Adventure buddies, summit sisters, pedal pals… call 'em what you want but any adventure is better when shared. Sure there’s an increase in faff time, your snacks disappear faster and they strain your nostrils with the smell of their damp socks. However, the really memorable journeys I’ve experienced in my life have often been because the joy I had experienced was shared. The smiles, the tears, the lessons you take away, and the physical and mental excursion stripping us bare are all valuable moments.
I'm a big hugger. The sweet embrace that can hold so much feeling and allows a connection on a level that just isn’t possible any other way. When the heart Chakra’s connect, it’s like a human bond on a level that can’t be matched. But my desire for human connection is on par with my forgetfulness, and on more than one occasion, just moments into a celebratory embrace, amplified in strength by highhanded emotions and cortisone levels, I’ve realized the sunglasses that had been hanging from my neck, were now firmly pressed between two sweaty, embraced bodies. There are a few sounds that really stick in my memory throughout my adult life, but this dull click needs no explanation.
The sound of sunglasses collapsing under your own body weight is one that can be immediately recognized. In a brief moment, your favorite eye protectors can be transformed from a beautifully functioning piece of your adventure system to a useless comedic prop, that will often never fit properly again at best, or be destined to the garbage. As two bodies press together, you can feel arms breaking, and frames being bent in multiple directions, leaving you in need of a potentially expensive replacement. Even worse, this passionate connection could leave you out there, with nothing to help you on the rest of your trip, and if it’s early into a multi-day, that is going to be bad news. It’s not until you’re without your ocular protection that you really realize how important your sunglasses are to your overall experience. Especially if you’re trying to look as stylish as all heck doing it.
Enter the Ombraz range of outdoor eyewear. Ombraz, based in Washington state, launched its first product through a successful Indiegogo campaign. The initial concept, the armless design, was born when a founder once broke his 'regular' sunglasses by sitting on them while on a Safari vacation. He lashed the broken frames to his head with string and the rest is history.
I had been looking for a new set of cycling glasses for a while but hadn’t really settled on anything. I’m a bikepacker after all, and don’t really adhere to the roady aesthetic, which most cycling glasses seem to fall within. I know you shouldn’t make decisions based purely on looks, but if you’re into bikes, and you’re reading this then I bet style does play a part in most buying decisions that you make. And it’s the style, which is the first thing about these glasses that you notice. The name Ombraz comes from the Italian word for shade, and each model is named to conjure an Italian zeitgeist of a product. The range would look at home in a bygone ski movie, with a rich warm color palette and big playful curves, and of course, the head-turning double bridge.
The second very important discerning feature about these glasses is the fact they make use of a string. There are no arms, and it means there is very little to go wrong, and no arms or hinges to snap when you hug your friends. This also means that they can be packed down really nicely and stored without the use of a big hard case which always seems like a bad use of space in my bags. The mechanism is very intuitive and easily worked out, by sliding the string over your head and pulling on each toggle until the correct tightness is achieved.
The V2 Japanese nylon cord is made from recycled fishing nets. It has a smooth finish and weight that allows you to forget it’s even there. They claim it’s antimicrobial too. The glasses come with a neoprene case that has a stitched-in heavy-duty lens cloth and once inserted, feel secure and can easily go inside your pockets or bags and be completely safe.
Obmraz lenses come in both Polarized and Non-polarized, polyamide. They are crafted by world-class lens maker Carl Zeiss, a company that makes my favourite camera optics giving the Ombraz lenses a similar quality. They are scratch and smudge resistant, I would suggest always go with polarized lenses. Polarization means the lenses are laminated with tiny vertical stripes that only allow vertically angled light to enter your eyes. Glare is eliminated because the horizontal light waves cannot bypass the vertical filter, so you essentially see things without glare and reflection. There’s a lovely tool on the Ombraz website that’ll demonstrate the experience for you.
There is very little fogging too. I’ve had mine on my face for hours, even with sustained effort and there has been no sign of fogging. I also opted for the brown lens, which brings a beautiful rich sepia look into your world.
The frames fit my face well, especially when slightly looser, and they have a nice feel in the hand. They’ve actually fit everyone who’s tried them, which is impressive with very little to adjust and have had multiple comments about how they feel as though they’re not even there. With a European feel, a lustrous finish, and a rich tonal colour pallet they really offer a great sensual experience. They are made from an indestructible aerospace-grade, TR-90 nylon, then finished by hand painting and tumbling in wood chips.
The only challenge I had wearing the Ombraz Classics was the tangle created between the cord and my helmet strap. If I have the glasses on, I need to release my helmet before loosening and removing the glasses, but this is more down to the user and not the product. I also sometimes ride with cabled headphones, and I imagine this could become a very messy affair. If you are someone that needs to take off your glasses a lot then this may cause some frustration, however, the cord is just about long enough to remove while your helmet is still on.
There is the option to buy side shields, I probably wouldn’t use these that often as they do make the form factor larger and the pack down of these is so key for my use. I’ll definitely use the shields next time I’m on snow though, I can imagine these being really well suited to ski touring or anything on snow or water that has a very reflective undersurface.
And what’s not to love about Ombraz as a company? Every pair sold plants 20 trees, helping to regrow mangroves which in turn provide jobs and help in the fight against climate change. The packaging is completely plastic-free and is very satisfying to open for the first time which is always a little treat.
You’ll either love or hate the aesthetic of these sunglasses, but in my opinion, they’re aimed at the discerning outdoors person who wants an alternative to high-performance sportswear, and I appreciate that. Not only that but they function just as well, if not better due to the armless design and Zeiss lenses, they’ll stick to your face no matter what conditions are thrown your way and they are also incredibly comfortable. Nearly every person that has tried them on, has immediately commented on the fact that it really feels like you have nothing on your face, and could easily keep these on for the entire day.
So will I keep hugging my mission mates? You bet I will, and with nothing to hold me back, there’s going to be more human connection out there than ever before. And not only will my hugs be back to the confident embrace that they once were, but I’ll also be offsetting my carbon footprint at the same time as well.
Get the Ombraz Classics here for $160 USD.
|Carl Zeiss lenses|
|Comfortable fit & stylish form factor|
|20 Trees planted per pair bought|
|Additional side shields are available|
|100% UV protection|
|Cord design can create tangle with helmets|
|Lenses are not interchangeable|
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