For my John Muir Trail expedition in the summer of 2017, a primary concern in my gear preparations was eye protection. The vicious glare of the sun reflected off the snow can cause severe snow blindness, if you are not careful. The trouble I faced, however, is that there are SO MANY options out on the market. How to choose?
|| My Researching Process: Understanding My Needs ||
Before I begin researching the market for a piece of gear, I always try to ask myself a series of questions. These questions clarify the purpose of the gear I am shopping for, and help me in my purchasing process. Some of these questions include:
1) What is the purpose of this piece of gear? Is this a piece of gear that I will use once and then throw away, or is this more of a long-term investment?
In this specific gear purchase, I wanted a pair of sunglasses that would have some longevity. Understanding that the glasses would be more of an investment, I began researching models that I could see myself using in the future, based on their features, durability, and lenses.
2) What types of conditions will this piece of gear be used in? Will this piece of gear be subject to harsh conditions, which make it more likely to suffer damage?
I knew that these glasses might be subject to some harsher conditions on the trail. This consideration directed my search towards models that were made of durable materials, as well as brands that are known for standing behind their products.
3) Are there certain qualities that this piece of gear must have, based on the conditions that it will be used in?
This is more of a directed question, in particular for this gear search. Given that I would be traveling on snow for long periods of time, I would need a pair of glasses that were polarized and offered significant “wrap-around” protection. This “wrap-around” quality, in addition to the polarized glass, would protect me from the wicked glare of the sun off the snow.
Questions like these help me clarify what my needs are for specific pieces of gear.
Additionally, I focused in great detail on the price versus durability comparison. When buying gear for the backcountry, I feel it is extremely important to understand that there is a GREAT likelihood of gear sustaining severe wear and tear. I knew I needed to invest in a polarized glass, yet I did not want to spend too much money on a glass I thought looked luxurious, as I knew that these would likely sustain some damage, of some sort, on the trip.
|| Gear Review: Dragon Alliance MountaineerX ||
Part of Dragon Alliance’s XP Collection, “made for exploration, adventure and discovery”, the MountaineerX sunglasses are an amazing combination of versatility and durability. With interchangeable features, the MountaineerX can be worn as a classic wayfarer when not in harsh conditions, yet can be jacked up to a glacier glass when nature calls.
|| ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGY ||
One of the qualities that stood out to me about the MountaineerX glasses was their adaptability. “Built into each design, Adaptive Technology provides optimal functionality with features that adapt to demanding outdoor conditions,” states Dragon Alliance.
The MountaineerX has removable pieces that allow you to customize your experience based on individual needs. For those who plan to travel on snow, leather glacier attachments and ear clips allow for the traditional wayfarer design to be transformed into a classic glacier glass. Additionally, the MountaineerX comes with a clip-in tether, allowing for added security.
The adaptability of the MountaineerX allowed me to mix and match styles based on conditions:
When not in need of the glacier attachments, I could wear the MountaineerX as a traditional wayfarer.
When traveling on the snow, the MountaineerX can be transformed into a full-fledged glacier glass.
|| DURABILITY ||
The MountaineerX stood strong against the harsh conditions of the trail, sustaining minimal damage. I noticed a few scratches on the lenses, which probably came from time when I stowed them in my pack (when not in use). The scratches, however, do not impair the field of vision. Aside from that, the glasses seem pristine in all other areas. The hinges have not shown any signs of damage, an area I was worried about before the trip. Thus far, I have been extremely satisfied with the durability of these glasses.
|| LENS REVIEW ||
The most important quality of the glasses, for me, was the lens. For this trip I NEEDED a polarized lens to withstand the viscous glare reflected off the snow. The MountaineerX performed beautifully in this regard. According to Dragon Alliance, the red ionized lens is “developed for intense-light, extreme glare, and high UV exposure.” I did not once feel the glare off the snow to be overbearing when wearing these glasses. The red ionized tint gave a slightly blue hue to my field of vision, yet did not discolor to a noticeable extent.
|| WRAP-AROUND PROTECTION ||
As previously mentioned, for a trip like this, in which I would be travelling across miles of snowfields, “wrap-around” protection of my peripheral vision was CRUCIAL. The attachable leather side sun shields of the MountaineerX turn a classic wayfarer into a full-fledged glacier glass. These were by far my favorite attribute about the MountaineerX, and ultimately the reason I chose to buy the MountaineerX over other models. The leather side suns shields created a “blinder” effect when I attached them to the MountaineerX. At first the “blinders,” as I called them, felt a bit awkward, yet I quickly acclimated to them after a few hours.
The “blinders” are not uncomfortable to wear. They did not rub against my skin or create rash, as I had read some other glacier glasses do.
|| BRAND SUPPORT ||
Although I admittedly have only had a limited interaction with Dragon Alliance, when I did interact with them they were very accommodating. Initially the shipping address on my order was incorrect, so I called to fix the problem. Dragon Alliance assured me that they would resolve the issue, and that if need be, would resend me a new pair. Here is some other information I found on Dragon’s website:
“Dragon products are warrantied against all manufacturer defects for two years. Dragon does not warranty against lost items or lenses against scratching. Warranty is valid only if purchased through an authorized Dragon dealer.”
“Our product has a satisfaction guarantee or you may return it within 30 days of the shipment date for a refund of the item price. Customers will be responsible for all shipping costs unless the item received was damaged. All returns must be in their original product packaging. If an item was damaged during shipment please contact us immediately (Keep packaging so we may file a claim).”
|| PRICE ANALYSIS ||
Pricing on the MountaineerX will vary, depending upon which vendor you choose. Directly from Dragon Alliance, the MountaineerX cost $220, yet you can find them from re-sellers at a lower price. Be careful if you choose to buy them at a less expensive price from a re-seller, as the Dragon Alliance two-year warranty “is only valid if purchased through an authorized Dragon dealer.” Even at the $220 price point, the MountaineerX are a great investment for a durable and versatile sunglass that can keep up in a variety of conditions.
|| FINAL THOUGHTS: MY TAKEAWAYS ||
If you are looking for a highly polarized sunglass that can withstand harsh glare in snow conditions, look no further than the Dragon Alliance MountaineerX. The MountaineerX is durable, dependable, and a great investment for those who see themselves traveling through heavy snow conditions. The adaptability of the MountaineerX makes it a unique product, in that it can serve both as a casual sunglass, as well as a high performance technical glacier glass. I LOVE my MountaineerX, and plan to use them in the future.
|| WHERE TO BUY ||
You can purchase the Dragon Alliance MountaineerX from Amazon using THIS LINK.
You can purchase the Dragon Alliance MountaineerX from Dragon Alliance using THIS LINK.