With the increasing popularity in splitboarding season after season, the gear that goes along with it is also improving. From boards to bindings to boots it’s great to finally see company’s out there putting forth the effort to produce quality product for use outside of the resort. For years I had struggled in the boot department of things trying to find a boot that would fit the bill for what I love to do, split mountaineering. A few seasons back Deeluxe boots in conjunction with legend Xavier De La Rue came out with a boot for the niche. As soon as I could I got my hands on a pair and had been riding them ever since. While not to get into that side of things this review is about the Fitwell Backcountry Snowboard boot. Over the past couple of seasons I had heard the name “Fitwell” from time and time again and what seemed like the new boot to hit home with. Finally, I got my chance to put them to the test and have now been riding them for a couple months and so figured I could put this review out there.
With there not being much out there in terms of a splitboard boot, I will be comparing with pictures the initial looks and dimensions of the Fitwell Backcountry boots v.s the Deeluxe Spark XV boot.
Just off of looks alone, you can see that the Fitwell’s have a bit of a slimmer profile. Both boots have Vibram soles and are semi-automatic crampon compatible. The weights of the boots are very close weighing in around 2.5kg a pair with the Fitwell’s being just a tad lighter. The Fitwell’s do have a slightly lower boot height as well as a traditional lacing system vs the Deeluxe Speed Lace but both have the power strap. They both fit my Petzl strap crampons better than my tech semi-auto crampons (Cassin).
My first look at these bad boys and I was immediately impressed by the sleek look and just overall great craftsmanship of the boot. These things are handmade in Italy, so you know they are built well. My draw to these boots was the traditional lacing system, stiffer toe box, and the overall trim and profile of the boot. They seemed a bit stiffer off the bat but with a lacing system that allows you to control how stiff you want them. I come from a soft- softboot backround and being able to control how stiff or loose I want them was great. They also have a powerstrap and the speedlock lacing system that allows you to lock them down on the ankle which is an added bonus. The liner seemed great after I put in small footbed, which I do for all my boots. The lacing system of the liner also very quick and easy to use.
The first thing that I noticed about the Fitwells was the stiffness. Again, I am used to some pretty soft boots and had to do some adjusting on them to get them right. They took some time to break in but now after a month they are starting to feel like a second pair of tennis shoes with the capability of getting much stiffer again just by tightening up the laces and power strap more. I’ve really liked the lateral stiffness of the boot for side-hilling and have noticed a huge difference over other boots I have worn. I have had the chance to take them on a variety of conditions from hiking miles of dirt, to booting couloirs, to hiking 3rd-4th class ridgelines and I can say that they have excelled in all conditions. Every day they seem to feel just a little a bit better as they mold to my feet and movements. With the great quality I can see years of use and comfort ahead. I enjoy the ability to keep them loose on the skin up and with a quick tightening of even the power strap if needed they can be adjusted to the terrain to be ridden. They fit perfect with my Petzl strap crampons and I have used them on everything besides vertical WI. The overall stiffness of the boots provide for excellent protection while kicking steps in hardpack or the occasional alpine ice, which was another major reason I was drawn to them.
Again, coming from soft boots and what I am used to the Fitwells initially were a bit stiff. A quick fix by adjusting the laces and I was back into the surf. As the boots have been breaking in I have found them to be transitioning into a perfect flex for me. On the stiffer side of what I am used to I am able to get a bit more response out of them but still have that surfy feel that keeps me in softboots (my main reasoning for not going the hardboot route). The stiffness also helps a lot more on the way up as well which is a perfectly fine trade-off for me with the balance of stiff to softboot. I’ve had the opportunity to take them surfing pow to bulletproof couloirs and they have been great for all terrain I have had them on.
Overall, it’s been a couple months and I am thoroughly impressed with these boots and looking forward to continually putting them to the test. For me they fit the bill in what I need and look for in a backcountry splitboard boot. A stiff softboot with a traditional lace system and the ability to adjust and lock at the ankles, a powerstrap, Vibram soled, semi-automatic crampon compatibility, slim profile, stiff toe box, and excellent craftsmanship. Game, set, match.