Your open water swimming goggles might be one of your less expensive kit purchases, but it’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about your needs before you buy. Will you be using them to try and nail your ‘A’-race swim? If so, what will the conditions be like? If you’re heading to Lanza or somewhere similarly hot, then you’ll need a set than can cope with glare. If you’re targeting a UK race, however, or want your goggles to work for multiple different races, a set that can cope with mixed conditions from bright sun to murky water and cloudy skies will be better.
With so many different goggle options out there, choosing the right pair for you can sometimes feel overwhelming. And the inconvenient truth is that we all have different face shapes, eyesight and fit preferences. So, as with most tri kit, it’s simply a case of trying out as many as you can until you come across that hallowed pair that you can stick on and forget about!
While goggles aren’t your biggest financial outlay when competing in triathlon, the wrong choice can prove very costly if they don’t do their job properly in a race, which is why it’s important to settle on your go-to goggles well before racing in open water.
When choosing, you might want to consider some clear and additional tinted or mirrored versions of the same goggles to account for different light conditions.
Or you might find that the latest polarised and photochromatic lens technologies (found on many pairs in this test) work fine regardless of the weather.
There are numerous shapes and sizes of goggle in this test with various types of swimmer in mind, so we judged each on their own merits and compared where appropriate. We tested in the sea (Gran Canaria, not
the UK – we’re not that hardy) and outdoor pools to get a good sense of comfort, how each pair reacted to differing light conditions, in murky and clear water, and in various degrees of chop.
Zoggs predator flex polarized ultra reactor open water swimming goggles
That lengthy name is testament to just how many iterations of this triathlete’s favourite are now available. First up, yes, that price point puts them into serious pay-day treat territory. That said, these goggles and are the only ones on test to be both photochromatic (so change depending on light conditions) and polarised. One of our testers reported it tricky to find a good seal, the other had no such issues. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that two fits are available (regular and small). Once on and properly adjusted, though, both testers were impressed by the superb clarity of vision offered, especially on changeable weather days in the lake where the sun kept briefly appearing. They are very comfortable – even on longer swims – and feel appreciatively light on the face. Side clips makes adjusting them extremely easy. We’ve previously had durability issues with the nose piece, so we’d always keep them in the supplied hard case in-between swims. zoggs.com
Verdict: a comfortable classic updated with superb lenses, but a considered spend at £60! 88%
Buy from Zoggs
Huub Aphotic open water swimming goggles
We’ve had the Aphotics on test before and the fact that they remain unchanged reflects the popularity of this stylish google. You get a hard clamshell case, and the overall feel of these chunky goggles is solid and good quality. In the water they gave excellent clarity of vision, and the photochromatic lenses adapted quickly to changes in light from almost clear on a dull day to fully smoked when the sun came out – ideal if you only want to buy one pair for racing. The adjuster buttons are easy to operate with cold, numb hands and the wide strap is comfortable – plus you get a spare one in the box, which is a neat touch. Our female tester found these a little heavy on the face in longer swims, but the gaskets are soft and comfortable. Four colourways are available, all designed to match Huub’s range of wetsuits. huubdesign.com
Verdict: now a tri classic and a good-looking, versatile goggle, if a little on the chunky side 84%
Buy from Wiggle
First up, there’s no avoiding the fact that these goggles are almost identical in design to the Huubs. Frame size, shape and gasket feel is the same, meaning you enjoy the same great peripheral vision and comfortable feel (though again, these are bulky and can feel a little heavy on the face). There’s only a couple of pounds in it, so a lot will come down to the small differences. Here, you don’t get a case – which seems stingy – but they’re a couple of quid cheaper (a case can be ordered for an extra £10, ouch). We arguably prefer the finish of the Huub goggles with that silver edging, too. If you’re not keen on photochromatic, though, it’s worth noting that the Vapours also come in three other colourways and with polarised lenses for £35, with the pair including a mirrored finish being our preference.
Verdict: so similar to the Huub’s it boils down to brand preference. scoring less here as no hard case 80%
Buy from Wiggle
Blueseventy Hydra Vision open water swimming goggles
Like others on test these come from an established tri brand. Yet, to be honest, for a specialist open-water goggle we found ourselves a bit underwhelmed. The overall look and feel of these is a bit cheap and the gaskets didn’t feel as comfortable as we would like. We also had some problems with fogging, although the tint on the lenses was nice and a mirrored finish is always welcome on race day for psyching out your rivals. You get a wide double strap, which is appreciated, and adjustment is via a button on each side under the rubber of the frames. A neat idea, but in practise we found them tricky to operate and, with cold, wet hands, it was hard to sense if you’d found or depressed the button. They do sit quite close to the face (low-profile), which may reduce the chance of them getting knocked off mid-swim. blueseventy.co.uk
Verdict: decent looks and lenses, though we had some fogging issues and the materials felt a bit cheap, 70%
Buy from Blueseventy
Joining the battle between Huub and Zone3 in this test is budget brand Lomo, whose Vigour looks to have come from the same design studio as the other two. Although they share the same shape and features, the quality isn’t quite there and we had concerns over the rattling adjuster buttons, although they actually worked fine in testing. The lenses are what matter, however, and here you get a grey tint and polarised lens, which did a good job in our lake and pre-lockdown lido testing sessions. Here we should mention the price, too, as at £15 these are less than half the price of Zone3’s equivalent polarised Vapour. Bargain. Plus the gaskets are soft, the peripheral vision equally good and the similarly wide, double strap helped keep them feeling secure. You even get a hard case included for the money.
Verdict: Similar looks to top-end brands, but at a fraction of the price. Decent polarised lenses 75%
Buy from Amazon
Roka R1 open water swimming goggle
Both our testers agreed these had the best immediate fit and feel in testing, and also gave us the best clarity of vision with no fogging or leaking. They look pretty damn smart, too, and there are a wide range of tints to suit your preference – ours shown here were the amber mirror, which enhance conditions in transition light and also makes orange and red buoys more visible, which is useful on race day. There are 12 options, including mirrored and non-mirrored, though no polarised or photochromatic. Field of vision is superb, although both testers reported an orange flickering effect at the edges. The single back clip means you can’t adjust these on the fly, either, though the double strap did keep them secure. You get a soft case included, though we’d (as always) prefer to see a hard case for protection. uk.roka.com
Verdict: Very comfortable, a great seal and the pair we reached for more often than any other on test 90%
Buy from Sigma Sports
Vorgee Vortech open water swimming goggles
One of the budget offerings on test, you can’t help compare these to the Lomo goggles. With Aussie brand Vorgee, although a couple of pounds more than Lomo, you only get a tinted lens (other polarised ones are available) and we found that, on a murky day in a murky lake, these just made things even murkier and didn’t give that crisp clarity we’d be looking for on race day – casting everything with a kind of milky film. We also found them a bit hard to seal and they were one of the only pairs on test to fog up. The overall size of the lenses was nice, though, and the double strap felt secure, although the little ball-button on each side for adjusting was a bit fiddly with cold hands. The gaskets were soft, but our male tester had to pull these very tight to try and get them to seal against his face.
Verdict: low spend, but we would still want better vision and clarity, even at this end of the market 65%
Buy from House of Fraser
Speedo Futura open water swimming goggles
On test here is the Speedo Biofuse Flexiseal Triathlon goggle, shown in the female fit (a male version is available, too, with a different face shape fit and white frame, which our male tester tried). The fit and feel is closest to the Zoggs in this test and you get similar soft gel-like gaskets, although the lenses are a touch bigger. The lenses are polarised, which we appreciated for the price point, while the tint gave good clarity – if a tiny bit dark – on murkier weather days. In bright sunlight, though, they were great and protected well against glare. The straps are wide and secure, while many other brands here could learn a lot from those simple push button adjustors that were one of the simplest to operate. Plus, it’s a small detail, but that neon orange strap made these the easiest to find in our kit bag. They look cool, too! speedo.com
Verdict: comfortable goggles with a quality feel and some decent lenses in mixed conditions 80%
Buy from Speedo
Aqua Sphere Kaiman Exo open water swimming goggles
We’ve had good experiences in the past with Aqua Sphere’s range of goggles but sadly these fell short of the mark for both our testers. These are the unisex ‘compact fit’ version and their looks are pretty uninspiring compared to others on test. The main problem was we struggled to get a good seal on the face, with both swimmers reporting water leaking in and impairing visibility. The straps were also a fiddle to sort out and the adjustment clips on each side were a bit small and tricky, especially with cold, wet hands. On the plus side, we did like the curved lenses and the tint brightened up a dull day in the lake and gave good clarity. It would be interesting to try the larger version of these, to see if they gave a better experience. For our money, though, the Aqua Sphere Kayenne remains a triathlon classic that we’d stick with over these.
Verdict: poor visibility and fiddly to use. there are much better from aqua sphere’s open-water range 63%
Buy from Aquasphere
2XU Rival open water swimming goggles
Only one shiny pound more than the Lomos, the price tag put these towards the least-spendy end of our test. They also offer a much smaller profile than the others, so if you prefer pool goggles and find it hard to size up for open water, these could hold a lot of appeal. We liked the mirrored lenses and the tint gave good clarity on a sunny day in the lake. Those pool looks are at the expense of a solid feel, however, as the thin double strap with basic adjuster and smaller frame isn’t the most secure on test. Our male tester wasn’t a fan of the gaskets, either, finding them uncomfortable and making him ‘look about 75’ after leaving their imprint on his face! Our female tester liked the feel of them, although the smaller lenses and wide black rims did mean a compromise on range of vision compare to others. 2xu.com
Verdict: more of a pool look and feel, so will divide opinion. nice lenses, gaskets could be softer 73%
Buy from 2XU