Perfection. It’s something many people, and many companies, strive to achieve in one specific area. With the Pipeline model of sunglasses, it seems like Julbo has come as close to eyewear perfection as any mountain athlete could require for regular use. I’ve worn these sunglasses virtually every day since they arrived, in a range of sports such as ski mountaineering, rock climbing, trail running, and downhill mountain biking. Early morning, noon, and evening, these things have been plastered to my face – even when I’m just driving around town.
And I’ve been completely impressed with their light blocking capabilities. This, although my initial reaction upon opening the box was, ‘I’m not sure if I’m edgy enough for these shades!’ That’s an over the top reaction, but these shades simply smack of refined coolness.
Checking some details should help to explain why these glasses are awesome in more than just appearance. For starters, the Julbo Pipeline is offered with four different lenses that provide their own specialization. The sunglasses I’ve worn are fitted with the Zebra Antifog lens in a yellow/brown tint. The lens is photochromic, which simply means that the lenses darken or lighten depending on the available light. If it’s bright and sunny, they darken. If you’re in the shadow of a mountain, or the sun is beginning to set as you’re riding the trail, the lenses lighten.
The photochromic feature alone is worth spending a bit of time discussing. For any athlete who has long days out there, operates in the pre-dawn light, watches the sunrise turn into a high noon blaze, and is still going as the afternoon shadows lengthen, photochromic lenses are a real treat. Completely hands-free (no lens changing required), the Zebra lens handles the differences in the sun’s illumination for the wearer. This is excellent for any ski mountaineer, because their hands are often filled with tools, ropes, crampons, ski poles, snow, or even rocks. Stopping to fiddle with sunglasses – taking them off, putting them on, or changing a lens – is the last thing one wants to do when perched on a steep slope. On the other hand, not wearing a pair of sunglasses on a sunny day leads to burning eyes…
Forget those photochromic lenses you’ve seen friends wear that are still dark from fending off sunlight long after your pal has entered a darker place such as the indoors, or vice versa. Julbo’s Zebra photochromic lens offers a light transmission rate that changes between 47% and 66% light blockage (as needed) in as fast as 28 seconds. Or, if you prefer, they’ll switch from Category 2, the least light blockage, to Category 4, their darkest color, in 28 seconds, if you move between those two categories. More minor lightening or darkening, as the wearer switches between more subtly nuanced shaded areas, take less time.
That’s high speed activation, and here’s a simple example of where I’ve noticed it. I leave a darker area, such as the house, wearing the glasses. Walk to the car, unlock the door, slip inside. Turn on the car to drive where I’m going. Check my mirrors. Put it in drive. And, without a single conscious thought from me, the glasses have already adjusted to the present level of outdoor light, offering just the right amount of light dimming.
And that’s just a mundane, around town usage. On a good mountain day such as my recent foray on the North Face of Cardiff Peak, a pretty full range of light is experienced. From sunlight to a shadowy north aspect and then back to blazing overhead sunlight, the Julbo Pipeline handles the light intensity transitions with ease. And with speed. I have yet to think, ‘Gee, I wish these lenses would lighten (or darken) faster!’ They function inconspicuously and seamlessly. Very smooth.
There’s far more to these sunglasses than just the lens, however. Well, a frame, anyway. But that frame, combined with the lens, is super cool. They’re hip and edgy, whether in the city or on a mountain. The white frames contrast perfectly with the orange accents. And that’s just appearance-based stuff.
Those orange accents hugging the ears and temple are rubberized. The Pipeline stays in place, whether I’m sweating profusely during a run/speed hike or skiing bonecrushing icy chatter on my descent. The wraparound lenses provide a good range of vision, although I can just see the outer lens frame in my peripheral vision if I’m paying attention to it. Normally though, I’m looking forward or turning my head slightly to look to the side, so that’s a non-issue. One cool aspect of the hollowed arms is that if one is travelling fast enough to create a breeze, there is a cooling wind effect created along the temples.
One problem I’ve noted is that sweat can and does drip onto the lenses when I’m working hard. This can obscure my vision, and no amount of anti-fog treatment prevents the occurrence. The good news is that Julbo includes a foam piece that inserts just above the nose pieces to absorb sweat and prevent this from happening. Seems like they’ve made a conscious effort to address this issue, common to any pair of sunglasses. From my personal perspective, I don’t prefer the foam piece in place. It places the sunglasses too far forward on my face, and they suddenly feel less secure on the bridge of my nose. Using the foam piece also allows additional air to enter beneath the frames, which can go right into the eye. Since I use sunglasses in lieu of goggles, I don’t prefer this setup. After using the foam piece briefly early on, I’ve exclusively worn the Pipelines without it.
Other than that, my only complaint or problem is probably due to personal body geometry. Don’t worry, the glasses fit perfect right out of the box – and if they don’t, the nosepieces are adjustable to create the ideal fit. But for me, where the very end of the arms touch my head just behind the ears, I can get a bit sore after wearing the shades all day. This is most pronounced when I’m also wearing a hat or helmet, which places additional pressure on the arms, pushing them slightly into my skin. People with different body configurations probably won’t even notice this, however.
All told, the Julbo Pipeline is everything an active person wants in a pair of sunglasses. They fit very well – and, importantly, stay in place – automatically adjust to changing light conditions, and stand out like a hipster on a hayride while performing. They’re just as at home on your face in windy summit weather as in encroaching darkness on a trail as they are when you’re cruising through town with the sunroof wide open. The white-framed Julbo Pipeline photochromic sunglasses are the very definition of effective eyewear, while keeping up a sharp appearance. Maybe even cooler than the hipsters…
As I stated at the beginning, Julbo has neared perfection with this effort at performance eyewear. Such a quality arrives at a retail cost of $160. Find ‘em online at your favorite shop or head directly to Julbo’s webpage.