Pit Viper Polarized Review
Cons: Over-the-top style, frame durability is suspect
Manufacturer: Pit Viper
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Pit Viper is a fresh face in the performance sunglasses industry, but they've taken the market by storm. Since their inception in 2012, they've quickly grown in popularity, and these days it's not uncommon to see a pair or two out on the trails. We opted to try out the Originals to see what these Pit Vipers are all about. Our hot pink glasses, dubbed "The Radical" by Pit Viper, featured a polarized lens, three points of frame adjustment, and excellent coverage. Once we got over looking like an 80s teen movie villain while wearing them, we grew to appreciate what they had to offer.
As the only model in our test that arrived with a polarized lens, we weren't sure how the Originals would stack up against the competition. Once we got our hands on them, we were pleasantly surprised with what we found. Our pair came with a dark-tinted, polarized lens that provided 14% visible light transmission and 100% protection from harmful UV rays. The polarization blocks horizontal light waves to significantly cut down on glare and reduce eye fatigue over the long haul. Our lens also featured a mirrored finish to further cut down on glare (and add to the 80s movie villain look). All of Pit Viper's polarized lenses are constructed with 1.2mm impact resistant high index plastic.
We had some concerns about the versatility of the polarized lens, but testing mostly quelled our fears. Generally, because of their light-blocking properties and ability to reduce glare, polarized lenses are great for super-bright light conditions or activities that involve lots of water or snow. Some athletes avoid polarization for activities like mountain biking or trail running where you need to be able to pick out fine trail details. That said, we tried these out on multiple mountain bike rides in bright conditions and had no problems navigating the trails at high speed. Overall, the optical quality of these lenses wasn't entirely on par with the best models in our test, but we found that, as long as we had enough light, the polarization was a non-issue and well worth the benefits. We definitely wouldn't recommend this dark polarized lens for medium or low-light conditions, but Pit Viper offers the Originals with a variety of lens tints for any light condition.
The lens held up remarkably well to our testing. We weren't the most responsible sunglasses owners, but our lens came out relatively unscathed. We cleaned them with a t-shirt, stuffed them in backpacks, dropped them on the ground, and even had a crash while wearing them, but by the end of testing the lens had little more than a few small scratches. We didn't notice any reduction in optical quality after the beating we put on them.
Fit and Comfort
With three points of adjustment the Originals offer the most fit versatility of any model we looked it. The nose piece is constructed with a hydrophilic rubber pad over the top of a metal band that can be squeezed to adjust the width for any nose shape. The hydrophilic rubber provides a soft contact point that doesn't get slippery when you start to sweat. The frames also offer two adjustment points at the arms to fit virtually any head size or fit preference. With five arm angle and four arm length settings, we can't imagine that anyone would have complaints about the fit range. Some of the more extreme fit settings seem a little bit ridiculous to us, but there's no harm in having them for the rare case that someone needs it. All of our testers were able to quickly and easily set up these glasses to suit their fit preference.
At just 26 grams, the Originals are one of the lightest models in our test. Consequently, once you have the fit dialed in, you can barely feel them on your face. The frame is flexible enough that even the largest head sizes won't feel a squeeze. During testing, we had no problems with headaches or ear pain even when wearing the glasses for hours on end. The open-frame design provides good airflow even at low speeds to keep your face cool and comfortable.
For the past few years, performance sunglasses have been trending towards larger and larger lens sizes. The Originals stick to this trend, offering another face-swallowing lens. At 145mm wide and 55mm tall, the lens sits right up there near the largest in our test. It offers a huge field of vision, and the open frame design doesn't distract in your peripherals. Despite their large lens size, one of our large-headed testers felt the Originals were a bit small in fit. Pit Viper does make a Double Wide model which has an even larger fit. The Pit Viper branding on the lens does show up a bit at the top of your field of vision. We found this very distracting when we first put the glasses on, but after wearing them for a while, we stopped noticing it entirely.
The Originals don't wrap and hug your face as closely as some other models we tested. This means they breathe well but cuts down a little bit on the wind protection they provide. At super high speeds, we noticed a little bit of air swirling behind the lens, but it wasn't enough to distract from the task at hand. Despite the airy fit when wearing these gaudy specs, we had no concerns about branches, rocks, or bug impacts as the lens does more than enough to cover the eyes. Overall, like most modern performance sunglasses, the Originals provide plenty of coverage to allow full focus at high speeds on the mountain bike or when ripping down a backcountry ski descent.
When compared to the competition, frame quality was one of our only real concerns with the Originals. As a company who touts themselves as "very serious about not taking ourselves too seriously," Pit Viper is short on frame construction specs and high on superlative description. All we knew about these frames before ordering them is that they had a plastic construction and 3 points of adjustment. Everything else we learned as we went, and generally, we discovered that these glasses are stout and durable but not quite on par with the best models in our test. The frame has a distinctively lower-quality feel than most of the competition, but it stood up well to the thrashing we gave it.
While the three-point fit adjustment makes these glasses incredibly versatile, it also creates a variety of potential failure points for the frame. The arm angle and arm length adjustments (Turbo and E-spot adjustments according to Pit Viper) are made up of simple indexed plastic notches that fit together, and we worry that they might not span the test of time. That said, we adjusted the fit of our Originals countless times throughout testing and didn't see any hints of them wearing out or failing. Also, for most users, the fit adjustment will be a set-it-and-forget-it feature, so there isn't a ton of concern about fatiguing. We would be remiss if we didn't mention our concerns, however.
The Originals' frame doesn't offer the ability to swap lenses, but when you can get a brand new pair for roughly the same price as replacement lenses from most other performance eyewear companies that isn't a huge concern. Coupled with the durability of Pit Viper's lenses, we found this to be a non-issue.
For a mid-priced pair of sunglasses, the Originals performed above our expectations in the field. We quickly came to understand why they're so popular when we discovered that they stand up admirably to models that cost more than twice as much. Once you get the fit dialed in for your face, they stick like glue where they're supposed to be. It was rare for us to have to reach up and adjust their position during testing. When death-gripping down rough singletrack or bouncing along on a trail run, you don't have to worry about these things falling off or moving around too much. If you want even more security, Pit Viper includes an extra set of earpieces that fully wrap around the ears.
The open-frame design and airy fit also provide good protection from lens fogging and a sweat. We don't remember any instances of the lens fogging up while riding. Granted, we mostly tested our Originals in dry summer conditions where fogging isn't as big of an issue, but we're confident that they provide enough airflow to protect from fogging even in adverse conditions. We also loved the way that these glasses channel sweat. The frame features an upper crossbar that runs across your brow to keep the lens away from your face. This allows sweat to harmlessly drip down your nose rather than through your field of vision.
Like our Editors Choice, the Smith Wildcat, the open fit of these glasses didn't provide the best protection from dust when mountain biking in chalky conditions, so we wouldn't recommend these as a direct replacement for goggles.
Even with today's trend of massive, gaudy performance glasses, the Pit Vipers are a bit ridiculous. Their hyperbolized representation of 1980s radness is so over the top that we can see a lot of people not being comfortable wearing them. Almost all of their frame offerings feature in-your-face colors and graphics, and every single lens option has the "Pit Viper" text across the brow. If you're willing to embrace Pit Viper's over-the-top, under-serious style, we're sure that you'll love their performance, but we wouldn't recommend these for people who don't want their glasses to shout "check me out!".
Unlike a lot of the models in our test, the Originals don't come with a hard carrying case. Pit Viper's packaging includes a plastic case and soft bag for storage and cleaning. Considering the super-low price point, the lack of substantial storage isn't surprising.
We feel that the polarized model we tested is one of the best values of any model in the test. With such a low price, we expected some pretty heavy sacrifices in performance, but we loved their adjustability, coverage, and quality nearly as much as the top models in our test. For anyone who thinks they can pull off the Pit Viper look, we would recommend giving these a try.
With the Originals Pit Viper has embraced the gaudy throwback style of modern goggle-style sunglasses and turned it up to eleven. They're able to offer their glasses at a far lower price point than most without a huge sacrifice in quality. Once we got over the over-the-top style, we grew to love everything these had to offer.
— Zach Wick