSRP