Lens, left to right...... Julbo-Zebra, Vaurnet-PX2000, Cebe-photochromic
Yes, an alpine climbing blog with a driving test to review sun glasses. Go figure.
Turns out no matter what I do, short of running or riding my bike, I have to drive to get there.
825 miles/ 1328K from my house to SLC where the winter and summer OR shows are held. Typically 2 full days of driving. Much of it is in Oregon with a 65mph speed limit on perfect 4 lane freeways.
Not a lot to interest me between Seattle and Salt Lake City, in August and even less in mid January.
The idea is to get there and get the goods. If I am really lucky I'll get in some local SLC ice or just as good some skiing in the Wasatch.
This year my truck got loaded late. I had decided earlier not to attend OR. SO air flights were out of the question last minute. The weather this January was terrible for driving. On my trip down the Interstate was closed in several locations for hours on end. The way back? Even worse between snow and ice storms. Bad enough that ice build up would eventually crack my windshield before I could break it all off my rig.
But knowing I was in for a long drive I preplanned one of the things I had wanted to do for a while now. I wanted to make a sun glass comparison. But not of the typical sun glass collections I had previous. This time it would be just the three sunglasses I have kept and keep using in the mountains. 4 days in a car by yourself will drive one to do some interesting things to keep yourself entertained.
So I took what I considered the three best sunglasses available to me on a road trip. At least the three I use the most out of a previous two dozen I tested last fall. They are the Julbo Trek-Zebra (brown photochromic) Cat 2 to 4 and 7/42% of visable light, Vuarnet Cateye2002 -PX2000 Brown lens, Cat 3 and 18/43% of visable light transmission, Cebe Ice 8000 Cébé Variochrom Peak (grey photochromic) Cat 2 to 4 and 5/20% of visable light transmission.
Like anything gear related we choose to use it depends on the conditions and personal preference as to how "good" that particular piece of gear will be for your needs. God only knows how many sunglasses are being made now. And a lot of them are really nice sunglasses. I just don't have access to all of them. And at this point likely not all that interested in looking at any more of them.
I went looking for the best in mountain/sport glasses for my own use. This is the pinnacle of that search. YMMV
I know all of these sun glasses are exceptional pieces of kit, with only minor limitations for my own use.
As I have aged my eyes have become less sensitive to light. It shows to me by way of wanting some sort of very lightly shaded sun glass. The mild sunlight we get in the Puget Sound region the majority of the year surrounded by green seldom requires a really dark lens. But I have never liked a really dark lens in the mountains. I found them too limiting at dawn and dusk or in heavy cloud cover when I might still want some protection. But viability was still paramount.
The current photochromic lens options are a wonderful find for me. Category 2 to 4 sun protection all in the same lens.
Each of these glasses has some distinct attributes and some failings imo. All three are without a doubt simply stellar sun glasses.
But read on and you'll see why I own and use all three on a regular basis.
Vuarnet original Cateye 2002-PX2000 Brown lens, Cat 3 and 18/43% of visible light transmission
Lets start with the old school Vuarnet. It is the only glass lens represented here. Any one who puts on a high quality glass lens like a Vuarnet or a Maui Jim will almost without fail comment about the clarity of the lens. I still do if I haven't worn a Vuarnet in a while. Enough so I always go back and make sure my poly lens are actually clean...which they generally are. There is that much of a difference in lens quality no matter who makes the poly lens. Big thumbs up for the Vuarnet here if you have to wear sun glasses for really long periods of time. That lens quality will lower your eye strain. Nice thing about a glass lens is you know what you have. What ever the lens shade it you know it isn't going to change. You are good 24/7 indoors or out if a sun glass (or disguise) is required :)
The Skilynx lens is the most famous and more common. And my original lens. I find the PX 2000 or Nautilux (famous for Vuarna-vision) and their lighter tint more practical now .
Durability? I still have my first pair of Vuarnets. One tiny divot in the left lens from dropping them face first onto fresh pavement. But the lens are still usable. I'm on the third frame now, 30 year later. But the same lens. Not sure I own anything I still use for skiing or climbing that is 30 years old. A wool hat, a single pair of gloves and a wool scarf or two are the remainder of that very short list! Part of that durability is the frame. Vuarnet uses/used a very simple nylon frame. They don't give very good side protection but they do give decent eye protection. We made side shields from duct tape bitd. But the frames fold very flat so lens and frame are well protected just by the frame design.
On of my few quarrels is the frames is sometimes they just don't fit well. I have several pairs of Vuarnets now and all the same cateye frames. One pair of them is a little bent and dig into my ear. It soon becomes painful. None of my other frames do the same. Easy enough to remold the frames (or change lens) either in boiling water or in the oven at 220F. I have yet to fix the pair of frames I find annoying. But I need to soon!
Rapid temperature chances will make these guys fog up. It is annoying. Once the lens heats up a bit generally it is fine and no more fogging. But do a face plant skiing with these or pull them out of the case in a cold car and they will fog. Minor issue but still annoying.
As a driving glass? If you need a sun glass while driving these work exceptionally well. You have plenty of eye protection even in bright light and full peripheral vision. They aren't so dark as to hinder you in and out of a tunnel or going from dark shade to bright sun light, If the frames fit right they are exceptionally comfortable (on my head). Still one of the very best sun glasses lens and frame combos available for every day use on or off the mountain imo. No question the most durable and tough sun glasses in this review.
If you look closely at the title picture in this thread you will get a good idea of the lightest tint of the two photochromic lens. Both the Julbo and the Cebe lens are not affected by the sun if they are shaded through windshield glass. Once out in bright sunlight both lens act accordingly and change to the amount of protection required. For me that is a good thing. As you can see either the Cebe or the Julbo offer some degree of protection behind the windshield. Either might be appropriate on different days depending on the sun light available. The Julbo the lighter of the two obviously to start.
But lets talk about the Cebe Ice 8000 Cébé Variochrom Peak! Hey, Jeff Mercier climbs in these glasses so I already knew they rocked :) Cebe Ice 8000 Cébé Variochrom Peak (grey photochromic) Cat 2 to 4 and 5/20% of visable light transmission.
OK, so these are a darker lens from the get go than I generally like. One would have to ask why I keep them around then?
The first is they are absolutely the most comfortable frame I own. And as secure on your head as any of them with no adjustment. The Ice 8000 is a "gadget" frame. Which I like a lot. It has fold down side shields. Take a close look in the picture below. Shields are in the up position here.
The ear pieces rotate to collapse the frame into a smaller and less fragile package. Ear pieces are rotated and seen in the picture above. And there is a really nice retainer strap that easily attaches included.
I like this pair of sun glasses when I am wearing a wool hat. The ear pieces can go over the hat and be even more comfortable.
Side shields down here.
By far the least expensive pair of sun glasses in this review. And as I said earlier one of the three I still use out of a couple of dozen from my original tests. I could live with any one pair of the glasses show here. On a budget? The answer is simple as to what is "best" here, in the short term anyway.
As a driver? These are pretty good all around. On my SLC drive I wore these almost every time the sun was out. Even behind the windshield they are dark enough to give decent protection. On a long drive the frames additional comfort was really noticed. The cushioned and ventilated nose piece and the soft rubber ear pieces in particular add to the comfort of these glasses.
Next up is the Julbo Trek-Zebra (brown photochromic) Cat 2 to 4 and 7/42% of visible light transmission. Hard not to write about gear and not have a favorite. I recently wrote a glowing review on the Julbo Zebra lens ski goggles. Every thing has a story. Here is my story behind the Julbos.
Last couple of years I've been using Native Sun glasses and for the most part happy with them. But I had several pair one with a light colored lens and the other a mirrored dark lens, on the same frame styles. But the one pair of Natives that I liked a lot I only had one pair of frames for. And that required me to change lens adding unintentional wear and tear to the system. Eventually something broke and Native was really bad at the warranty time frame and eventual satisfaction. Enough so that I went looking forr a new pair of mountain glasses. I wasn't looking too hard for a new pair of $100+ glasses. I ended up at REI because they are local and for the return policy.
My first pair of Zebra lens were in the Julbo Bivouak. $160 at REI. But my pair lacked the side shields and retaining strap. I didn't realise anything was missing until I had used them over the weekend on a trip to Mt Rainier and then read the instruction manual. I was impressed with the lens and frames but I took them back anyway wanting a "full meal deal" for my $160. And you can find them online much, much cheaper. Enough so my hardtail Harley riding, snow board buddy has adopted the black framed Bivouak as his sun glass of choice. Bad in black??!
Julbo's Trek ear pieces are easily hand formable to any shape. Sweat blocker has been removed above.
The Trek used here as a obvious Euro trash fashion accessory to good effect :-)
This is simply my favorite glasses to date. Not because it is the most durable or the best lens or the most comfortable. It isn't any of those things. But it is very close on all of them and offers some attributes that I really, really like.
The Julbo is another "gaget" sun glass frame. But even more so than the Cebe and although I haven't broken either... yet....I suspect Julbo's frame is more durable. The Julbo Trek frames seem to be made of a softer plastic instead of the standard hard nylon or plastic.
No clue what the material really is but it is different!
The list of no nonsense accessories on the Trek is impressive.
good view of the brow sweat blocker installed and grippy nose pieces
Removable side shields (and one of the best frames available to avoid the use of side shields)
360 degree adjustable temples
retainer cord with easy and secure attachment
removable sweat blocker on the brow (a feature I very much appreciate)
And finally the anti fog and hydrophobic treated Zebra lens
ventilated nose piece.
The Zebra lens has a very light almost amber lens color when it is unaffected by direct sun light. I find the shade almost perfect for much of my own driving or riding the bike in overcast weather.
The lens change in literally seconds (under 30) from a very light cat 3 yellow to a full blown dark, cat 4, brown. The lens change so fast that I have taken to leaving a pair in the car and when it is too bright out I simply hang the Trek out the window for 30 seconds and presto...dark sun glasses as required at east for a few moments. May be not the best driving sun glass ;) But I can forgive the Julbo Trek a lot of short comings. Not that they have many. Too heavy per chance? Lens aren't tough enough? (which you can't prove by me!)
Sweat blocker and side shields in place
I haven't found a better pair of sport glasses to date. Among other places I use them on my road bike. There I really appreciate the sweat blocker and vented lens on hard climbs. I like how the lens adjust to the available light on the bike and while skiing. Going from bright sun light to dark shade is dangerous on the bike. The Julbos help there. Same story skiing. I started in bright sun the other day and ended up finishing in a dark and gloomy spring snow storm. No need to change glasses or go to goggles. The Julbo Trek did it all...to the point I never noticed a need for anything else.
As a bonus if you buy the right color you are bound to win the best looking sun glass contest between your buddies next time out!
Happyman diggin his Julbo Trek glasses!