Most powder hounds know that Smith Optics makes great goggles. But what’s the deal with ZEAL?
ZEAL Optics is a smaller eyewear company based in Boulder, Colorado. They make a handful of sunglasses for active use, as well as a stylish, lifestyle collection. Their shades don’t rival other manufacturers of technical, on-snow protection–their darkest lense has a visual light transmission of 10% as opposed to the 4% in Julbo’s glacier glasses–but I find the fit and darkness of ZEAL’s Essential sunglasses with dark grey lenses worthy for most of my outdoor pursuits (glacial travel included).
Nevermind the shades, what they really know how to make are goggles.
I’ve been using one of their best products, the Forecast goggles, since they came out last season. I bought them because they’re a durable, all-purpose goggle. I splurged on the Polarized Automatic lenses (they come with a variety of lense options that range in price) to make them an all-condition piece, too. Don’t get too distracted by the website’s attractive photos and wordy/anecdotal product descriptions–these are killer goggles.
The Forecasts boast “amazing peripheral vision,” and I have to agree. The frame’s ergonomic, wrap around shape combined with the design of the foam allow for a low-profile fit. The no-slip strap is lined with a silicon material to keep it in place on your hat or helmet.
You’ll notice a few strategically placed mesh vents on the frame near where it contacts your face, which contribute to its breathability. All goggles will fog in some contexts (55+ degree spring days, epic yard sales, etc.), but I am yet to have that happen. The anti-fog solution is infused into the lense during the manufacturing process, so it can’t be wiped off.
Although they’re advertised as a mid-size frame, the Forecasts are the biggest goggles I’ve owned. As a lady shredder with a slightly smaller face than the average male, they look a little big on me (my friends remind me of this). But I chose them because of the wide range of vision permitted by the frame shape.
That being said, make sure they’ll be compatible with your helmet. And if you’re concerned about the size but still want to experience the zeal then try out the Fargo, which is a similar goggle in a smaller frame size.
While I like the frame, I love the lenses. These photochromic (transition) lenses adapt to the lighting conditions (storms, clouds, bluebird sun) and they’re polarized, which is a requisite for all on-snow eyewear. The visual light transmission ranges from 18%-43%. I’ve seen them change darkness, both indoors during product testing and outside in the field.
As photochromic lenses gain popularity, there is concern that they lose their ability to transition over time/use. ZEAL has worked out the kinks for their Polarized Automatic goggle lense (and soon their sunglass lenses), so they’ll perform well across seasons.