Numa Swat Sunglasses
Test Series by Raymond Estrella
July 22, 2008
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Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Numa Sports Optics
Web site: www.numatactical.com
Product: Swat sunglasses
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP as configured: $145.00 (US)
Weight listed: 0.92 oz (26 g)
Actual weight with lens in: 0.9 oz (25 g)
Fit range: medium to large faces
Color tested: Tan
Other colors available: Black & OD Green
The Numa Swat glasses get their name from being the standard-issue eyewear of the Swiss Police SWAT teams. As this model offers the largest field of vision of any Numa model I chose it for use in winter conditions when I need the most protection from sun, reflected glare, wind and blowing snow.
Numa claims to have been started to provide a tougher more durable alternative to other available eyewear. I unfortunately am pretty hard on my sunglasses, just because of the locations I use them, and so this will be a good test for me and Numa.
I received the Numa Swat glasses in a padded nylon case containing the glasses, three extra sets of lenses and a micro-fiber carrying bag. Included was a separate plastic hard-shell carrying case. Also inside the box were some stickers, postcards, brochures and a note from the founder and CEO thanking me for testing the Swats.
The frames are made of a Swiss material called MemFibr. They claim to be able to be "bent, flexed, sat on or whatever, they won't break". Indeed the web site shows a pair tied in a knot. If I try this I will wait until the end of the testing period…
As mentioned above they came with four sets of interchangeable lenses that Numa calls OpticArmor which are made of impact-resistant polycarbonate with NumaPlate hard coat and an anti-reflective layer. They are as follows.
Invisible: this clear lens blocks 8% of visible light while still cutting out 100% of UV400 rays. I plan to use these on night or early morning summit bids.
Mandarin: this orange lens is made for low light conditions. I will use this on stormy or overcast days.
Fire: this lens has a reflective red coating on a grey tinted lens. These will be the lenses I use most often on sunny days backpacking.
Polar Smoke: this neutral grey colored lens boasts a polarized layer that blocks 99% of reflected light eliminating glare from surfaces. While Numa suggests using this for boating and angling, I will use it for driving and crossing snow fields.
All are said to give 100% UVA, UVB, & UVC protection.
Venting between frame and top of lens is supposed to create airflow and prevent fogging of the glasses. The temples of the frames have some grippy material called TAK rubber to prevent slipping. There is no grip or cushion material on the nose pad.
While the big storage case is very nice I do not see myself carrying it in the field. The hard case fits the glasses very well and seems to hold them securely. When I shake it I can not hear or feel the glasses move one bit. This is how I will bring them on backpacking trips.
Quick & Dirty Nitty Gritty
This pair of glasses can be many things for many situations and activities, but the lens hardness comes under scrutiny in the report that follows. Please read on.
I used the Numa Swats on two winter backpacking trips with Jenn to Mt San Jacinto State Park. We stayed at Round Valley at 9100' (2774 m) elevation, on snow with temps down to 25 F (-4 C). The second trip saw the temps climb to near 50 F (10 C). The conditions were clear and sunny with a lot of reflected glare. This is where the picture above was taken.
I also used them on a two day trip to Joshua Tree National Park. This trip was hiking and rock climbing. The conditions were a bit cool when I was wearing them, probably about 53 F (12 C) or so with some wind. The sun was shining bright though and it got up to 72 F (22 C) in the afternoons.
I have worn them biking once, a 16 mile (26 km) ride down to and along the beach. I have also worn them on many of our daily walks to the sum of at least 18 days.
If you lost track, that makes at least 25 days of use. Plus all of the time I just wear them to drive, and in Minnesota for daily wear makes a heck of a lot of use during this phase of testing.
The Numa Swat sunglasses have proven to be a very useful and adaptable pair of glasses. I got to use them a lot at the end of winter in the mountains where the sun was blasting down on the snow covered terrain making for some tough vision conditions. I used the Polar Smoke polarized lenses for these trips and they worked very well. I also used these lenses for driving many times both in California and Minnesota to great effect.
I have used the Fire lenses for bike riding and on the trip to Joshua Tree National Park while approach hiking and rock climbing. I really like the balance of protection and light allowed with these lenses. They are my favorite. My children like them the best also. My son says they make me look like a robot (Transformer?) and he really wants some of his own.
I was only able to use the Mandarin lenses in Minnesota during some grey snowy days as I did not get them in time for any backpacking trips in the heart of winter. They worked well while shoveling snow and I do look forward to using them for packing next winter.
I have not had any opportunity yet to use the clear but should during the long term phase as I have a night-start summit attempt coming up.
I have used both cases so far with the hard clam-shell getting the nod most of the time. I carry one set of extra lenses wrapped in a small micro fiber cleaning cloth that fits just inside of the glasses when they are in the case. I did not carry all four lenses at any point while backpacking but do when I travel.
The only issues I have seen with the Swats was some fogging on one winter trip. I do not consider this anything wrong with them as it happens to all of my glasses. Looking back I think that the Swats may have experienced less fogging than I normally see. So I guess the venting is working.
They did great for bike riding, blocking the wind quite well and affording me plenty of peripheral vision to watch for those pesky cars.
The only bad thing I have to report is that while sorting gear in Joshua Tree NP they fell off the boulder I had set them on and fell about 3 ft (1 m), landing on the lenses. I picked them right up and saw that this little spill had resulted in one lens getting scratched and the other getting a fine fog effect, which I assume is very fine scratches or pits. It is quite noticeable while wearing them. This does not say much for the NumaPlate to me. I will continue to watch for any other instances of this.
The wind blocking properties have been very good. Jenn and I try to walk 4-5 miles (6-8 km) about five days a week, often at the beach where a breeze is usually blowing off the ocean. The coverage afforded by the Swats is very good.
They are pretty comfortable and stay on my face. I wore them rock climbing even though Jenn was worried that I may have them fall off 70 ft (21 m) from the ground. I told her, "no worries. I have three more sets of lenses in the truck". They stayed put, even when I lost it on a move and launched myself from the face of the rock. I wished I were NumaPlated then…
This concludes my Field Report, the following reflects the final two months of testing.
Dave and I went up the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at the south border of San Gorgonio Wilderness to a couple miles (3 km) past the Whitewater River. The temps hit 86 F (30 C) and was very windy. We went 25 miles (40 km) in 8 hours walking.
Dave and I went to Fish Creek trailhead and took the PCT 15 miles (24 km) to the top of a ridge north of the Whitewater River and back. (This met the stopping point of the first hike above.) The temps ranged from 57 to 86 F (14 to 30 C).
I used them shooting outside of Rosemond, CA, on two separate occasions. It was a bright sunny day, about 85 F (29 C) with a light wind blowing the first time and a whopping 95 F (35 C) the second time.
I wore them at the start of a 41-mile (66 km), 8600 ft (2621 m) gain extreme dayhike on the Pacific Crest Trail through the north-east end of the San Bernardino National Forest and into the Angeles National Forest. The temps ran from a chilly 45 F to almost 80 F (7 to 27 C) in weather that went from wet mist (in clouds) to bright hot sunshine.
I wore them on a short hike with my children for a practice hike with their new packs. We only went about a mile (2 km), and stayed in the campground. The elevation was a whopping 925 ft (282 m) with about 30 ft (9 m) of gain and loss, and the temps were between 50 and 74 F (10 to 23 C) with sunny skies.
Then a few weeks later I wore them as Dave and I took our three nine-year olds to Round Valley in San Jacinto State Park for an over-night trip with lots of boulder climbing.
Finally, I wore them on a hiking/rock climbing trip with Jenn to Malibu Creek State Park.
I have been wearing the Numa Swats a lot for daily wear in Minnesota and some in California besides the hikes listed above. They have continued to do very well.
On the 41-mile (66 km) day-hike I had a early morning start using a headlamp to see by. As the wildflowers were blooming, and the wind was blowing pollen in my highly allergic eyes, I wore the clear lenses for the first three mi (5 km). They worked very well.
In fact all the lenses work quite well to block wind either from the wind generated by my motion (walking, running, biking, etc.) or blowing. When I used the Mandarin lenses while shooting outdoors they kept the ever present Mohave Desert's blowing sand out of my eyes. The lighter color let me see the target quite well too. Here is a picture from that trip with the Mandarin lenses in place.
I do have to admit that even now, after four months of use, I still have a bit of difficulty changing out the lenses. But I know the problem is mine as my wife and brother can change them lickety-split. I should ask mom if I had problems as a kid with the square peg, round hole toys…
I have not had any problem with the frame or lenses from a durability stand point. I have inadvertently sat on the Numas a few times in the car, with no damage occurring. Besides the Fire lens none of the others have scratched.
Speaking of which, the owner of Numa emailed me after my Field Report was posted to thank me for the thorough review. He asked which lens had scratched. When I told him it was the Fire, he said that their own internal testing had shown that the reflective lenses were not taking the scratch resistant coating well and that they were in the process of changing it for future production runs. And he said that he was sending me a new pair of lenses to continue to use for the rest of the test, and future. I thought that was very cool.
I received them about a week later and put them in right away. This color has become my favorite lens. I plan to hike with the Fire in place and the clear inside the case on my future backpacking trips.
The small hard case has worked vey well. In fact the only thing that I can suggest to make the Numas better is to put some kind of a hook on this case to allow it to be clipped to a pack. I do not use the large rectangular case except to keep the spare lenses in as I only carry one extra set at a time with me on hikes.
The Numas have found a permanent spot on my gear list, especially for winter backpacking where the interchangeable lenses give it a wide range of conditions I can use them during.
My thanks to Numa and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me use these tough glasses.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella