Will Ross, September 18, 2014
There’s a long list of brands who pitch sunglass styles that claim to meet the demands of entirely different activities, a tough corner to defend when it comes to catering for adventure sports. While many performance sunglasses are built to be multi-functioning, the best are designed to match the requirements of a particular discipline, or perhaps pair of disciplines for multisports like triathlon or adventure racing. Trail running is a good example of a sport that requires a very specific lens-to-frame interaction to handle constant variations in speed, light and stability. The Julbo Trail is designed with this one sport in mind, successfully meeting the key demands that a challenging trail run presents.
The most important consideration for trail running sunglasses is their ability to stave off nasty rays from direct sunlight; whilst you can run without sunglasses if the frame is a problem, ensuring that the lens protects against irritating or blinding sunlight is vital. One of the major features of the Julbo Trail are its light-sensitive Zebra lenses that adjust to become darker or lighter within Category 2 and Category 4 light levels. I found that the Trail handled higher light levels well but I was more impressed by its performance in shifting to lower light when it came to running under trees and bridges. Of course the nature of trail running means that you keep your eyes down on the trail so there is limited 90˚ incidence to handle, although later I’ll discuss their performance in confronting these conditions.
Second to the lenses’ protective capabilities are its anti-misting features. To aid ventilation the Trail lenses are only semi-attached to the frame, allowing for air flow around the lens to minimise fogging. Despite the panoramic lens I found the Trail to be trustworthy in wicking away moisture and reducing the temperature of the eye area. Whereas I used to mist up full-frame sunglasses in a matter of minutes in mild to warm temperatures, the lightweight, fully-vented Trail remained clear even when I worked harder at a slower pace on ascents – a joy.
Finally, the frames. Incredibly bendy, the frames have the benefit of being super-durable whilst ensuring the maximum amount of comfort and stability. Although a tight, rigid frame will help prevent the glasses from slipping, it does not absorb shocks from heavy landings and sharp changes in direction. The frames include some grippy parts on the inside of the frame, and an adjustable nose piece to ensure a secure fit there. It’s worth mentioning here that the lenses are ‘soft’ and flexible, meaning that they absorb shock to prevent potential shattering if they fall off from head-height, although a serious cliff-drop test is in order here.
The Trail does however state to be fit for cycling, a claim that I don’t entirely agree with. Sunlight at the end of the day at higher latitudes can be remarkably strong, conditions which the Julbo Trail doesn’t address.
However for running over varied terrain in mixed lighting I’d certainly go for the Julbo Trail. Backed up by a solid case feel free to take these sunglasses to the trail where they belong.