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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The TLT 5 Dynafit series Part I of 2

The Dynafit TLT 5 Series as a all mountain cold weather boot?

The Intro and the players:
Ok, I am the first to admit this is one of the most fun blogs I have researched and written to date. Huge fun for me because it gave me a reason to get back into some skiing and to look at how I climb and why in the process.   The TLT did take some effort to "use my imagination" as to where it might be used best.

So it is a bit long winded before the goods are delivered. Or I can simply cut to the chase... if you ski and climb you'll want some of these!

If you haven't paid attention the ski industry has changed a lot in just a couple of years.  Fat skis, tech bindings (which are the various clones of the original Dynafit) and super light weight ski boots that you can also easily tour in, skin in and more importantly to me climb in.

All of the major European boot manufactures seem to have a super light AT boot out now.  Quick look at the top four here shows some differing ideas in technology and kenetics.

In no special order and I have likely missed someone, Scarpa, La Sportiva, Dynafit and may be most importantly Pierre Gignoux, who seems to be driving the others to catch up with his technology. Pierre Gignoux's first boot in 2006 weighed in at 650g!

"At the time it weighed 650g per boot and was nearly half the weight of the Scarpa F1 (1200g).
The 2008 XP 500 were down to 520 g per boot without liner in size 27.5.
This year, the new XP 444 shell weighs a cool 444 grams in 27.5"

Note the Gignoux boot weights are without the liners...not the best data but then I don't have a pair of $2000+ Gignoux boots to weigh for you, sorry ;)

Dynafit claims the new DyNA will come in at 700g with the liner!  Dynafit TLT 5 liners weight in at 160 to 180g.   So call it a 550g shell to be on the safe side. That should be good enough for my use ;)

Some perspective here?   The newest DyNA will be 1# 8oz (24oz) per boot.  The trango S Evo is 1# 13oz (29oz)  per boot!   That is a warm thermo formable plastic dbl boot you can ski and climb technical ground with that is lighter than a pair of Trango Evo S!    A Spantik with a similar Palau liner is 2# 12oz (44oz).  That is saving 1# 4oz per boot!   3# pre pair for the DyNA.  The Spantik with a lwt liner is 5# 8oz a pair.
(I'm very excited here with what might yet be possible)

Bottom line here is there is some amazing ski boot technology available to day......but it is literally "at a price".

Like many reading this I suspect you are more interested in how the boots skis and climb and  more importantly just how much they will cost you.  The original DyNA has been out two seasons now.  The TLT5 Series just one full season.  With much of the US inventory coming in later than anyone would have preferred.  I was slow to recognise the benefits of these style of boots for both skiing and climbing.  But I also wasn't interested until the prices dropped on line at the very end of the 2010/2011 winter season.

Adding a $1000 ski boot or even a $700 ski boot to my gear room no matter how good they ski or climb is not a easy or likely decision.  On sale at 40% off...not easy but way more likely.   $1300 and up?  For a ski boot? Not likely to fly at my house.

I have been skiing in all three of the TLT boots for the last couple of months.  Crazy I know but I thought the new technology was important enough to make the effort.  Boot models and their retail prices are listed below.  Shop around.  I believe you'll find most retailers willing to match online prices.  As the Euro gained value against the US dollar this spring the price of these boots plummeted until even I felt happy with the purchase.  I wouldn't be surprised how ever to see these boots at retail again in the fall and because of the increased demand here in North America hold their  original retail prices well.  Take that as a warning if you are looking for "cheap" boots.

In the grand scheme of things the North American market is tiny compared to the demand in Europe for these boots.  I suspect that will change.

TLT 5 Performance
42.5oz./ 1200g (no tongue) Or 1290g with the tongue.

TLT 5 Mountian TF
42.2oz./ 1190g (no tongue) Or 1280g with the tongue.

TLT 5 Mountain TF-X
TLT 5 Mountain TFX 1360g no tongue   Or 1440g with the tongue

This an uncredited quote (quotes?)  from a 32 page Teton Gravity forum TLT 5 thread  by Jonathon S. that is worth reading all the way through.  Dynafit boot designer/engineer Federico Sbrissa  joins the conversation as well for some very informative conversation.
More links here:

“I took the TLT 5 Mountain TF (the one without carbon fiber and with the standard TF liner rather than a beefed up TFZzero 4 / Mega-Ride in terms of forward flex, but it’s pretty close especially considering how much lighter and better for touring it is. Not sure how much stiffer the carbon version will be in terms of forward flex, but I doubt it will be that different. Lateral stiffness was great but presumably will be even better with carbon cuff.

For comparison I also skied the Scarpa Maestrale and found it to ski better than expected, but not as well as the TLT 5. From flexing the Meastrale indoors I figured it wouldn’t be much more than an F3, but it’s definitely much more than an F3. TLT 5 seems to be the winner all around, but for significantly less $$ the Maestrale looks great too.”

“Jan, if you felt the TLT5 Mountain TF being a little soft in forward flex don’t worry, the pebax cuff of the sample you skied are not “final”. In production the thickness of the cuff’s internal wall will be increased and the pebax mix will be approx 20% stiffer. This will make the boot laterally stiffer and also a bit stiffer in forward flex.

If you have doubts about the “stiffness” difference between the TLT5 performance and the mountain I can tell you it’s amazing… not about 10% or 20% … I would say nearly the double… the combination of the stiff Grilamid downhill tongue with the carbon cuff is impressive…

So if I have to give a general suggestion I would say the final TLT5 Mountain will be the boot for every body, excellent mix of up-hill agility and downhill support, incredible lightness to performance ratio… but still a little forgiving in the most challenging mixed snow…”

"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."

Federico Sbrissa:
"A tech boot like the TLT5 needs a little more attention from the skiers, it's definitely not a super user friendly product and it was not meant to be... most of the parts used are coming from the DyNA that was a ski running race boot so every part was tuned to save weight and targeted to skiers which are used to paying a lot of attention to their gear..."

As  reference the lightest AT boot in the Black Diamond line is the Prime.  The Prime in a 28.5 mono weighs in @  1720g.  But no where near the flexability of the TLT 5 flex in walking mode.  They are ski boots so lets compare how they fair against the Prime.  It is. "all about the down" after all ;)

As a reference.  Not uncommon for me to ski the Prime unlocked at the hinge.   So it should be obvious I am not adverse to riding a soft boot.  BD rates the Prime at a 110 locked up.  Certainly not a super stiff boot even then. The BD Factor is rated as a 130.

Here is how I think the boots pan out from the softest flex to the stiffest boot.

Prime unlocked
mtn no tongue
Prime locked
Performance no tongue
Mtn tongue
Perf tongue 

 Another quote from the TG thread:
"For fit comparison, i've also tried on the Maestral and BD Prime. The Prime forefoot was wider and lower than either the maestral or TLT5. The Prime also had a nice heel pocket. Not as nice as the TLT5 tho. The maestral heel was quite roomy.
The TLT5p is the stiffest of the 3. Prime second and Maestral softer still. Didn't like flex progression of Maestral either, it would flex forward and abruptly become stiffer. The Prime is nicely progressive. I'm wondering how much stiffer the pebax Prime becomes in the cold and whether the TLT5p stiffens up as much...thinking the carbon cuff isn't as affected by temperature?

Hike mode the Prime was nicest *(not what I found by a long shot btw)*  until i took the tongue out of the TLT5p. Then the TLT5p won by a mile."

More on the walk mode of the TLT5 later.  But no question the TLT 5 is best walking ski boot currently available under $750 retail.

There is no question the Pebax cuffs are effected by temperature change.  Very warm spring temps are the only place I have ever wanted a tongue in the Perf for extra control.  The kind of lift day where everyone is in short sleeved shirts and shorts.

But within a few degrees of freezing the Pebax/carbon cuffs seem plenty stiff.   I didn't notice much of a change in flex once the boots were out in below freezing conditions.  All the boots seemed consistent in their flex at 0C or -20C.  Get them warm however and you'll have "slippers" to ski in.  So much for a "rug test" in the shop as to how the boot will flex while skiing.  Cuffs on the TLT5 Mtn are Pebax.  Cuffs on the Performance are a combo of Pebax and Carbon fiber.

From the Arkema Pebax web site:

"Pebax® does not stiffen in cold weather! It retains its outstanding performance even in extreme conditions (down to -40°C)! Pebax® gives a maximum comfort to demanding skiers, and guarantees the same feeling of your boots whatever the weather. It is the reason why Pebax® is the material of choice for ski boot designers and has been chosen for years by all the high-end ski boots manufacturers."

Shells on all the TLT5s are Grilamid a nylon based synthetic.
More here on Grilamid:

There ia a lot of information on the Internet on how the original DyNA skiis as well as how the Mountain  and Performance versions of the TLT 5 ski.  Part of  Dyanfit's advertising fro the TLT 5 Series is "SKI MOUNTAINEERING WITH NO COMPROMISES".  I have to agree.

Little compromise in the TLT 5 Performance boot for skiing..let alone the limit of ski mountaineering.
Do a Google search if you wnat to see what others think of the TLT 5 as a ski boot. 
Here is one of the best reviews imo:

I want to talk about them as a climbing boot.

"Introducing a new Dynafit boot to once again redefine the ski mountaineering market. The ideal choice for skiers who demand the best boots to challenge long distances and high altitude tours. Also the best option for tours with difficult climbing both on ice and rock, thanks to its short rockered sole and perfect crampon compatibility. The additional Downhill Booster tongue makes it extremely supportive during even the most technical and steep descents, while the racing-derived Ultra-Lock system allows for incredible cuff rotation and uphill agility with a super fast, single-motion transition from walk to ski mode. The Performance version is the top-of-the-line, with a Carbon Fiber cuff for lightness and maximum downhill support"

The Mountain TF is actually a gram of two less in weight.

"Introducing a new Dynafit boot to once again redefine the ski mountaineering market. The ideal choice for skiers who demand the best boots to challenge long distances and high altitude tours. Also the best option for tours with difficult climbing both on ice and rock, thanks to its short rockered sole and perfect crampon compatibility. The additional Downhill Booster tongue makes it extremely supportive during even the most technical and steep descents, while the racing-derived Ultra-Lock system allows for incredible cuff rotation and uphill agility with a super fast, single-motion transition from walk to ski mode. Designed for a wider range of users, the Mountain version features a Pebax cuff for a great combination of lightness and downhill performance. "

The reason I have repeated Dynafit's spiel here and left out the Mountian TF-X is I am interested in the warmest and lightest versions of the TLT 5 boots.  If you want to ski in them more than climb get the Performance version.  The carbon fiber cuff is stiff.  99 % of my ski boot use of the Performance TLT is done with out the additional tongue.  I am skiing everything from 110cm under foot, 190cm fatties to 78cm under foot 160cm mountaineering skis.  The Performance TLTs will ski.  But the upper cuff is stiff and walk enough in them or side hill long distances and it ain all that fun.

The Mountain TF on the other hand skis well.  But in nasty conditions I prefer to add the tongue.  And I generally prefer a softer boot.  But with out the tongue the slightly softer cuff and no tongue makes the Mountain TF a good compromise for walking, long side hills and climbing.   You get a bit of flex that makes long days  easier on the feet and knees.  It doesn't take much.

One of the things that the TLT 5 series have for the moment is a bit of flex that not all AT boots have.  It isn't much (5mm?) but it is enough to notice after a long day in stiff boots.  The newest DyNA version has left the flex feature out.  It is an advantage in a climbing boot imo.  Disadvantage in a ski boot, plus the added weight is the reasoning behind that change.

The Dynafit toe flex design that allows for a rigid sole boot for skiing, but flexible boot for walking.  And imo the missing link for plastic climbing boots  Simply brilliant..

The other thing that is important imo as a climbing boot is it's volume.  I have long thought most climbing takes place in an environment where a light weight dbl boot would be enough to keep cold damage at bay and be enough for the majority of climbing where you need more than a single boot but less than the most current crop of high volume double boots, like the Spantik, Baruntse or 6000.  Dynafit's use of the light and extremely well fitting Palau thermodable liner helps here.  It is a low volume foam liner that is easy to dry and exceptionally warm for it's weight and amount of insulation. 

Think the volume of the Kolfach plastic boots. Although it is actually less and a more anatomical shape.  Just 30 years newer technology and in this case the priority on skiing instead of climbing.   But the technology is good enough to be applied to technical alpine climbing as well.  For the alpine ice climbs that involve a ski approach it is a system that is hard to beat.
Colin Haley Photo

At least in the Performance version and with the tongue installed it is also a boot I would use on something like the Cunningham.  Although admittedly buckled up a bit tighter than normal  ;-)  A good skier could use  either of the TLT Mountain versions easily enough.

End Part I

Part two: How do they climb?


Anonymous said...

Enter the era of speed ascent & descent? Great read on a piece of equipment that has potential to change the game.

Dane said...

I think the new super lwt boots ..with more coming..that are useful for both climbing (working on part two of that right now) and skiing that offer something new.

Skiis and binding are of course a part of that. But it is going to take the imagination, fitness and skill of those that use the gear to really put it all together.

You are right though I do think it has changed the game...already.

Check this out:

phillip Smith said...

dane, any idea on sizing? am a 28 in garmont mega rides and seen a great internet deal so thinking of buying then paying for a thermo boot fit somewhere, had read they are smaller than scarpa boots so go for a 28.5 maybe?



Dane said...

Hi Phil,
I heard all sorts of stories on sizing last winter and spring. Running big and running small. My local shop wanted to put me in a much bigger boot than I needed which would have been a disaster.
They were off by two shell sizes.

Luckily I got to play with some boots indoors before I bought.

The shells are all full sizes only. 1/2 sizes are only in the inner boot and it isn't much. That half size is done on a last in the boot. So a 28 and a 28.5 have the same size shell. My take, depending on the boot (more fit options in the TF liner) is buy the shell size you are using now. I think they fit true to the Black Diamond sizing if that helps. Not sure how they compare to Garmont.

The Mtn and the Perf. are the exact same size shells btw.

They are a two buckle boot and if you want to be able to climb and tour in them with some comfort you don't want them too big, as the lower buckle is always buckled. Too big and your foot will move around too much. To get the right fit it is a boot you'll want to play with the shell, check your sizing, and likely walk around in some to get the sizing right.

They are a narrow low volume boot and I have a narrow low volume foot. I might have been convinced to buy the larger shells because I could have skied in them. But walking and climbing without blisters I think required a closer fitting boot.

All that said..a 28 and a 28.5 is the same boot shell. I fudged my sizing by buying the half size and then re-cooked my TF liners to take up the extra space again. Key is to get the right full size. Teton grav has a long thread discussing everything about the boots which I read several times. On of the Dynafit designers, Fredrico, wrote a bunch of info there that I took to heart.

Good luck! Let me know what you end up and what you think of the boot? Complete game changer for me.