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Reviews > Eye Protection and Binoculars > Sun Glasses > Numa SWAT Sunglasses > Test Report by John Waters

NUMA SWAT SUNGLASSES
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
August 02, 2008

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 59
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Numa Sports Optics
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.numatactical.com
MSRP: US$145.00
Listed Weight: 0.92 oz (26 g)
Measured Weight: 0.9 oz (25 g)
Measured Weight of Case: 6.5 oz (184 g); with frames: 7 oz (198 g)
Colors available: Tan, Black & OD Green
Color Tested: Tan
Lifetime Warranty for Standard Use
Numa SWAT Sunglasses
Picture Courtesy of Numa

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - Apr 2008

I received the tan colored frames. It gets really hot here in the high desert during the summer and I made my selection in the hope the lighter color will be more comfortable.

The frames arrived in a zippered foam lined black nylon case, which is quite firm and durable. Inside the case is a foam cutout for the frames and slits to store the 4 alternate lenses: low light orange, reflective "fire", polarized "smoke" and clear.

The frames came shipped with the clear lenses installed, but I immediately took those off and clipped the polarized lenses in place. Doing so was an experience though. I think I have the knack of it now, but it is really all in the wrist. The NUMA directions show 4 images that make it look simple. It is, but it took several tries to get it just right and to make the lenses stay firmly in place. I'm pretty sure that I can change the lenses quickly now, but at this initial stage, I'm still in the mode where I need to tug and pull on them before I am convinced they are firmly in place.

The SWAT model has a space on the top outside corner of each lens that is reportedly designed to allow air to flow across the lenses to keep them from fogging up. I'll have to see if I would rather have that technology or not. The first day I tried these, the wind was whipping up at 25 mph (40 km/h) and here in the high desert that means sand is blowing around. Some of those fine particles found their way along that path through that slot and I could feel dust getting in my eyes. Obviously, the jury is still out on this feature.

The lenses are crystal clear. I have some quite less expensive polarized lenses that work great to eliminate glare, but the Numa SWAT glasses have impressively uniform optic quality and the orange lenses provide exceptional low light vision. I have other clip-ons I bought several years ago and love them for low light. However, the NUMA orange lenses are superior and brighter, not as dark an orange tint. On a gray day it looks like the sun is shining.

I'm going to wear these exclusively during the entire testing period, using each lens for the purpose intended and for purposes not intended as well.

I can see myself not bringing the case with me though. It's sort of large at 7.5 inches (19 cm) wide, 5.5 inches (14 cm) deep and 3 inches (8 cm) high. It IS light, at only 6.5 ounces (184 g) and just over 7 ounces (198 g) with the frames and the 4 sets of lenses. However it does take up a lot of space in my backpack.

I was hoping to see a case JUST for the lenses. NUMA includes a nylon sack that, I guess, is supposed to be for carrying the frames with whichever lenses are installed. I'm not sure if that fits my style, but I'll give it a try. The large case they send is nice for holding the 3 extra lenses and a configured frame with the 4th lenses, but once the frames are set up with a lens set, the extra space that the cutout takes for storing the frames is wasted. I would like to see a smaller case just for the extra lenses ... hint, hint.

Like all form-fitted frames, these do not easily go in a breast pocket. I usually clip frames like these over the neck of my shirt or tee and let them hang. So I'll have to see how well these hang as I'm moving through darker underbrush as we bushwhack through the mountains (a lot of my trekking is off-trail). I may end up getting a lanyard to hang them better and more firmly and securely around my neck. Up to now, I really haven't been too concerned about losing $15 frames, but the SWAT glasses are much more expensive and I would not be pleased seeing Mr. Bear or Mr. Fox wearing these after I dropped them down some deep dark hole.

SUMMARY

Sun glasses are important to me. Here in Colorado, where I am living at over 5600 ft (1707 m) above sea level, the UV light can be quite nasty. So I wear sunglasses all the time, even on overcast days. I keep multiple pairs in different locations so I can always have them available to wear. My favorites for driving always have polarized lenses to cut the glare off the rear windows of cars. For hiking, polarized lenses make things clearer and allow viewing deeper into streams and ponds. Plus, out here, eye protection is also needed since the wind blows pretty much all the time and kicks up a lot of dust.

That said, I am really looking forward to testing these NUMA Tactical glasses. The pair being tested is standard issue for the Swiss Police SWAT teams and they are reported to be crush-proof and so flexible that they can be tied into a knot. I'll have to give that a try, but not until the end of the long term test just in case.

Ok, now I'm headed out into the sunshine and I have to admit, I am going to look much cooler than I usually do.

This concludes my initial report. Please continue reading below for the results of my first two months of field testing.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS - Jun 2008

I've never really seen fit to purchase expensive sunglasses because I've never really seen the value in spending $100 more than the $29.95 a pair I can get in Wal-Mart which look pretty much the same. Until now.

Given the opportunity to exist with these for several weeks, I think the Numa SWATs are truly exceptional. Since the sun is so bright here in Colorado and UV exposure is an issue at the 5600 ft (1707 m) above sea level where we work and play most of the time, I always wear eye protection when outdoors year around.

All of this testing has been done in Colorado between 5300 ft (1614 m) and 7000 ft (2134 m) above sea level. The weather has been everything from snow to drought, from 20 F (-7 C) to 104 F (40 C), with winds from zero to over 40 mph (0 to 64 kpm). The sun is so bright here in Colorado and UV exposure is an issue at 5600 ft (1707 m) and higher above sea level where we work and play most of the time. I always wear eye protection and sunscreen when outdoors year around. Also, with the wind blowing most of the time at 10 mph to 15 mph (16 to 24 kpm) in this high desert environment, the dust can really be an issue. So eye protection is not just for light and UV, since dust, at even 10 mph (16 kpm), can be quite an issue when blown into my eyes. We've hiked several miles/kilometers, not just on trails, but doing off-the maps bushwhacking into canyon areas, climbing over rocks and boulders, traversing gullies and cliffs. Plus, I've climbed my radio towers in full climbing gear wearing my SWAT lenses. And, of course, I have worn them ALL other times I'm outdoors.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

1. The optics have been great
2. The frames seem very tough and are attractive and designed to fit active wear
3. The interchangeable lenses actually are easy to switch and have a reason for being

First of all, the optics are superb. Crystal clear. Distortionless. My usual $29.95 specials are also polarized and I'll still keep them in the car for the times I forget my Numas, but the optics aren't even close. The cheap lenses are wavy because their optics are not created with the perfection of quality lenses. I can see distortions as I move my head around and as I view the lenses from the front and look at the reflections on the lenses' surface. They work, but they do not put on an excellent performance like the Numas. I never really knew what I was missing. The Numas have no distortion as I move my head around. There is no waviness throughout the viewing area when being used or when looking at the reflection on the outside front of the lenses.

Numa Swat frame tied in knot
Numa SWAT Frame Tied in a Knot
The Numa frames are extremely durable. I'm usually paranoid about breaking my cheap frames because those guys are usually made of brittle material. The Numas, on the other hand, are made from a carbon fiber material that can, according to the vendor, allow the frames to be tied in a knot - which I had to try. So the picture shows the frames, without lenses (because the lenses are not flexible) tied into a knot. Note that the side arm is twisted around and doubled back on itself. After leaving the frames in this format for 15 minutes, I untwisted them and they went right back into their original shape (I did kinda have to help the right side just a little, but it may have needed more time to recall its position). No way will I try that with my other frames.

I haven't had any issues at all with the lenses scratching yet. Normally, I'm very conscientious about caring for my lenses, even the $29.95 ones. However, I've dropped the SWATs on rock, sat on them, and left them in the car in bright sunlight on the dash. They still look like new and fit like new. The temple pads and curved side arms keep the frames from slipping. I never once had to adjust them back up because they slipped down. I was worried about using them for tower work without having a neck strap. But they stayed in place when put over my baseball cap brim and I never once felt that they were in danger of falling to their demise on the concrete below.

I find the interchangeable lenses quite interesting. I've gotten use to doing the switch now. Like they say, "It's all in the wrist" and so it is here. I'm including a 3 picture sequence to show how it goes. I insert the lens at the nose section, making sure it is firmly pushed into the track. Then I slightly bend the frame away and to the back in order to catch the cut-out on the temple side of the lens. Then I let the frame bend forward into the cut-out into its natural position. The lens should seat firmly. I had to play around with this for dozens of times until I caught on. I had bouts with loose lenses until I finally got the knack. Now the interchange is easily done. And there is good reason to make the lens changes.
Step 1
Step 1
Step 2
Step 2
Step 3
Step 3

The clear lenses are for when I need protection from blowing dust but do not need much light reduction. Around here that's after dusk. The lenses are not safety approved. So they are not for wearing while cutting with a chain saw, etc. They are for protection from blowing dust when hiking, on an ATV (but will not protect from propelled rocks and other objects - only certified safety goggles might do that), when driving, etc. Numa says "Numa's lenses were tested to European ballistic standards for high-impact resistance before they were adopted by the Swiss SWAT teams as their standard issue eyewear. Polycarbonate is preferred over glass for active sports because it is impact-resistant, shatter-resistant, scratch-resistant, lightweight and durable. Unlike glass, polycarbonate is flexible and bends, rather than shatters, when struck." However, they are not approved as safety eyewear in the USA.

The clear lenses still provide 100% UV protection and filter up to 9% of available light. See my photos for a comparison.

The SWAT unit lenses package includes the clear lenses plus the SMOKE lenses, the low-light orange lenses and the reflective lenses.

The SMOKE lens is a polarized lens. Numa also has a low light orange polarized lens, which I think is a great option. I hate reflections, so I am a big fan of polarized lenses. They remove the harsh glare that gives me headaches and tires my eyes. The smoke polarized lenses are 100% UV limiting and transmit 18-43% of available light. See my pictures for comparison to the other lenses.

The REFLECTOR lenses are for brighter situations. They allow only 8 to 17% of available light to pass through. There were days where even that much filtering was not enough here in the high desert, and I am thankful that I had such filtering available. See the difference in the comparison pictures. Also, these lenses have a copper reflective finish that OTHER PEOPLE SEE when looking at me. They can use the lenses as a mirror and cannot see my eyes. I probably look like an alien from outer space. Especially when I forget to clean the lenses well and there are smudges and fingerprints that cause weird colorful patterns when looking into my eyes. These lenses are great for very bright sun. There is no polarized version of these. (Hint-hint, Numa.)

I find the low light orange lenses quite useful. I've used "BluBlocker" trade named lenses before, but these have a lighter tint that just makes drab dawn and dusk landscape look like it's a sunny afternoon. So, I use the regular lenses during the day and use these low light lenses at dawn and dusk to avoid eye strain. With 100% UV protection they are a valuable asset to keep in my pack.

The pictures I've included are:

At 1pm in bright sunlight at 92 F (33 C) at 5600 ft (1707 m) looking north off our Colorado property
A. No lens at all
B. the smoke polarized, held normally horizontal
C. the reflector lens
D. the low light lens.
A
A
B
B
C
C
D
D


At 8pm at dusk, lowlight, at 74 F (23 C) at 5600 ft (1707 m) looking north off our Colorado property
A. No lens at all
B. the smoke polarized, held normally horizontal
C. the reflector lens
D. the low light lens
A
A
B
B
C
C
D
D


The picture below left of the Numa array case shows the SWAT extreme lenses set, with the frames in the case along with the microfiber bag. This is a large case with a lot of padding. 7.5 inches (19 cm) wide, 5.5 inches (14 cm) deep and 3 inches (8 cm) high. It IS light, at only 6.5 ounces (184 g) and just over 7 ounces (198 g) with the frames and the 4 sets of lenses. However, now that I am getting use to switching lenses and recognizing WHEN to use the different lenses, I want to keep them all with me. So this case is getting moved between backpack, car and home all the time to keep the lenses available.

There is a unique feature of the SWAT frame that is not part of the other Numa designs. It's a small opening at the temple side of the frame between the frame and the lens. See the picture below right. Numa says this is to remove fog and condensation by keeping air-flow moving across the inside of the lens. Now here in this area, our humidity is normally under 30%, however when hiking or snowshoeing, my body heat will fog up lenses. I didn't have any issue with fogging since I've been using these, even in snow and rain. However, the same tunnel affect that keeps the lenses from fogging up is detrimental when the wind kicks up and dust finds its way along the same path. I've had to quickly remove the frames and clear my eyes of debris when the dust blew up underneath and wanted to travel out towards the vent hole.
Case with Lenses
Numa SWAT case with Lenses
Side Vent
Vent on Numa SWAT

CONTINUING TEST STRATEGY

The temperature here will be going over 100 F (38 C) frequently over the next few months, plus I'll be able to test during a Michigan trip, where we'll be headed up to Beaver Island, where the humidity will be closer to 100% in July. I'm also particularly interested to see how the Numa SWATs handle being left on the car dash in bright sunlight at 100 F (38 C) outside temp and probably well up to 180 F (82 C) on the dash, here in Colorado. As during my first two months' testing, I will be wearing the Numa SWATs in all conditions, everywhere, as much as possible.

This concludes my Field Report. My Long Term Report is posted below.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have continued to wear the SWAT Sunglasses daily in Colorado, Florida and Michigan under conditions that ranged from 104 F (40 C) and 10% humidity to 98 F (37 C) and 100% humidity. The weather in Florida was unbearably hot and humid. I'll take Colorado's dry heat any time. Aside from hiking in Colorado (actually it's more bushwhacking on some of our recent trips) and playing in Florida, I used the SWATs while driving 1250 miles (2013 km) to Michigan

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The SWAT sunglasses are still performing exceptionally well. Nothing has come apart or come even close to doing so. Even after wearing them for almost 10 hours straight, changing from polarized to orange lenses during the day, these sunglasses never felt uncomfortable. I never had that uncomfortable feeling of pressure on my nose or over my ears.

I never used to put my sunglasses up over my head. I was afraid of them falling off. I hate to admit that I did this several times with the Numas and I actually forgot they were there. They never came loose and they are so light I really had to reach up to touch them to see if they were up there. I'm going to get a sports chain though because these sunglasses will be a part of me for some time.

I never experienced fogging even in the 100% humidity of Florida during drenching downpours that soaked my clothes. Of course, in Florida, just walking outside in that humidity my shirts get soggy, so not having these get fogged up was impressive.

The frames have not discolored even being used in ultra high UV out in Colorado, or being left on the dash where the temperature in the car will get to over 130 F (54 C). Nor did the frames get soft or get out of shape.

However, I did get a series of nicks and scratches on the frame. As I have said, I do a lot of rock scrambling and, not using a neck rope, I take my sunglasses off to read things because I need my reading glasses. So during one or two of those transitions, I've dropped the SWATs on some rocks underfoot. I would have expected something to break for sure. But, all that has happened was tiny nicking of the top of the frame going from side to side. It's not visible from the front, but it is visible looking down from the top. I would add a picture, but I am over my picture limit for this report. So, let's analyze this. The nicks and scratches are black. My frames are beige. So the nicks show through the coloring. That means that a) the material is not colored all the way through and b) if I didn't want nicks to show - I should have gotten the black frames. Does Numa have touch up paint? I hate to send these back just for some small nicks and scratches, but I'm not sure they'll get worse with time or not.

SUMMARY

In all, I really like these sunglasses. Great lens choices that are simple to swap. The frames are durable, but I am concerned about the wear along the top showing through. Although I think the small pinhead nicks came from dropping them on rock, it concerns me that there is also wear along the top of the frame. That's the part that faces down when I take these off and rest them on a hard surface. The polarized lens work great, as do the orange lens. The SWATs look great and they feel great, even after extended wear for several hours at a time.

CONTINUED USE

I'm going to be using them this weekend on the trip to Beaver Island, up in the northern part of Lake Michigan. We'll be dune hiking. Great for stressing out the legs and also great for stress testing the ability of the SWATs to keep dune sand out of my eyes.

I will continue to wear these almost daily under all sorts of conditions. I'll even wear these at night with the clear lens to keep blowing sand out of my eyes (how about a polarized clear lens for night driving Numa?). They're great. They stay with me.

Thank you to Numa and BackpackGearTest.com for letting me participate in this test.

John R. Waters

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

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