If you ski or snowboard, you probably know that goggles are a pretty necessary part of your gear, but you may not know how to go about choosing one pair over another. Goggles exist to protect your eyes. At higher altitudes the air is thinner, so more UV rays can get through. Much like sunglasses, snowboard goggles will block UV rays. They also offer a physical barrier for rain, ice pellets, cold wind, branches and anything else that may come at your face. Here are some things to consider when shopping for snowboard goggles.
- Comfort, looks, and fit
- Spherical or flat lenses
- Interchangeable lenses and lens options
- Ease of changing lenses
- Ventilation and coatings
- Bells and whistles
1) Comfort, looks, and fit. These are some of the biggest factors in selecting a new pair of goggles. They have to fit your face well. There needs to be adequate padding to be comfortable, without being too much which can promote fogging, and the foam needs to hit in the right places and feel good on your face. The strap needs to have the correct adjustability for you. Most goggles are helmet compatible, but not all are. So bring your helmet with you when you try goggles. You need to be comfortable with your range of vision, and the new proliferation of frameless goggles provide excellent field of vision. There are so many different styles, colors and patterns available that there’s a goggle for just about everyone.
2) Price tag. You can find goggles ranging from less than $50 to over $600. Over $100 you usually unlock a lot more options. There are more style and color option, more lens options, and better lens optics.
3) Spherical or flat lenses. Flat lenses curve left to right, spherical lenses curve left to right and top to bottom. Because of the extra dimension of curvature, spherical lenses typically offer less distortion, better clarity, and greater peripheral vision. Under $100 most of your options are flat lenses and those will still protect your eyes.
4) Interchangeable lenses….most snowboard goggles allow you to change lenses depending on how bright the conditions are. If you find yourself riding in bright sun, crazy snow, overcast skies, and the lights of night skiing, you will probably find that having only one lens will leave you wanting for something more in some of these conditions. It’s not a bad idea to get a couple of different lenses for the different you ride in most often. Lenses are typically rated by the amount of light they let in (VLT, visible light transmission) the higher the number, the more light can get in, so the lighter the lens usually appears. Darker lenses are good for bluebird days. Lighter lenses are good for overcast or stormy weather. Clear lenses are great for night riding. And Goldilocks lenses in the middle will work for the greatest range of conditions but will not be the best option for anything at the ends of the VLT spectrum. You can find yellow, rose, orange, gray, and blue tints, and they are all intended for specific purposes. But it is ultimately about what feels good to you. If you can, take the goggles outside and see how they feel in actual daylight. The fluorescent light of a store is not the same as daylight, and if there is snow outside, all the better so you can see how the light reflects off of the snow.
5) Easily interchanged lenses…lens changing systems have come a long way, and things are getting easier every year. There are systems that allow you to change lenses with your mittens on with the flick of two levers or a few magnets that will release to allow you to slap a new lens on. Often these easy change systems are more expensive, but not always. Only you can determine how important ease of changing lenses is to you. Some people find the lens options much more important than the ease of changing the lenses, and other people like to change it up a lot and the ease of that transition might trump other features.
6) Ventilation and coatings…there are a number of methods for insuring that your goggles stay relatively fog free. Fogging is a product of the cold outside air interacting with the much warmer, moist air that you are breathing out. Double-layered lenses provide a separation of cold air and face air. Vents in those lenses and in the goggle frame also promote the escape of air. Many lenses have anti fog coatings to lessen the impact of fog on your experience. Some goggles even have fans to help keep the air moving. Depending on how hot you run and the conditions you usually ride in, you can determine how important extra fog prevention features are to you.
7) Bells and Whistles…there are all sorts of features you can find on goggles now, from silicone grips on the back of the strap to keep it from slipping, to built in cameras and GPS…that’s right…built in cameras and GPS that will allow you to track speed, distance, etc. There are photo chromatic lenses that will change the tint based on the conditions. Coming soon…built in defrosters, backup cameras, and self-adjusting side mirrors.
It is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the options out there, but keep in mind the fact that goggles are there to protect your eyes. Most will do that, the rest is just picking and choosing those features that are important to you.
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