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Before you hit those powdery white slopes, you're going to need all the right gear. A good pair of ski goggles is just important as a warm jacket and a set of skis. But with so many different types of ski goggles on the market, how do you pick the best ones? It can be a challenge trying to figure out what you need from your ski goggles, and determining which pairs offer good value for money, particularly if you're a first-time buyer.
The good news is, we at BestReviews are here to bust the jargon and help you make informed purchasing decisions. We test items in our labs and out in the field, do mountains of product research, talk to existing customers, and consult experts — all so we can bring you reviews you can trust.
Read on for our full guide to ski goggles, which will teach you all you need to know to find the perfect pair to suit your requirements. Then, when you're ready to buy, scroll up to our product matrix, which features our five favorite pairs.
Let's look at the two main varieties of ski goggles, as defined by lens type.
Cylindrical lens ski goggles are curved on the horizontal axis, but are flat vertically.
Cylindrical lens ski goggles tend to be cheaper than their spherical lens counterparts.
Since the lenses are flexible and easy to remove from the frame, it's easy to replace them should they get damaged, or you need a different tint.
Some people prefer the lower profile look of cylindrical lens ski goggles.
Due to the way cylindrical lenses bend, you can get some distortion to your vision, especially on the peripherals.
You tend to get more glare and fogging with cylindrical lenses.
Ski goggles have a layer of foam that sits between the frame and your face. This should fit snugly, without any gaps or pressure points.
Spherical lens ski goggles are curved vertically, as well as horizontally.
Due to the vertical curve of spherical lenses, you can see further up and down without moving your neck.
The increased surface area of spherical lens goggles means that they're less likely to fog up.
You get clear, distortion-free vision with spherical lens goggles.
Spherical lenses were specially designed to help reduce glare.
Spherical lens goggles tend to be more expensive than those with cylindrical lenses.
Some people don't like the rounded "bubble" appearance of spherical lenses.
As long as you have the budget for them, we definitely recommend spherical lens goggles over cylindrical lens goggles.
It's important you get the correct frame size for your face.
Extra-small frames are generally suited to young children.
Small frames are generally suited to children and women with smaller-than-average faces.
Small/medium frames are generally suited to teenagers, most women, and men with smaller-than-average faces.
Medium frames are generally suited to most men, as well as women who prefer a larger frame size.
Medium/large frames are generally suited to men with larger faces.
Large goggle frames are generally suited to people who simply like the oversized goggle look.
While frame color might not impact performance, most ski goggles come in a range of colors, so you may as well choose one you like.
Lens tint refers to how dark the lenses of your ski goggles are, or how much light they let through, which is referred to as visible light transmission (VLT). Ski goggles are given a category between 0 and 4 according to lens tint.
Category 0 = 80 to 100% VLT: Lenses transparent or slightly tinted; suitable for nighttime wear.
Category 1 = 46 to 79% VLT: Lenses slightly tinted; suitable for flat light or dull overcast days.
Category 2 = 18 to 45% VLT: Lenses moderately tinted; suitable for sunny or bright overcast days.
Category 3 = 8 to 17% VLT: Lenses darkly tinted; suitable for use in bright light.
Category 4 = 3 to 7% VLT: Lenses very darkly tinted; suitable for very bright conditions, for instance at higher altitudes, or where light reflects strongly.
There's no single lens tint that works best in all lighting and weather, so some ski goggles have interchangeable lenses that can easily be switched, depending on the conditions.
Single lenses are where you have just one layer of lens.
Double lenses have two layers of lens with a small gap in between, a bit like double glazing. Double lenses create their own thermal barrier, which ultimately helps to prevent or reduce fogging.
All but the most basic modern ski goggles tend to have double lenses.
Visible light transmission (VLT) is the amount of light the lenses of a pair of ski goggles lets through. It's expressed as a percentage — the lower the percentage, the less light passes through.
Now that you know more about ski goggles, you might want to find out how much you should expect to pay for them.
Here's what you'll get for your money:
Basic ski goggles cost between roughly $10 and $25. These tend to have cylindrical lenses, and are single-lensed rather than double-lensed. They might do the trick if you just want to try out skiing for a day or two, but we recommend spending a little more if you regularly partake in winter sports.
Mid-range ski goggles are priced somewhere in the region of $25 to $50. They usually have double spherical lenses and a range of anti-fogging features.
High-end ski goggles generally cost around $100 to $250. In this price range you should expect excellent goggles, with a huge range of features that make them perfect for serious skiers.
While they're out of most people's price range, you can find ski goggles with a built-in GPS and camera.
You can find ski goggles designed to fit over glasses, which works out much more affordably than buying goggles with prescription lenses.
Look for goggles with polarized lenses, as these cut glare much more effectively than standard mirrored lenses.
To help protect your ski goggles from damage, when you place them down, only do so with the lens side facing upward, so it's not touching any hard surfaces.
Always let your ski goggles dry naturally before you put them away.
When cleaning your ski goggles, only do so using a soft cloth — the kind designed for cleaning glasses.
Wider goggle straps tend to be easier to adjust, and are more effective at keeping your ski goggles securely in place.
If you keep moving, you'll create more airflow through your goggles, and this will help to reduce fogging.
Make sure your lenses have 100% UVA and UVB protection to protect your eyes from the sun's rays, which are stronger at higher altitudes.
Q. How do I know if my ski goggles fit correctly?
A. It's important that your ski goggles fit correctly. They should fit comfortably, without pinching or pressure. Look out for the following common signs that your ski goggles are a bad fit.
Q. What kind of anti-fogging features are available?
A. Few things are more annoying while enjoying winter sports than your goggles constantly fogging. The good news is, most modern goggles have a range of features designed to reduce fogging, including hydrophilic chemical treatments (AKA anti-fog coatings), double lenses, wide vents, fans, and spherical lenses.
Q. Why do I need ski goggles?
A. Some people wonder why they need ski goggles at all — wouldn't sunglasses do? Well, like sunglasses, ski goggles are designed to protect your eyes from UV rays, but they have other functions, too. Since they're sealed all the way around, they stop snow from getting in behind them, plus they're specially tinted to give you the best possible contrast and vision in adverse conditions. They have a range of anti-fogging features, and give you better peripheral vision than sunglasses would.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.