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Reviews > Eye Protection and Binoculars > Sun Glasses > Tifosi Backcountry Orange Fotec Lens > Test Report by Brett Haydin

TIFOSI OPTICS BACKCOUNTRY ORANGE FOTEC L
TEST SERIES BY BRETT HAYDIN
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 25, 2009
FIELD REPORT - February 02, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - April 06, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 37
LOCATION: Salida, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 195 lb (88.50 kg)

I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Dolomite
Photo courtesy of Tifosi Optics
Manufacturer: Tifosi Optics
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.tifosioptics.com
MSRP: US$ 59.95
Listed Weight: 0.9 oz (26g)
Measured Weight: 0.9 oz (26 g)
Measured Weight of Hard Case: 1.9 oz (54 g)
Measured Weight of Soft Case: 0.4 oz (11 g)
Style Tested: Dolomite
Other Style Available: Ventoux Gloss Wood

Other details provided by manufacturer:


  • Hydrophilic rubber adjustable temple and nose pieces
  • Ventilated lenses for increased airflow and anti-fog
  • Blocks 100% UVA/UVB

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Tifosi Optics Backcountry Orange Fototec Lens Sunglasses, henceforth called "lenses" or "sunglasses," are variable tint lenses, meaning that they will darken in brighter light and lighten in darker conditions. The sunglasses come is a simple cardboard box that reveals a hard case. The case is roomy enough to hold the actual sunglasses as well as the soft cloth pouch. As a courtesy, the manufacturer also included a one page flyer about the lenses and the Dolomite frame style.

According to the manufacturer's website, the Backcountry Orange Lenses are part of a line of Fototec Lenses that all incorporate variable tints. Many shades are suited for certain conditions, and in the case of this shade they are best suited for mountain biking and hikes in the woods. Everything arrived as expected and the craftsmanship is excellent.

There were two things readily apparent when I took the sunglasses out of the case; the lenses are quite orange and these are very light! The pictures on the website were quite accurate as to the color of the lenses. The frame color is a perfect compliment to the orange as well. The frames are almost a metallic brown color that I find attractive. The frames wrap around my face perfectly. The rubber nose pieces are hardly noticeable because they are so comfortable. They appear to be molded into the frame, and despite the manufacturer's literature I see no way to adjust them. They are quite flexible and seem to adjust themselves. There are also rubber strips placed where the frames and my ears meet. The result is a firm grip to my head.

At the widest point, the frames are approximately 5.5 in (14 cm) across and perhaps 6.75 in (17 cm) from the bridge of the nose to the end of the ear pieces. The lenses come installed, and while the Dolomite style does have an interchangeable lens version, the Backcountry Orange lenses are only available pre-installed. Each lens has two holes in the upper and lower outside corners for ventilation. They are just barely visible in my peripheral vision and are not distracting to me whatsoever.

The lenses, as mentioned earlier, adjust the tint based on the amount of light I encounter. In bright, direct sunlight, the lenses turn to a darker orange, almost approaching a brown. It is a subtle change and I hardly notice it taking place. The lenses also come with a soft pouch that doubles as a lens cleaning cloth. Out of the box, these glasses are pretty sweet!

TRYING IT OUT

I could hardly wait to try the glasses on when I first got them. It was however moments after dusk so I had to wait until the following day to try them out. When I did try them out, I immediately noticed how the grasses and trees really stood out. The orange shade of the sunglasses seems to make the plants much more distinct and crisp to me. My schedule hasn't allowed me to try mountain biking with the sunglasses yet, but I will be sure to test them out considering the manufacturer states they are appropriate for that activity.

This is a very different style than I would normally wear. I generally have purchased traditional styles of sunglasses, but these are surprisingly hip! I have received a number of compliments, from my wife and even a number of coworkers. Here in Colorado, we receive over 300 days of sunshine each year (oops I let the secret out!) so sunglasses are a must have accessory. These are functional and attractive.

One thing I have noticed is that the frames fit right up against parts of my face. I am not used to having the frames rest on my cheekbones, but these do. While I noticed it right away, I have grown accustomed to this. Also, the ends of the frames are straight, unlike other frames that curve down behind my ear. I didn't think I would notice that, but I have. It is neither good nor bad, just different. I do find that they stay in place even on a morning jog.

SUMMARY

accessorize
The Backcountry Orange compliments my gear!

I am really happy with these lenses and frames. As the photo above shows, these will compliment some of my favorite orange gear; my orange shovel and my orange ice axe! The frames are very light and I definitely appreciate the variable tint so far. These arrived just in time for my post-Thanksgiving backpacking trip and I have a number of other trips planned over the coming months. Please come back in approximately two months to see how the lenses are holding up!

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Tifosi Optics as well as all the volunteers at BackpackGearTest for allowing me to be a part of this test series.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Over the past two months, I have used the Backcountry Orange Fototec Lenses on three backpacking trips totaling 7 days and four nights. All of the hikes took place in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado.

My first overnight trip was into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness along the Browns Pass Trail. While hiking in the area over the summer, I noticed a turnoff to Lake Hartenstein that I wanted to visit. Elevation for this trip ranged from approximately 9,900 to 11,500 ft (3,000 to 3,500 m) and while the trail was snow covered in spots, the snow was noticeably deeper over 10,500 ft (3,200 m). Weather was cold with a low of 10 F (-12 C) when I checked in the middle of the night. The high was about 40 F (4 C). While the skies were overcast on the hike in, they cleared up at dusk and remained clear the rest of the trip. The hike into the lake is a fairly easy 3 mi (5 km), but I spent a fair amount of time exploring the area as well.

The second trip was along a section of the Rainbow Trail in the San Isabel National Forest. For this trip I hiked about 6 mi (10 km) in to a suitable camping spot. The weather was fantastic with temperatures near 40 F (4 C) and mostly sunny skies. Overnight low was about 20 F (-7 C). The trail was in great shape considering the amount of snow the area has seen recently and snowshoes were only needed in particular areas. Elevation range was approximately 8,500 to 9,800 ft (2,590 to 2,990 m).

My final trip was a three day trip into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area to the Harvard Lakes region, elevation 10,300 ft (3,100 m). My partner and I hiked approximately 4 to 5 mi (6 to 8 km) each day. Except for the hike to the lakes, we cut our own trail trails through snow that was 12 to 24 in (30 to 60 cm) deep. The weather was fair; mostly cloudy with periods of clear skies and very little wind. Temperatures ranged from 10 to 40 F (-12 to 4 C).

In addition to the backpacking trips, I have worn the lenses almost daily. I have worn them while running, day hikes, snowboarding and twice while mountain biking.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Halfway through this test series, I am happy with these lenses. My favorite feature is the variable tint technology of these lenses. My first backpacking trip was overcast, but I was still able to use the lenses and cut down on the glare in the snow. Even in cloudy weather, the UV penetration at high altitude can be bothersome, so wearing eye protection is a prudent precaution. What I like about these lenses is that I do not need to switch lenses for the different conditions, something I have done with other sunglasses.

While the sun shines frequently here in Colorado, the clouds frequently block out the sun throughout the day. It is here that I am able to really appreciate the variable tint feature. I can definitely notice a change in the tint when the sun comes out or goes away. As an impromptu test on my second trip, I used the cloth case to block out the sunlight on one side of the frames to see how different the lens colors were. I was amazed at the difference after leaving the lens covered for a full 30 minutes while taking a break near the lunch hour. While my photographs did not fully capture the difference, I was amazed at how much darker the lens that was exposed to sunlight was. Compared to the non-exposed lens, it appeared much closer to black than I originally thought!

Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to really appreciate the effectiveness of the lenses on a blinding snowfield yet. I plan to make an effort these next two months to tackle terrain that will take me above treeline so I can report on those conditions. Most of my experience has been in wooded terrain, or it was cloudy when I was in an open field.

My chief complaint has been with the effectiveness of the ventilated lenses. While my expectations of this feature may have been too high, I have noticed some limitations with this feature. Over the past two months I have noticed that when I wear any kind of hat or headwear, it significantly decreases the effectiveness in cool weather. My first trip was moderate in exertion, temperature and conditions, so I did not really notice any problem. On my second backpacking trip, the afternoon temperatures were nice and warm (for winter) and sunny. I chose to wear a brimmed hat and really noticed a problem under these conditions. I did find that if I removed my hat, the moisture would dissipate and the lenses would clear up.

I have continued to notice the problem as the temperatures have continued to dip. However, the same problem occurs when I wear any kind of winter hat, typically a beanie style. As with warmer conditions, if I remove the headwear, or otherwise shift the sunglasses down the bridge of my nose, the condensation will ease up and eventually go away. My impression is that the shape of the frames creates a nice little pocket for the moisture to be trapped in. I believe that wearing a hat closes the gap at the gap of the lens and traps the moisture from escaping. I will continue to monitor this feature throughout the test as I experience variable conditions.

I have received a lot of positive comments about these sunglasses. While a number of people really like the frames and the overall look of the style I chose, I feel as though just as many people like the color and the variable tint technology of these lenses. I actually had a friend ask me to trade sunglasses for an afternoon hike!

I have encountered no problems with the durability of the lenses so far. While I don't recall dropping the sunglasses at anytime, I do recall at least one occasion that I stored the sunglasses in a chest pocket of my jacket without any other protection. I can find no scratches on either lens. The hinges seem as sturdy as the day I took them out of the box as well. The rubber pads also show no signs of wear.

When snowboarding with the lenses, it was a sunny day and mild temperature (for winter). I did not encounter any fogging unless I put the lenses on my forehead and replaced them. I also found them to be acceptable even when I was at high speeds. I did notice some air coming through the vents, but it wasn't that much of a problem for me. I had similar experiences while mountain biking with the lenses. The amount of airflow at high speeds keeps the lenses from fogging when I am working my hardest. I will comment that because the earpieces are relatively straight, they tend to ride high when wearing a helmet. It seems as though the helmet pushes the back of the earpiece down, thereby propping the lenses up. I can't help but wonder if the earpieces would fit better if there was a curve at the end of them.

Finally, it is fitting to note that the color of the lenses really makes the forest greens and neutrals stand out. I notice this even more so under cloudy conditions. While it looks a little unnatural, I don't find it disagreeable at all.

SUMMARY

Sunny Day
A bright sunny day in the Backcountry


The image above clearly shows me enjoying these sunglasses. I really enjoy these after two months of testing. They are lightweight, stylish and noticeably change under variable light conditions. My only complaints so far are the effectiveness of the ventilation and the shape of the earpieces, primarily under stiff helmets.

This concludes my Field Report. I would like to thank Tifosi Optics and all the monitors at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series. Please check back after another two months of winter conditions in the backcountry to see how the Backcountry Orange Lenses are performing!


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

son in the sun
Hiking with my son
Over the past two months, I have worn the sunglasses almost daily whether while commuting to work, biking around town or while hiking in the backcountry. I have been able to take another two overnight trips during the Long Term Report phase for a total of 11 days and 6 nights of backpacking.

My first trip was an overnight along the Colorado Trail, just below Mt Yale where I camped for the night at 10,500 ft (3,200 m). My dog and I hiked about 5 mi (8 km) along snow packed trails in mountainous terrain. The weather on this trip was cloudy with a high near 35 F (2 C). My thermometer read just below 20 F (-7 C) when I turned in for the night.

My last trip was in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado to Ptarmigan Lake, at an elevation of 12,147 ft (3,702 m). The trail to the lake was fairly moderate and snow packed. Like any mountain terrain, some sections were steeper than others! Temperatures were between 10 and 35 F (-12 and 2 C) and while the weather was fair during the day, it turned into snow from dinner until I arrived back at my car.

While it has been snowing quite a bit of late, I have also been on another two snowshoe hikes on local trails. I have sought out trails with south facing exposures to try and encounter more than snowy white fields of vision. The photo to the right shows me on a hike with my new son (where are HIS sunglasses!) along the Rainbow Trail.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

rubber strip
Rubber padding
My original thoughts remain relatively unchanged from two months ago. The sunglasses are very effective in forested areas. The variable tint technology is wonderful feature as well! The lenses themselves remain scratch free after four full months of wear and tear so I have no concerns there as well.

I have some additional thoughts as I have made an effort to seek out exposed terrain above tree line or in meadows on sunny days. On my last hike I visited some nice open snow fields and had a chance to really evaluate bright conditions. I found they were effective just not quite as effective as some darker sunglasses I have worn. Based on the bright days in town and in forested areas, I can confidently say I would be comfortable wearing these just about anywhere.

One area where I have a slight concern is the durability of the frames. While all the movable parts and the frame body are intact, one of the strips of rubber padding is beginning to separate from the frame. I just noticed this a couple of days ago and have not had the opportunity to contact the manufacturer. It looks as if this will be a very easy home repair with some basic adhesive, but if there is anything significant to report I will post an addendum. The picture to the right shows the issue. I have deliberately pulled the rubber from the frame for effect, but it more or less sits in place on its own.

I have continued to encounter problems with ventilation in colder temperatures but in warmer temperatures these glasses remain fog-free for me!

Finally, I have had the opportunity to use the sunglasses a few times mountain biking. I must admit, these sunglasses are great for this use as well. I have cruised down some nice stretches of dirt roads and I am able to see obstacles and features of the road clearly. As I stated in my initial report, the tint of the lenses really bring out some of the darker features.

SUMMARY

Things I like:


  • Lightweight
  • Tint really makes darker tones stand out well
  • Attractive looking frames, in my opinion
  • Variable tint adjusts for conditions on the fly


Things I don't:

  • Rubber padding came loose
  • Ventilation at cool temperatures is a concern

CONTINUED USE

I am really pleased with these sunglasses and they are likely to be my "go to" sunglasses in the spring through fall. I like the way they look and are great for around town as well as the backcountry.

I would like to thank Tifosi Optics and the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test series. It has really been an honor!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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