Product spotlight – Julbo Superflow goggles
By Brendan Smith
Like many recreational consumer industries, the mountaineering gear producers are almost always prophesying radical improvements in technology that promise to the The Next Big Game Changer Of Gear. As industry professionals who use our gear in demanding environments regularly, we have become somewhat jaded to these promises; in most cases the “game changing tech” is actually a minor improvement to an existing product or technology, resulting in marginal performance improvements, or worse. The fact of the matter is that mountaineering equipment has improved drastically in the past 15 years, and even somewhat “old” technologies today still perform at a level unheard of a few decades ago.
With that all being said, it is still true that periodically, we find a new product or technology that represents a real improvement over the existing performance baselines. When we do find these successful innovations, we tend to adopt them widely and rapidly. After all, if something really does perform better than before, we would be foolish not to take advantage of it.
In my mind, these innovations take place on a spectrum somewhere between “rethink the entire concept from the ground up” (see: Futurelight fabric), and simple adaptations that fall under the “why didn’t I think of that” umbrella.
How it works
The Julbo Superflow goggle technology is certainly the latter. Basically, the concept is as follows:
- Goggles are great for going downhill at speed. They provide complete snow and wind protection and good visibility.
- Because of this tight seal and good protection, they inherently do not ventilate very well.
- In a mountaineering or backcountry skiing context, goggles are therefore a big compromise while walking uphill. This translates to switching between goggles and glasses constantly, or simply reserving goggles for the absolute worst of conditions.
- Julbo decided that instead of trying to build in elaborate ventilation systems to the frame of the goggle (that reduce the excellent protection properties we all enjoy while traveling downhill), they would simply put the lens on a set of small hinges that allow it to “pop” away from the frame of the lens slightly.
- This small movement allows a huge amount of airflow behind the lens, effectively preventing fogging in all but the warmest conditions.
This small change in design has totally changed how I use my goggles in the backcountry. As soon as I get to the bottom of a run, instead of tearing off my goggles as soon as possible to switch back to glasses, I now simply pop the lens into “vent mode”. On most days, I can actually wear the goggles on the ascent!
In a mountaineering context, this makes an even bigger difference. Once relegated to the absolute worst conditions, goggles can now effectively be worn, for instance, for the entire summit day of a rainier climb. This will allow for improved visibility and comfort over glacier glasses in stormy conditions, without the requisite sweat-factor usually present in trying to wear goggles while climbing uphill. And when conditions start to deteriorate, simply pop the lens back into their “closed mode” and you’re safely encased in a traditional windproof goggle.
Simply put, the Superflow system represents a minor but effective upgrade over any other google design we have tried. Especially for mountaineering, we think this technology will largely replace any of our previous goggle choices.
If you’re interested in learning more, Julbo has a great write-up on the tech here.
Feel free to get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more about goggles for mountaineering, backcountry skiing, or mountain use!