Native Eyewear Wells Review
Cons: Not overly stylish, runs small, temple grips could be cleaner cut
Manufacturer: Native Eyewear
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Native Eyewear Wells
|Price||$99.00 at REI||$209.00 at Backcountry|
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|$141.71 at Backcountry|
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|$249.99 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Lightweight, comfortable, stay put very well, look good on many faces, good case||Great clarity, excellent contrast with little color distortion, flexing frames, works for most faces||Excellent protection, great clarity, extremely comfortable, good for active endeavors, good for many faces||Excellent eye protection and coverage, durable design, great contrast with minimal color distortion, superb case||Great lens clarity, universally flattering style, surprisingly comfortable, durable build, good eye protection|
|Cons||Not overly stylish, runs small, temple grips could be cleaner cut||Peripheral coverage not ideal, cleaner bag a little stiff, may be sporty-looking||Developed a slight lens defect, fit is less secure, coverage could be better||Heavy, large overall size and fit, expensive||Not polarized, heavy, large, case not overly protective, expensive|
|Bottom Line||Comfortable and lightweight for your eyes and face, and your wallet too||A top-notch combo of versatility, functionality, and style||Excellent protection and great comfort, though not totally perfect||A great pair with excellent coverage and top-notch lens quality, but a bit heavy||Not only do these sunglasses provide good eye protection, they also have swagger|
|Rating Categories||Native Eyewear Wells||Kaenon Clarke||Costa Del Mar Spearo||Maui Jim Kahi||Vuarnet District Medium Round|
|Lens Quality (30%)|
|Frame Quality (20%)|
|Style And Versatility (15%)|
|Specs||Native Eyewear Wells||Kaenon Clarke||Costa Del Mar Spearo||Maui Jim Kahi||Vuarnet District...|
|Lens Tested||Crystal Grey||Grey 12 Pacific Blue Mirror||Blue Mirror||HCL Bronze||Brown Lynx|
|Ideal Activity||everyday, "athleisure"||water sports||water sports||everyday||everyday|
|Ideal Lens Light Conditions||Medium to bright light||Bright light||Bright light||Medium to bright light||Medium to bright light|
|Polarized||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No, but it is available|
|Visible Light Transmission (VLT)||12%||12%||10%||15%||9%|
|VLT Protection Index||cat 3||cat 3||cat 3||cat 3||cat 3|
|HEV/Blue Light Protection (claim)||90%||not specified||100%||95%||97%|
|Infrared Protection (claim)||40%||0%||0%||"infrared effective"||93%|
|Neutral/Contrast||Neutral||Increased contrast||Increased contrast||Increased contrast||Increased contrast|
|Lens Material||plastic polycarbonate||plastic - "SR-91" polycarbonate||glass - 580 Polarized (polycarbonate available)||glass - "SuperThin Glass"||glass - mineral glass|
|Protective Coatings||Anti-scratch, hydrophobic||Anti-reflective back, hydro-oleophobic, mirror||Anti-scratch, hydro-oleaophobic, mirror||Anti-reflective on front and back||Anti-reflective back, silver bi-shade mirror|
|Can take prescription lens?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Case Included||Semi-rigid flex case and soft/cleaning bag||Rigid zippered and soft/cleaning bag||Rigid zippered and soft/cleaning bag||Hard rigid clam case and soft/cleaning bag||Semi-rigid flex case and cleaning cloth|
Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested the Native Wells with Crystal Grey lenses. They're designed for everyday use and athleisure endeavors like hiking, biking, and even running. They run a bit smaller than their "Large" size had us believing and are more like a medium fit. They come with a zippered, semi-rigid shell case and a microfiber bag/cleaning cloth, and can also be fitted with prescription lenses.
Looking at the manufacturer specs on these specs, the Wells offer some high-quality protection. Beyond the fairly standard polarization and 100% UV protection, Native claims to have packed 90% HEV or blue light blockage and 40% infrared blockage into these lenses - some of the boldest claims on the market. They also reportedly have a 12% Visible Light Transmission (VLT), making them good every day, category 3 glasses. The polycarbonate lenses are naturally impact-resistant and have been treated with both anti-scratch and hydrophobic coatings for additional protection.
- 100% UV Protection
- 12% Visible Light Transmission (Category 3)
- 90% HEV/Blue Light Blockage, 40% Infrared Blockage
- Color: Crystal Grey, Material: plastic polycarbonate
- Impact Resistant, Anti-scratch, Hydrophobic
While polycarbonate lenses have a reputation for lower clarity (compared to glass lenses), we did not find this to be the case with the Wells Crystal Grey lenses. Because they're grey and not a color-enhancing shade like amber or brown, they don't enhance the contrast of what you see through them. However, these sunnies are also available with amber lenses, which we've tested in other pairs of Native glasses, and do increase visual contrast.
Wearing these glasses on mountaintops over 10K feet, hiking at midday, and driving extended road trips proved that they can handle a pretty wide range of lighting conditions and remain comfortable even after hours of wear. They're a great middle-ground option that we think are just as comfortable at high noon as they are at dusk. And despite cramming them in suitcases, dropping them in gravel and on pavement, and using various shirttails to clean them, they never scratched during our testing.
Weighing just 26 grams, the Wells joins the growing number of lightweight sunglasses in this review. Their balance point is right where we want it to be — at the hinges, helping to keep them securely in place while you wear them. Rubber nose pads are embedded into the frames and actually keep their grip while you sweat, stopping them from sliding down your face uncomfortably. Additional rubber grips at the backs of the bows are crisscrossed with grooves to keep them solidly attached behind the ears without snagging your hair. On some of our smaller-faced testers, the Wells graze the tops of our cheeks slightly, but not in a way that we feel is uncomfortable or terribly distracting, and mostly only when smiling.
Like most sunglasses, the Wells will touch your eyebrows when worn close to your face. We wish these narrower-than-expected glasses had flexible hinges, but they only have standard barrel hinges that don't allow for overextension. However, the frames do allow a small amount of movement. And despite our fears that the bows might be too tight and dig in over hours of wear, we didn't actually experience this even during all-day usage. In general, we're pretty impressed with these comfortable, lightweight shades and find them quite pleasant to wear and easy to forget they're even on.
With acetate frames and rubber grip pads, the Wells don't stand out much from the crowd for their frames. We read conflicting reports about the exact nature of these frames, but they performed adequately in all our testing. They're slightly flexible, helping them to more easily withstand rough usage. The pair we received had perfectly placed nose pads with no edges sticking up or anything that might indicate future issues. Native claims these frames are made to withstand both extreme hot and extreme cold temperatures, and they back up all their glasses with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects (note that this does not include coverage for wear and tear).
Upon further inspection, we discovered that the temple pads on our pair aren't quite of the same caliber as the nose pads. Ours have some rougher edges that we worry may be their downfall when up against years of usage, rather than the meer weeks we subjected ours to. We also read a single report online of the rubber nose pads falling out of someone's pair of Wells. That being said, we had absolutely no issues with the durability of our frames during the testing process, despite subjecting them to fairly rough treatment.
Style and Versatility
While we're not about to hand out any awards for the aesthetic appeal of the Wells, we also don't hate them. They strike a pretty good balance of functionality and style, with a fairly standard "guy/gal wearing sunglasses" look.
To their credit, none of our testers who tried them disliked them — and we asked a good range of men and women with rather variable face shapes and sizes. They're somewhere in between athletic and fashion and seem to work well wherever we wore them, from having brunch al fresco to biking home afterwards.
Here again, the Wells are about average among models we tested. Though we couldn't find it listed, they seem to be made with a base curve of 6, which is slightly rounded but mostly flat — definitely not wraparound. The 43mm tall, 55mm wide lenses are about average among contenders as well and fairly narrow bows that don't add much when it comes to blocking sunlight. They offer decent coverage and protection from the sun, but don't stop light from entering in from the side or over the top, if you like to wear your shades lower on your nose. While Native advertises these glasses are a size Large, compared to the rest of this line-up, we estimate them to be more of a Medium, bordering on almost Large.
However, where the Wells shine is in their ability to stay put on your face. Their combination of snug fit, excellent CUSHINOL™ rubber nose and bow pads, and low weight is the Goldilocks of staying in place. This makes them an excellent choice for a crossover pair of sunnies that can keep up with you from backpacking to rock concerts, practically melting into your face (in a good way) with their secure coverage.
Native, like many other modern sunglasses manufacturers, sends two cases with every pair of shades they ship, including the Wells. Their semi-rigid, zippered clamshell is one of our favorites for its trifecta of low weight, durable protection, and ease of use. The microfiber drawstring bag helps to shed ounces when you really can't afford those extra 72 grams and does an excellent job keeping lenses clean no matter how many times you smudge them with dirty fingers.
The high level of performance we found in the Native Wells can be found in many popular sunglasses today, but for a much higher cost. These shades bring serious game to an expensive market for far less than much of the competition - in some cases, about a third of the price. We've tested several styles of Native glasses and consistently find them to be high-value items and well worth their investment.
The Wells bring a lot to the table, even in a market with increasingly high standards. They're lightweight, comfortable, clear, and stay put exceptionally well. Across every metric, we're impressed with the performance of these high-value shades.
— Maggie Brandenburg