Best Value
Glade Optics Challenger

Glade Optics is a Breckenridge-based goggle company that aims for the sweet spot between a low price tag and high value. This season we’ve received a few models to put through our testing process, starting with their award-winning Challenger Goggle.

In our initial overview, we’ll be pitting the Challenger against top-performers to see if this accessible alternative can hold its own against Oakley, Smith, and other industry titans.

We’ll be updating the guide as we spend more time getting to know Glade Optics while winter ramps up, but in the meantime here are the tech specs and preseason impressions.

Our Overall Review

4.5

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Competitive quality coming from a small business
  • check-mark
    Affordable spare lenses so you can actually make use of the swap technology
  • check-mark
    Impressively low price tag

Things we don't like:

  • check-markWhile the lens change system works, it’s a little clunky
  • check-markOnly comes with one set of lenses

Where to buy:

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Glade Optics Challenger

Lens Quality

In regard to the quality of vision, Glade uses a pretty standard polycarbonate lens. It’s the same basic formula as Smith or Oakley but not disguised behind a wall of cryptic proprietary jargon. Known for impact resistance, minimal visual distortion, and UV protection- the Challenger checks all the right boxes right off the bat.

The most glaring visual quality difference between the Challenger’s lenses and high-end models is centered around lens shape. There are plenty of high-quality cylindrical lenses out there, but as a rule, more expensive spherical lenses will always outperform them.

While the spherical versus cylindrical dilemma is worth further consideration for those after top-quality visual performance, the Challenger performs comparably to other models we’ve tested in its shape category. If you have more questions about lens shape, the issue is tackled extensively in our buyer’s guide.

Glade Optics Base Lens Quality

Burnt Orange Lenses

As the Challenger typically only includes one set of lenses, we opted to try the Burn Orange 25.4% VLT option. This versatile color will hopefully line up with the mixed and moody lighting conditions we see a lot of in the Pacific Northwest.

As far as initial impressions go, I’m getting plenty of contrast and clarity as I gaze longingly out my overcast window towards the growing North Cascade snowpack.

Glade makes a total of four standard lenses across the VLT spectrum, as well as a special 76.5% low light model for heavy snow days. You can get your hands on an extra set of lenses for just shy of $50 a piece, with the exception of their high-light silver which is a little more expensive.

Specs & Features

  • Dual Layer Polycarbonate Lens
  • Cylindrical “frameless” build
  • Quicklens snap out lens change system
  • Ultraclear anti-fog ventilation system
  • Flexible TPU frame
  • Detachable strap with silicone grip
  • Wide helmet compatibility
See the complete list of the best Ski Goggles here!
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Lens Change System

Lens change systems are tough to do well for less than premium price. You either have to challenge your mechanical aptitude with a series of complicated buttons and levers, or otherwise surrender to a brute force “snap on” approach.

The Challenger opts for the latter, and unfortunately it’s the only major flaw I’ve found in its design so far. It reminds me of the Oakley Flight Deck in that I feel like I’m going to shatter the lens every time I pull it from the frame. To Glade’s credit, I had a much easier initial go with their lenses than I have had the bulbous and oversized Flight Deck.

Getting the lenses fixed back into place is no cakewalk either. It takes a fair amount of pushing and there’s no good way to go about it without smearing your greasy fingers all over the front of the lens. It’s not something I could recommend trying under duress, let alone in gloves. You’re better off taking your time somewhere warm to avoid frustration and frostbite.

Fortunately, Glade also makes a fixed polychromatic goggle called the Adapt that will adjust based on what the weather is doing, as well as a higher end MagFlight model that successfully emulates the quick change magnet tech we see in high end models like the Smith I/O Mag.

Glade Optics Base Lens Change System

Ventilation and Fog Mitigation

While they’ve yet to be thrown to the crucible of an ambitious bootpack on a high-humidity day, the Challengers look pretty sound from a technical standpoint.

The standard dual layer of anti-fog treatment is a good starting point, but the Challengers are also loaded with vents.

The top portion of the frame has three high-volume channels, matched by a pair of less ambitious vents on the bottom. The lenses themselves also have a series of narrow front facing vents that can help mitigate buildup on when things get particularly moist.

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Related Reviews

Fit and Field of View

There isn’t much bad to say about the Challengers from a comfort standpoint. Flexible frame goggles like this are always going to feel better on your face long term, particularly when they have fleece padding on the foam.

The only other thing I don’t like about these goggles is their relatively small frame compared to the oversized models I usually wear. This can’t really be qualified as a failing on their part, my frame size preferences being based on aesthetics and having a big head.

Functionally this translates to a somewhat limited field of view. I don’t have perfect peripheral vision in the Challengers like I would in a larger frame or with a spherical lens.

While I’m not overly concerned with the minimal blindspot, it’s another little noticeable detail that marks the difference between these and high-end models. The Anon M4 Toric is an excellent example of a goggle with a more modest frame that still allows for a sweeping field of view.

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Helmet Compatibility

A seamless fit with your helmet is really nice to have in any pair of goggles. Glade briefly addresses their dedication to combating the “Gaper Gap” in a quick FAQ blurb on their website.

According to their copy, Glade goggles should be compatible with most helmets on the market, though they encourage taking a look at their one Tenmile model if it’s something your worried about.

I tried Challengers with both of the helmets I have lying around my gear stash and I can confirm that I was gap free, and think that they would work with almost anything you wanted to pair them with.

Glade Optics Base Helmet Compatibility

Value

We’ve covered the Challenger’s impressive feature set and solid build. While the true test of endurance will have to wait until our snow base is more established, it’s time to talk about value.

At just under $100, it’s hard to find much that can compete with the Challenger within its price range. Most cylindrical mainstays from major manufacturers are going to start around twice that, and the lenses are likely to be more expensive. The closest thing we can find is the Smith Squad which currently retails for $120, with most of the spare lenses priced around $75.

Durability will likely be the most important factor moving forward, though if anyone else’s opinion is to be trusted then it looks like Glade is doing just fine on that front as well. We’ll be sure to include updates as the season progresses and we spend more time with our Challengers.

All told the Challengers are stylish and serviceable, with the full complement of amenities you’d look for in any pair of quality goggles. If you’re sick of shelling out for big brands, or are looking for a good entry point to your ski gear collection- we don’t hesitate to recommend them.

glade-optics-base-value.jpg

Our Overall Review

4.5

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Competitive quality coming from a small business
  • check-mark
    Affordable spare lenses so you can actually make use of the swap technology
  • check-mark
    Impressively low price tag

Things we don't like:

  • check-markWhile the lens change system works, it’s a little clunky
  • check-markOnly comes with one set of lenses
FAQ

Frequently asked questions

What are the best ski goggles?

The best pair of goggles for you is based on your build and budget, and it’s difficult to navigate what is certainly a very flooded market. Our goggle buyer’s guide has all the details you need to make your decision, along with side by side comparisons of our favorites. In the meantime, here’s a short list of our favorites.
Best ski goggles

  • Smith I/O Mag
  • Anon M4 Toric
  • Oakley Fall Line
  • Glade Challenger
  • Atomic Revent FDL
Are Glade goggles any good?

Glade may be a smaller company compared to the mainstay names in the industry, but their lineup of affordable goggles punches way above their weight class and price tag. For a closer look at their flagship model, take a look at our review of their flagship Challenger model. If you’re in need of more information on goggles at large, our buyer’s guide can help you decide between Glade and the rest of the competition.

Where is Glade headquartered?

Glade’s team is based out of Breckenridge, CO and is dedicated to making high quality goggles for skiers, by skiers. You can take a look at our review of their Challenger goggles for a better idea of what they’re all about, and head over to our buyer’s guide to see how they stack up against the competition.

What is VLT in goggles?

VLT stands for visual light transmission, and is a measurement of how much light is filtered out by the lens of your goggles before reaching your eyes. This translates to how “bright” the world around you looks. Higher VLT means more light will reach your eyes, and should be used on overcast days while lower percentages should be saved for when it’s sunny. For more on ski goggles and how to choose the right pair for your needs, take a look at our buyer’s guide.

What is the difference between spherical and cylindrical lenses?

Cylindrical lenses are curved along one axis, like a can of soup, while spherical lenses are curved across two axii more like a beach ball or contact. Spherical lenses typically deliver higher performance results but cost more money, while cylindrical do an adequate job for significantly less. Take a look at our buyer’s guide for more information on how to narrow your search for your best pair of goggles.

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