These are not just another unique design, they are an evolution of sport and fashion sunglasses as we know them.
- All day comfort
- Good coverage
- Pricier than gas station shades
I recently tried out some new sunglasses from Ombraz. They were incredibly great. But let me get something right out there before I continue. Though I am a full-time wearer of corrective lenses and have been since one faithful day in third grade, I still want to be cool. I arrived at Mrs. Gardner’s class with my adult-size, aviator, wire-frame, bifocals weighing down on my little boy face and was immediately dubbed a full-blown nerd by all my peers from that moment on.
It is as a lifelong, nerdy to the core, adventurer that I have quested for the perfect eyewear to bring clarity to my wilderness pursuits. Back in the early nineties, during my elementary school Field Days, I boldly clipped flip-up “sun lenses” to the bridge of my aviator frames and proceeded to block the sun’s UV rays while permanently ostracizing myself from even the lowest levels of popularity.
It wasn’t until after college that I was able to afford prescription sunglasses, really nice ones from WileyX. But those were only good until the sun went down, then it was once again time to dig out my regular prescription glasses from deep in a backpack or from the depths of a duffel.
When toting prescription glasses AND prescription sunglasses two things are constantly on your mind. “Oh shoot, should these break, I’ll be blind for the rest of the trip!” and “How can a pair of eye-glasses take up more space in my gear than a dehydrated dinner for two?”
As I started to see forty cresting life’s horizon—and an urgency to pack four seasons of adventuring into every one of my remaining years—I made the switch to disposable contact lenses at the suggestion of my optometrist, Dr. Tuite. The conversation began around skiing. Prescription snow goggles are more of a pain than prescription sunglasses. Nobody wants to sip that mid-day alpine cocktail at the slope side bar with their goggles on. Fewer people want to ski all day with a pair of fragile glasses bulging out of their ski jacket. Contacts have improved enormously since the Wonder Years went off the air, which is around the last time I had given them a try. I took my doc up on his suggestion and boom, Nordic Skiing and Alpine Skiing in contacts were a hit!
The snow began to melt, Covid cases began to decrease, and paddling season was approaching. I started looking around at Smith sunglasses to combine with my contacts for the upcoming season. I found an amazing pair and played hard and looked kind of cool with them. The issues that snuck up on me were times when they were not on my face. Unless I had a day pack with me, the shades hung around my neck. They made me look like a legit river guide on their included sunglass-retainer-cord and that was fine by me. But then sips of afternoon cocktails dripped from my mouth onto the lenses suspended there like a drool cup. Squirts of barbecue sauce clinging to my beard were shaken free by uproarious laughter and fell with a sticky splat onto the lenses. This sent me sprinting to the men’s room for cleaning sessions involving all the seriousness and intensity of bomb disposal.
Then I was told about Ombraz Sunglasses. Allow me to expand on these gamechangers: As with the river guide look, these things hang on a retaining cord. But unlike any other glasses I have seen, the retaining cord is the thing that holds these lenses on your face instead of fragile arms that get bent out of shape within a few weeks of purchase.
“Ombra means shade in Italian,” says the low profile, minimalist cardboard box my sunglasses came shipped in. The box goes on to tell about the 20 Mangrove trees that get planted for every pair of Ombraz sold. In the box is a slim soft-case. In the slim case is a polishing cloth that is ingeniously sewn to the top of the case and so cannot be misplaced on its own.
The armless design of the Ombraz made most of the things I do in the field better and easier. When laying back on a cool slab of granite during a break on a hot hike, the lack of solid sunglass arms means I can rest my head to the side without my shades going all cattywampus. If I need to remove my specs to view a small screen on a camera or peer through binoculars, I can drop them from my face instead of seeking a place to clip the fragile, folding arm that will surely get tweaked when I lean against something or contort my body to remove my pack or clothing. When the sun gets low over the river and its time to figure out camp, I can remove the shades completely and slide them into their little case, then tuck the case almost anywhere on my person or amongst my gear. It’s that low profile!
In a month of paddling, hiking, backpacking, cycling, golfing, running, and working out of doors, I have had zero chafing. I have experienced no soreness on the bridge of my nose. I have been free from shifting and sliding due to perspiration. Zero incompatibility with neck, head, and face wear like hats, bandanas, or covid-era masks have befallen my daily life. My lenses have not been scratched or cracked despite a tumble here and there. My contacts feel more comfortable as I am neither squinting nor exposed to eye-drying breezes and dust-filled gusts of wind behind my Ombraz shades.
Ombraz play quite nicely with my Smith bike helmet and my cocktail-time cowboy hat.
With my contacts in, I place the armless Ombraz over my head. Resting the frames on my nose, I pull the beads on the retaining cord snug around the back of my dome. Then I open my eyes. The polarized lenses are crisp and perfectly tinted for days in the hills or on the water. The Leggero frames offer maximum coverage while also providing classic styling.
My face dimensions and pupal distance are pretty much average. I am not one of those people who look cool in sunglasses. I really don’t look especially cool in most hats. To be completely forthright, I am not a cool person (aesthetically speaking). However, when I wear the Ombraz Leggero frames in Ember, with their polarized brown lenses, in the regular size, I somehow come one step closer to awesome. This feels pretty great after the thirty elapsed years since that path-altering day in Mrs. Gardner’s class, when I debuted my brand new, coolness-repelling, prescription eyeglasses.
I have hiked, biked, skied, trekked, and paddled on three continents over thirty years, always wearing eyewear.
Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (keep)
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