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Reviews > Eye Protection and Binoculars > Sun Glasses > Native Eyewear Dash XP > Test Report by Roger Caffin

 

Initial Report     28-May-2008
The author, wearing the glasses

Reviewer Details
Reviewer: Roger Caffin
Age: 62
Gender: M
Weight: 63 kg (139 lb)
Height: 167 cm (67")
Email address:     r dot [surname] at acm dot org
Home: Sydney, Australia

Backpacking Background

I started bushwalking at 14 and took up rock climbing at University with the girl who became my wife and my permanent walking partner. Ski touring and canyoning followed. Winter and summer, we prefer long hard trips by ourselves: about a week in Australia, up to three months in Europe/UK. We prefer fast and light in unfrequented trackless country. We would be out walking, skiing or snowshoeing for at least three months a year. We have now moved to lightweight gear, much to our backs' relief. I designed and made much of our lightweight gear myself.

I am also the maintainer of the Australian aus.bushwalking FAQ web site www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/.

Product Information

Picture courtesy Native Eyewear
Manufacturer: Native Eyewear
Manufacturer URL: www.nativeyewear.com/
Year of manufacture: assumed 2008
Country of manufacture:     unknown
Packaged size (box): 190 x 70 x 70 mm (7.5 x 2.75 x 2.75")
Packaged size (case) : 180 x 70 x 70 mm (7.0 x 2.75 x 2.75")
Listed weight (glasses): 18 g (0.65 oz)
Actual weight (full kit): 140 g (4.9 oz)
Actual weight (glasses): 18 g (0.63 oz)
Actual weight (bag): 10 g (0.35 oz)
Actual weight (extra lenses): 9 g (0.32 oz)
Actual weight (neck cord): 10 g (0.35 oz)
Actual weight (case): 91 g (3.2 oz)
MSRP: US$135

Product Claims

The web site claims the following for the frames, or so it seems:

For the lenses themselves the following seem to be claimed:

Product Description

The whole kit came in a snug cardboard box with a fold-out set of instructions, some discount vouchers for extra lenses etc, a set of different brown lenses and a glossy product catalog. The instructions cover the full range of models. One side shows how to change the lenses; the other side is covered in fine print legal stuff about the warranty. The latter seemed a little excessive to me. It included an offer to 'repair or replace' if the glasses ever fail provided I return them to the company with a $30 processing fee and an online claims form. Stores are not authorised to provide this service in America. I suspect the Australian laws on this subject favour the consumer a little more than this.

It is hard to deviate very far from the basic design of sunglasses. However, these ones have a fairly light-weight frame: a perforated bar across the top and with a solid nose section in the middle, but nothing underneath. The arms are light and slightly curved inwards and downwards. The manufacturer says they are for the high end of medium heads and for large heads: 'best fits a medium to large profile'. Well, they fit my head OK.

The web site does not in fact tell me very much about the glasses. It does leave me slightly confused about the second pair of lenses which came with the glasses. The cover they came in is labeled 'SportFlex', but the lenses look distinctly brown to me. The pictures of the SportFlex lenses on both the web site and the pamphlet which came with them seem definitely blue. The lenses are not polarised, anyhow. Perhaps the web site and instructions are not quite up to date? Let me add here that I do not like blue lenses at all, so this may be a blessing in disguise.

First Impressions The case

The web site does have a little picture of the 'full kit' which comes with the glasses, but the little picture did not really prepare me for the huge rigid case which came with the glasses. Part of the reason for the size of the case is the way the frame is really curved around my face, but I was able to get another two pairs of light prescription glasses inside the case without causing any real stress to any of them! The photo here shows one extra pair fitting on top of the sunglasses: there was plenty of room above that pair for a second. I did use a little micro-fibre bag for each pair of glasses when doing this.

Such a large robust case initially seems wildly excessive, but I wonder. I could carry all my glasses, and possible some of my wife's glasses as well, in this case while walking. Certainly it would be solid enough for this and would offer good protection. I will have to see how well this idea works in practice.

Included in the kit was the usual soft micro-fibre draw-string bag which can be used to give some protection against dirt and scratches to the glasses, and in many cases I think I will use just this. Granted the bag does not protect the glasses from being squashed, but the 'Rhyno-Tuff' frame seems fairly robust against this sort of thing. The micro-fibre bag is recommended for cleaning the lenses as well. I will have to see how well the bag works.

Also included in the kit was a cord which can be attached to the arms of the glasses and hung around my neck. The idea here is to prevent me from losing the glasses somehow. The merit of the idea remains to be tested in the field however. The glasses cling reasonably well to my head anyhow, so I am not sure the cord is needed. If I face-plant in the snow while skiing I often lose my glasses, but whether this cord would stop that is unknown! The main use for such a cord in my experience was for a certain administrator who was forever taking her glasses off as soon as she could: she would put them down somewhere and then forget where. I can remember a whole committee spending hours searching for her glasses so many times: a problem solved by the purchase of such a cord! Henceforth she hung her glasses around her neck. Some field testing is perhaps indicated.

The top bar of the frame has three holes for 'ventilation'. Previous experience with such little holes does not inspire me with great confidence that these holes will make a lot of difference to sweating and fogging, but I will wait and see. I admit the glasses do wrap closely around my face so the rest of the air clearance is not huge. The hinges on these glasses are simple and not spring-loaded. However, they seem quite robust on first inspection. The nose pads are large but soft. I will have to see how they bear on my nose and whether the large size makes them particularly sweaty. The arms curve inwards to grip my head: this seems fine. The ends of the arms curve downwards as well, and should let them clear my hat when I am walking. A BackpackGearTest test with some other sunglasses which had straight arms showed that some curvature is needed to prevent conflict between my hat, my ears and the arms: I will check on this.

Changing the lenses

Curiously, the company seems to make few claims about the lenses themselves. Other companies have made a lot of claims about how wonderful their optics are, but I have to say I have never really noticed anything startling about them. Anyhow, I tried changing the lenses over while following the instructions, as shown in the picture here. The left hand diagram shows how to remove a lens: following this resulted in a Polarised Reflex lens coming out quite easily. The other two diagrams show how to replace a lens: following these resulted in the Polarised lens going back in easily as well. So far, so good.

Then I tried to put the brown lenses in. The first problem I encountered here was that the lenses on the Dash XP do not look like the ones in the top right hand corner of the instructions. Which of the two brown lenses supplied was the correct one for each side? Fortunately I was able to work out which corner went where by referring to the stickers on the Polarized lenses: they were on the outer corners. (The stickers can be seen in the photo of me wearing the glasses.) I was then able to match the profiles and select the correct replacement lens for each side. The brown lenses went in with a little struggle: I had to push a bit harder to get the two corners wedged in place. This did not happen with the Polarized lenses.

Inspecting the two sets of lenses I found that the Polarized ones are a three-layer composite: the internal polarising layer is laminated between two thin layers of polycarbonate. This is a standard way of making such polarising lenses: the polycarbonate protects the thin polarising film. However, the brown lenses were quite different: they are a single layer of polycarbonate plastic, and slightly thicker towards the nose. I have seen other sunglasses lenses like this: the variation in thickness is supposed to improve the focusing and clarity of the lenses. I have to admit I have never been able to see what difference this makes myself.

However, the increased thickness at the inner corner makes it harder to get that corner of the lens properly in place in the little socket, and this makes it harder to subsequently get the outer corner snapped in place. Some pushing was required at both corners before I was satisfied. This left the lens covered in fingerprints of course, but the microfibre bag cleaned that up. I am left wondering what happens when the bag gets dirty in the field though. Will this cleaning lead to scratches? I will have to see.

 

Field Report - 5-August-2008

Dallawang Spur, Blue Mountains

Field Test Conditions & Locations

Over the last 2 months I have taken these glasses on a day walk nearly every weekend, sometimes around Sydney at low altitude near home (up to 250 m or 800 ft), and sometimes up in the Blue Mountains a little further away (up to 1,000 m or 3,300 ft). Temperatures have been mild rather than hot, and cloud cover has been variable. Indeed, on many of these day walks I didn't really need dark glasses. However, the glasses came with two pairs of lenses, one dark and one 'not very dark', so I have been able to use the glasses with the lighter lenses at times.

Sweat

Temperatures have been mild, so in general I haven't been able to get very hot and sweaty - except when going uphill of course. Compared with some other sun glasses with heavier frames which I have tried, I have to say these Native Dash XP sun glasses have been light on my face and haven't felt sweaty, either inside the lenses or at the nose pads. Whether or not that means the ventilation holes across the top did anything wonderful - that is another matter. On my limited experience so far, I have to say I don't think those holes are revolutionary. Perhaps they helped a little. But the nose pads seem to be quite comfortable on my nose.

Wollemi NP, scrub

Robustness

Where I have been grateful for having these glasses has been in thick scrub. I walk faster than my wife, so I normally travel behind her so we don't get separated. But travelling close behind someone can lead to 'whip-back', or the tips of the bushes flicking back into my face after my wife pushes past them. On the trip shown here I lost one contact lens this way: the tip of a branch whipping back actually tore a hole in the contact lens before my eye could shut. Well, better the contact lens than my cornea! After that I put the glasses on with the brown lenses and kept them on for the rest of the day, and they withstood many slaps across the face.

Lens Colours

Vines on Dallawang Spur

The darker grey lenses are the 'Polarized Silver Reflex: 10% visual light transmission'. These are too dark for use in winter time around here, especially once I get into a valley under forest cover. They might be good on a blazing sunny day on a white track, but we don't have these conditions right now.

The lighter brown lenses are the 'Sportflex: 60% visual light transmission'. These are the ones I have been using in the bush most of the time. They are visible in the photo above. In practice a 40% attenuation is not a large reduction in brightness, given that the eye can handle a huge dynamic range. But as I said above, they have been very useful in providing some mechanical protection to my eyes. On another trip on Dallawang Spur (photo to the right) I went without them for a while, and lost a contact lens when I got a thin vine across my eyes. Actually, it got folded up and lodged under my eyelid, so I was able to recover it eventually. Delicate things, eyeballs, in need of protection sometimes.

The vines on that trip weren't delicate though: I bounced back off them. You can keep your lightweight trekking poles: that was a solid length of 50 mm (2") Australian hardwood I was bashing away with! My wife stayed back a little.

Changing Lenses

I have swapped the lenses over between trips a few times. Yes, I left finger marks all over the lenses, but they came off easily. The cleaning bag supplied with the kit worked fine, but so did a clean well-washed cotton handkerchief. Neither has left any marks on the plastic so far, although I have been careful. In my experience, keeping the cleaning cloth clean (free of dirt and grit) is really the key requirement here.

Swapping the lenses over has become fairly easy. I did manage to get the right lens in the left frame once, but that thoroughly blocked the place where my nose goes, so it didn't take me very long to realise my mistake. So far the mechanical system used to hold the lenses in place seems to be working smoothly, with little or no sign of wear. Getting the lenses in and out seems to be mainly a matter of practice.

Glass Cord

Glasses Cord

I am not sure about the 'glasses cord' which is meant to stop me from losing the glasses. The thin plastic cord at the ends which goes around the arms holds reasonably well and does not seem to get in the way of my ears, although the function or justification for the little bead on the plastic cord (blue arrows) remains a mystery. The 'cord lock' (green arrow) on the string works fine. It is just a lump of plastic with a small hole through it: a hole small enough that the two strands of the string are a tight fit through the hole. That design is a neat trick, and is copied on the cord lock on the cleaning bag as well. The far bigger issue I have is that the string itself feels like a length of soft climbing rope: it's so thick! Surely a lighter bit of string would suffice? As a result, I haven't used the glasses cord very much in the field.

Frame

I have tried some sun glasses with straight arms, and found that they caused ear-ache when my hat pressed down on the tips of the arms. The arms on these sun glasses are bent down at the tip, leading me to hope they would not cause this problem. Well, I have to say that I forgot all about this problem for several trips. That means the arms must be the right shape: they hold nicely and do not cause any problems. I am pleased with this.

Riding too low

However, while the arms seem fine, I have been less happy with the shape of the nose bridge. As I mention above in the Initial Report, the Native Dash web site says this model 'best fits a medium to large profile'. I commented that 'they fit my head OK'. I am going to modify that second statement a bit here, after testing the glasses in the field for a reasonable length of time. The shape of the 'bridge' - the bit that fits across my nose, is comfortable but it is too wide for me. This allows, or causes, the glasses to ride a bit low on my nose, and the heavy top bar of the frame starts to intrude into my field of view. This is particularly noticeable when I am walking along, looking at the ground in front of my feet, and want to flick my eyes upwards briefly to look ahead. The top bar is then intrusive. The photo here shows how easy it is for this to happen. The glasses have not been 'pulled down' for this photo: they can ride down that low on my nose over time. Pushing them back up does not entirely solve the problem either: my face is not really the right shape for these glasses.

However, I cannot call this a fault in the glasses. The nose bridge and pads have a fixed format, and they are designed for a 'medium to large profile'. My nose and my face are smaller than this. What this means is that these glasses do not really suit my face or head, and if I was looking for sun glasses in a shop I would have to go for a pair better designed to fit my face. Unfortunately, I could not find any way of selecting glasses based on head size on the Native Dash web site, but it seems almost all their models are for fairly large heads. Possibly I could go for a different brand which had adjustable nose pads, although they are generally not so robust.

The Case

I haven't found much of a need for the big case yet. I am left to wonder about the value of it, although maybe it will be useful on some trip where I also want to carry some pairs of ordinary glasses as well.

Assessment so far

The frame is light, functional and strong enough. The arms don't get in the way of my ears, but the design of the nose bridge is too big for my head (or my nose is too small for these glasses). The dark lenses are pretty dark; the light brown ones are good for general use and mechanical protection. Swapping the lenses is no problem.

 

Long Term Report - 26 September 2008

Lunch above Tootie Creek

Long Term Test Conditions & Locations

The Native Dash XPs have been with me on several more day and overnight walks since the Field Report was submitted, but my need for them has reduced as we have moved into winter here. Everything was dark and shady at the bottom of Tootie Creek, but when we got up onto the spur above and the sun came out it the glasses proved useful.

Despite the poor fit on the bridge of my nose, these sun glasses have been very useful in protecting my eyes from the scrub on many occasions. They have proven to be quite strong enough to take a fair few whacks from thin branches springing back behind my wife when she is walking in front of me. There have been times, like a four-day trip through some very bad scrub in Wollemi NP, when I have worn the glasses more for the mechanical protection than anything else.

Deep in Wollemi NP

I had the opportunity to take these sun glasses on both a multi-day snow shoe trip and a multi-day ski trip in our Alps, but decided to take something else instead. I felt that the cover they provided over the top of my eyes was simply not enough to handle the snow conditions. In the event that proved to be an understatement as we had really severe storms on the snow shoe trip and I got slightly sunburnt over my eyebrows on the ski trip. The results would have been worse with these glasses. However, I must add that these sun glasses were never designed to serve as snow goggles, so that is hardly a criticism. Rather, the incident does serve as an object lesson of the need to make sure that whatever glasses I get actually fit my head. These are a bit too wide for me.

Summary of Test

The Native Dash XP sun glasses are quite nice, strong and tough, fit most of my head well, and the lenses have worked well mechanically and optically. But the design of the bridge is too large for my head and they slip down my nose too far. This last bit is not a criticism of the glasses, but a warning about choosing glasses which fit.

 



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