Between a combination of light coloured eyes and contact lenses, sunglasses are a vital piece of kit for me on just about any mountain adventure. Up until finding the Julbo Venturi Zebra’s, I have always had to compromise between some combination of finding sunglasses that fit, can keep up with changing light conditions, can be worn comfortably under a helmet and hat, provide enough coverage and field of view, are at least somewhat stylish, and that don’t fog up when you are keeping output levels up and sweating. The Venturi Zebra’s mean no more compromise.
Full disclaimer: I love these sunglasses. I purchased them at the recommendation of a trail running friend, and they have since become my all day, dawn to dusk, all mountain sport eyewear of choice. I wish Julbo were paying me to say that, because what I don’t love is I had to pay close to $200.00 CAD for them.
Check them out at Julbo’s website: https://julbo-canada.ca/products/venturi?variant=1152124896
“at great price, beauty” – one of many shameless selfies in this review
Julbo & Their Lenses
If you are unfamiliar with Julbo, they are an eyewear company based out of the Jura Mountains in France. They make some of the most advanced (and priciest) sport specific eyewear and lense technology available on the consumer market. They offer a variety of different types of lenses, such as hyper dark for glacier environments, fast changing light / photochromatic, sharpening for low visibilty, and so on for things like trail running, cycling etc.. The technology potion of their website is definitely worth checking out: https://julbo-canada.ca/pages/technology-details. and it gives a good overview of what the different kinds of features each lense has and what their applications are.
Most makes and models of the Julbo Frames can be equipped with most types of Julbo lenses. The more advanced of a frame and advanced of a lense you choose is what dictates the price and features. The Venturi lineup can be equipped with most of the Julbo Lenses, and lense this review covers is the Zebra lense: their all-purpose, full featured, photochromatic workhorse. It goes from a Category “2” light transmission rating (which is fairly clear) to a Category “4”, which is quite dark. The transition however is not overly fast, and takes upwards of 15 minutes to fully adjust I’ve found, longer in cold environments. The “Anti-Fog” is a coating put on the inside of the lense, not a part of the lense itself, so if you are scrubbing the inside of the lense with cleaners or are overly aggressive with your shirt hem, you can wear the coating off. Same goes for the Hydrophobic coating on the outside of the lense. I’ve put mine through the wringer however, and the coatings are still going strong.
Form, Fit and Function
Part of the reason Julbo carries so many different models of frames is that the fit can be radically different between models. What I’m saying here is: “Go to a Store and Try A Bunch of Different Models on Before You Buy!”. Some may fit perfectly, while seemingly similarly models may be highly uncomfortable. The Venturis fit “Narrow, Long”, which means they are going to be well suited for you if you have a relatively narrow head width wise, but a relatively long head length wise. It also means they fit fairly well under a helmet and a hat.
The Venturi model is marketed primarily at Trail Running, and as such it has an adjustable “no slip” rubber nose piece that gets grippier when covered in sweat, the same rubber running back around the temples behind the ear, and large vent ports on the side of the lense where it meets the frame.
The venting ports are quite large, and are quite effective at keeping fogging to a minumum.
I bought the Venturi Zebras searching for a piece of eyewear that would be ideal for glacier mountaineering and ski touring when it isn’t super bright out. I have a pair of actual Glacier Glasses (another pair of Julbo’s actually, review on those to come in the future) which have blackout Spectron 4 polarized lenses and 5% light transmission, and are great from sunny, bluesky days where snowblindness is a real hazard, but they are genuinely the wrong piece of gear for 90% of the time when that isn’t the weather.
Grey, Flat, Overcast, and working hard. The Venturis Zebras didn’t fog up, and the brown/yellow colour made ice texture stand out and overall made seeing alot easier.
Super bright summit after breaking through the clouds. Lenses have gone much darker and more reflective, no discomfort from being too bright.
The Hike out, back below cloud layer but it is still bright. You can see my eyes clearly through the lenses now as they’ve lightened back up.
End of the day, Venturis have moved up to the forehead, but still going strong.
Downsides: The Price, Storage and Durability
The biggest downside to these is the price. Sunglasses get scratched, break and get lost ALOT. At $200.00, that is an expensive hit to try to replace. The Venturis are durable and solidly built, but they are large and take up alot of space in your pack. Because they are so expensive, you’d be really foolish to just chuck them in without a proper storage case. The storage case then takes up even more room in the bag. That is the tradeoff: more work to take care of them, more space in the backpack to properly store them. But if you are willing to put in that little extra bit of care and attention, the Venturis will reward you well.
I am a big fan of super task specific, highly technical gear, but the reality is when it comes the type of mountaineering I do (mostly less aggressively technical, but alot of varied terrain), the gear that I actually take with me time and time again is the “quiver of one”. The Venturi Zebras are that in eyewear form. They are really great to wear from a form and comfort perspective, and very functional across a very broad spectrum of conditions and activities. I wear a lot of different kinds of eyewear, every day all day, and these are one of the best all around mountain sport sunglasses available today. They may not be the absolute perfect sunglasses for a couple more specific tasks (e.g. sunny, all day glacier travel or lake paddling), but it will be the rare occasion that these are not the first pair that you reach for, and increasingly, the only pair you wear.