In cold environments your face is usually the only part of your body that will be exposed to the elements. The obvious reason being of course, you need to breathe, and you need to see where you’re going! That usually means that you play a delicate balancing act of combining hats, balaclava’s, hoods and fur ruffs, neck liners, and sunglasses or goggles. Protect yourself too much and you accumulate ice on your face and fog your goggles up, or expose yourself too much and you risk frostnip or frostbite.
So with all that in mind, for my recent expedition to walk across Lake Baikal in Siberia, I had all of the above in my arsenal. One vitally important item to combat the sun, wind and snow are ski goggles. Walking full on into a headwind with spindrift blowing in your face at -20 c and below hurts. I’ve done it.
Having always used cheap (<£20) ski goggles in the past, I was keen to try out something a bit more ‘premium’, and so this time around I had the Oakley O Frame 2.0 XL goggles with me. Before I get into how I got on with the goggle’s, here’s a lowdown on the specs.
Product Information – Oakley O Frame 2.0 XL (Fire Iridium)
- Lexan lens to give 100% protection against UVA, UVB, UVC and blue light
- Flexible O-Matter frame chassis gives balanced fit (with or without a helmet)
- Dual vented lenses with F2 anti-fog technology
- Moisture wicking triple-layer polar fleece foam
- Optimised for medium to large faces
More simply, the lenses are orange, so they should provide good visibility and contrast on bright days. They have multiple layers of foam in the frame to add comfort, and the lenses are claimed to be anti-fog due to an anti-condensation coating (whatever that is?!).
To be honest I’m not really one for getting bogged down in product specs and marketing bluster. For me the kit either works and feels right, or it doesn’t. I gave these a good testing out on multiple days of a 19 day 634 km ‘polar’ expedition, with temperatures dropping to -35 c at their lowest. So a no BS test (see the conditions we operated in below).
How I got on with the goggles
In short I found the fit to be comfortable, the headband is wide enough to spread the tension on your head, and they sat well on my face i.e. I didn’t look like a total prat, and they could adjust well to create a full seal on my face. I did however find the elastic pretty tight (even when adjusted to preference) when coupled with a hat and balaclava for ten plus hours of wear. Unfortunately I took few photo stops on the very cold days where I wore the goggles, and I couldn’t see through the goggles to take selfie shots with my camera so I can’t show you how I wore them out on the ice.
The tint on the goggles is a nice mild and warm orange, so the world’s doesn’t look too apocalyptic or depressing, and the contrast was good too. The only time I struggled with contrast was during a white out on one day where the horizon and ground blended together. But no goggles would rectify that.
The big issue comes when using the goggles with any sort of mouth covering. When walking into a headwind (temperatures were dropping into -30’s) on some of the day’s out on the ice I really wanted to cover my cheeks and nose. The best coverage I found was to combine my balaclava with a simple neck fleece over my mouth and nose. Despite the ventilation points on the goggles, they fogged up with moisture and froze over in seconds – obviously due to expired air shooting up the vents into the lens. The only solution was to expose my nose, and tape it over as in the photo above. Not ideal but it worked. It’s all well and good having anti-fog lenses, but unless you have a custom face mask and can separate the lens from mouth/nose protection, you’ll always fog up. Perhaps not so much of an issue if these are worn on the ski slopes, as I guess is the intended target market.
I found the silicon lined coating on the inside of the headband to be useful for stopping the goggles from slipping around when placed on top of my hat (which was quite shiny and slippery). A nice feature.
I also thought the goggles looked pretty good. These don’t feature the curves of more expensive Oakley’s, but they are contoured and sleek enough not to look like a face consuming visor.
Once I’d sorted the fogging by ‘getting my nose out’ (not advised if there is significant windchill) I quite enjoyed the protection from these goggles. They’re big and wide, covering a large surface area, and maintained wind and snow protection even in vicious cross winds (55 km/hr +). They did their job and fitted comfortably. That’s good enough for me.
I’ll be using these again without question, but next time I need to sort out a more customised mouth/nose covering system.
If you like the look of these goggles you can buy a pair for £80 from Outdoor Supply here.
These goggles were provided by Outdoor Supply, who are part of the Etrias group. As you can see I don’t hold back in picking out both the negative and positive features of this product, so as much as is humanely possible this is a bias free zone.
Outdoor Supply say: On our website we stock products from an incredible range of top notch outdoor brands, such as Jack Wolfskin, The North Face, Salomon, and many, many more. Whether you’re an experienced camping expert or if you just want to get into hiking or an outdoor sport, there’s something for everyone on our website. Our aim is to make outdoor adventures as comfortable and as accessible as possible for everyone.