Dynafit Vulcan

Paul Forward reviews the Dynafit Vulcan for Blister Gear Review

2014-2015 Dynafit Vulcan

2014-2015 Dynafit Vulcan

Size Tested: 27.5 / 304mm Boot Sole Length

MSRP: ~$999 USD

Bindings Used: Dynafit Beast 14, Dynafit Radical FT 12, Dynafit Radical ST 10, Dynafit Speed Radical, Dynafit Vertical FT 12, Dynafit Vertical ST 10

Skis Used: DPS Lotus 138, DPS Lotus 120 & 120 Spoon, DPS Spoon, Praxis Protest 196cm, Praxis Backcountry, Black Diamond Carbon Convert, Whitedot Carbon Redeemer

Test Locations: Alaska Backcountry (Tordrillos, Chugach, Kenai, Talkeetnas, Kodiak); Jackson Hole / Teton Pass, WY; Wasatch Range, UT; Japan Backcountry

Days Tested: ~120

Reviewer’s Feet: medium volume with high instep

Editor’s Note

The Dynafit Vulcan has developed a reputation for being the Go-To for skiers who want a high-performance touring boot. But there is a competition brewing, specifically with the Salomon MTN Lab, that two of us continue to test down in New Zealand. We’re going to be weighing in on the MTN Lab soon, but first, here is our review of the boot that has set the standard, the Dynafit Vulcan.

Introduction

Dynafit says about this boot: “The Vulcan offers unrivaled performance on the descent, and the capability to control modern freeride skis at any speed.”

For most skiers the Dynafit Vulcan doesn’t need an introduction. It came onto the market as the boot that Eric Hjorleifson designed. This, and the fanfare associated with his film segment shot while using Dynafit bindings, caught the attention of many skiers who had previously believed that it was impossible to “charge” on tech bindings and touring boots.

Over the past few years the perception of the capability of tech bindings has changed significantly, and part of that is due to the Vulcan and a few other boots that claim to offer similar capabilities.

I’ve been a devotee of tech bindings and touring boots most of the last decade, and spent a fair amount of time tweaking and modifying boots to try to get something that fit and skied a little better than what was available. After a very favorable experience with the Dynafit TLT5 Performance (with some modifications), I was optimistic about the Vulcan.

Paul Forward reviews the Dynafit Vulcan for Blister Gear Review

Paul Forward in the Dynafit Vulcan, Japan. (photo by Cam McLeod)

Note: When the Vulcan came out, Dynafit also introduced the Mercury, which is very similar to the Vulcan except that it costs about $200 less and features a fiberglass reinforced cuff instead of the carbon fiber cuff of the Vulcan. The weight is essentially the same, but the carbon cuff gives the Vulcan a stiffer flex.

Vulcan: Construction & Changes for 15 / 16

All of my time in the Vulcan is with the pair that I got in the winter of 12/13. To my knowledge, the shell of the boot has remained relatively unchanged through the last three seasons.

Like most of the best touring boots currently on the market, the lower shell of the Vulcan is made of Grilamid. It is a light, stiff plastic that can be molded into lightweight high performance boots. (It can also be heated and punched easily, though the plastic becomes very malleable at relatively low temps so it should be done by someone with experience working with Grilamid.)

The upper cuff of the Vulcan is constructed of carbon fiber. Unlike the original Dynafit TLT5, the cuff pivot points are built with bushings that decrease some of the wear on the carbon cuff. The cuff is locked using the Dynafit Ultralock 2.0 system, which essentially secures the top buckle and locks the cuff into ski mode with one motion.

Like the TLT 5 and 6, the Vulcan features a removable tongue that is typically removed for traveling uphill and inserted for added fore/aft stiffness on the descent.

I’ll discuss these individual features below, but want to clarify on the construction and materials because Dynafit does does have some changes in store for the 15/16 Vulcan. Notably, the lower shell will be Pebax, and the upper shell will be “double ply fiberglass.”

We have discussed this with Dynafit, and they assure us that the flex of the 15/16 Vulcan will be essentially the same as the previous edition.

The new boot will also come with a “Hoji-inspired powerstrap.” I will be getting time in the new Vulcans this fall, but based on what we know of the 15/16 boot, I suspect that most (if not all) of what I’m writing about the Vulcan here will still apply.

Tech Fittings

The “Quick Step In” tech fittings that are featured on Dynafit brand boots and select boots from other manufacturers really do work. The little bumps on the sides of the fittings make getting into tech bindings significantly more intuitive.

Paul Forward reviews the Dynafit Vulcan for Blister Gear Review

Dynafit Quick Step Fitting

Buckles

The Ultralock System is a unique solution to buckling touring boots. Essentially, the top buckle tightens the upper shell and then locks the upper cuff into position in one motion. If the upper buckle is open, the boot is in walk mode. If it’s closed, the boot is in ski mode.

This is elegant and undoubtedly saves weight. It is also very secure in ski mode. After owning three pairs of boots with this system (TLT5 Performance, Vulcan, TLT6 Performance), I have never noticed any play in the system.

The only downside is that it’s not possible to have the cuff buckled and be in walk mode, or to be in ski mode with the cuff unbuckled. This is rarely an issue for me, although occasionally it’s nice to have these options when touring out of an area with a lot of rolling terrain (where you have to skin / ski downhill), or if I want to loosen my boots on a rare day of riding lifts with my touring gear.

The other disadvantage is that there is little ability to make fine adjustments on the cuff tightening. You have to choose which groove in the cuff to pass the cable without any ability to fine tune—unlike the middle and lower buckles, that (like most alpine boots) are more fine tunable via screwing the buckles in or out.

The placement of the instep buckle is perfect for me, and works well to pull my heel into the boot with crushing my instep. The lower buckle is positioned on top of the lower portion of the tongue, where it is much less likely to be pried open when bootpacking or postholing.

Powerstrap

The powerstrap on my 12/13 Vulcans is not very powerful. It is a simple velcro strap that lacked enough width or length to provide any additional support. I initially replaced it with a Booster strap, then later changed it to one of Scarpa’s elasticized velcro straps (the stretchy ones that were on the original Maestrale and Mobe). The Scarpa strap added a noticeable amount of stiffness and elasticity. My hope is that the new “Hoji inspired” strap functions similarly.

NEXT: Tongue Stiffness, Fit, Etc.

6 Comments

  1. swissiphic August 24, 2015 Reply

    I own a pair of Dynafit Mercuries that I use for 80 percent of my ski touring and on hill days. I have a few observations to share.

    Regarding:

    “The only downside is that it’s not possible to have the cuff buckled and be in walk mode, or to be in ski mode with the cuff unbuckled. This is rarely an issue for me, although occasionally it’s nice to have these options when touring out of an area with a lot of rolling terrain (where you have to skin / ski downhill)”

    This was also an initial issue for me until I discovered the boots skied perfectly fine for these scenarios by leaving the power strap engaged and unbuckling the cuff lock/upper buckle. (“…cuff buckled and be in walk mode”…) In fact, I kinda like the old school extra soft flex fore and aft for perfect powder low angle meadowskipping runs to rekindle nostalgic ‘good old days’ memories of skiing in leather boots.

    “…to be in ski mode with the cuff unbuckled.” ; one can disengage the wire bail at the ladder, snap shut the cuff buckle while relying on a snug or loosened powerstrap for varying degrees of forward support.

    As for the upper cuff forward flex bump stops: In an effort to modify the boots to exhibit less blocky flex, I did an experiment where I modified the bump stops to be bypassed by adding plastic wedges on either side to allow a smooth flex beyond their limitations. I skied a few runs in REALLY bad snow…deep rain soaked coastal cementometers. Without extra tongues inserted the boots basically collapsed while pressuring the tips and on terrain undulations. I had to ski centered/aft for the rest of the run in fear of breaking the boots. With tongues inserted, there was more support, but, the flex felt off…too much initial resistance followed by an ‘anti progressive’ softening feel while driving the shin deeper into the flex of the boot. It was clear that the bump stops were there for a reason; I stopped the experiment before catastrophic failure and have been skiing happily ever after with boots in stock form…mostly sans extra tongues. Yes the flex is a tad non linear but I have since adapted and it has proven to be a non issue.

    An aspect of the boot’s performance that doesn’t appear to be widely discussed is their basic walk, hike, and steep snow climbing ability/agility. Can’t comment on ice climbing and crampon work…just snow. I do a lot of varied terrain and surface dry ground approaches, some very low class rock work while scrambling and frequent spring/summer steep snow, couloir uphills. This is where the rear range of motion shines its glory…lots of ankle mobility for sensitivity and balance after carefully adjusting instep and front buckles. For steep kick stepping and french techniquing steep snow of varying hardness, the boots just feel good. Frequently, snugging the power strap but leaving upper buckle in walk mode provides the correct balance. As angles change, simple adjustments of power strap are sufficient to micro tweak the upper cuff fit compression. And full lockdown mode provides bomber support for conditions requiring it.

    The only part of the boot that is left wanting, in my opinion, is the durability of the outsole for dry land work…mine are completely trashed after 2 seasons of use, with particularly heinous wear at the toe. The problem has been rectified with a few layers of shoo goo that have been shaped to mimic the factory fresh form. I believe the Vulcans share similar rubber on the outsole, which is why I mention it.

  2. Blister Member
    Simpson August 26, 2015 Reply

    I have the Mercury. Love the up hill performance but don’t like the down hill performance at all. Not even close to a traditional alpine boot. No progressive flex. I am in salomom race boots . Curious to see flex the Solomon mnt lab. The stance and flex don’t inspire confidence when bombing through junky snow.

  3. swissiphic August 26, 2015 Reply

    @Simpson: re: Mercury flex: Personally, I found the boot was/is pretty sensitive to footbed ramp angle in how the flex profile subjectively ‘felt better’ for my personal physiology. This, combine with the forward position of the forward lean option and sometimes some added foam wedges for even more forward lean of the boot cuff seemed to be the best compromise for me. With flat stock footbeds, the sensation of not so progressive flex was more noticeable than with more rigid custom orthotics with higher heel and some simple layers of duct tape added to fine tune the perceived balance point. With a more neutral ramp the sensation of hitting a more abrubt end of flex resulted in a feeling of getting knocked back/backseat when skiing snow that was undulating and provided more tip of ski feedback; i.e. maching through junky, cut up coastal snow and bumpy terrain. With a more forward oriented ramp angle, this tendency was/is perhaps not eliminated but seemed to provide a more positive shin on boot tongue feel and tactile, precise and not AS abrupt end to the forward flex of the boot. Not perfect, but improved. Probably the same with any boot but the Merc was/is the first boot where I’ve done extensive a/b comparisons and fine tuning to dial in the performance… of course, it’s all very subjective and personal, but so far the Mercury has been the best compromise of uphill/downhill performance of any ski touring boot I’ve owned/tried; after spending LOTS of time fine tuning. For the record, I’ve been skiing the boots with Intuition Luxury high volume liners.

  4. swissiphic August 26, 2015 Reply

    sorry, posted the last comment without careful edit…

  5. Blister Member
    Greg Boyer January 1, 2016 Reply

    Are these boots compatible with standard alpine bindings such as the Marker Griffon or Marker Jester?

    • Author
      Paul Forward January 2, 2016 Reply

      Hi Greg, The short answer is no, the only alpine bindings that are officially compatible with these boots that I know of are the Marker Lord and the Salomon Warden MNC. I’m sure you’ll see lots of people using boots like the Vulcans in regular alpine bindings but they are not certified to have safe, consistent release. For more details about this check out the recent article we did on AT boots and bindings: http://blistergearreview.com/gear-reviews/skiing-101-at-boots-bindings

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