I have been snowboarding in photochromic goggles for three years and would find it tough going back to lenses that don’t change with the light. So I was stoked when I got the chance to conduct a review of Zeal Nomad, the polarized automatic light changing goggles by Zeal Optics.
Back in the day I would wear either my low light or sunny goggles and be stuck with that choice all day. This meant I would often get caught out with the wrong lenses due to changeable conditions.
I have at times thrown a spare pair of goggles or alternative lens in my backpack or pocket. But this doesn’t always end well as my mate recently found out when he broke his spare lens during an innocuous fall.
Also despite quick and easy lens changing technology you still have to stop to swap your lens. Often conditions will change a few times in a single run, as you dip below the clouds or even pass from light to shade, so swapping lens is not always practical.
The beauty of photochromic goggles is that whatever the light, they will quickly change. Meaning you always have optimum vision.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, Zeal Optics are a small but dedicated team. Founded in 1996 they are a well established brand, but in terms of eyewear they are less well known than many of the bigger names. This is a shame as they produce great gear that outperforms many of the more famous brands.
As Zeal say about themselves:
At ZEAL Optics, we build the highest quality eyewear for people like us who live for outdoor adventure. But that is just the beginning of our adventure. We focus on more than just being an eyewear company. We are guided by a simple set of beliefs: Use Less, Give Back, Explore More.
They do a lot of work in the community. Much of this is helping those less fortunate to experience adventures in the great outdoors. They also work hard to reduce their environmental footprint and have projects to aid social change. You can find out more on the Zeal community page.
I have worn these polarized automatic light changing goggles for four days at the end of last season in mostly bright sunshine in the Three Valleys. Plus three days of very varied conditions in Ischgl at the start of this season, including a complete whiteout.
The Nomad frame is made for a medium sized face. I usually go for large goggles so unsurprisingly I found they are smaller than I am used to. But because of the Nomad’s ‘vista-shattering peripheral view’ this isn’t a huge problem, but my field of view was reduced. Lesson learned I will stick to large in the future.
The goggles are very light, with enough flexibility to mould to your face leaving no obvious pressure points. But they are also rigid providing good protection in the case of a crash.
The face foam is triple layer and fleece lined making them soft and comfortable on your skin. During this review of Zeal Nomad Azure ski goggles I found them to work well with my helmet, although again they could be a little wider, but fortunately the straps cover up any obvious gaps.
Zeal Nomad ski goggles come in 11 different frame and lens options. I went for Azure, not because of the rather nice blue colour but because of the photochromic lens that allows between 18% and 38% light through changing from light grey to a deep rose in colour.
For my days in bright sunshine the lens rarely had to change shade. I was initially slightly concerned that it was letting too much light through in the glorious spring sunshine. However, I didn’t get eyestrain or a headache so clearly they were fine.
The first time I noticed the goggles changing tint was when passing from bright light to shade. When wearing lenses for bright conditions you can struggle slightly in the shade. But with these these polarized automatic light changing goggles the tint changes in a fraction of a second and you can see perfectly.
The polarized lens is particularly good at reducing glare. This is always worse in bright light and more noticeable when going in and out of shade. It did a great job.
On the last day in Three Valleys we had fog in the morning and high clouds reducing the light in the afternoon. The lens again coped very well keeping my view perfect. So much so that you don’t notice the lens changing.
It wasn’t until a trip to Ischgl at the start of the 2018/19 season that I managed to conduct a review of Zeal Nomad ski goggles in low light conditions. We had two days of mostly overcast weather with lots of flat light, a little bit of sunshine, plus a day that was snowing with whiteout conditions.
These polarized automatic light changing goggles coped exceptionally well with flat light. I had very good definition despite the challenging conditions. My friend had bright light lenses and yellow low light lenses and kept swapping finding neither really worked for him.
We had one day of terrible visibility. It was snowing up high and raining down low and much of the mountain was a whiteout. It was the kind of conditions that no matter what goggles you have you would struggle. At points I wasn’t sure which way was up and what was down, I even fell off the edge of a cat track!
Having said that I was able to see enough to get down the piste. In the whiteout, my friend struggled more with his yellow low light lens than I did during this review of Zeal Nomad ski goggles.
The Azure lens, and all the others in the Nomad range, comes with 5x Permashield hard coat. This helps to protect your lens from scratches – after a couple of face plants I can confirm it does a good job. The lens is also made of a high density material to help avoid breaks.
On the inside there is the Everclear molecular infusion anti-fog system. This is a coating that cannot be wiped off and stops the inside from fogging up. It does a great job. Even when I got snow inside the goggles during falls in powder it did not fog up.
The Zeal Nomad goggles are exceptionally good quality. Everything from the frame to the lens is made well using good materials and cutting edge technology.
But the star of the show is the photochromic lens that adjusts to the light making sure you always have the right lens. Being able to see perfectly whatever the conditions makes skiing or snowboarding that little bit easier, so I’d highly recommend swapping to light changing goggles.
Compared to the two other photochromic goggles I have tested the Zeal Optics Nomad changes tint the quickest. They are comfy, built to last and the company is both socially and environmentally responsible. They are not cheap but are worth every penny!
I hope you found this review of Zeal Nomad ski goggles useful. If you want some polarized automatic light changing goggles of your own they cost around $250 (approx £200 or €220) direct from Zeal Optics: www.zealoptics.com/nomad