Let’s start with the tech features. The sunglasses are incredibly lightweight at about 0.3 ounces. They’re made with a castor-oil resin, not plastic; Native claims this is more pliable and forgiving than similar materials. It stands the test under normal circumstances. I have a relatively large head, and even though the frame seemed far too small at first, it had just enough give to hug my temples without giving me a headache. The lenses are the Ward’s claim to fame — and the reason they run $149 MSRP. They feature Native’s latest polarization technology, which like all polarization technology starts by blocking infrared and UV rays. Polarized lenses do it more effectively than plain-old mirrored lenses, so what you see is (hopefully) crisp and clear in most conditions, not dark and formless. The Ward also comes with Native’s interchangeable low-light lenses. They aren’t polarized, but they are mirrored. That’s a major plus for skiers, snowboarders and anyone who’s into water-based sports. The mirrored coating cuts down on reflective light just enough on overcast days. It’s also a killer value: Ward lenses are $70 a pop.
The Ward fits like a good pair of ski goggles and it’s all thanks to the frame material. It flexes with your head like comfortable goggles do, but it doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap. To be honest, they feel so light and durable that I keep wanting to call the material space-aged. I won’t.
The frames are clean, crisp and straightforward. I personally like fatter sunglasses, but that’s only because I’m a sucker for aviators. It comes in seven different colors with nearly a dozen different lenses, including a Realtree MAX-1 camo pattern for hunters.
Earlier this fall, I took two early-morning mountain bike rides through Mayflower Gulch near Copper Mountain and French Gulch outside of Breckenridge. Both areas are lined with tall, thick pine trees. These can be alternately dark and blinding when the sun peeks through — a rider’s worst enemy, especially at 8 a.m. on a ridiculously bluebird morning. I rode with normal, non-polarized lenses on the way up both trails, then switched to the Ward with Native’s green polarized lens on the way down. The difference was truly night and day. With the polarized lenses, I was easily able to make out rocks, ditches and ruts, even when the sun got higher and brighter after an hour of riding. They worked like a charm. On the descent from Mayflower Gulch, I realized that a few of the deeper, darker shadows on the climb were actually puddles of dark water. Can I credit it all to the polarized lenses? Not exactly — again, the sun was higher and brighter — but the difference was noticeable and welcome.