Buying the right snowboard goggles is important for function and comfort. Snowboard goggles must protect your face and eyes from the wind, snow, rain, cold and the sun. Compared with wearing a pair of sunglasses when you’re snowboarding, goggles are a much more versatile piece of equipment that is worth investing in.
The first thing to look for in a pair of goggles is that it features a ‘dual lens’. If you are buying a well known brand you will find it hard to find a single lens frame in their range so don’t fret about this one. A dual lens works just like a double glazed window – it provides a cavity of dead air that acts as insulation – keeping the inner lens above the dew point.
Check to see the lens has some form of venting. High end models may even have vents you can open and close. Smith Optics have introduced porex technology to allow air to enter the cavity between the lenses while keeping water molecules out. This is the same membrane technology used in breathable waterproof outerwear. You can find this tech on models such as the Vice or the I/OX
The next thing to notice with the lens is the tint color or coating. Looking firstly at tint colors, entry level models come with an all round lens that provides moderate clarity in flat light situations while also cutting enough visible light in bright sun shine. These lenses will have descriptions such as ‘bronze’ or ‘burnt orange’ and will suffice for your average snow goer who does a couple of trips per season and will only ever have one lens. They are the closest thing to an all rounder. Other lens colors are clear for night use, yellow for total fog, pink (or rose) for fog, grey or green for definition. If you are serious about your snowboarding and want a goggle that will not hold you back you will want a second pair of lenses so you are not stuck using an all rounder. This brings us to coatings. Snowboard goggle companies use lens coatings among other things, to precisely control the amount of visible light hitting your eye.
VLT (Visible Light Transmission)
The amount of light passing through a lens is commonly expressed as a VLT percentage. Here are some approximate VLT percentages
- Clear Lens 85-90% VLT
- Yellow Lens 75-80% VLT
- Amber Lens 35-40% VLT
- Mirror Lens 20-25% VLT
- Dark Mirror 15-20% VLT
It is wise to have a pair of snowboard goggles which you can replace or interchange the lens according to the conditions. A 75-80% VLT lens for fog and a 20-25% VLT lens for sunshine. This will give you the best protection from sun glare, cut eye strain and enhance definition on sunny days but still allow you to ride on days of whiteout. Make sure you always carry the replacement lens with the frame as turning up on a bright sunny day with a yellow lens and your mirror lens at home with ruin your day.
Different colored mirror tints of the same VLT are mostly cosmetic. Some people like a blue tint, others like red. They will enhance different colors on the hill so keep that in mind.
Look out for styles that come with a free bonus lens. Electric, Von Zipper, Anon, Smith and Dragon all have models with a free bonus lens. This lens is usually suitable for foggy conditions such as rose or yellow.
Changing lenses has never been fun so it’s great to see new technology such as MAGNA-TECH from Anon which uses rare earth magnets to attach the lens to the frame. Smith also has a new improved change over system as this 41sec video shows.
It goes with out saying that you need to be able to see where you are going and what others are doing around you. Some goggles will wrap around the side of your head more than others to give better vision. This is a great idea unless you intend to snowboard or ski with a helmet on. If you intend to use a helmet, you may need to consider using a goggle and helmet designed for each other. Anon provide goggles and helmets designed to be worn together. Smith also has a range of helmets which work together with their goggles.
Goggles that wrap around the face don’t suit all head shapes. Some companies provide Asian Fit goggles in their range.
CHECKLIST: What to look for.
- Double Lens
- Lens color and tint.
- VLT %
- Face fit
- Peripheral vision
- Adjustable strap
- Fit with helmet
- Bonus lens
- Availability of replacement lenses