Julbo has introduced a photochromatic lens in the Reactiv 0-4 High Contrast that offers a single-lens option for changing light conditions. We tested the new lens in Julbo’s Aerospace, a goggle designed to mitigate fogging with a built-in vent system.
Goggles are a style statement. Besides looking rad and cyborg-like, they provide high-value function when the snow blows sideways, and good vis is required. The past few years have seen wide full-view lenses provide near windshield-like coverage. (They also serve as the unofficial “hey, I’m a skier/rider” signage dangling from a rearview mirror in any town close to snow and some vertical relief.)
In the backcountry, goggles can come up against some deal breakers. Primarily, I’m talking about the propensity for lenses to fog up and the changing nature of light conditions in the mountains.
Some notes before we proceed: I wear prescription glasses and have shied away from contacts. While ski touring, I wear prescription sunglasses (review pending) and use goggles sparingly. In other words, I use goggles purely for function and not style. If it is dumping, I wear goggles on the descent. However, I almost always bring goggles in the pack, as I’ve been burned too many times historically with a clear and sunny forecast only to be duped into complacency and absent goggles when the dumpage ensued.
The Anti-Fog Hardware
Goggles on the uphill? Fashion faux pas it might be. But we’ll put that aside for, as Pete Vordenberg says, “the integrity of the test.”
Even with slight exertion when wearing goggles while skinning (again, allow me this thought experiment), it’s likely the moisture you off-gas with high exertion will condense on the goggle’s lens.
The Julbo Aerospace has a nifty four-point hinged lens that pops out and away from the frame for added ventilation to prevent the “fog.” Julbo calls this the SuperFlow System. We’re talking about a full 1cm of space along the lens’s top and bottom, and about .75cm on the sides. That is a considerable amount of potential airflow. It’s easy to open and close the hinges while wearing the goggle.
Note, the lens in standard mode, meaning it is not popped out for more ventilation, looks, and functions like a traditional goggle lens.
To further set the scene, this ventilation system works fine when skinning in clear, somewhat cold conditions. Am I hammering? Not exactly, but for the test, I’m going at a solid clip, barely able to hold a conversation. Confirmed, the SuperFlow System provides ample enough airflow to prevent fogging. The inner lens is pretreated with an anti-fog coating, which likely helps the lack of fogging cause.
In this same scenario, with rain and wet snow falling, the airflow is still great, but I did experience some subtle lens fog. My fixes were simple, I could slow down and decrease my level of exertion, or I could take the goggles off, wipe with a lens cloth, and gently swing them around to get some more airflow through the lens to dissipate any remaining moisture.
Julbo also provides a fitted plastic piece called a “peak,” as part of the lens system. The peak can be secured atop the lens to prevent snow/falling moisture from contacting the inner lens. Deploying the peak is fiddly and takes a few times to become practiced at securing it in place. Yet, with the peak affixed, there’s still ample ventilation to keep the lens clear while skinning in a snowfall. The caveat is this: I needed to keep the exertion level low. So for those one-speed skinners who L4 all day long, the lens might still fog slightly when the precip falls.
One thing to consider, too, when donning the Julbo Aerospace goggles, is what type of hat you’ve got atop your head. Wearing a thicker nordic style hat traps more heat which may cause more potential fogging. I often skin in a mesh ball cap with a buff over the cap and a fleece hoody (with hood deployed) if extra cold. In my experience, the extra ventilation of a mesh ball cap helps with the Aerospace’s anti-fogging properties.
If you insist on wearing goggles on the up, the Julbo Aerospace should be considered part of your eyewear quiver. These goggles are as good as I’ve seen regarding lens fog prevention.
A goggle should serve the basic function of eye protection in inclement weather. Yet, I know many others who, 100 percent of the time, wear goggles while descending, no matter the weather. These goggles will work for that crew. I wear the aforementioned prescription sunglasses in most conditions while descending unless it’s spitting moisture; in that event, I wear goggles.
Opening up the SuperFlow System is possible for descents, but know you’ll feel brisk air flowing through the lens.
The REACTIVE 0-4 High Contrast Lens
As an eyeglasses wearer, I also think about available daylight. This means I often bring two sets of glasses: one for sunny conditions and another for dawn patrol starts or potential post-sunset returns. I usually accept a lack of flexibility regarding available (and type of) daylight and having a specific goggle lens for the day’s light. I understand that many goggle models can interchange lenses depending on light conditions, including clear lenses for low light.
Call me lazy.
With my assortment of glasses hauled along for most ski tours, I’m a single-lens user when considering goggle lens options. The Aerospace has me covered for most light conditions I’m likely to encounter.
Julbo is known for its high-quality photochromatic lenses. Call these “transition” lenses; they darken or lighten, depending on UV exposure. As someone who wants to keep lens options to a minimum, this has been a great feature. The lens doesn’t darken considerably in mid-winter low-angle light and in cloudy conditions, so it is still excellent for low-light conditions. This also makes the goggle great for dawn patrols that leave you atop a line at daybreak when you still need to drop in— work awaits.
When the clouds part, these photosensitive lenses darken right up. The lens in this pair of goggles is the new REACTIV 0-4 high contrast lens. It goes from 0-4, considering its VLT (visible light transmission).
0 is clear, and 4 allows less than 10% of the visible light through; at its darkest, this is a dark lens. Glacier glasses, for example, often bump to a 4. (The goggles do get dark, but I’ve yet to wear them on a full-blown glacier in late spring to early summer when the sunshine is cranking.)
As the lens transitions from clear to dark, it does so with an amber tint, which helps enhance contrast. Many skiers opt for an amber/reddish tint to get better contrast in flat light. I could go back and forth, but I might give the nod to a bright yellow lens in the flattest of light.
Considering what you get in this one-lens package, the REACTIV 0-4 lens is prime for someone like myself who would only consider bringing one goggle lens. Julbo claims, “The Reactiv boasts the widest photochromic range of any lens on the market.” It is a wide range.
This spherical lens is available for several Julbo models beyond the Aerospace, including the Skydome, Shadow, Quickshift, Cyrius, and Cyclon.
To Transition or Not
As photochromatic lenses have been around for a while, some common themes have arisen. Typically, the fade rate is longer than the darkening rate. Further, in cold temperatures, transition lenses become darker, but also fade more slowly relative to fade rates in warm temps.
This is to say that although this may be true, here are some things to consider with this transition lens. If I take the goggle straight from my pack (no sunlight) into bright sun, with temps just below freezing, it’s about a minute + for the lenses to seem fully dark (or as dark as they’ll get) in these conditions. Although that doesn’t seem like a long time, you might disagree.
If you are skiing from a sunny wide open flank of mountain into a shaded tree shot, the lenses will play catch up; the fading takes more time and anecdotally is slower than the darkening rate. I know of several mountain bikers who frown on transition lenses due to delayed fade rates when riding from open to forested (shaded) trails.
The Aerospace with the REACTIV 0-4 high contrast lens comes to the scene, meeting all my needs for a goggle. Again, I’m practical regarding goggles. I want some vents for potential fogging and some range considering the lens’ use in different types of light. The optional vents increase airflow, and the Reactive 0-4 lens can be used from sunrise to sunset.
The cost is not cheap at $279.95, but backcountry skiers/riders with a goggle habit know that scene already.
I’ve had no issues with the plastic hinges that make up the venting system. However, I carefully open and close the vents to ensure the goggles are around and functional for a long time: Plastic sometimes tends to break.
The goggles come in a protective carry pouch for easy stowing inside a pack. My go-to pack does not have a special protective pocket for goggles—I store them in the pouch and toss them in. So far, I’ve had no problems.
The goggles fit fine under my Petzl Sirocco helmet.
Strap: dual point adjustment head strap and silicone strips to prevent slippage.
Option to vent lens
Optional Reactive 0-4 High Contrast lens for clear near-dark mornings and bright sunlit snowy terrain.
Shop for the Julbo Aerospace with the Reactiv 0-4 high contrast lens.
Jason Albert comes to WildSnow from Bend, Oregon. After growing up on the East Coast, he migrated from Montana to Colorado and settled in Oregon. Simple pleasures are quiet and long days touring. His gray hair might stem from his first Grand Traverse in 2000 when rented leather boots and 210cm skis were not the speed weapons he had hoped for. Jason survived the transition from free-heel kool-aid drinker to faster and lighter (think AT), and safer, are better.
Looks like a bad year for avalanche danger in the BC Canada backcountry
I’ve been using various Julbo goggles with the hinging vent system for some years and like them and it. Much of the reason comes from my personal war against gear fiddling. I just want to ski. If it’s a goggle day, the goggle stays on uphill and down. The helmet too stays on up and down. It’s light and well-vented, no hotter than a mesh ball cap when worn without hoodies or hoods under or over. Skiing in Colorado, I have no idea what you are talking about when you talk about rain and skiing together. The thing is impossible.
Back to the Julbos. Their hinge system is plastic and looks delicate; however, I’ve yet to break one. Also, the hinges can be opened and closed, wholly or partially, with gloves or mitts on.
I think an early review of the Julbo Aerospace is on WildSnow somewhere.
Jim, as you are aware, rain and skiing are a thing and understanding that a good old Hefty trash bag works wonders in those conditions makes the day palatable. Yup, Aerospace review here: https://wildsnow.com/28221/tested-in-the-andes-julbo-aerospace-goggle-review/.
Really needed to test the lens, and opted for the Aerospace since it provides the best venting. Be safe in CO.
Hey Jim, thanks for the comment. Just a heads up, if you break the hinge system (SuperFlow System) it’s backed by our warranty so if we can’t fix it we’ll replace it for ya. We have an updated SuperFlow System coming out next year in our new Lightyear goggle which is a nice upgrade to the current system. Be on the lookout!
Nice review. Love the idea of photochromatic lenses, but I’ve had too many experiences with them getting stuck on dark in the cold to ever use them for skiing in variable light conditions, like in and out of woods or on the shady side on a sunny day.
I do use them in warm weather for hiking or mountain biking.
They sound like excellent goggles other than that.
Hey Tuck, Julbo’s REACTIV 0-4 High Contrast lens is slightly temperature sensitive in extremely cold conditions. This is our winter formula so it does have a fast reaction time but because it spans such a large VLT range it’s difficult to get the goggle to immediately react from clear to dark and vise versa. The development team is continuously working on our formulas so this new lens will get faster with time. Currently our best and fast snow lens for rapid reaction time is any of our REACTIV 1-3 HC lenses. I tell customers all the time that this lens is virtually clear at 75% VTL, anything over 80% VLT is considered clear.
Great review. I have the cheaper version of this Julbo goggle with just the clear lenses. Cheaper and works for 90% of my early morning skiing. But I generally only wear them when it is snowing or need eye protection from tree branches, otherwise just go naked eyeballs or sometimes clear glasses. I have had great success with the venting on the up and the down. I often just leave them in the open position for both, but snow does get in a little and the cheaper model doesn’t have the shield attachment. I also successfully used them in an extreme circumstance – a night Ski-Mo race in dumping wet snow (like 3-4 inches an hour dumping snow), temperature just below freezing. They worked great for the hour my race lasted. The only problem was some snow getting on the inside of the lenses, but still provided good visibility. No problems with the hinges.
I also have a pair of Julbo glasses with the 0-3 reactive transition lenses, that has worked great so far and is fine for all but the brightest sunny days.
Hey Joel, you can always upgrade your lens by purchasing a REACTIV lens if that’s something you’re interested in down the road. Also, if you want to keep the snow out, you can try closing the goggle/keep it slightly open and that should help keep the snow out but keep it well enough ventilated so you still fight the fog.
I’d be interested in some feedback on how light the lenses get on a sunny day in the shade. Background is I overcame my initial dislike of the look and bro-factor of the Smith Wildcats and they’ve become my favorite eyewear ever for ski touring and mountain biking. I almost never fog up and the protection is decent even with light snow and wind. I recently bought the photochromatic lens and I’ve been a little disappointed with how sensitive they appear to be to the scattered UV in the snowy environment, even on cloudy days. Basically, they darken almost immediately and stay dark all day. My son has Julbo sunglasses, which I thought might be better at going clear, but they don’t seem to be much different. I’ve been interested in the Aerospace goggle, but I don’t see much point in spending the money for photochromatic if I’d be better off just sticking with my regular goggles and swapping lenses based on the day.
Hey Steve, you raise several good points: primarily, these types of lenses, in general, do darken quickly, but tend to lag in the change rate going from dark to light. This is confirmed by some interesting research I came across when writing the review. For quick transitions from light to shade, I don’t expect anything like a fast real-time change, additionally, cold temps do slow the process as well, when going from sunlit to shady terrain. The goggles are usable in those situations, but they’ll remain on the darker rather than lighter side in fast changing light. In shaded terrain, I’ve found the lenses do darken, but to a point that is a good medium ground for me– meaning not too dark and certainly not to a 4 on the 0-4 scale.
Sunglasses: I’m also reviewing a pair of Julbo sunglasses (prescription) with a photochromatic lens. As someone who usually brings two pairs of glasses (sun and clear, with prescription) I am loving the single pair option. I’m in a Reactiv 1-3 lens that is relatively clear in the AM with low light, and darkens as exposed to higher UV levels. In my experience, I can use this to drive to a trailhead at just before dawn, and drive home later with very low light as the sun sets. I wear the glasses all day while skiing. I am loving them. Yes, the rate of change from dark to light is slower, but for my purpose, I now know I should have gone in the photochromatic direction for glasses many years ago. A ski partner who uses a transition lens from Warby Parker says the rate of change in both directions is way too slow in cold. With the Julbo glasses, I’ve had good luck for my applications so far.
Hey Steve, do you recall what lens your sun has? We have a few different snow lenses that will make a big difference in your experience. We have a REACTIV 2-3 Glare Control, mainly used for mid-day skiers and riders that don’t need or want a wide range but just something that offers good protection. We also have a REACTIV 2-4 Polarized which is for very sunny conditions, high alpine, folks that have high sensitivity to light, etc. And we have our REACTIV 1-3 High Contrast, which is our most versatile lens that offers Julbo’s winter formula, high reaction speed between VLT ranges and a wider range for most skiers and riders. Also, keep in mind, clouds don’t filter UV and our lenses are UV activated so in some cases with low visibility the lenses can still become activated due to UV coming through the clouds. This is where the REACTIV 1-3 High Contrast lens really shines as a snow lens, it stay light enough in these conditions where the user can still see.
I have a pair of these and they are very nice goggles, but they stay dark on cold days so they aren’t very useful on low-light cold days. I’ve had to make a couple descents with the goggles stowed because they were so dark I couldn’t see in stormy conditions.
Ben, are you saying you have this new version, with the 0-4 lens or one of the older lenses 0-3 or 2-4?
So frustrating that the cold weather keeps them dark. I’m curious to understand why this limitation exists in the technology? Clearly the coldest times are the darkest and when we are most in need of the 0.
Hey Steve, it’s more to do with the UV not getting filtered out by the clouds. Julbo’s lenses are UV activated and unfortunately clouds don’t filter UV. This is why I mostly recommend our REACTIV 1-3 High Contrast lens to most touring customers, it will offer just about the same VLT (75%-17%) vs (83%-5%) for the 0-4 High Contrast. Some skiers and riders just want that extra bit of protection and most of the time it serves them well, but there are those days where the weather conditions are just right and the 0-4 is activated closer to its cat. 4 range due to the UV making it’s way through the clouds. Hope that answers your questions, feel free to give us a buzz anytime and we can go deeper into it with ya.
Hey Ben, are you using the 0-4 lens or the 2-4 lens? It wouldn’t necessarily be the cold that keeps them dark but rather the UV coming through the clouds, which unfortunately don’t filter out UV rays. The less UV the lighter the lens gets as they are UV activated.
Jason, are you wearing them over prescription glasses? If so, did you get the OTG version?
Hey, I did not get the OTG version. I might next season. Do you have those? I’m curious how they work. My eyesight is OK without glasses, meaning I can read terrain but the surface subtleties are somewhat lost.
Yeah, I got my daughter the OTG version two years ago. She NEEDS her glasses, and with mask requirements in liftlines, I worried that her glasses would fog up if when standing still in lift lines.
They are just a hair bigger than the standard ones, not as bulky looking as some OTG goggles.
I use the OTG’s only when it’s really snowy. Most of the time it’s just my prescription Oakleys even on the single digit days in Mammoth and Beaver Creek. How do these compare to Smiths and Oakley OTG’s?
Another prescription glasses user here. I tried some julbo OTG googles with the hinge/pop out venting lens- seemed really cool but I tend to only ski in goggles on powder/storm days and found out the hard way that faceshots with the vent open means snow inside the google. I went back to my Smith OTG googles. I think the Julbos would be ideal if they had built in vents like the Smiths in addition to the pop out feature- which could be saved for times of overheating or to clear out fog, otherwise keep it closed and let the built in vents do the job.
Very thorough review, thanks. As a sweaty and slow PNW skinner, I purchased these as soon as I read the original review and I have not been disappointed. I wear them exclusively now for backcountry as well as lift-served and they just work. I’ve been wearing photochromics for over 15 seasons now and wouldn’t think of reverting to any other lens. In transitional lenses, I’ve used Zeal, Smith, Dragon, and now Julbo. All have worked acceptably fast for me. The Julbo’s transition just fine and I’ve really not noticed the lag time issue mentioned. My only caveat: the crappy item called the “Peak” is a joke. Impossible to secure with gloves on, and impossible (for me) to attach while wearing the goggles. Gotta remove them to secure at all, and then attempting to put them back on, I invariably dislodge the Peak again. I tried this unsuccessfully for a few tours. Now that ill-designed, easy to lose, flimsy piece of plastic stays home, buried in the ski closet. Would love to see Julbo think again on this idea. The uphill ventilation though is a game-changer.
Agreed, although once secured, the peak stays in place for me….too fiddly and not something I’m really using though. And yes, I too have had it fall out of the goggle bag on several occasions.
Glad you’re diggin’ them! And, we agree with you guys, the “Peak” should not be included. Rest assured that the US HQ is actively pressuring the team to drop it, or just offer it as an accessory for those that still want it. Most of the time, we just tell customers that if they’re getting snow in their goggles on the skin/hike up, just close the goggles halfway. That usually does the trick.
I have the Julbo Aerospace goggles that do not have photochromic lenses in them and I really like them.
On the photochromic aspect, I’ve been enchanted by the idea of it enough times to buy sunglasses that have such lenses multiple times (most lately a pair of Julbo glasses) and every time end up wildly disappointed in their snow/winter uses. I believe it’s because of the additional reflected UV off of the snow, but I find they are always darker than I want them to be aside from dawn patrols and night patrols when there is very little (or no) ambient sunshine and so they have all ended up relegated to trail running and other non-snow activities.
Hey Matt, what REACTIV lenses are in your sunglasses? We have several different REACTIV lenses for our sunglasses line. Shoot me an email, lets get you in something that works: david at julbousa dot com
Jason, thanks for the review. As always, much appreciated getting the Wild Snow take. Safe travels in the backcountry.
I’ve been using the Aerospace 0-4s all season here in the PNW. I love them, the ventilation system is great. I’ve also had zero issues with the lenses in any weather/light conditions, including many night skiing nights. I can’t tell the difference between these and straight-up clears at night, although visually from the outside they look darker. Agree that the plastic peak cover piece is something that could certainly be improved, but overall I’m stoked on these goggles and highly recommend them.
I’ve been wearing Julbo Aerospace reactiv for several years now (they used to go 1-3 and had a different name) and I haven’t found anything better. They are fantastic in any setting, including uphill climbing, and a great peace of mind to know even in the worst conditions, we will see and be protected. Real solid gear.