Fifty shades of grey lens tints

Pick a color, any color, boom, done! Right? Not so. Choosing the best lens to use isn't as easy as just picking whatever color matches your helmet.

First off, full disclosure, as the superficial industrial designer-nerd I am, I would of course prefer it if the lens matched my helmet (and my jacket and my pants and my boots and the underside of my skis and the fonts on my cell phone home screen), but more importantly the lens should match the current conditions. And I’m not talking about the conditions of your wardrobe.

Second off, I’m one of two hardware designers here at Norrøna HQ. Industrial designer by trade, and a total gear nerd. I could go on for hours discussing only the tiniest buckle on a backpack, or the length of a zipper on a tent. Tents, you ask? But Norrøna doesn’t make tents? Well, guess who’s a tent designer, so stay tuned! But more on that later. Let’s talk goggles!

So you’re heading out to slide on snow. Is it full on bluebird, not a cloud in sight? Is it snowing? Foggy? Or perhaps you’re out for a romantic evening shred in the moonlight? Different conditions require lenses with different shades of grey, or pink, or yellow, or perhaps something completely different. And just to make your decision even more complicated, add shapes, coatings, and mirror finishes, and suddenly it makes sense that there cannot be just one goggle to rule them all. One does not simply just wear a sick goggle and shred.


But let’s start at the very beginning.


What’s in a goggle? Let’s break down the lofoten goggle:

  • An adjustable, elastic strap – this secures the goggle to your noggin. Silicon strips on the inside keep the strap securely in place on your helmet. Because you’re wearing a helmet, right?
  • A frame – a dual density frame holds the lens in place in front of your eyes. Dual density, you ask? Heck, we’ve even added a dual density foam to the dual density plastic frame! That’s quadruple density! Two different types of plastic in the frame, and two densities of foam, ensure the perfect amount of flexibility of the frame for it to comfortably adapt to the specific shape of your face, while also maintaining enough rigidity to hold the lens in place without distorting it for perfect send-o-vision. And here’s a little insider fun fact: take a close look to the front of the nose piece (the side facing the lens). See how the surface isn’t smooth, like the rest of the goggle? The rough surface breaks up light rays and eliminates glare and reflection from the inside of the lens. Pretty neat!
  • A lens – in fact, two lenses. A clear inner lens adds stability and reduces condensation (the technical term for when water vapor fogs up your send-o-vision). And then you have the business part of it all, the tinted outer lens.

A typical goggle lens is either cylindrical, spherical or toric. Cylindrical means it’s curved in only one direction, you know, like a cylinder (picture a roll of toilet paper, that’s a cylinder). It’s cheaper and easier to produce, and has a retro vibe, which is cool if you’re more focused on the looks rather than the performance. Spherical means the lens is curved equally in two directions. What’s a sphere? A ball is a sphere. Why bother with the added curve? Imagine standing in the shallow end of a swimming pool, with water up to your knees. As light hits the surface of the water, it changes direction which makes your legs look shorter. The goggle lens isn’t as thick as the water is deep, so the effect isn’t as noticeable, but to avoid this effect, we curve the glass in both directions. Is there an even better way? Yes, indeed! Our lenses are toric, which means they curve in both directions, but with different radii (picture an American football). The up/down curve has a smaller radius than the side-to-side curve. This shape perfectly matches the shape of your eye as you are looking around for the next cliff drop to stomp. No visual distortions – perfect send-o-vision!

This was supposed to be a rather short blog post, and not a deep dive into the magical world of goggle lenses. But it’s hard to hold back when you’re an easily excited nerd like me! So let’s take a little breather and come back to look at lens tints and coatings for my next blog post. Talk about cliffhanger! Stay tuned, fellow gear nerds!

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