The Ultimate Guide to Goggles

Adult goggles

Our mission is to get people outdoors, not sell gear. That's why our guide starts with the core function that needs to be addressed, then helps you evaluate your options holistically, since sometimes you may not need any gear & can use what you have at home. We want you to think critically about what you need, which is personal to you with no right answer (some people go venture outside naked without any gear, survive & have a great time).

Core function: Snow reflects so much sunlight that it can cause snow blindness. Sunglasses still allow light at the periphery. Moreover, when you're skiing quickly, the wind can blow snow or ice in your face (not to mention if it's actively precipitating!). Just like jogging in the rain even with glasses is pretty annoying, skiing with sunglasses can be the same.

Is either the core function or the outdoor-specific gear made for it an essential?

Goggles are highly recommended .

For rationale, read our 'what you really need' protip

What to use & how to choose

Type or Style

Even though we strongly recommend actual goggles, we know that some people will want to use sunglasses, particularly on nice days with mild conditions. If you use sunglasses, at least use the wrap-style frame or sports-style. This wraps closer to your face to provide better peripheral protection than fashion sunglasses.

Sunglasses Goggles
Example images Sunglasses Goggles
Secure to your face
You can get a neck strap for glasses, but that doesn't mean they'll stay on your face, a bump could jostle them off. Goggles on the other hand are by definition flush against your face. It would take a severe fall to dislocate them
Protects periphery
Insulates eyes & upper half of face
Protects wind & snow from getting in your eyes
Durable

Lens could pop out after a fall, frames are more thin & fragile

Easier to locate after a fall

Due to smaller size

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent

= we sell

Doesn't offer the same level of protection & safety

This is the standard for snowsports

Price

One of life's certainties is the trade-off between price & quality. This creates an inherently unfair situation. If you save money today by buying something lower end, you'll end up replacing it more frequently, spending money & time each instance so that at the end, you probably haven't actually saved anything. On the other hand, if you decide to invest in something higher end, you'll need a lot more upfront money, and you need to be able to use the item frequently enough to make it worthwhile.

We developed our rental program to address this unfairness. We don't sell lower end items. But for our higher end items, we offer them for rent at up to 90% off retail price, generally well below the cost of buying even the cheaper option. That's a win-win!

It may seem like the price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). Remember 2 things:

  • Many reviews are written after only a trial use, first use, or infrequent use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors!
  • The point of gear is to give you a good experience because you've already spent money to be on vacation from work! Don't let quality issues affect your relaxation

For gear specifically, the quality issues center around performance & durability.

Goggles Lower end Higher end
Entry level Mid range Best in class
Price $20-50 $50-100 $100-200 $200-300

Performance differences

We'll call out the price points at which certain features discussed in this guide are likely to appear, then persist through higher end models

N/A; baseline Fog-resistant double-layer lenses & anti-fog coating. Different color tints & mirror coatings Extra lenses. Spherical shape Anti-fog fan. Magnetic lens change
There are other features that come into play that we don't mention, and each feature gets 'more advanced'. As well there may be changes to the type of material used in production. We haven't discussed all this in detail since few people would be interested

Durability differences

Less durable More durable
Can refer to how easily the lenses can scratch or the foam (that presses against your face) can deteriorate

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent

= we sell

We rent lower end models because we do not have this on the borrow shelf; look for 'Basic' in the name on our Catalog

Our mission is to increase access to gear & we are proud to be the only company to rent as well as sell this type
Methodology notes on prices shown on this page

Size (capacity) & Fit

Refers to frame size (since straps are adjustable). Goggles do technically come in small, medium, and large for men and women (women's sizes are a little smaller across the board compared to men's sizes), and may also come in small, medium, and large for youth. But there isn't a wide range in people's face sizes, so generally a medium in any age group is the a one-size-fits-all. That's the standard size & what we carry. There are 2 specifications in size that you'll see on the market:

Asian fit

That's exactly what the goggles are called! Goggles need to fit flush against your face to prevent air or snow from drafting in. European-fit goggles, as they're called, may leave a gap in the nose area for Asians, since Asian faces on average feature shallower nose bridges & smaller noses. Asian-fit goggles therefore are designed with this (and other facial structure differences that are less noticeable) in mind to ensure a comfortable, flush fit. Of course, many Asians are fine with European-fit goggles & some non-Asians may prefer Asian-fit. Different brands & models can fit quite differently so we do encourage trying multiple pairs on. We do sell & rent Asian-fit goggles with extremely limited availability, please call to reserve.

For glasses wearers

Over-the-glasses (OTG) goggles Prescription lens inserts
Goggles that are designed for your regular glasses to fit inside (over-the-glasses, or OTG goggles) A prescription lens is inserted just behind the goggles lens (so you don't have to wear your regular glasses)
Price Various $50-100 for an insert
Other considerations
  • May be uncomfortable (goggles are tight & can really press the glasses frame into your face)
  • Can lead to fogging issues
  • You may have to try on multiple pairs to find one that fits*
  • May be harder to get (e.g., need to get prescription on insert)

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent

= we sell

Extremely limited availability, please call to reserve*

We are not an eye care provider & cannot offer prescriptive services

*Whether your glasses will fit in goggles depends on the shape of your glasses. Some people find that, given the shape of their glasses, a standard pair of goggles may work better than an OTG pair! You honestly won't know until you try, so please plan to do so. Generally cynlindrically shaped goggles are roomer, and will have a better fit

Technical features

The majority of users will not be concerned about these (or even notice a difference, honestly), as they're really designed to optimize for the highest levels of performance.

Lens shape

Cylindrical Spherical
What it means Goggles curved in one dimension: around your face Goggles curved in both dimensions: around your face but also vertically
Cylindrical goggles Spherical goggles
Example images Cylindrical goggles Spherical goggles
Benefits
  • Less expensive
  • Less glare
  • Less fog
  • Less distortion
  • More peripheral vision

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent

= we sell

This is the standard

Our mission is to increase access to gear & we are proud to be the only company to rent as well as sell this type

Lens color & light transmission

A lot of physics here, but basically, 2 important concepts:

  1. Color correlates with visible light transmission (VLT): lighter tints let in more light (higher VLT), and darker tints let in less light (lower VLT)
  2. Color also has a secondary effect: by filtering different spectrums of light, different colors can help enhance certain aspects of vision

But because each color is good for a range of conditions & many have secondary effects that are similar (e.g., enhanced contrast vs enhanced depth perception), and goggles may have different base lens colors and tints depending on the brand (to optimize for different conditions), we've highlighted a few simple guidelines:

  • Sunny, bright days: Black, gray, brown (you may also want a mirror coat, which further cuts down on VLT)
  • Partly cloudy to sunny days: Green, blue, amber/ copper/ bronze/ gold/ orange (there are a lot of lenses in this color range!)
  • Overcast, stormy days: Yellow, rose/ pink
  • Night: Clear (can also protect from UV light, but there's no protection from brightness, which is why these are only good at night or dusk!)

Given this, there are 2 other features that may be worth the additional cost:

  • Extra lenses so you always optimize for the best VLT depending on the conditions
  • Photochromic lenses that lighten or darken automatically depending on the conditions outside

We do sell & rent goggles with every combination of the features above, if you have a specific request, it's best to call & reserve by phone.

What we carry

General Notes

  • We choose what we carry based on extensive research on what's the best value to our customers (e.g., price given performance & durability features) across all the top brands. We specifically do not carry every brand & model; for details on why we do/don't carry certain items in the How To Choose section
  • Buy prices are MSRP with tax, i.e., what you see is what you pay. Prices may differ in-store due to change in models or discounts, but this is rare. If we don't sell what we rent, we list MSRP value with tax
  • Rent prices are the starting pricess; enter trip dates on our Catalog to get exact prices (based on total trip length, not per day!). We also don't charge sales tax, an automatic savings of almost 10%!
Goggles Lower end Higher end
Entry level Mid range Best in class
Model Smith Cascade goggles Smith Daredevil goggles Smith Drift goggles Smith Squad goggles Zeal Slate goggles Zeal Forecast goggles Zeal Fargo goggles Zeal Voyager goggles Smith Vice goggles Smith I/O goggles
Smith Cascade, Electra, or Transit Smith Daredevil Smith Drift Smith Squad Zeal Slate Zeal Forecast Zeal Fargo Zeal Voyager Smith Vice Smith I/O series

Buy

MSRP with tax

$30-40

value

$54 $76 $92

$150-270

value; Zeal's pricing depends on frame & lens

$157 $260
Rent $4+ $6+ $12+
Online rental Catalog name Basic goggles Youth goggles Adult goggles
Lens shape Cylindrical Spherical
Over-The-Glasses (OTG)

I/OX model

Extra lens available**

Photochromic lenses available**

**For all non-standard options, extremely limited availability, please call to reserve

We do carry gear designed specifically for women (some differences mentioned throughout this guide); however, in our experience, most people do not notice the differences; i.e., actual fit & personal preference are more important than industry-average differences based on sex (e.g., not all women are shorter). Whenever considering sex-specific gear, we recommend comparing all the options, to ensure the price difference is worth it (women-specific items are often more expensive). If you do require a specific sex when renting online, please write-in on the Options page of our online order form; otherwise we will pick regardless of sex. For this gear, women-specific items available as the Smith Drift model.

When you rent online, we will pick a model for you. You can change the model if you pick-up in-store, subject to availability. On the Options page of our online order process, you can also select options or write-in any preferences. This section describes the majority of our models & options, but sometimes we carry others. We will only pick something else if it doesn't conflict with your choices indicated on the Options page; moreover, if there's a major functional difference (e.g., capacity), we will attempt to contact you first

Usage tips

Avoid the gaper gap

A a gap between your goggles & helmet (due to style or fit of either, or because the helmet is pushed too far back) that can make you a little colder & sunburnt, and also the butt of jokes on the mountain!

To avoid it, test wearing your goggles & helmet together (remember that goggles go outside, around the helmet, there's typically a clip or retainer in the back of most snowsports helmets to hold the strap in place). Generally, goggles & helmets from a single brand will be most compatible in terms of not leaving a gap.

Gaper gap

Source: https://www.freeride.se/kopguide-skidglasogon-goggles/

Preventing fog

Suddenly having your lenses fog up can not only be annoying but dangerous. Fogging occurs when warm air around your face hits the cold lenses; this temperature difference causes condensation. Modern goggles, especially higher end ones, have a number of technologies to minimize fogging, up to little battery-operated fans (like a car defogger)! But it can & still does happen, so here are a few tricks, all designed to minimize the temperature differences:

  • Don't overheat by over-dressing
  • Don't tuck face protection under the goggles (e.g., facemask or balaclava, or a buff), this can channel your warm breath into the goggles directly
  • Don't take them off frequently try to not let lenses cool down such that when you put them back on there's a big temperature difference; if you must take them off, don't keep them on your head, which emits warm air like your breath
  • Wear goggles before going outside let your body heat warm them up first; by this logic I suppose you could also cool down your face with ice water, but that's less of a good idea!
  • Don't block the air vents clear away accumulated snow, or help vent by lifting them off just a little bit but not completely, while you're outside on a lift (when there's an air draft)
  • Be wary of using cleaners or wiping the lenses since this may affect any anti-fog coatings. Rinse gently with water & air dry. Only if needed, dab very gently with a microfiber cloth

If fog inevitably happens, it's best to go indoors, use hand dryers to dry the condensation, then take a break and allow the goggles to come back to regular temperature.

The exact numbers (e.g., weights, dimensions, prices, etc.) used were updated as of September 2019 . That said, there usually isn't dramatic change; we update & review the market roughly biennially.


Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below! We're Last Minute Gear, the only outdoor gear shop where you can buy, rent, or borrow gear!