The Best Ski Goggles Review
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 a gaggle of 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.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Ski Goggles
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. Oakley has also released their Signature Series of Airbrake goggles. Check out the Oakley Airbrake Jake Blauvelt.
Flush frame/lens interface
Great anti-fogging capabilities
Must keep the strap tight to avoid sliding
Best Bang for the Buck
The Bolle carve is a fantastic buy at an average price of $40. The Bolle Carve does a good job of keeping the elements out and is relatively comfortable. The optics work well. The style is timeless. If you are the type of person that destroys goggles then this could be a good option for you.
Good lens for the price
Bottom blind spots
Top Pick for Any Lighting
The POC Lobes deserves a top pick due to its superior lens quality. The lens on this goggle was nothing short of fantastic. 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.
Lens change darkness depending on available light
Good fit for smaller face
OK fit for large faces
Strap has limited adjustment
Analysis and Test Results
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.
GPS goggles are another category by itself. If you are looking for the latest goggle to track your speed, vertical, and air time check out the Airwave goggle review. This goggle can connect to your smartphone via bluetooth to keep you connected with all your friends and music. This is the future of goggle technology.
Criteria for Evaluation
Check out the following table to see where each goggle ranked in our Overall Performance metric.
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.
This is a complicated attribute to measure. It is important to have enough air moving through the goggles 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 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 pairs 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 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 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 the Julbo Orbiter. These goggles have the least distortion, glare, and best peripheral vision; they allow for crystal clear vision that almost gives a feeling 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.
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 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.
Ask An Expert: Brendan Burns
What do you think is the most important thing to consider when you buy ski goggles?
The most important thing is the fit and clarity of the lens. You want to make sure that they fit properly to your face and nose to ensure a tight seal. In addition, you want to make certain they fit the type of helmet you wear.
What types of things do you consider when you buy new goggles?
When making a new purchase I consider the history of the brand, what warranties come with the purchase, and how easy it is to change lenses.
What are your tricks for keeping your goggles fog-free?
Keeping lens fog free can be tricky, especially if it's a huge powder day and you are riding hard, or hiking for your turns and working up a sweat. To ensure your goggles stay fresh, make sure to air them out and keep them dry between days of riding. If you are waiting on an early morning lift line, and it's snowing, keep them in a pocket or your pack to help ensure the foam and lenses dry. I make a habit of taking my goggles off in a gondola or other covered lift between runs on powder days. I can inspect them, clean and dry the foam and wipe the lens with a cloth. When you are hiking, make sure to take your goggles off and store them in your pack, or outside pocket of jacket. Keeping them anywhere on your head will definitely lead to fogging. If you must keep them on your head, turn them around so the lenses are low on the back of your head. You can throw a goggle bag or bandana inside them to help keep any moisture out.
How do you clean your goggles?
I normally use the goggle bag or lens cloth to clean my goggles. Never use any paper products, such as paper towels or toilet paper. This can scratch the lenses. To get them really dry, use a soft cotton face cloth, this will soak up all the moisture on the lens. You can keep the cotton cloth in an inside jacket pocket and it will stay dry. I like to rinse my goggles in warm water to help clean any dirt, sunscreen (or makeup if you wear it) out of the foam.
How do you store your goggles when you aren't using them?
I store my goggles in a safe place out of the goggle bag for the first day after riding. By safe I mean somewhere where they won't get smashed. For long storage, I always keep my goggles in the goggle bag and in my helmet. You want to be sure to keep the goggles far from any heat source, as high heat may melt or warp the frame, lenses, or foam.
What types of lenses do you use?
I prefer a green or amber mirrored lens for my goggles. The green or amber helps you see variations in the snow surface better than some of the other lens colors. The mirrored exterior helps with the suns glare. On whiteout days, I use a yellow or pink low light lens. On bluebird days, I use the darkest mirrored lens I can find.
If you were on a budget, what's the most important thing you would make sure to not skimp on when buying goggles?
I never skimp on goggles. You may wind up spending more than you wanted to, but a good pair of goggles will last longer and ensure you have good vision while out on the hill. If you can't see what you're skiing or riding into, you can get into major trouble. Buy 'em once and buy 'em right!
If you could only have one pair of goggles, what color lens would you have and why?
For the one lens goggle I prefer the Green Sol-X mirror lens that Smith makes. It's my go-to lens for most days.
What kinds of activities or conditions do you use your goggles or when do you go goggle-free?
I rarely ride without goggles. I prefer to have goggles on even on the warm sunny days. There are times that I will ride with sunglasses, but not many.
Do you use different a type of goggle when its sunny and bluebird vs. when its stormy?
I use the same goggle frame and change my lenses for the light conditions. As I mentioned earlier, different lenses work for different light conditions.
Do you have any accessories that you use with your goggles (cleaning spray, lens cloth…?)
The goggle accessories I use most are the goggle bag, goggle cloth and goggle sponge that has a chammy on one side and a sponge on the other. The sponge is great in wet conditions. If you ride in really wet conditions, the ski-gee, which is a small squeegee, works awesome. I have used Cat Crap, a type of anti-fog product that also works great.
Is there anything that we didn't already cover that is important to consider when buying goggles?
I think we covered it. Don't sell yourself short by buying bunk goggles!
— Aaron Zanto
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