The Best Ski Goggles Review

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Eight goggles to keep your eyes from watering. Front row:Oakley Airbrake, Oakley Splice, Oakley A-frame, Spy Targa III. Back row: Julbo Orbitor, POC Lobes, Smith I/O, Smith scope.
Credit: Aaron Zanto
Any skier, snowboarder, mountaineer, snowshoer, or snow adventurer knows that ski goggles are an essential piece of equipment. However, do you know which is the best? Over the course of two months, we skied on windy, snowy, and sunny days. We tested eight ski goggles to see which has the best breathability, comfort, lens quality, durability, and style.

Learn more and see how to choose the right pair for you.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Ski Goggles Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Oakley Airbrake
Oakley Airbrake
Read the Review
POC Lobes
POC Lobes
Read the Review
Smith I/O
Smith I/O
Read the Review
Oakley Splice
Oakley Splice
Read the Review
Oakley A-Frame
Oakley A-Frame
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award       
Street Price Varies $130 - $220
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $112 - $170
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $121 - $175
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $78 - $120
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $65 - $104
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score 
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91
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83
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82
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82
100
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69
Editors' Rating
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Comfortable, two lenses, flush frame/lens interface, great protection, durable, great snit-fogging capabilities.Lens change darkness depending on available light, good fit for smaller face, good protection.Good ventilation, comes with two lenses, can purchase in three sizes or heads up display, strap clip.Good lens optics, flush frame/lens interface at the bottom, good protection, durable, great snit-fogging capabilities.Comfortable, soft frame, fits small faces.
Cons Expensive, must keep the strap tight to avoid sliding.OK fit for large faces, strap has limited adjustment.Lens quality, interchangeability of lenses is slow.Decreased breathability through the nostrils, one set of lenses, fits larger faces only.Too much airflow, fogged easily.
Best Uses Inbounds and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling.Great for mountaineering, inbounds and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, and snowmobiling.Inbounds and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, mountaineering.Inbounds and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling.Inbounds and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling.
Date Reviewed Apr 11, 2014Apr 17, 2014Apr 14, 2014Apr 12, 2014Apr 13, 2014
Weighted Scores Oakley Airbrake POC Lobes Smith I/O Oakley Splice Oakley A-Frame
Protection - 10%
10
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9
10
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7
10
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8
10
0
7
10
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4
Breathability - 20%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
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6
Comfort - 25%
10
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9
10
0
9
10
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8
10
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8
10
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7
Lens Quality - 25%
10
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10
10
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10
10
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9
10
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9
10
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8
Durability - 15%
10
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8
10
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4
10
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8
10
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8
10
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8
Style - 5%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
6
Product Specs Oakley Airbrake POC Lobes Smith I/O Oakley Splice Oakley A-Frame
Lens tested Polished White/Black Iridium and Persimmon Beige/ Silver Interchangable lenses/ Black/Ignitor miror Polished White/Black Iridium HI Persimmon
Ventilation Dual Top Vents Top only Vaporator -top and sides Dual Top Vents Top and bottom
Lens Style/ Material Spherical/ Plutonite (Polycarbonate) Spherical/ Polycarbonate (Optical grade) and cellulose propionate Spherical/ Carbonic - X Spherical/ Plutonite (Polycarbonate) Spherical/ Plutonite (Polycarbonate)
Layers of foam/ Frame material 3/ Rigid front w O mater rear 3/ Polyurethane 3 Driwix Foam/ Urethane 3/ O Matter (Urethane) 3/ Polyurethane
Outriggers for helmet Yes No No Yes Yes
Grip strap? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Interchangeable lens? Yes (comes w second low light lens) Yes Yes (comes w second low light lens) Yes No
Warranty 1yr +1 additional year when registered online with Oakley 1 Year Lifetime 1yr +1 additional year when registered online with Oakley 1yr +1 additional year when registered online with Oakley

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Oakley Airbrake Ski Goggles
Oakley Airbrake Ski Goggles
$120-250
100
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91
Editors' Choice Award
Spy Targa 3 Ski Goggles
Spy Targa 3 Ski Goggles
$35-65
100
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58
Best Buy Award
POC Lobes Ski Goggles
POC Lobes Ski Goggles
$180
100
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83
Top Pick Award
Oakley Airbrake
$120-250
100
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91
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Spy Targa 3
$35-65
100
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58
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POC Lobes
$180
100
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83
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Smith I/O
$175
100
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82
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Oakley Splice
$120
100
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82
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Oakley A-Frame
$100
100
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69
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Julbo Orbiter
$180
100
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68
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Smith Scope
$65
100
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57
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Choosing a pair
The back country goggle testing crew about to drop deep in to the Sier...
The back country goggle testing crew about to drop deep in to the Sierra backcountry. Aaron with Oakley Splice, Andy with Smith I/O, Dave with Oakley Airbrake, Mark with Julbo Orbitor.
Credit: Aaron Zanto
Ski goggles are an important tool for anyone wanting to ski, snowboard, snowmobile, snowshoe, or just play in the mountains. While some snow enthusiasts love their sunglasses, goggles offer more protection from light, wind, and foreign body intrusions. Deciding which pair of ski goggles will work best for you can be a daunting task but it's one that we are here to guide you through. The most basic approach should keep these three ideas in mind: fit, style, and lens type. The goggle needs to fit your face well in order to keep the elements out. You should like the style, or you won't wear them. Decide how important clear unobstructed vision is to you. The basics of choosing the right design can be found in the How to Choose Ski Goggles Buying Advice article. The buying advice article will also go into more detail to help you understand how a ski goggle works. It will discuss anti-fogging, lens shape, UV protection, and padding. All these features make a pair of ski goggles unique. For more information on how a goggle works and what sets a top end product apart from one that will just do, keep reading below.

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Oakley Airbrake with a low light lens. Skiing Lake Tahoe on a sunny day. Even in bright sunlight the low light lens worked well.
Credit: Aaron Zanto
Criteria for Evaluation
Protection
For this criterion, we tested the ability of the ski goggles to keep the wind and sun out of the user's eyes. We did not find any model in this review that allowed direct sunlight to the eyes, which is one of the main advantages of using a goggle for snow recreation. However, in regards to wind exposure, we found major differences. Some pair allowed wind to enter from the sides, around the nose, or an excessive amounts through the vents.
The product that gave the best protection against wind was the Oakley Airbrake. The product we found to have the least amount of protection was the Oakley A-frame.

Breathability
This is a complicated attribute to measure. It is important to have enough air moving through them to un-fog. However, it is just as important that the vents do not allow too much air to flow, causing the eyes to dry out. For this category, we tested the rate at which they could un-fog. The de-fogging could also be aided by the quality of the anti-fogging coating applied to the surface of the lens or the quality of the thermal barrier created by the inside and outside lenses. Most of the models we tested were able un-fog themselves during a rapid descent. The Oakley Airbrake did the best job of clearing the fog in the shortest amount of time.

While no product escaped clouding over in rainy, sleety, or wet snowy conditions, some cleared easier than others. The outside of the Smith I/O, POC Lobes, and Oakley Airbrake were the easiest to clean off due to the flush interface of the frame and the lens. In the Smith Scope, the Spy Targa 3 and the Oakley A-Frame, the frame edge protruded past the lens, making clearing snow or water off more difficult. The Oakley Splice is somewhat of a hybrid design with a frame that protrudes past the lens only on the top. In addition, snow or other moisture collected more rapidly on the edge of the goggles that had a frame edge sticking out above the lens.

Comfort
The general comfort of any particular product can be very subjective and differ greatly between users. It is important to choose a goggle that fits you well. Goggles are designed for a general face size. Most of the products tested in this review are designed for medium to large-faced individuals. The best pair tested for smaller faces were the Oakley A Frame, Spy Targa 3, and the Julbo Orbiter. Aside from the general fit, we looked for goggles that did not cause excessive pressure in any one point. One of the biggest determiners of comfort was the number of layers and type of foam. In general, models with three layers of foam were much more comfortable than those with two layers. Also, the goggles that used a thin wicking material for the outermost layer felt softer against the skin and did not rub as much. In our test, the two most comfortable pair were the Oakley Airbrake and the POC Lobes.

It is important to note that the Smith I/O comes in three different sizes I/OS for smaller faces, I/O for medium to large, and I/OX for extra large faces. Make sure to purchase the appropriate size for your face. All the other goggles come in a standard size. See the rating table to find the appropriate size goggle. We used the manufacturers' sizing and our own experience to judge the size.

Strap comfort was also considered for the overall comfort. Some were easy to tighten while on the head or helmet. For others, it was impossible to snug down without taking them off. All the models tested had straps that came with a silicone bead on the inside to keep them from inadvertently slipping off. The Smith I/O had the most functional strap. It was the only strap that had a clip in the back allowing them to be removed or put on without having to pull them over the head. Most of the products we tested had straps that could fit any size head. However, some needed to be tightened down completely to stay on smaller heads, which could become a particular problem when the strap stretches.

The majority of the testing done for this review was done in the backcountry without helmets. It is strongly recommended to use a helmet when participating in skiing or snowboarding, especially at a resort. With helmets in mind, most of the products tested in this review had outriggers on the sides of the frames to help them accommodate the extended width of a helmet. See goggle helmet interface review for more info on use with helmets.

Lens quality
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POC Lobes, Beige, with silver lens.
Credit: Aaron Zanto
Lens quality varies significantly between manufacturers and models. For this review, we tested mostly spherical lenses. Only the Spy Targa and Smith Scope have flat lenses. Comparing the clarity of the lenses was similar to comparing HD vs. standard TV. All the goggles provided visibility of high enough quality to perform high velocity sports. The lenses that stood out were the POC lobes, Oakley AirBrake and Splice, and the Julbo Orbiter. These goggles have the least distortion, glare, and best peripheral vision; they allow for crystal clear vision that gives a feeling almost like skiing without a goggle.

The POC lobes far surpassed all the other contenders with the clearest visibility and best peripheral vision, earning it a TOP PICK AWARD. If you want to ski or snowboard in "High Definition," then this is the goggle. A friend drove away from a day of skiing in these goggles not realizing he was still wearing them. A word of caution: be extremely careful with these lenses. We found that the exceptional clarity can be easily damaged, making this the least durable lens we tested. The good news is that it is possible to purchase a replacement lens.

The Julbo Orbiter stood out in this category for a unique reason. The Orbiter was the only model we tested with a photochromic lens. This lens did a fantastic job of changing the amount of tint, depending on the time and type of day. We used this goggle for hiking at night and on bright sunny days and we never needed to change the lens.

The Smith I/O and Oakley Airbrake came with two lenses. Both had one lens for low light and one for bright light. While the overall cost of these goggles is more than the other goggles we tested, keep in mind that the cost includes two pairs of lenses. Several other products in this test have lenses that can be replaced, but these two models are the only two that are truly interchangeable on the fly. On several occasions, we switched out the lenses in the field when the light became lower or brighter.
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Changing the lens on the Oakley Airbrake is as simple as pulling up the lever and releasing the lens. In the photo you can see how the lens hooks onto the white tab of the frame. Once the lever locks the lens into the tab.
Credit: Aaron Zanto
The Oakley Airbrake was the easier of the two to switch out with a convenient lever to release the lens. The Smith I/O required releasing two levers and pulling the bottom of the lens out of the rubber frame.
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Smith I/O with the lens removed from the frame. The tabs on the bottom of the lens must be placed into the soft frame and then the notches on top will fit into the release tabs. It is not the quickest lens to change, but it works well.
Credit: Aaron Zanto

Durability
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Carrying case for the Oakley Airbrake included with purchase. A great option for carrying and protecting your goggles in your luggage while in the car or on the plane.
Credit: Aaron Zanto
The characteristics of a durable pair of ski goggles for this test: the ability to resist scratches, ease of cleaning the lens with the bag provided, and retention of stretch in the strap. While all manufacturers note in their literature that they apply an anti-scratching and anti-fog coating, there is a difference in ultimate durability. We found that the Oakley Airbrake and Smith I/O were the most durable. The POC Lobes were the least durable.
Some of the frames were made from a softer material, allowing for more bending before breaking. We did not break any in this test, but anyone who has used ski goggles for an extended number of days knows that it is possible to break lenses or frames from taking a face plant. A more likely way to break a frame is by shoving it with too much force into a backpack or pocket. It is important to treat all goggles with some level of care to ensure their long term durability. See this website for more tips on how to care for your goggles.

Style
Style is always the most subjective category of a review. The majority of the testers for this review were men in their 30s and 40s. We had a few women try them out and comment on the style. We also tried to keep in mind current trends. Finally, we attempted to judge the products with the knowledge there are a range of different colors and graphics available. There is a design out there that fits the style of every individual.

Editors' Choice award: Oakley Airbrake
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Oakley Airbrake
Credit: Oakley
The Oakley Airbrake is our Editors' Choice winner in this category. This ski goggle has fantastic lens optics and breathability. While the price tag might cause some to think twice, keep in mind that it comes standard with two lenses. Essentially you are getting two pair for the price of one. It is so easy to switch out the lens that it could be done in the middle of a run or on the chair ride up. The Airbrake was the most comfortable design tested and did a fantastic job of protecting us from the elements.

Best Buy: Spy Targa 3
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Spy Targa 3
Credit: Spy
The Spy Targa 3 is a fantastic buy at an average price of $30. The Targa 3 does a good job of keeping the elements out and is relatively comfortable. If you are the type of person that destroys goggles then this could be a good option for you.

Top Pick for any lighting: POC Lobes
Julbo Orbiter
Julbo Orbiter
Credit: Julbo
The POC Lobes deserves a top pick due to its superior lens quality. The lens on this goggle was nothing short of fantatstic. All our testers remarked on the clarity of the lens. This goggle is for a skier or snowboarder looking to take their riding to another level and have a sharper/richer experience.

Aaron Zanto
Buying Advice
How we Test
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose Ski Goggles - Click for details
 How to Choose Ski Goggles

by Aaron Zanto
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