Gear Shed

Q:

Which sunglasses will perform on both snow and water?

I'm looking for sunglasses that will perform everywhere from snowy mountains to the open ocean. I've looked at three different pairs: the Zeal Optics Maestro, Julbo Nomad X4, and Native Nano 2. Could you please recommend a pair that would work best for me? Gina Gainesville, Florida

Julbo Nomad     Photo: courtesy, REI

Julbo Nomad Sunglasses

Julbo Nomad

A:Mountains and water offer similar challenges for good eyewear—lots of glare, the need for excellent contrast, and a requirement for good protection from UV rays. On snow, it’s also important that glasses offer protection on the sides, although there are several different ways they can accomplish this. It would help if they don’t break the bank, but a good pair of sunglasses is a worthwhile investment in safe vision.

You mentioned three that you’ve looked at: the Zeal Optics Maestro ($130; www.zealoptics.com), the Julbo Nomad X4 ($104; www.julbousa.com), and the Native Nano 2 ($115; www.nativeyewear.com). The Zeal glasses—one of Outside magazine’s “Gear of the Year" award-winners—have a generous wrap design for side protection. They come with a polarized ZB13 (Zeal’s label) lens, and have an option for a polarized brown lens for slightly greater light reduction, although it’s a very slight change, so I’m not sure it’s worth the bother. Overall these would work great on snow or water.

Julbo’s Nomads are more of a traditional glacier glass. They have snap-out side protectors that offer a little more coverage than the Zeal glasses, and their brown progressive lenses offer light reduction of 87 to 95 percent—a little darker than the Zeals. If you intend to be on snow a lot, then these might be the best choice. In my opinion, however, they’re not quite as fashionable as the Zeals.

The Native Nano 2s, while an excellent pair of glasses, might not be the best choice here. They’re a little bit more of an all-purpose glass, with decent side coverage but not the extensive coverage of the Zeals or the Julbos. They do, however, come with four interchangeable lenses from dark to clear, so that might be a consideration.

I think you have a good set from which to choose. If your time is split 50/50 between water and snow, then probably go with the Zeals. If it’s split 30/70, with the 70 on snow, particularly mountaineering at higher altitudes, then go with the Julbos.

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive sunglasses section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

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