Goggles for Winter Walking and Mountaineering
As winter is approaching I thought I’d write a little piece on goggles for mountaineering and winter hill walking and how, after 15 years, I have, at last, bought a fantastic pair.
Getting a good pair of goggles for winter walking is incredibly important, if you can’t see you can’t navigate. Unfortunately, I think that most goggles you find in outdoor shops are designed for sking rather than winter mountaineering and most shop assistants don’t seem to be able to advise on the difference.
I have four pairs of goggles in total. Two pairs of Bloc, one pair of Oakley’s and a pair from TK max which seem to be made by a company called Ars. As Ars proudly stitch their name onto the head band it can look a bit obscene in photos if your head is at the wrong angle.
Very briefly here is my goggle history and a bit of advice for consideration.
1) 15 years ago I bought a pair of Bloc goggles off a friend, they worked well until something broke in them and they started filling with water between the lenses so I decided to buy a new pair.
2) I went to TK Maxx and got a pair for a tenner. They were terrible, they don’t clear at all so you can’t really see anything. They may be ok at speed on a ski run but for walking they are no good.
3) Next I bought a pair of Bloc goggles and was happy with them, they clear fairly quickly, look good and I thought all was well. Then one night I was out with Dave practicing some winter night navigation. I took us to the specific contour feature he had asked me to go to and gave him a challenge for the next leg. The weather was deteriorating so we decided to put our goggles on. After putting mine on I couldn’t see the contour on the map that I had just navigated to, even though I knew exactly where it was. I gave Dave’s goggles a try and it was amazing. I realised that I was basically wearing orange tinted sun glasses and trying to navigate at night.
Not only was the distance I could see massively reduced but contour lines were incredibly hard to make out, especially when they were a bit obscured by other features or water / ice on the map case.
4) So I went shopping the next day and decided to test for myself. I ended up in the shop with the largest selection, lying on the floor with a big blanket over my head. I had with me a head torch, a selection of maps (3 different scales) in map cases and a bit of water to splash on the map case. I ended up buying some Oakley Catapult goggles (slightly bigger round the bridge of the nose than the Ambush, I thought it may be better when struggling for breath walking up hill). They are truly incredible, while I thought my bloc goggles were good, these are so much better for clarity in daylight and night time as well as seemingly being impossible to fog up. if you were to want to take a look at the beauty of this lens it is the Oakley ‘Persimmon’ lens that is found in many of their goggles. I am assuming that Catapult goggles will not be sold forever but the Persimmon lens should be about for a bit (here is an example of a current , 2021, goggle with the persimmon lens).
Basically, I bought these a while ago so have no idea what the market is like today, I am sure that Bloc do some good goggles for winter walking too but I think I have always had tinted ones which fogged up a bit.
If you are buying goggles I would definitely recommend going goggle shopping with a blanket, torch, maps and water. Yes it is a bit embarrassing but worth it if you don’t want to waste your money on an expensive pair of sunglasses that are useless for winter walking and look silly at the beach.
And lastly. You do need to protect your goggles when they are in your rucksack so unless you spend a fortune and they come with a hard case you’ll have to get one. There are various hard goggle cases (here is another hard goggle case) on the market for £10-£20 or take your goggles to a big supermarket and buy a suitably sized lunch box. Make sure you don’t store your goggles in an air tight lunch box over summer though or they may go mouldy.
If you would like to learn more about winter mountaineering or simply be taken on an amazing winter walking trip then visit our winter skills and expeditions page.