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Adventure, Cycle / November 16, 2015

Gear Review: Native Eyewear

Written by: Phil Lindeman

The Ward, one of Native Eyewear’s newest models, is designed in Colorado by the sort of folks who know exactly what they need from a pair of sunglasses. It’s even named for a classic rock face on the Rocky Mountain Front Range. Colorado is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, and so the pros who live there know a thing or two about what works, what doesn’t and how to build the best.

What do climbers and kayakers and mountain bikers need from sunnies? For starters, they need something that can take a beating and look good doing so. After all, performance and style aren’t mutually exclusive. That’s like saying Red Bull should stick to making energy drinks. Where’s the fun in that? Sunglasses should have the best of both worlds.

The Ward comes pretty damn close to bridging the gap. It has plenty of performance features (interchangeable lenses, cam-lock hinges, polarized lenses), and they’re all wrapped in a sleek, sexy package that’s made for the outdoors.

Tech

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.

Fit

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.

Field Test

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.

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about the author

Phil Lindeman

Phil Lindeman is a gear junkie based in Summit County, Colorado, where the powder is deep and the singletrack is nearly endless.

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