Just call me the Fogmaster, because that’s what I do with just about every goggle I’ve tried. No matter what uber-cool technology comes along, from coatings and materials to fans and vents–I’ll find a way to fog ’em right up. So, when I was introduced to Wink Jackson from Zeal at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2006, I was intrigued by her confidence that I would have a fog-free ride with their goggles. Zeal is based in Moab, UT and is still a small operation. Because of that, Zeal is rapidly improving products and innovating at a quicker pace than other mega sunglass companies. All their products are backed by a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty and a crash replacement policy, should you break them while getting up close and personal with the groomers at your local resort.
Zeal Optics Link Goggles Details
The Zeal Optics Link goggles are Zeal’s most helmet-compatible goggle in their line. In fact, the goggle is built specifically to be worn with a helmet. It sports both upper and lower Air Intake Boosters (A.I.M.) that are made to allow airflow even when the top of the goggle is sitting against the brow of the helmet. There’s no adjustable vents, just constant airflow to ensure the most fog-free riding available today.
The lenses included with my Link goggles were both polarized and photochromatic–an industry first! These lenses boast the ability to automatically adjust to varying light conditions (photochromatic), while always blocking out glare with the polarized lens process.
Zeal Optics Link Goggle Performance
I’ve tried a lot of goggles over the years and have always found a way to fog them up. I’ve also worn a helmet for almost 10 years, so I’ve been very picky about goggle designs and their compatibility with helmets. The Link goggles are built with helmets in mind, so that’s awesome. With the usage of helmets these days, it’s nice to know that a goggle was manufactured to be helmet compatible from the get-go and has vents that are specifically designed for helmet use.
Many other manufacturers have “helmet compatible” designs, but their vents and overall frame design doesn’t differ from the non-helmet compatible designs. The features found on the Link goggle are a great example of the thought and dedication that smaller companies, like Zeal, put into their products.
Now onto the lenses… While listening to Wink explain to me how the photochromatic lenses eliminate the need to change lenses based on varying light conditions, I couldn’t help but think of my High School drafting teacher’s Larry King-style glasses. They were huge and they were photochromatic, which I thought was very, very nerdy at the time. Maybe it was the combination of auto-tinting glasses and pocket protector that just put things over the top… who knows? The bottom line is that with Zeal’s exclusive photochromatic and polarized lens, you won’t need to swap out the lenses on all but the darkest of days.
I used the Link goggles on a dark, gloomy day at Bogus Basin Ski Resort and a mixed clouds and sun day at Park City Mountain. These tough light conditions were a great test for the capabilities of this lens design. While at Bogus, the clouds made things very dark. I did find that the lens was still a bit too dark for my taste, but it wasn’t bad. Clarity was still great, things were just a tinge darker than I’d like them to be. But, at Park City in mixed sun and clouds, the lenses worked very well. As the sun poked in and out of the clouds, the lenses automagically adjusted to the conditions and I never found them to be too dark or too bright. They worked great. So, in all but the darkest conditions, the photochromatic lenses proved their worth as a flexible alternative to carrying multiple lenses to the slopes.
Now onto the fogging issue. I purposely kept the goggles on while hiking from the top of the Jupiter Lift to the summit of Jupiter Peak. This is about a 30 minute ridgeline slog with about 500 feet in elevation gain. Most of the time, I have to put my goggles on the top of the helmet to keep them from fogging. During this hike and all other times using these goggles, the lenses remained fog-free. Not once did I experience any condensation inside the lenses. So, at least during my tests, this particular fog machine couldn’t fog ’em up.
Overall comfort of the Zeal goggles is excellent. The soft material against the skin is comfortable and smooth in all temperatures. The pivoting strap attachment also ensures even facial pressure with any type of helmet. I also liked the grippy rubber lining on the inside of the strap to keep things in place. Adjusting the goggles is easy with the double adjustment hooks.
I had a couple of minor complaints with the Link goggles. The first one was that the strap doesn’t have a clip on it. I don’t know if Smith has a patent on that or not, but the strap clip sure makes things easier when putting on or taking off the goggles. The flat lens does have some distortion at certain angles of vision, but that’s typical of flat lenses. The optional spherical lens should eliminate that distortion. Also, the photochromatic lens wasn’t so great in dark, cloudy conditions.
The Bottom Line on the Zeal Link Goggles
Overall, I was impressed with the Zeal Link goggles. The attention to detail is unsurpassed and the built-in technology is above the competition. I completely dig the photochromatic and polarized lens for nearly all conditions. I found the goggles to be very comfortable and functional. The best thing about the Link goggles is that I didn’t think about them at all. Many times, my goggles are the weakest link in an otherwise flawless gear selection–not so with the Link goggles. They were the no fuss goggle option that can transition automatically from cloudy to sunny conditions and don’t fog up one iota.
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