Earlier this year, Arc'teryx fan Seb Bunney tested out the Procline Carbon Support boots and gave us his verdict. If you're out there searching for July turns, or already planning your winter 2017 gear, this is a must read!
About the author:
Born in the U.K. and raised in New Zealand, Sebastian is now living in Whistler, B.C. where for the last six years he has been getting out ski touring, mountaineering and climbing throughout BC and the Yukon. Seb has a primarily touring-focused background and has never spent much time in the resorts or on alpine skis. Most of his previous background revolves around light to mid-weight touring set-ups designed for efficient backcountry travel.
First up, here's the description and specs from Arc'teryx:
The first ski alpinism boot with revolutionary 360° rotating cuff for unmatched climbing and ski performance. The patent-pending 360° rotating cuff delivers unrivaled vertical and lateral ankle agility while climbing or skinning. On the descent, the cuff’s carbon-fibre charged construction improves stiffness and power transfer without adding weight or sacrificing agility. The thermoformable Procline Support liner combines support with flexibility, and a full-coverage gaiter seals out snow.
-Forward Lean: 14°
-Vertical Rotation: Forward +50° / Backward -25°
-Lateral Rotation: 23° Internal, 12° External
-Gaiter: High density CORDURA® with TPU reinforcements
-Sole: Vibram® Procline dual compound rubber
-Spoiler: Grilamid 60% fibreglass
-Cuff: Carbon fibre with over-injected Grilamid 30% carbon fibre charged
-Liner: Procline Support thermoformable EVA liner
Test Locations: Duffey Lake Area, Whistler Backcountry, Squamish Area, Rogers Pass, Iceland
Arc'teryx have always been into developing new and unique products that lead the way for others in its class and when it comes to the Procline Boot, this is no exception. They have stepped into the Ski Touring/ Mountaineering/ Alpinist market with the goal of developing a versatile boot with “unmatched climbing and ski performance”. Now I have been skiing the Dynafit TLT 6 as my main boot for both big multi-day trips and ultra-light traverses for the last 3 years with minimal complaints. So how does the Procline compare?
To start, I have always had issues with finding boots to fit my low volume, bulbous ankle, narrow heel foot to the point where once I find boots that fit I stick with them for a while.
During a talk from one of the designers of the Procline boot, he mentioned that they based a lot of their fit off the TLT 6. Which meant I was in luck. The Procline is definitely on the lower volume side of the boot market and I do agree a very similar fit to the TLT 6. The toe box is little narrower and I did end up punching the outer edge of the boots to make more room for the fore as I had noticed some pressure where my metatarsals and proximal phalange meet. While thermo molding the liner I also added some additional 3mm foam to my anklebone to make a little more room and to my medial cuneiform to reduce the pressure on top of the foot.
The boot has a very snug feel around the heel. This helps to add a huge amount of support and stability. Although, the first few times I went for 3hr+ tours I developed blisters on my inner heels but once I started to pack in the liner this problem disappeared.
The boot definitely seems to be built around a low to normal arch foot, narrow forefoot and narrow heel.
With a good friend of mine immediately swapping his liners out with some Intuitions I was a little nervous at first. But, after heat molding and spending a few big days out in them I’ve grown to find these liners do the job they were intended for very well.
The liner I skied was named “Support” which when your in the tour mode is one of the last thing you’ll get. But, I found this a positive as it adds to the free range of motion you get and in return adding to its great uphill performance.
The EVA foam Arc'teryx have chosen, although on the thinner side, has held a heat mold very well with no need to remold or swap out but, I have felt the foam to be quite soft and I do see it packing out faster than other similar boots. I have found that the foam doesn’t add too much warmth and when temperatures start dropping below around -6 my toes do start to succumb to the cold. Weirdly, the ankle and upper area of the boot is very warm. This may be down to the gaiter.
With many people trying the boot on in their local store and making assumptions on how soft it was, I was really looking forward to taking the boot out into the real world and giving it the real test.
To cleanly put it, the boot skis how it was designed. If you are an aggressive skier who likes to pressure the tongue of the boot and regularly overpowers their equipment then yes this boot may not be the one. But, if you ski quite balanced, spend a lot of time on the uphill and have spent time in a sub 1400g boot in the past then this boot is great! Throughout the test I spent a lot of time in many different conditions from blower powder to breakable crust, corn snow to resort groomers and for their weight and stiffness they handle very well. I have found the boot to edge well without losing too much power to the lateral flex and even under the rougher variable conditions it’s very predictable.
I should note that the flex is definitely all or nothing. You’re not going to get that nice progressive flex you’ll find in the burlier touring boots. I found them to be very stable and supportive until you take a sudden momentum change and you’re weight is shifting forward and then you suddenly blow through the boot's flex. I did have this happen a few times but mainly on variable terrain or in low visibility where it’s hard to see the contours of the snow.
Hands down the best walk mode on the market (In my experience). I know that is a big statement but even after playing around in some of the lighter randonee boots such as the Scarpa Alien or the competing boots in the weight class i.e. TLT 6, La Sportiva Spectre or the Atomic Backland Carbon, none of them come close. You may be able to find some boots with a larger degree of flex but how much of that flex is usable and unrestricted? The flex on the Procline seems to have very little resistance. One of the main attributes to a great walking boot. Not only that but during transitions I find myself well ahead of the pack as I only have to flick the walk mode lever and not adjust/ loosen off any of the buckles. The boot is comfy enough on the up without the need for adjustment.
The one fault I do have with the boot is in the way the walk mode is actuated and how this pertains to touring, boot packing and hiking. If you want to use the incredible fore and aft flex that the boot provides then you obviously have to disengage ski mode. And if you don’t want to get snow inside your pant leg or in the liner of the boot then you have to pull down your gaiter/ pant leg. But, due to the way the spine disengages from the cuff when in walk mode you’re unable to pull your gaiter down and even if you do get your pant cuff down within a few steps it’ll work its way back up again. Therefore I have had to resort to touring with my pant and gaiter around the top of the boot and boot packing up couloirs with the boot in ski mode. The only way I can see getting around this issue is going with a larger circumference pant. My Arc'teryx Theta SV pants are a little too tight.
I have to mention I haven’t spent too much time climbing in these boots but, what I can say is the fore/aft and lateral flex does make a big difference in comparison to other hard-shelled boots.
I noticed where the boot really excelled was when I was side stepping into awkward stretched out positions. It allowed me to reach and extend my foot a lot more easily and found I could reach further due to the give in the cuff. Accurately placing my feet onto smaller features with precision was also much easier as the free unrestricted range of motion allowed me to mike minor tweaks to my movements effortlessly.
Adding to that, with the easy to access walk mode lever I could also quickly switch in and out of ski mode without the need to undo or redo the buckles and power strap if I did want a stiffer platform to stand on.
I have personally used the boot in both the G3 Ion 12 and Dynafit Speed Superlight 2.0 with no issues whatsoever. The tech inserts aren’t too hard to locate even when the toe of the boot is covered in snow. I should note that the Procline is designed for both tech toe and heel bindings and will not work with the Marker Kingpin, Dynafit Beast or similar style bindings with alpine heels or additional add-ons. This is down to the reduced heel welt/lug size.
Initially when finding out I was going to be using the new Procline boot I quickly checked the BSL (Boot Sole Length) to see if they would fit into my non-adjustable Speed Superlight 2.0 bindings as these were mounted for my 293mm BSL TLT 6 boots. I was a little disappointed to find out the 27.0 Procline runs a 295mm BSL so it would be too big for my binding. But, after trying the boot out in the binding it actually has around 0.5mm more clearance than the TLT 6, which I found odd. I am guessing the toe inserts are set further back than the TLT 6.
It would be nice to see some form of mark on the toe welt to increase ease of step in.
After around 45+ days of touring in many different conditions the boots did start to show signs of wear.
The first thing I noticed was due to the looser fit of the gaiter around the liners. I found this excess material bunches where the gaiter is welded to the boot shell and this causes rubbing of the material against the boot cuff when in walk mode. This has now managed to wear through the gaiter material and this allows water seepage into the boot.
Secondly, where the cuff of the boot is riveted to the shell (canting rivet), play has started to appear. This gives the boot a knocking feel/sound when you flex laterally in ski mode.
Thirdly, the pressfit pin which holds the spine of the boot and the lower shell together fell out after 15 days of touring. I pressed it back in using a hammer and around a week later it fell out again. I resorted to applying epoxy glue and a little piece of plastic to prevent the pin from coming out again as this releases the boot so that you would be stuck in walk mode. As a fix the pin may need a tighter enclosure to slide/press into. Thus prevent it working itself loose.
Finally, the most glaring issue is that while skiing a couloir in Iceland I went to jump turn and one boot blew apart where the spine attaches to the lower shell (over the Achilles). Luckily I was able to perform a quick fix with a lighter and a curtain rail fitting which managed to last the remainder of the trip, but I feel this area will definitely need reinforcement.
Similar to other competitors in the market, it would be nice to see more accessibility to parts, user maintenance and repair. As this boot is designed around covering ground and moving fast you don't want to find yourself stranded with no ability to fix or repair the boot.
With Arc'teryx stepping into the touring boot market I really do believe they have hit the nail on the head when it comes to weight vs ski performance.
When it comes to durability there is definitely room for improvement. A little more reinforcement in areas and more accessibility to field repairs would make a world of difference. But overall they have managed to design a boot that really exceeds any comparable boots in terms of an unrestricted walk mode and have delivered great ski quality for the type of user the boot is designed for. It is a boot that feels just as comfortable scaling ridgelines with crampons on as it does descending steep technical couloirs. Although if you are an aggressive skier or spend the occasional day in the resort, then you may want to look at a more aggressive/ stiffer boot such as the Dynafit Vulcan, Mercury or the Scarpa Maestrale.