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If you’ve ever been skiing or snowboarding, you can attest to the huge benefit goggles provide for visibility and comfort while out riding the snow. They protect your eyes from snow and debris, reduce sun glare, keep the cold wind off your face and prevent your eyes from drying out. Learn some tried and true adventure skills to keep those goggles clear and your visibility high.
The science behind the fog
Water vaporizes (turns from liquid to gas) when it heats up. Your breath, vaporizing sweat, melting snow, and moisture in the air all humidify the cold air when you’re out in the snow. When this warm water vapor hits a cold surface it condenses and turns back into a liquid. The steamy air trapped inside your goggles touches the cold surface leading to foggy goggles. Once that water condenses, it can be really hard to get off and can sometimes freeze, making it even harder to see. It’s the humid air getting trapped in your goggles that causes the problem. So the question then becomes – how do we keep the humidity out and prevent foggy goggles?
Tip 1 – Mind the weather
A key factor in foggy goggles is the weather, including the dew point, the temperature, and the relative humidity. The general forecast should play a role in how you prepare for an adventure and that will impact how well you keep your goggles fog free. If it’s a sunny bluebird day, you’re going to be less likely to fog up because the sun will help keep the humidity down and dry things out quickly. If you’re out after dark in powder on a frosty night, you’ve got a bit more of a challenge on your hands. Be sure to dress warm enough, but ensure you don’t overdo it. Keep your mouth and nose clear of clothing so your breath can blow off and not get trapped inside your goggles. It’s better to be a bit too cold than overheated.
Tip 2 – Dress for the occasion
If you’ll be doing something very active like ski touring, mountaineering, or cross-country skiing, you’ll be working much harder aerobically and will sweat more than if you’re just hitting the ski lift or the sledding hill. For a cold but active adventure, be more careful about your layers and the types of fabrics you wear. Don’t overdo what you have on your head and face, and ensure what you do have is breathable. Since we’d never encourage you to adventure without a helmet, pick one that has adequate ventilation and preferably one that has controllable ventilation. The one below is the one I use and like.
This helmet has adjustable vents so you can tune it in to your activity level to prevent sweat and fog!
If you know you’ll be ascending or going cross-country, keep your goggles stowed in your pocket until you get to the downhill and use a pair of sunglasses or maybe even stash an extra lens or two so you can swap out the foggy goggles when you need to.
Other considerations in what you wear are the fabric type. Ensure whatever you have on your face or head is breathable, moisture-wicking, and well-ventilated. If it traps in the moisture, you’re gonna get foggy goggles! My go-to choices for covering my face and neck are thin polyester gaiters for warmer weather and wool balaclavas for colder weather:
Tip 3 – Acclimate your goggles
If you can keep the temperature inside your goggles similar to your body temperature, the humidity won’t condense as easily. You can do this by putting your goggles on before you get out in the cold and keeping them on the whole time you’re out. If you take them off, you may wish you hadn’t. The changes in temperature will cause condensation and foggy goggles in no time.
Tip 4 – treat your lenses right
There are many products you can buy that are meant to prevent foggy goggles. These work with varying degrees of success, but are typically better than not treating the lenses at all. These products come in wipe form and spray form as well as other forms. I haven’t used many of them, but the wipes seem generally easier to use. You can also use baby shampoo, Pledge, Cat Crap, or my personal favorite – saliva. Yes, spit works just as well as anything I’ve tried and is free and always available. Whatever you use to treat them, just do it before you head out in the cold, and be sure to get the goggles clean, clear, and dry after applying the lens treatment.
Tip 5 – don’t block the vents
Once you get out in the snow, there are a few things you can do to keep the air inside your goggles less humid. Keep the air vents on your goggles unobstructed so they work the way they’re designed. There are usually vents all the way around your goggles. Putting neck gaiters or face masks right up against your goggles will trap and funnel hot, humid air right up against these vents and also prevent the air inside the goggles from getting out. You also need to be mindful of what helmet you use, how your goggles and helmet meet together, and what space is available for the air to vent out.
Tip 6 – Don’t blow it
If your goggles come off or get snow in them during skiing, don’t wipe them clean. Take them off and tap the snow out from the outside. Get as much of the snow out as you can without letting it melt or wiping the inside of the lens. This doesn’t always work, but do your best. The leftover snow is usually best picked out but not wiped out with your fingers. If you still can’t get it out, a small microfiber towel kept in your pocket can be very handy. One mistake I see people make all the time is to try to blow the snow out. While this may help get snow out, it will cover your lens with hot, humid air and when your goggles are off your face, they’ll be cold and the moisture will immediately condense on the lens. Game over!
Tip 7 – Upgrade your goggles
If you’re using old goggles, you may be in need of stepping up to some newer and more advanced goggle technologies. The ventilation, lens coating, airflow patterns, and interior volume of newer goggle designs will all help you win the fog war. If you really want to go crazy, there are even some fancy goggles with fans in them that will do wonders. These high-tech goggles are especially handy if you’re one of the unlucky people who need to wear glasses inside your goggles. (If you do wear glasses inside your goggles, all these same tips apply.
Tip 8 – Keep moving
If you can keep moving either on the ground or on the lift, the airflow from the movement will create good ventilation through the goggles and keep the hot, humid air flushed out. This isn’t always an option, but just know that if you stop at the bottom or in the middle of aggressive riding, you’ll be foggy in a hurry.
After all is said and done, sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to keep from getting foggy goggles. My advice to you when this happens is to just stick the goggles in your pocket and go without. It may help you realize how much you take your goggles for granted.
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