Best goggles for mountaineering

One piece of mountaineering equipment often overlooked is a good pair of goggles. They’re an important part of your kit, and provided you get the right pair and look after them they should last for years. It might not be ice climbing weather in Yorkshire, but Scotland is definitely still keeping you winter mountaineers enthused.  So for those of you lucky enough to be heading into the mountains soon, you’ll need a pair of goggles.

Ice climbers have been known to wear face shields instead of goggles to protect themselves from shards of ice or falling debris, but shields can fog up very quickly, especially during intense physical exertion. You should really try to find a pair of goggles with a double lens, which helps to avoid a build up of moisture inside. As opposed to single lenses which will almost certainly steam up and impair your vision. Always go for polycarbonate lenses because they’re much stronger and lighter than the alternatives.

If the weather turns while you’re mountaineering, you’ll rely heavily on your goggles to help you see properly. Sleet and snow can seriously affect your vision, and if you’re heading into really cold terrain your eyelids can literally weld shut! This happened to me on the high street in Banff, in Alberta, and it was bad enough. I shudder to think what it might have been like on an alpine ridge!

Believe it or not, nobody really manufacturers ‘mountaineering specific’ goggles, so everyone uses ones designed for snow sports instead. The best and most stylish are Anon Goggles and Electric Goggles, both are well known and respected by skiers and snowboarders. Both brands offer a great range to fit a variety of face shapes and sizes.

If you’re after an inexpensive but perfectly adequate goggle, the Helix Mirrored by Anon Optics is well worth a look. It costs just £49.95 and comes with a free spare lens (ideal for those of you who are rough on your gear). The Helix has a smallish vented frame, well suited for small face. If you’re looking to invest in better technology you might consider a spherical lens. Spherical lenses follow the contour of your eye meaning you get less optical distortion (sometimes found with flat lenses). The Anon Realm features a spherical lens, combined with a slightly larger frame than the Helix, providing a wider view through the frame. The ventilation system on the Realm goggles is the best that I’ve seen to date. It features a removable mesh which can be taken out when the weather is good and returned if it turns ugly. The mesh membrane is also moisture repellent, to protect the venting channel from harsh weather.

Electric EG1 Goggles with a bronze silver chrome lens come in fantastic colours and you get a free, spare, pink lens with them. The EG1 goggle is a popular choice as the pink lens is great for ‘flat light’ conditions. The lenses are easy to swap, so you’re covered for all light conditions. These goggles do sit quite wide on your face, so you’ll need to try them on with your mountaineering helmet to check that they’re compatible. I tried all 3 models in this review, with the Petzl Ecrin Rock, the Petzl Elios and the Mammut Sky Walker II – both the Helix and Realm fitted perfectly, but the EG1 felt a bit too wide.