High Gear: Zeal Voyager snowboard goggle review
Zeal Optics Voyager | $159
Sizes: Fits medium faces
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Lens color: Anti-fog, polarized or photochromatic in 5 colors
VLT: 30 percent
Frame color: Moonstone, Dark Night, Magic School Bus, Midnight Forest, Hexagon Trails, Safari White
Features: Rimless dual-layer lens with quick-release snaps, anti-fog coating, bonus low-light lens, dual strap adjustment with no-slip grips
Options for prescription lenses are available. To purchase or find out more, see zealoptics.com.
Rimless goggles are all the rage right now.
But that’s really no secret to anyone who’s spent time browsing a ski shop or riding a chairlift. Beginning with models like the Smith I/OS series, the rimless trend isn’t just about looking cool (although there’s something vaguely space age about goggles with no plastic around the lens). No, for once, a ski industry trend is also practical: Rimless models tend to be more flexible and interchangeable than the rest, with snaps or clips that hold the lens to the frame and yet still manage to guard against wind, sun, fog and moisture. Or at least that’s the idea.
Enter the Voyager model from Zeal Optics, one of the Boulder manufacturer’s first forays into the rimless world. The goggles feature the same sleek-and-simple look of the rest — rounded edges, photochromatic lenses, flashy straps with dual adjustments — and the quick-release lens system that’s now the standard with these goggles.
Unlike some oversized models — here’s looking at you, Dragon X2 and Electric EG3 — the Voyagers aren’t big enough to double as a serving tray, or make your average rider look like some bug-eyed alien from a ‘50s B-movie. Instead, the Zeal entry is made for medium-sized faces, crafted with reasonable dimensions (4.5 x 5.3 x 8.1 inches) and made for men or women.
The Voyagers stand out in an understated kind of way, and not only in person. The price tag is also understated at $159 retail, or as low as $120 from online retailers. Think of it this way: If all you really need from a pair of goggles is, well, a pair of well-made, tough-as-nails goggles, the Voyagers are a great alternative to big-name brands with outrageous price tags: $180 for the Smith I/OS, $200 for the Oakley Prizm, $220 for the Electric EG3 and up to $270 for the Dragon X2.
The Voyager might be more affordable than most of the rest, but does it perform as promised on the snow?
The simple answer is yes — with caveats. The Midnight Forest model comes with two lenses, a jade mirror lens for high light and bonus clear-blue lens for low light. Both feature Zeal’s dual-layer anti-fog technology, which melds well with the quick-release frame system. The lenses fit snugly against the frame and show no unwanted cracks or fissures, and that means good ventilation in all conditions. Sure, the lenses will fog after two or three hours of skinning, but the vents do their job and circulate air as soon as you start riding downhill. The lenses themselves are simply top quality, with options for mirrored, photochromatic, polarized and standard coatings.
The quick-release system isn’t exactly intuitive at first, but it doesn’t take long to figure out. It comes with six clips — two on top, two on bottom and two on the sides — and each one snaps or slides to switch out the lens. This system requires more torqueing of the frame than others, like the impossibly easy Dragon system, but as long as you treat the Voyagers like a piece of equipment and not a toy, you won’t risk breaking them. The frame might seem thin with no outer rim, but it’s a perfect combination of burly and flexible. You won’t break them swapping lenses.
The Voyager’s one major misstep: fit. I asked four different people to wear them around for a bit, and of the four, only one said it fit his face perfectly. The rest said it squeezed too tightly on their nostrils (although two of them admitted they have large noses). It didn’t matter if they were wearing beanies or helmets or nothing at all — the nosepiece pinched just enough to be uncomfortable. You should always try on a pair of goggles before buying, and this is no exception to the rule.
On a minor note, I was disappointed with the strap. It fits snug and secure, with two adjustment buckles made large enough to fit a helmet, but the fabric itself started to knot and fray in different areas after just two weeks. No one wants to replace a busted strap every season.
In the world of rimless goggles, the Voyager is a stellar option for guys or gals who want the performance of a high-quality lens and ease of a quick-release system. Just be wary of the fit.
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