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.
£42.50 (with case)
The Zone3 Vapours are an instant visual hit, with some neat Tim Don-themed graphics and an attractive colourscheme. The good times continue in the water, with the photochromatic lenses adapting to a variety of light conditions in the Mallorcan morning sunlight (and indoors if you wear open-water goggles in the pool) and reducing glare. The sizeable silicone gaskets are soft and largely prevent goggle marks around the eyes, and they also provide a seal that stays leak-free.
The peripheral vision is impressive and they opt for a button mechanism for tightening the split straps. Although not as heavy as the Huub, the 54g weight puts them at the higher end here and they can feel heavy at the later end of endurance swims. You’ll also want to fork out an extra tenner for Zone3’s protective case as the lenses can be prone to scratching.
Verdict: stylish, secure and soft on the eyes. but a little bulky for those wanting hydrodynamic gains 86%
Buy from www.evanscycles.com
Compared to the Zone3 and Huub especially, the Roka R1 Amber Mirrors are like a pool and open-water goggle hybrid, with a hydrodynamic design, lean weight (38g) and relatively limited gasket coverage that sits close to the eyes. The latter won’t please those looking for endurance comfort over swim speed (and we do have concerns of them being knocked off in the washing machine of race day), but this is the pair on test that should please the pointy-end speedsters out there. The key feature is a patented ‘retroscopic’ lens angle, and this provides a wide range of vision for such a minimalist pair of goggles. We did have some initial fogging on a bracing Clevedon Marine Lake swim and the adjustment clip is fairly basic for the price, but elsewhere we have few concerns about the durability of the nose bridge and the split straps enhance both fit and comfort. roka.com
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
Verdict: A lean, light and hydrodynamic pair that’ll appeal to the swim speedsters out there 88%
Speedo is possibly the most famous swimming brand name, but its triathlon focus has long been intermittent (despite creating one of the first mass produced tri-suits, the Aquablade, in the 90s). Their new 2019 wetsuits and tri-suits have already impressed our kit testers in previous issues, but they’ve come unstuck with the Aquapulse Max 2 Mirror.
Unstuck is the operative word here, as the IQfit 3D goggle seal possesses little suction and, for a number of testers, produced a high level of water intrusion. Which is a shame as, when free of water, there’s a decent range of peripheral vision due to the wide lenses, while the mirrored lenses impressively reduce any glare. The numbered tensioning scale on the straps is a neat touch but we would prefer a split strap system and the gaskets are also a little firm compared to others on test. speedo.com
Verdict: a decent wide range of vision, but there’s no getting away from the lack of a gasket seal 58%
Buy from www.speedo.com
The Kayennes have featured in this test multiple times over the years as, while newer tech and innovations abound elsewhere, Aqua Sphere are sticking to the ‘if it ain’t broke…’ format. And that is no bad thing, because the Kayennes are some of the most effective open-water goggles in history. Much of this acclaim stems from the triangular shape of the lenses offering an impressive range of vision and yet still producing a low, hydrodynamic profile. The gasket is comfy and the split straps assist with finding a secure fit. We’ve used them for years in training and racing and are yet to break a pair, helped by the reinforced nose bridge and button adjustment system on the straps. You can buy clear or mirrored versions (the latter have a reputation for fogging) but we’d recommend the polarised seen here for glare reduction and clarity in low light conditions.
Verdict: still comfortable, still producing great vision and still one of the best ow goggles around 92%
Buy from www.swiminn.com
The Huub Aphotic are also in the photochromatic party, with the lenses changing from clear to dark depending on the levels of lighting. The benefits when open-water swimming are instantly apparent and they offer top-class clarity, especially at sunrise/set and when changing direction around buoys.
The large gasket seal is comfortable and secure, while the button adjustment system makes finding the optimum fit a simple process with little danger of snapping the split straps. While £45 seems a hefty outlay, skimping on goggles is flirting with race-day peril and the proven durability (and protective case) will ensure they last multiple seasons. Where they will divide opinion is that they’re noticeably larger than anything here (at 86g, they’re double the weight of the Aqua Sphere), which may deter the speed merchants out there.
Verdict: Durable, secure and boasting some of the best clarity around; quite large, though 87%
Buy from: www.tredz.co.uk
Since their launch in 2011, the various incarnations of the Predator Flex have had a history of highs and lows; often celebrated for their range of vision and clarity, but also criticised for their hard gaskets and a batch of durability flaws with the nose bridges. And yet in sorting those nose bridge issues and returning to the original design, Zoggs have created an open-water classic with the Predator Original Predator Flex seen here. The gaskets instantly produce a great and secure seal that doesn’t leak at all on long-distance swims, and the wide scope of vision is unsurpassed. The polarised lenses truly impress in a host of light and weather conditions, and they’re also adept at taking the glare off the pool lights (while not making it too dark) if you wear them indoors. Adjustment is easy via the clips. Worth noting is that they look a lot like the less impressive Flex 2.0. zoggs.com
Verdict: Zoggs finally nail the predator flex range with the comfy and wide vision of the originals 93%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk