ZEAL OPTICS ESSENTIAL SUNGLASSES
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
September 12, 2017
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Steven M. Kidd
5' 9" (1.75 m)
185 lb (83.90 kg)
Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lb (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover from 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I also do several annual outings lasting four to five days covering distances between 15 to 20 mi (24 - 32 km) per day. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Zeal Optics Essential Sunglasses|
Manufacturer: ZEAL OPTICS
Year of Manufacture: 2017
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.zealoptics.com
MSRP: US $99
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 1.1 oz (31 g)
Frame Colors/Lens Colors: Navy Blue/Dark Grey, Matte Black/Dark Grey, White River/llume Horizon Blue
Shiny Demi Tortoise/Copper, Brown + Olive Fade/Copper
The Zeal Essential's are an adapted wayfarer style pair of sunglasses with an 8-degree frame curve allowing for partial facial wrapping on the side of the eyes. The fit is said to be Medium-Large. Each lens is 58 mm (2.3 in) wide and 39 mm (1.5 in) high. The temple is 128 mm (5 in) long and the bridge is 19 mm (0.75 in) wide.
The lenses are polarized and prescription ready if needed. Zeal even makes the latter in the manufacturers own labs. They are made with the Ellume Bio-Plastic Lens. The company website states that; "E-llume is the world's first lens using a plant-based bonding agent, thus replacing the petroleum-based bonder". They claim this doesn't affect clarity or impact resistance and they still protect the wearer from UVA, B, and C as well as HEV light.
As noted from the lenses, the company prides themselves in using naturally reoccurring resources in their products. The frames are also made with natural oils derived from the castor bean versus crude oil. It is referred to as Z-Resin, a Swiss proprietary plant-based material. They are also designed with Proflex, a material injected into each frame to create a soft and comfortable fit. The rubber can withstand extreme cold and hot temperatures. Zeal also created the Camloc Hinge, a custom system designed to prevent lens scratching by locking the temple pieces so they do not move, whether they are open or closed. It is a two-stage hinge allows for two points of contact as the frame temples are extended into an open position.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & SUMMARY
I found the Zeal Essential sunglasses to be both stylish and comfortable. I was amazed at what I found to be a nominal 1.1 oz (31 g) weight. The frames fit my face well and the material is soft and flexible. The manufacturer states on their website they are Medium-Large in sizing, but if my head were much larger I'm not sure how well they would fit. The bridge is 19 mm (0.75 in), but it fits snugly. I spend much of my day in the car and wore them for an entire work day and had no discomfort or issues with vision clarity.
I really like the wayfarer styling that has the curve to the frame. In my opinion, it makes them somewhat classic looking, certainly not what I'd refer to as the bug or alien look you see from so many functional athletic type sunglasses, yet the curvature of the frame protects the side of the eyes when hiking, backpacking or doing other sports in the outdoors. I own a traditional pair of Wayfarer sunglasses and would never wear them on the trail, but I'm excited to try these shades out.
The Camloc hinge system is interesting. The sunglass temples actually make a snapping sound when opened and closed. I still don't understand how this is supposed to keep the lenses from getting scratched, but they definitely stay in place on my head.
I find the use of natural plant based products to create their products are a nice feature. The fact that they are able to achieve this while still making a product that appears to be well made and does the job of protecting my eyes from the sun at the same times is an even better benefit.
The protective bag and case are nice as well. The case is a little bulky and nearly quadruples the overall weight of the product. The glasses zipped inside the case weighs 4.0 oz (113 g). I clarify this because I'm a big believer of the steadfast rule; "on your face or in the case" and I'll likely have the case with me when taking the Essential's into the backcountry.
So, overall I'm impressed with these sunglasses. They are comfortable, look nice, protect the front and side of my eyes and are lightweight. The 'green' aspects of the company are admirable as well. I look forward to testing them in both daily use and on the trail over the next several months. The only minor thorn I have at the outset of the reporting series would be the bulkiness and the additional weight that comes along with the case. Save that, I have nothing but positive expectations for them
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
2 - 4 June, 2017: South Cumberland State Park, the Fiery Gizzard Trail near Sequatchie, Tennessee. This was a three-day/two-night outing with my wife and two children to the Small Wilds area. The hike covered a 6 mi (10 km) stretch with a relatively consistent 1700 ft (518 m) elevation, save when we entered the Gulch or went to the base of Foster Falls for a swim in the natural fall pool. Temperatures dropped to 61 F (16 C) at night and were as high as 86 (30 C) during the day. It sprinkled a little on the third day, but was dry and clear for the majority of the weekend.
16 - 18 June, 2017: Boxwell Scout Reservation, Gallatin, Tennessee. This was a three-day/two-night Cub Scout Resident Camp outing with my Bear Scout. We worked on advancement through fun activities like hiking, swimming, boating, fishing and more. We slept in Scout platform tents on vintage cots. Temperatures were as high at 90 F (32 C) during the day and dropped to around 75 F (24 C) in the evenings. It was sunny and humid and hot during the days!
1 - 3 July, 2017: Smith Mountain Lake, Moneta, Virginia. This was a three-day/two-night island camping (glamping) adventure near my brother's lake home. There was some coming and going from the island with days spent on the lake motoring about and swimming and evenings spent hammock camping at night. Evening temperatures averaged around 75 F (24 C).
I also kept the sunglasses in my car (which is primarily my mobile office) so I used them nearly every day throughout this portion of the testing period. I've also worn the sunglasses while on several daily 3 mi (5 km) runs.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Throughout the Field Reporting portion of the test series I wore the sunglasses on nearly a daily basis. I spend a great amount of time in my vehicle during the week, so I had plenty of opportunity to wear them in many different conditions from partly cloudy to full sun. I love them. There are times when the polarization causes it to be difficult to see digital screens in the car, but that's not a complaint on the product. I have that issue with any polarized pair of sunglasses.
I also used them on the aforementioned distinct backpacking/camping outings and during exercise. My impression the Zeal Essential's is nothing less than positive. During my hikes and paddles they stayed clean and even in times of perspiration they didn't need to be cleaned.
This led me to question whether I could wear them on a run. I run an average of four to five times per week and I've never really worn sunglasses because sweat has tended to drip down and run into my eyes and burn. I decided to give the Zeal's a try and they worked impeccably! Somehow the bridge kept perspiration from dripping and the lenses stay entirely clean on a 4 mi (6.4 km) run on a 95 F (35 C) degree day. I've worn them now on several runs and I remain happy.
What remains most important to me in sunglasses is functionality and eye protection, followed by fashion. I find both these in the shades. I do find them to be a little large for the size of my face. Given the option of a large or small size frame I typically choose the smaller. Still yet, in my opinion these do not swallow my face. I also like the eco-friendly design of them.
After several months wearing the Zeal Optics Essential sunglasses I remain extremely impressed with the product. I truly have nothing but 'roses' to report on the sunglasses and absolutely no 'thorns' at this time. If there is any critical feedback it is that they may be a tad large for my face. That in itself is a positive when partaking in sporting events, and that is primarily what I will use them for at the end of the test series. I've worn them nearly every day during the series so far to give them a thorough test, but will likely save them for sporting/kayaking/backpacking afterwards and wear other sunglasses in the car or at the pool. This isn't because I dislike them, but because I want to protect them and extend their useful life!
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
28 - 31 July, 2017; Green River, in and near Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. This was a three-day/two-night kayaking trip covering 30 mi (48 km). Temperatures were as low as 58 F (14 C) in the evenings and almost 90 F (32 C) in the day. It was beautiful, sunny in the day, and crisp at night. We hammock camped on islands and banks along the river.
5 August, 2017; Duck River, near Lewisburg, Tennessee. This was a 1/2 day tandem paddle on the river in a canoe with my 8-year old son. It was a leisurely paddle with fishing and lunch covering about 6 mi (10 km). Conditions were bright and sunny and temperatures reached close to 90 F (32 C).
9 - 10 September, 2017; Fiery Gizzard Trail, near Tracy City, Tennessee. It was cool and nice before the effects of Irma began making her way north, so on a whim my buddy pinged me to do an overnight on the trail. We cover 6 mi (10 km) of hiking and had a dry but seasonable cool night of 52 F (11 C) for early September in Tennessee.
|Hiking with my Buddy Scout|
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD & SUMMARY
My opinion of the Essential's has not changed dramatically in the Long-Term phase of the test series. I wore them nearly every sunny day in the car and I have worn them specifically on a weekend kayak outing, a 1/2 day canoe outing, an overnight backpacking trip and to several sporting events. I also wore them on a few more afternoon runs when there was full sun out.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.
I continue to find the glasses are durable, comfortable and stylish. They are super lightweight, but I do carry the hard case even when backpacking, so it tends to take up volume and adds weight. It is not too noticeable, but I may have already mentioned my mantra of 'on your face - or in the case' and because of that, I have nice sunglasses that are unscratched or damaged that are 25 years old!
I'm still amazed how clean they stay during a run while protecting my eyes from the sun. On one paddle, I nearly lost them because I had them on my forehead and wasn't using a neck strap. On the water, I learned that's nearly as bad as not using a case! I turned and they flipped back...fortunately into the boat and onto a soft cooler. No scratches and not to the bottom of the drink. Whew! On our next stop, I made a makeshift strap out of 550 paracord and when I returned home, I purchased a floating one and immediately put it into the case for use on the water.
The glasses are practical, comfortable and work well. In fact, they didn't make it back to my car on the Monday morning after my recent outing, so I wore that pair of shades I typically wore on a daily basis prior to the test series. The change quickly made my temples a little tender and gave me a mild headache. I've never experienced that with the Zeal sunglasses.
As I conclude the series, I look back and I'm very impressed with the sunglasses. The manufacturer's 'green' nature is a nice-to-have, but wouldn't be my personal final purchasing decision. Performance was a Rose! As I previously mentioned, they were a little large for my preference, but not so much that I felt uncomfortable making them my go-to glasses for the last four months. The larger frames do make them ideal for sporting, which will be my primary use moving forward. Again, the size/style isn't a true THORN in my opinion, so I truly don't have any for this product.
Thus, if you see me down the trail, on the water or read any of my other future reports don't be surprised if you also see me donning the Zeal Essential Sunglasses!
I'd like to thank both BackpackGearTest.org and Zeal Optics for the opportunity to test the Essential sunglasses. This concludes my report.
As I suggested in the Field testing portion of the series, I will likely reserve them for backpacking, boating and sporting events in the future. This isn't because I'm not thoroughly impressed with the sunglasses, but rather because I was so impressed with them! I'm actually being selfish by saving them for such occasions and ensuring nothing happens to them during daily wear.
Read more gear reviews by Steven M Kidd