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?
What should you look for in a pair of open water swimming goggles?
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.
How we tested the open water goggles
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.
Best open water goggles
Zoggs Predator Flex 2.0
It wouldn’t be an open-water goggles group test without an outing from Zoggs’ Predator, such is their iconic nature. This year’s model is the Predator Flex 2.0 in titanium, which has many familiar features such as the easy-to-adjust side clips, flexible nose piece and double strap. Visibility is great with the curved lenses allowing for a wide field of vision, and while the mirrored smoke lenses did a good job in bright conditions, they were also forgiving on murkier days. One thing to note is that the 2.0 is larger than previous models and, on this tester, that meant the gaskets sat a little uncomfortably. After longer swims, they left prominent goggle marks – although the seal they created didn’t allow water ingress! Smaller-faced swimmers may be better opting for an ‘original’ model.
Verdict: classic design, hampered by gasket discomfort
Zoggs predator flex polarized ultra reactor
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.
Verdict: A comfortable classic updated with superb lenses, but a considered spend at £60!
Speedo Biofuse Flexiseal
The Futura from Speedo last appeared here in 2015, when we had the smaller women’s size on test. In that review we struggled with fit but this year we have the standard unisex size, which is a lot better, creating a strong seal with little water ingress. Visibility wasn’t bad, either, thanks to the wide curved lenses, although the blue gasket was visible when looking to the side or down. The Futuras were comfortable thanks to the very soft gaskets and a flexible bridge, while the double strap was secure. We did find the covered side buttons a little fiddly, though. Blue lenses were bright, but we’d have liked more protection on sunny days and they lacked the polarised clarity of others here. For £21 and with a hard case included though, they’re decent value.
Verdict: comfy but bright tint not ideal for open water
Roka R-Series Model 1
Winner of our 2020 grouptest, the R1s are back, this time in a vermilion mirror tint designed for direct sun. As such these excelled in our lake-training venue, partly down to the tint and partly due to the lens shape that’s small but curved to maximise range of vision when lifting to sight. Personally, we prefer smaller goggles for racing and these sat comfortably in our eye socket without leaving marks – so much so that we also found ourselves reaching for them for pool sessions where they worked equally well in the brightly-lit conditions. Adjustment is via a simple back clip so they can’t be adjusted on the fly, but once in place they stayed secure. We would like a hard case included, though, if anyone from Roka is listening!
Verdict: second year on and these are still top class
Aqua Sphere Kayenne
If you like a bigger goggle without going full mask, then these larger Kayennes (smaller design also available) could be just the job. They initially felt quite large on the face, but once swimming they were comfy and gave a wide range of unobstructed vision like nothing else in this test. The polarised lenses coped well with a day of sunshine and showers (although lacking the underwater clarity of the Rokas) plus they stayed free of fogging on longer swims and left no goggle marks, while the double strap felt secure and was a cinch to adjust with the two side buttons. Our only caveat with big goggles is that they lend themselves to being knocked in the race-day swim, but these are just about low enough that they should
Verdict: larger design with quality open-water lenses
Yonda Hydro Glides
Yonda have set 220’s reviews pages alight lately with their range of wetsuits, winning our women’s mid-range and men’s top-end grouptests in issue 391. The brand’s goggles offer fine features, too, with polarised lenses at a penny under £30 keeping our eyes happy in mixed weather conditions. They were a little darker in tint than some of the others here, though, so may not be our first choice for a murkier British race day. The lens size is a good compromise between the larger (Aqua Sphere) and smaller (Roka) goggles on test, and the gaskets gave a good, comfortable seal. The small adjuster buttons reminded us of Vorgee goggles tested previously and were easy to adjust, even with cold, wet hands.
Verdict: solid set of goggles at a good price
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.
Verdict: Now a tri classic and a good-looking, versatile goggle, if a little on the chunky side
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
Blueseventy Hydra Vision
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
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
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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!
Verdict: Comfortable goggles with a quality feel and some decent lenses in mixed conditions
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
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 cool 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.
Verdict: More of a pool look and feel, so will divide opinion; nice lenses, gaskets could be softer