With the TLT8, Dynafit brings major updates to its game-changing line

Game-changing is a loathsome term around the Backcountry office. That’s because it generally tends to be thrown around with enough frequency when talking about gear to become meaningless, hence its blacklist-adjacent status. So when it does get used in these pages, it’s meant with serious weight, as was the case in the 2011 Gear Guide when describing the Dynafit TLT5. At the time, we didn’t know just how much a boot of this style would change the game.

The TLT8features a taller cuff than its predecessor, and this model, the Expedition CL, features a slightly thinner liner than the CR version.

The 2011 TLT5, which cost $1,000 in its carbon-cuffed form, featured just two buckles, a removable tongue and an unheard of per pair weight of 4.6 lbs. and offered enough strength to actually ski confidently. Remember: this was a time when four buckles and weights greater than 7 lbs. weren’t just the standard but the only option for reliable downhill performance. The TLT5 changed that, and solid-skiing boots that bucked the four-buckle trend began appearing as quickly as hoar frost on a clear and cold Colorado night. No longer did two buckles equal skimo—the TLT5 set a new standard.

In subsequent years, the TLT platform underwent a handful of changes, earning a more robust liner, Grilamid construction and other performance-enhancing upgrades in 2014 with the TLT6. Then things faltered with the 2017 introduction of the TLT7, which dropped roughly a half pound per pair from the previous model, ditched the power strap, widened the last, favored a super-thin liner and became the first TLT model to not win our Editors’ Choice Award in its debut year. Dynafit, for its part, acknowledged that the 7 fell flat where its predecessors shined and regained its focus in this year’s TLT8.

The new TLT8 relies on a few significant updates that aim to vastly improve its skiing abilities over those of the 7: the cuff is taller and stiffer, the fit features less volume, the liner is more robust, and the tongue utilizes a new overlap design for a sturdier forward flex. These upgrades are available in five models, which range from the carbon-cuffed Carbonio to the men’s and women’s Expedition CL and Expedition CR, the difference between the latter two being the liner, which is more substantial (and therefore heavier) in the CR. Each model also features several marquee Dynafit and TLT attributes, including their signature Speed Nose, which forgoes the traditional toe rand and moves the tech fitting backward to improve the skinning stride, and their Ultra Lock system, which integrates the top buckle and walk mode—open the buckle and simultaneously access a 60-degree skinning stride.

The Carbonio and Expedition CL models landed at last March’s Gear Test Week, and while testers appreciated the refinements to both boots, they leaned toward the CL for its strength while descending—the boot sports a respectably stiff 110 flex (and also costs $100 less than its carbon sibling while weighing just about 9 oz. per pair more).

“The Custom Ready liner is the best Dynafit liner…maybe ever,” one tester beamed. “The foam is thick enough, and the tongue protects my shins.” The ratcheting buckles earned praise over the TLT7’s wire-centric style, too, and scores for flex consistency, ski-to-snow feel and walking performance ranked among the highest. While the TLT8 is decidedly a touring-focused boot, it tops other boots in its weight class when it comes to downhill capabilities, making up for the 7’s weaknesses and earning a 2020 Editors’ Choice Award alongside many other heavier models.

“I’m not really sure why people ski beefier boots than this,” one tester pondered of the Expedition CL. “The TLT is all you need.” That sort of perspective on a two-buckle boot would have been unheard of a decade ago. And that change in perspective only further fortifies our assertion that the TLT5 was, indeed, a gamechanger.

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