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Reviews > Eye Protection and Binoculars > Sun Glasses > Native Eyewear Dash XP > Test Report by Ken Norris

NATIVE DASH XP SUNGLASSES
TEST SERIES BY KEN NORRIS
LONG-TERM REPORT
September 27, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Ken Norris
EMAIL: kenjennorris@yahoo.com
AGE: 31
LOCATION: Redmond, Washington, USA
GENDER: m
HEIGHT: 5' 5" (1.65 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

I have been hiking and backpacking for the past twelve years, going on the occasional overnighter or day hike. In the past year or so, I have begun night hiking and long day hikes (twenty miles [32 km] or more), with an emphasis on light pack weight and speed. These trips center on Washington's Central Cascades (terrain characterized by steep inclines and "moist" conditions) and the Oregon outback (areas classified as high desert).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Native Eyewear
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: Native Eyewear
MSRP: US$135.00
Listed Weight: 0.65 oz (18.43 g)
Measured Weight: 0.63 oz (18 g)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The specific model I'm testing concerns the Native Dash XP asphalt/blue reflex. It also came with the Sportflex package -- an additional set of lenses (polarized brown) -- and the Optic Gear Kit -- a carrying case (complete with individual compartments for two sets of lenses, the sunglasses, and the cleaning cloth), a cleaning cloth, a "soft" case (that doubles as a lens cleaner), and a sunglass cord.

Other models of the Native Dash XP are as follows (according to the manufacturer's website):
- asphalt frame / gray polarized lenses
- maple tort frame / gray polarized lenses
- charcoal frame / silver reflex polarized lenses
- asphalt frame / copper reflex polarized lenses
* the "non-reflex" lens packages sell for $115 per the manufacturer's website

I was a bit surprised by the lightness of the shades themselves. They seemed delicate at first, being almost entirely made of thin plastic (I say "almost" because the arms are attached with what look like metal screws. The company's name appears prominently on the outside of both arms. On the inside of the arms I see that the exact model is clearly printed, which makes any potential warranty claims easier to file. They also lack the superfluous "rubber" pieces I'm used to with athletic sunglasses (like along the arms so that they pull at my hair), though the rubberized nose grip will certainly come in handy during sweaty excursions. I initially thought they felt a bit tight on my large cranium. I thought to myself, "Great -- more tension headaches." But after wearing them around the house for a couple of minutes they did not seem tight or cause my temple to pulse. The polarizing, however, does lead to an almost total blackout when I tilt my head from side to side, but I think this is from the artificial light sources (I was wearing them at night in the house). Only time on the trails will prove whether this is an issue or not. The eye coverage is complete, even around much of my peripheral vision. It does, however, take some time to get used to seeing the black of the frame at the top. I doubt that I will notice the frame after extended wear, though.

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As far as accoutrements go, the hard shell carrying case has only one foreseeable flaw: there is no way to attach it to a pack (like a belt loop). This omission limits how easily I can bring it on my light pack treks where space is at a premium. It is made of a hard material that should resist inadvertent crunches that come from setting a pack down or any internal shifting while hiking or running. Other than that, the protection to spare lenses is a nice touch, and everything fits snugly . . . as long as the frames are correctly oriented according to the shape of the case. The cleaning cloths work well, though I recommend removing the lenses for a complete cleaning. Lastly, the sunglass cord attaches securely to the arms. It also operates like all sunglass cords, easily cinching to the back of the head. The nylon cord is a bit thicker than I've seen with other cords.

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READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

After a quick tutorial via the instructions (on the back side of the warranty information), I tried switching out the lenses. These instructions consist of pictures with arrows showing two directions -- out from the nose and then down -- and where to hold the frames and lenses while executing these two movements. Unlike my other pair of sunglasses with interchangeable lenses, I do not feel like I'm going to break the frames in the process of switching. Yet this ease does not come at the sacrifice of actually securing the lenses. In all, it took less than a minute to change out the lenses.

On the reverse side of the instructions is the lifetime warranty. The absence of fine print and exceptions surprised me. Native is obviously confident in their product. They have also streamlined this process by making it an online activity, promising 3-4 weeks for delivery in the event of an issue.

Inserted with the instructions were two special offers: one for a set of clear lenses (pay $7.50 for shipping and handling) and one for a free stocking cap or hat (pay $7.50 for shipping and handling). I can foresee the clear lenses coming in handy during wet or muddy conditions, especially given the full eye coverage that the lens shape provides.

FIRST REAL USE

I was anxious to get one "road" test in, since wearing them around the house seemed a disservice to the Dash's design. So I made for the closest trail system to my house for a trail run. It was a humid 82 F (28 C) -- the first significant sign of Spring this year in the Seattle area. The trails in this system are heavily forested, which allowed me to see how well the dark lenses work through transition areas. I had no problems. The polarization did not cause momentary "black outs." Shadows did not become black holes that I stumbled through in blind faith. After forty minutes of running through rolling hills of forest at 350 feet (107 m) above sea level, I had worked up quite a sweat. To my joy, the rubberized nose piece kept the Dashes well in place -- no bouncing or slippage. At one point I startled a deer (the feeling was mutual, to be honest). We stared at one another for a second or two before I resumed my pace. This trauma did not upset the placement of the Dashes or keep me from seeing the deer for what it was (my mind thought bear but my eyes saw deer). The vents at the top of the frames prevented any fogging, a problem I have experienced with other sunglasses designed for athletic activity. Even my big head approved -- no tension headaches. My eyes quickly adjusted to the blackness of the frame within the coverage area. Unlike other glasses, I did not develop a sense of tunnel vision either -- a feeling that I'm within some other world looking out on a darker exterior.

TESTING STRATEGY

Comfort
1. Do the pressure points give me headaches?
2. Does the tinting or curvature of the lens prevent or produce headaches?
3. How do they react to sweat?
4. Do they "bounce" when I run?
5. Do I notice the sunglasses while I'm wearing them?

Functionality
1. Do they also help in windy conditions?
2. Do they impede or assist under tree cover?
3. Do they fit within the pack without threatening the integrity of the frames?
4. Do the lenses fog up because of heavy breathing or body heat?
5. Is switching out the lenses a practical action when on the trail?
6. Do I find myself listing the Native Dash XPs as a necessary compliment to my lightweight hiking?

Testing Conditions
I plan on testing the Dashes during temperatures that vary from 40 F (4 C) to 95 F (35 C) in both the Seattle, Washington and Bozeman, Montana areas. Around Seattle I will use them on densely forested trail runs from sea level to 1000 ft (305 m), eight miles (13 km) or more day hikes that top out at 4500 ft (1372 m), and light weight treks of twenty miles (32 km) or more that may reach 6000 ft (1829 m) above sea level. My tests in Bozeman are subject to the Primal Quest transition areas, where I will be a crew member for one of the adventure racing teams. More on that after the fact.


SUMMARY

The Dashes are light and comfortable. No distortion results from the curvature of the lenses. Switching out the lenses is easy and quick after a glance at the instructions. After one short excursion, I'm looking forward to a pair of sunglasses that perform well without my really noticing they are on, just as they should. No tension headaches. No transition issues in areas of shadowy tree cover. No bouncing or slipping while I run and sweat. No awkward coverage areas.

This concludes my Initial Report. My Field Report will be posted in late July.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Since receiving the Native Dash XPs, I've intentionally brought them on all of my excursions, most of which centered around the Central Cascades of Washington state and the Bozeman, Montana, area during Primal Quest (I was a member of Team Kagome's support crew).

Like the nearest big city's reputation -- namely Seattle -- the Central Cascades can be wet and overcast. This particular Spring and early Summer, we had a prolonged season of the latter. So my first few trail runs consisted of temperatures in the low to mid-50s F (10 C) and wet, muddy ground -- the perfect opportunity to test the XPs polarized brown lenses, which are advertised as ideal for moderate sunlight. The trails were dark and heavily wooded, though free of a lot of roots and rocks. I also frequented these same trails after Primal Quest. Conditions for these runs consisted of temperatures in the 70s and 80s F (21-27 C) and much drier footing, though the tree cover remained. Instead of watching for excessive mud, I found myself coping with blinding sunshine streaking through the forest canopy -- a chance to test the darker of the two lenses. Each run lasted around forty minutes.

My time in Bozeman for Primal Quest included high altitude hikes and runs in both heat and thunderstorms. Temperatures spanned the 80s and 90s F (27-32 C). Altitudes ranged from 4500 to 8500 feet (1372-2591 m). Despite the two thunderstorms that rolled through, conditions were never excessively wet when I ran or hiked. But my western Washington eyes never really adapted to the constant big sky sunshine, so I wore the XPs non-stop (literally). Thus, the terrain included grass fields where we set up transition areas for racers (we lived in a tent and a 15-passenger van for nine days), rocky outcroppings at the tops of peaks, and dusty trails or gravel roads winding up to those peaks.

In all, I've logged around one hundred hours on the trail or in the outdoors while wearing the XPs.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Comfort
1. Do the pressure points give me headaches?
I'm skeptical of all sunglasses when it comes to pressure points, namely because I have a large head. The XPs, however, have not led to headaches when I wear them alone or over a bandanna. If I tried to tuck them into a hat or beanie, a headache formed when the head wear drove the XPs into my head. Thankfully, I've learned to trust that the XPs will stay in place when worn over head wear instead of under it.

2. Does the tinting or curvature of the lens prevent or produce headaches?
As protection from sun-related headaches, the lenses work well. I've sought them out as a form of relief from glare and they have delivered.

3. How do they react to sweat?
Because the XPs rely on a rubber nose piece, I have had no problems with sweat altering the fit of the sunglasses. But I have had to grow accustomed to sweat following the contour of the glasses, trickling down areas I was not previously used to.

4. Do they "bounce" when I run?
I put the XPs through its paces without the lanyard that attaches to the arms of the glasses. They did not budge one bit. I can only conjecture that the rubber nose piece is the reason for such steadiness.

5. Do I notice the sunglasses while I'm wearing them?
The answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, I notice the top portion of the frame because it limits my peripheral vision, though minimally. I also notice the imprint from the rubber nose piece when I remove them -- two little red spots on the sides of my nose scream to the world that I was wearing glasses. They take about an hour to fade (I am very fair skinned, which accounts for this prolonged redness). The no part of my answer concerns their weight -- I don't have to adjust the way I hold my head.

Functionality
1. Do they also help in windy conditions?
The XPs do provide wind protection -- no nipping of the wind at the sides, top, or bottom.

2. Do they impede or assist under tree cover?
Both of the lenses lived up to their claims. The brown lenses consistently brightened up trails during overcast days, making it much easier for me to see the mud and even prolonging daylight relative to how late I could run without a headlamp. The darker lenses were not so dark that they created dark spots while under tree cover, yet they also kept the occasional streak of sunlight within the tree cover from causing momentary blindness.

3. Do they fit within the pack without threatening the integrity of the frames?
One qualm I have with the accoutrements that came with the XPs is the bulkiness of the carrying case. I'm a trail runner and light weight hiker. The sheer size of the carrying case means that I never take it with me while I'm running and I groan at the thought of sacrificing sparse packing space for a case to protect sunglasses I may or may not actually use. As a protective case, however, it is virtually bomb proof. It survived the cramped van on the way to Primal Quest and has shown no ill effects from the occasional dropped pack (the carrying case has a way of trickling down to the bottom of my pack while I'm hiking). I anticipate not using the case for hikes when I've finished testing -- I have a different, less bulky, glasses case that has a belt loop, making sunglass storage and retrieval more practical.

4. Do the lenses fog up because of heavy breathing or body heat?
Yes. During my overcast runs, the lenses fogged up after about twenty minutes. I assumed this was a combination of outside temperature (50-56 F / 10-13 C) and increasing body head from exertion. And I was correct . . . to some degree. During warmer runs and hikes, when temperatures were in the 70s F (21 C), the XPs would not fog up as long as I kept on moving. But I never knew when the occasional break would lead to a fog up. My solution is to take off the XPs and hold them between my thumb and fingers while I run. Ironically, it seemed that the XPs had been designed to fit my hand when carried in this manner.

5. Is switching out the lenses a practical action when on the trail?
The act of switching out the lenses takes around thirty seconds and may be performed while moving, but only with the assistance of another person willing to hold the carrying case and take care of the uninserted lenses. Because much of my outdoor activities consist of solo runs, I made it a habit to choose those lenses that best suited the weather outside and not worry about switching. I also found that switching out the lenses, especially while out and about, could be tricky in that the carrying case's slots for each lens do not secure each lens within its respective pouch. So I was constantly juggling the case on my legs while switching out the lenses, hoping that the unsecured lenses did not escape.

6. Do I find myself listing the Native Dash XPs as a necessary compliment to my lightweight hiking?
Though I do not yet consider them necessary, they are a luxury item I would rather not do without. But I cannot solve the issue of how to transport them without the added weight and space of the carrying case.


SUMMARY

Sunglasses, by name, have one primary purpose: to protect the eyes from the harmful or annoying effects of the sun without adding their own complications. The Native Dash XPs fulfill this purpose with one exception: they fog up too easily. Aside from that issue, they worked well in a variety of conditions and did so comfortably. Transporting them via the complimentary carrying case is annoying due to the case's size and weight, yet the case provides solid protection when packing for a car trip to the trailhead and offers a way to organize the accoutrements that come with the XPs.

TESTING STRATEGY

So far, my tests have entailed trail running, day hikes, and setting up camp. While these activities gave me a good sense of the XPs assets and limitations, I envision two further testing conditions. First, I need to see how they fair on an overnight family hike. My pack mule role means that taking the XPs will prove a sacrifice. There's also the issue of how active I can be with my son while sporting such expensive shades (that kind of thing weighs heavily in the back of my mind). Second, I have yet to trek with them. How will they perform after eight or more continuous hours of trudging through forest canopy? Will I still wish that the carrying case was more accessible via a belt loop?

Long-term report coming in early October 2008.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST CONDITIONS & PERFORMANCE

During my Field Report, my use was limited to my weekly runs, day hikes, and a trip to Montana during Primal Quest. So I knew that my long-term report needed to consider my central campaign promise: determining how they performed on a lightweight backpack trip. So at the end of August I set my sights on a 16 mile (26 km) traverse of Tiger Mountain. The trail peaked at 2500 feet (762 m) and began at approximately 500 feet (150 m). Weather conditions were less than ideal for using the XPs -- temperatures reaching a high in the mid-60s F (15 C). So I knew I was in for a foggy experience. Sure enough, fifteen minutes into the hike and I had to abandon the XPs to my bag. I took them out again a couple hours later to see if the higher elevation and higher temperatures made a difference. They didn't. At the end of the day I came to the following conclusion: taking them was certainly not worth the loss of space in my pack.

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It was after this trip that I opened up my testing to another domain: mountain biking. Whenever I ride, I'm on the trail for at least an hour. Terrain is usually single track, though I often use forest service roads to reach some of the single track. And I'm always in search of hill climbs, the longer the better. The trails consist of compact dirt with plenty of roots and rocks to mix things up. For some reason, the XPs did not fog up nearly as quickly while I rode. My best guess at the reason is that mountain biking is more of an interval exercise, so my body did not heat up and stay hot. After close to an hour of riding, however, a quick stop to catch my breath or check the map was enough time and heat for the fogging to occur. But this was only on mild days with temperatures below 70 F (21 C). If it got hotter than that, they worked just fine. The arms of the XPs fit comfortably over the straps of my helmet and stayed in place without any issues -- no need for the strap out of fear that they would go flying. They also slide nicely into the vent holes on the front of my helmet, making their stowing and retrieval easy and fast.

The final component to the field test is what I'll call the "cool" factor. I have a difficult time finding sunglasses that don't make me look like a bug, a grandmother, or a poser jet fighter pilot. My wife, of her own initiative, has remarked that the XPs look good on me. But the true test came a few weeks ago. I was on a retreat with some of my high school students -- a tougher crowd for judging "coolness" does not exist. Once they got over the shock of seeing me wear blue jeans and a t-shirt (rather than my slacks and a tie), they commented "nice glasses" without immediately snickering or whispering to one another.

SUMMARY

My experiences suggest that the XPs make a better fashion statement than functional piece of eyewear for backpacking or trail running. While they fit snugly and comfortably, successfully block the sun's rays, and easily switch between lens types, they fog up too easily in mild temperatures. I have also found them more suited for mountain biking, but even in this context they fog up eventually. Add the size of the carrying case (and the lack of a belt loop for easy access) to the ease with which the XPs fog up, and the XPs do not make my list of mandatory gear within the consistently mild temperatures of the Pacific Northwest.

CONTINUED USE

The bottom line is that the ease with which the Native Dash XPs fog up limits their usefulness. On typical Pacific Northwest days, the temperatures make fogging up inevitable -- I will not wear them to brighten up the trails via the brown lenses. But on those days of sunshine and temperatures in at least the 70s F (21 C), I will reach for them. I also doubt that I'll carry them with me on my lightweight backpacking trips. The case takes up too much precious space. But my main use will be on my bike: they fog up more slowly and remain snug despite the jostling. I also keep them in the console of my truck as my driving sunglasses. In this context, I wish the case were easier to get into in a pinch. Fumbling with the zipper on the case and the drawstring on the pouch while trying to drive is both frustrating and foolish (I've started to just get them out before I leave, setting them on the seat in case I need them, or I ask a passenger to get them out for me). The bottom line is that I will continue to use the XPs, but only in specific contexts.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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