Eyewear is annoying in the outdoors. Foggy lenses, sweaty frames, mud splats on glass — all are common complications of wearing glasses in the great outdoors.
But companies like Smith Optics and Julbo Inc. — sunglasses makers who dip a toe into the Rx pond — now have products that make eyewear easier to get along with while cycling, climbing, skiing, backpacking and trail running.
The Reactor Max from Smith Optics (www.smithsport.com) are my top pick. These glasses have a solid frame that has endured months of Gear Junkie adventures, cycling along for many bumpy miles and summiting mountains with me. I have two sets of lenses to accompany the Reactor glasses, including an amber-tone sunglass as well as clear lenses for low-light and after-dark scenarios.
Made from an impact-resistant plastic-like material called Carbonic, the Smith lenses click easily in and out of the frame. They are scratch-resistant; mine have no scuffs even after the aforementioned months of outdoors action.
The Smith lenses provide 100 percent protection from ultra-violet light, according to the company. Polarized and mirrored lenses are available with the Reactor Max glasses, as well as several tint choices.
The frame, which comes in six colors, costs $265 with one set of prescription lenses; the second pair of lenses are an additional $155, making my Smith eyeglass setup come in at a healthy $420.
Second in line during my Rx test was the Julbo Advance, a wrap-around sunglass design that costs almost $100 less than the Smith setup. The Advance frame with basic non-prescription glass is $104; the light-sensitive photochromic lenses I tested run $219, resulting in a final price tag of $323.
Unlike the Smith glasses, I never have to switch lenses out for Julbo (www.julbousa.com). The photochromic lenses adjust with the ambient light, tinting dark as the sun shines bright and fading to a pale amber under cloud cover.
The photochromic lenses don’t go crystal clear, though. For nighttime activities I could not use the Julbo glasses.
Julbo’s Advance frame comes in four colors — black, silver, bronze and “chocoblack” — and they fit snug and secure just like the Smiths. Rubbery removable inserts on the front of the temples add side protection from sun, wind and blowing snow.
Both Julbo and Smith make good glasses. My prescription was crystal clear from both companies.
The Advance and Reactor Max models are equally suitable for outdoors action sports, though I’d lean toward the Julbo Advance for skiing or mountaineering because of its all-encompassing wrap-around design. For the ultimate in versatility, Smith — with its removable lenses for clear and dark glass options — won out during my tests.