The Oakley Airbrake XL returns as one of our top-scoring models despite tough competition from several other models. This very comfortable pair of goggles is awesome for lots of reasons without suffering any significant drawbacks. It performs very well across the board, landing at or near the top in every test metric. The latest Airbrake XL endured our rigorous testing well, through all weather conditions both at the resort and in the Tahoe backcountry. The durability, functionality, superior optical quality, and ease of lens swapping are sure to please even the pickiest of users, especially given the number of lens choices. It fits equally well with or without a helmet, providing great optics and protection for all scenarios. The price is steep, but we think it's worth it, especially since Oakley includes two lenses with each pair, one for bright light and one for low light conditions.
If you prefer to save money while still riding away with a solid pair of goggles, there are less expensive options that even include two lenses, although not of the Airbrake quality.
Airbrake XL Updates
The Airbrake XL is offered in some new color combos this season, like the one shown above. However, we have confirmed with Oakley that not all versions of this goggle come with the bonus lens. If you want to get two lenses up front with this goggle (which, for the price, you really should), make sure you are reading the description on the website you are purchasing from!
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Oakley Airbrake XL scored high marks in every category, edging out most competitors. The fit and comfort pleased all of our testers, no matter their size or shape. The Airbrake XL is highly versatile and is equally at home while skiing at the resort or touring in the backcountry with a solid and protective feel, along with one of the easier lens changing systems in our test. Not only do they feel good, our testers and other skiers thought they looked good too.
Oakley has earned a reputation for excellent optics and the Airbrake XL is no exception. We tested two different lenses, which were included for the base tint model we bought, one for bright light conditions, the Prizm Snow Torch Iridium, and a low light conditions lens, Prizm Rose. Both lenses performed superbly in their intended conditions and do have some crossover into conditions the lenses aren't specifically intended for. Finding variable conditions like this is common while backcountry skiing in the Tahoe area and light conditions are constantly changing, especially after dropping down to treeline. Aside from the great all-around performance, one additional plus is the ease of swapping lenses with the frame's Switchlock technology.
The optically correct, spherical, Prizm lenses provide a crisp, clear view with excellent contrast, even in varying light conditions while skiing at high speed through the trees. The Airbrake XL's lenses all utilize their HDO technology, which according to Oakley: "High Definition Optics® (HDO) is a collection of patented technologies that allow Oakley eyewear to meet or exceed the testing standards of the American National Standards Institute for optical clarity, visual fidelity, and impact resistance." Whatever those specific patented technologies are, we certainly enjoy the benefits of them! The P3 anti-fog coating did a stellar job at keeping the Airbrake's lenses clear, with only minimal fogging experienced while shoveling and sweating.
We do have a couple gripes with the visibility of the Airbrake XL, these are not specific to lens quality, but notable nonetheless. One issue we had is that the white frame color reflects off the inside of the lens and is occasionally distracting. This problem could be solved by making the inner portion of the frame a dark matte finished color, but we don't design goggles, we only test them. We also felt that there is a lot of frame visible, especially around the nose, and this was especially interesting considering the massive field of vision these goggles have, it also might be more noticeable because of the white color we tested most recently.
As was the case with our other review criteria, the Airbrake XL held its own in the comfort category as well. The three-layer foam provides a great interface and cushion between the skier's face and the goggle frame. The outermost layer is a soft, brushed layer that wicks moisture well. The frame shape also seemed to work well for users with all different size heads and facial structures. The Airbrake XL has a very wide strap which we found to be quite comfortable, with or without a helmet.
The integrated silicone strips in the strap helped keep the goggles in place even on a smooth helmet. For skiers and snowboarders with smaller faces, Oakley also makes the Airbrake in their "Asia fit." The Airbrake was one of the only pairs in our review that didn't receive any complaints regarding pressure points on the face and had among the most compliments regarding comfort.
Ventilation and Breathability
Like all of our test goggles, we wore the Airbrake XL while skinning uphill in varying conditions to test their breathability and were unable to steam up the dual-vented lenses. We decided to take this one step further and were finally able to fog the Airbrake XL's lenses during a wet, heavy snowfall while shoveling and snow blowing.
Oakley uses their F3 anti-fog coating on the Airbrake's lenses with superb results. Breathability is excellent, and the Dual-Vented lens provided ample airflow while skiing resort laps top to bottom, even on warmer sunny days. One of our testers who wears contact lenses and has especially sensitive eyes found the Airbrake XL to feel a little drafty at high speeds resulting in slightly watery eyes.
Ease of Changing Lenses
Our testers all agreed the Airbrake XL's lenses are swapped more easily than most goggles. With the flip of a simple lever on the left side of the goggle frame, one lens is removed and replacing it is as simple as pressing the new lens to the frame, which is flush-fit, then flipping the small lever back into place. We replaced lenses several times, even able to do so on the chairlift with our ski gloves on! As easy as changing lenses is, the options with magnetic lens technology is even easier to swap lenses.
Oakley's quality shows in the durability of the Airbrake XL. Since the Airbrake XL was immediately one of our favorites, it was used more than most of our other test goggles and didn't show any signs of premature wear. These goggles were crammed into several testers' ski packs and were none the worse for wear.
The Airbrake XL's Prizm lens didn't exhibit any mystery scratches on the inner lens and impressed throughout the entire testing process. At the completion of our review testing, none of the goggle components showed any signs of wear. This quality goggle seems like a good choice for the long haul and should provide years of use for even the most frequent skiers and boarders.
The Airbrake XL is a proven and popular part of Oakley's goggle line, due in part to its distinctive style. This goggle has more of a modern look than other test goggles in our lineup. The lens is large, spherical, and brightly colored, wrapping nearly to the edge of the frame with an almost frameless look.
The Airbrake XL is available in numerous frame color and strap options. Oakley has also manufactured several Signature Models of the Airbrake based on pro riders' input.
There's no hiding the fact that these goggles have a premium price tag. They are among the most expensive models in this review. For the same price, you could get two pairs of the Best Buy-winners and still have money left over. Advanced skiers/riders will get the most value out of these goggles. Beginner skiers will find more value in going with a less expensive model.
The Oakley Airbrake XL is a stylish, quality, and high-performance goggle that appeals to both resort and backcountry skiers and riders, even the most advanced users. They have top of the line optics, a comfortable fit, and a cool modern style. These are one of our top performing models and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone.
If it's time to replace your snowy eyewear, our reviewers...
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.