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

Tifosi Optics Backcountry Orange Fototec Lens Sunglasses

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER

Tifosi Backcountry Orange Fototec Shades


INITIAL REPORT - November 29, 2009
FIELD REPORT - February 5, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - April 10, 2010



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 45
LOCATION: Columbus, OH
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 205 lb (92 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do 8-10 weekend hikes per year, and have spent time over the past few years backpacking the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki wilderness of Canada. I like to travel "in comfort", but I've shrunk to medium weight, and continue to work toward going lighter and longer. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT
November 29, 2009

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Tifosi Optics
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Country of Manufacture: Taiwan
Manufacturer's Website: www.tifosioptics.com
MSRP: $59.95 USD

Listed Weight: 25 g (0.88 oz)
Measured weight:
     Glasses: 26 g (0.92 oz)
     Glasses + Case + cloth: 97 g (3.4 oz)


ITEM DESCRIPTION

The Tifosi Optics Backcountry Orange Fototec lenses are sunglass lenses designed for backcountry hikers. They are made from polycarbonate to resist shattering. According to the 2010 Product Catalog, Fototec lenses "adjust rapidly for superior clarity and protection". The lenses are made with "microscopic photochromic particles" which absorb UV rays and undergo a reversible state change to become darker in the sunlight. Once the light goes away, the particles revert to their basal state and become clearer, thus allowing more light through. According to the product literature, the lenses can make this transition in either direction in under 12 seconds, which seems pretty fast to me.

The base color of the lenses is a medium orange, which provides for 45% light transmission. When exposed to bright sunlight, the lenses turn a much darker reddish-brown, which only allows 15% light transmission. The lenses provide 100% UVA/UVB protection, although they are not polarized. I believe the orange base was chosen to provide optimal visibility in the backcountry, in order to allow "a backpacker to be prepared for all weather conditions with just one frame and lens set". Exactly why orange is better than other colors is never stated in the Tifosi literature, but there seems to be sentiment on the internet that it enhances contrast in average to low light. In the past I owned orange-tinted ski goggles, and my recollection is that the color is similar to these glasses. As shown in the photo, the lenses have a Tifosi imprint on the top of the left lens.

How orange can you get?

For this test, I will be testing the Fototec lenses in a Ventoux frame, which is fairly simple plastic style. The frames are made from a material called "Grilamid TR-90", which is a "homopolyamide nylon characterized by an extremely high alternative bending strength, low density, and a high resistance to chemical and UV damage." The frames I received have a very snappy "Gloss Wood" finish, although the same frame comes in a variety of other colors, including Laser Silver, Gloss Black, Matte Black, and many others. The frames are designed to fit medium-large faces, and I definitely qualify as having a large face (if not extra large). The frames have a hydrophilic black rubber nose piece which has some flexibility at its bottom. The temples (what I would call the ear pieces) have a slight inward curve and the last 2.75 in (70 mm) is covered with the same rubber as the nose piece.

Tifosi glasses from below

The hydrophilic rubber is designed to increase its grip when it is wet and/or sweaty. There is some give to the frame such that the temples could be bent in or out slightly if needed. The front part of the frame appears to be a single molded piece of plastic, and the hinges for the Ventoux temples are actually embedded inside the front part of the frame. On the inside of the right temple is the Tifosi website, and on the inside of the right is the model number (which in this case is Ventoux T-V520).

The glasses come with a very nice hard, zippered case, which the company calls an "Eclipse case". The case measures 6.5 x 3.25 x 2.25 in (L x W x H, 165 x 83 x 57 mm) and is in the approximate shape of a half-circle. The glasses also came with a microfiber cleaning cloth bag.


INSTRUCTIONS AND WARRANTY

No instructions accompanied the glasses, other than a sewn tag on the microfiber bag stating "Tifosi lenses should be cleaned with the provided sunglass bag." However, since they are sunglasses, I think I can figure out the rest.

In terms of a warranty, there was nothing that accompanied the glasses, but the website describes a lifetime limited warranty, which indicates that "Tifosi Optics will warranty any sunglass against manufactuer's defects for the life of the product." Glasses will be replaced or repaired as needed, and there is a form with which to make a claim, which must be submitted with a USD $10 processing fee. However, the warranty does not cover "normal wear and tear including but not limited to scratched lenses."


TRYING IT OUT

I was a little concerned about the fit of the glasses, since my face (actually my nose) is quite wide across the bridge. Although the fit is not great, I think there is enough play in the nose piece that the glasses will work for me. To test them out, I wore the glasses on a short car ride on a sunny day. Consistent with the light color of the frames, I found that colors and contrast seemed to be enhanced when I put them on outside. I did not notice the glasses becoming obviously darker but I didn't have much trouble with the sun, either.


THE STORY SO FAR

    Impressive
  • Orange lenses seem to enhance contrast
  • Frames seem sturdy and well-made
  • Fit is ok so far
    Concerns
  • Will they stay on my face?
  • How will they function in the bright sunlight?


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FIELD REPORT

February 5, 2010


FIELD CONDITIONS

During the past 2 months, I have worn the Tifosi sunglasses on just about every sunny day, which has not been that many. In terms of hiking, I took the glasses on an overnight trip to Delaware, Ohio in early December. I was cabin camping on that trip but spent a few hours tramping around outside. Temperatures were in the 20's F (-6 to -2 C) during the day when I was outside, and it was clear and reasonably sunny that day. The second trip was a weekend trip to Portsmouth, Ohio in mid January. This trip was one night of cabin camping in a rustic cabin and one night of tent camping. I hiked about 5 miles (8 km) through some poorly cleared trails (or absent trails) during the day just to stretch my legs for a while. Temperatures over the weeekend ranged from around 40 F (4 C) to 52 F (11 C) on a mostly cloudy day

In addition to these camping trips, I have worn the glasses for driving and general wear around town, including the sun, rain, and snow in temperatures from the 20's to the 40's F (-5 to +5 C). All told, during the past two months, I have worn the sunglasses for 3 days of day hiking, and another 12-14 days of casual use such as driving, walking around town, etc.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

The weather here in central Ohio has been pretty lousy the last few months, which has reduced my camping and hiking time. The lack of sun has also put a general crimp in my testing plans for this item. Despite these limitations, I feel I have worn the Tifosi Fototecs enough to get a fair sense of their function.

First, there is a pretty big difference between the glasses in their 'light' and 'dark' phases. When the glasses have been in the dark (e.g., in the case) and I first put them on in the sunlight, it takes a noticeable time for them to get dark. I have noticed this same time lag when wearing them walking through a darkened area and then coming out to the light, and vice versa. The company literature suggests the change occurs over 12 seconds, but I think it is probably more like 20-30 seconds. To be fair, I have not actually timed it yet, so they may be right. (I am planning to test this directly sometime over the next two months, and will include the results in my long-term report) However, I would not consider this a fault with the shades, because I really like the job they do enhancing contrasts when it is cloudy outside. Under these conditions, I think I see better with the glasses on than in the natural light. When I was in Portsmouth, I was wearing the glasses in the late afternoon on a cloudy day. Despite the fact that it was almost sunset, I had no trouble seeing where I was going as I bushwhacked up and down some hillsides through the Shawnee State forest.

Because it has been a wet and snowy winter so far, I have actually worn the glasses in both the snow and in a cold rain. Because of the light transmission, there is no sense that they are "too dark" under these conditions. Although there are no side gussets, I found that the Ventoux frames did a good job of protecting my eyes from rain and blowing snow. Aside from allowing me not to spend time blinking stuff out of my eyes, the glasses also kept my cheeks and eyes noticeably warmer than when I took them off.

In terms of the frame style, the fit is ok. The only issue I have with them is that I have some trouble looking down because the frames sit away from my face. If I have to look down (say while walking down steps), I either have to tilt my head all the way down, or look under the frames. I find this to be inconvenient, but again, this may be more a feature of my nasal anatomy than anything to do with the glasses.

I have kept the glasses in my car overnight on numerous occasions, even with temperatures below freezing. I have come to appreciate the fact that the rubber pieces on the nose and on the temples do not conduct cold well, so that I can put them on without having to pre-warm them to avoid getting a cold spot on my nose. Although it is a small thing, I really like this!

I also want to say a word on style, since hiking gear definitely comes with a fashion statement. Most people tend to look at me strangely when they see the orange glasses. However, I have a good friend from Italy who praised me for my improved sense of style when he saw them. Personally, I like the look, too.


WEAR AND TEAR

Although I can't say that I have put a lot of miles on these glasses, they seem to be holding up well. There are no marks on the lenses to date, and the frame looks just as it did 2 months ago.



FIELD IMPRESSIONS

To date, I have to say that I really like the Tifosi Optics Fototec lens sunglasses. They are stylish and I have found the orange coloration to be quite adept at giving me enhanced contrast in the low light. Although not as dark as other shades I have used, they also get dark enough to provide good vision when the sun is bright.


This concludes my Field Report on the Tifosi Optics Backcountry Orange Fototec Lens sunglasses. I am hoping to get some more sun and more miles with the glasses over the next 2 months so I can really get a sense of their ability to hold up on the trail. Please check in back in about 2 months for my final report to see how this went.

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LONG-TERM REPORT
April 10, 2010

FIELD CONDITIONS

Over the LTR testing phase, I have had the opportunity to wear the Tifosi's on two different dayhikes. One was a 6-mile (9.6 km) hike through the town of Defiance, Ohio, from our camp to the historic site at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee rivers. It was cold and raining on and off, with temperatures around 45 F (7 C).

Windy and rainy in Defiance

I also wore the sunglasses on a 10-mile (16 km) dayhike on the Symmes Creek Trail in Rio Grande, Ohio. The weather was quite warm, with a high of 86 F (30 C) under skies that were mostly sunny with intermittent clouds. Tree cover was very sparse, as the leaves are not out yet in Ohio.

In addition to the hiking, the weather dried out enough for me to ride my bike to work (7 mi/11 km each way) once last week. It was around 65 F (18 C) and gray in the morning, and 75 F (24 C) and sunny on the way home. I wore the glasses both ways. I have also continued to wear the glasses for driving and walking around town for the last two months, probably another 20-25 times.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

As described above, I have worn the Backcountry Orange sunglasses in the rain, in cloudy weather, and in the bright sun. No matter what the weather, I have found that I never have to take the glasses off to see. Plus, the lenses pass the "squint" test, which means that I never have to squint to keep the sun out of my eyes. Despite the fact that I was worried that the glasses did not darken/lighten fast enough, this was never a problem for me while hiking.

Finally some sunny weather

Even when it went from cloudy to sunny, I never had any problems. I found them to be lightweight and comfortable on the trail, and I was very happy that half the time I forgot that I was actually wearing glasses! The rubberized coating on the temples and the bridge did a nice job of preventing the glasses from slipping, and I never got a sticky feel from these areas.

In terms of wear and tear, I have not made any special effort to keep the glasses from damage, and they have tolerated the regular usage with no trouble. There are no scratches on the lenses to be seen, and the frame is in essentially the same shape as when I took it out of the box.

My only negative comment about the glasses is really more of an indictment of my own anatomy than the frames themselves. As might be appreciated in the photo below, the Ventoux frames are just a bit too small across the bridge of the nose for me. This only becomes noticeable to me when I am going downhill or down steps.

Note the wide nasal bridge

If I have to look down, I can either move my eyes so that I am looking out from under the glasses, or I have to point my entire head down in order to see through the lenses. Because the frames are a single piece of plastic, I cannot adjust them, at least without some construction work on the frames. This is always an issue with me and glasses, and the positive features of these glasses far outweigh this minor flaw. Besides, it is very difficult for me to find glasses that fit any better than these!


SUMMARY

All in all, I am quite pleased with the Tifosi Backcountry Orange Sunglasses. They are lightweight and well-made, and are fabulous at shielding my eyes from sun, rain and wind on the trail. The photosensitive lenses work really well, and the orange tint means that they help enhance my vision even in cloudy/rainy weather or near dusk. I will definitely continue to wear them on the trail. The only thing that would make them better is if I could find another frame style that fit across my nose just a bit better.

Things I liked about the Tifosi Fototec Lenses:
  • Orange colored lenses provide good visibility in low light
  • Photosensitive color changes work really well in sun and during light/dark transitions
  • Lightweight and durable
Things I disliked about them:
  • My nose is a little too big for the frames (not sure if this falls under something I dislike about the glasses or about my nose)

This concludes my report on the Tifosi Optics Backcountry Orange Fototec Lens Sunglasses. My thanks once again to Tifosi Optics for providing this equipment for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.


-larry kirschner

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