Usual Retail Price: $100-200 depending on the lens
Lens we tested: Cameleon lens – category 2-4 photochromic polarized lens
Pros: the lens versatility, side panels, great contrast, anti-fogging, stylish
Cons: tighter fit for bigger faces
Julbo Montbianco sunglasses deliver great eye protection from sun and UV rays on snow and glaciers with the rare category 4 lens. Also, the lens’ ability to transition between category 2 and 4 make them very versatile for various mountain adventures in different weather conditions.
Product Description and How We Tested It:
I have been using the Montebianco sunnies for over a year – about 80 days in total – mainly for skiing, but also for hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and little bit of cycling and running.
Julbo is the “original” mountain sunglasses brand and one of the most recognized names in the outdoor industry. For a couple of decades now, Julbo has been manufacturing eye protection for mountaineering on snow and high altitudes – environments where the sun rays reflection compounds the damaging effects on our eyes.
Julbo has been specializing in transition lenses for long time and most of their other sunglasses go from category 1 (almost clear) to category 3 (comfortably dark) – these are mostly suitable for off-snow activities such as running, hiking or cycling. In total, there are 5 categories/filters to which sunglasses are categorized into, number five providing the most protection and being very dark.
The Montebianco model has been design for versatility, utility, style and most importantly to protect our eyes. This Julbo model transitions from category 2 (their default state) to category 4 in a matter of seconds when the UV rays are strong enough.
Once the lens is in category 4 mode it is very dark and allows you to comfortably stare into glaring snow whole day. In fact, the lenses has been the darkest I have ever worn.
The lenses also offer a superb contrast vision that is very appreciated during overcast days or in flat light while skiing unknown or through quickly changing terrain.
Some special coating on the insides of my lenses prevents them from fogging up. There were few moments when I needed to remove the glasses and went them out a little, but this happens often with many full-frame sport sunglasses, especially when it’s very hot and humid and you are not moving very fast (breaking trail on skis).
The “downside” of these category 4 transition lenses is that they don’t clear fast enough when I ski into the forest, or a very shaded area (under a cliff on a north slope for example). On few occasions, I had to remove them for short period, otherwise, everything was too dark.
Another cool feature are the removable side panels that protect eyes from UV rays coming from side angles which happens a lot in the mountains. They are great for winter and spring months. I don’t feel that the panels are needed in the summer unless I spend lots of time on a glacier.
Regarding the fit, like with any sunglasses, this is highly individual. These Montebianco glasses seem to fit well medium male faces. They fit great even when used with a helmet – mountaineering or a climbing one. For me, they feel slightly tight after few hours but I have a larger head.
The Montebianco frames are very durable but you want to be somewhat protective of the lenses to avoid scratches. This is not a sign of “less quality” but a small price to pay if you want to have lenses with so many different coatings that improve and protect your vision.
What We Think Could Be Improved:
There are many features that make the Montebianco model a great choice for your outdoor activities but of course, there are a couple of things that could be improved:
- Adding some rubberized areas on the legs/stems would help holding the glasses on a ski toque while not in use.
- It would be great if the transition from category 4 filter back to 3 or 2 if faster, however, I don’t know if this is technologically possible at the moment.