The search for the perfect clear goggles continues. As regular readers may know, I have an abiding loyalty to the Blueseventy Element goggles for open water swimming, but while their heavily mirrored lenses are great for the bright daylight, they're not so good for pool swimming, duller conditions or early mornings, and are useless for night swimming. So, until they start making clear versions, the search for an alternative continues and I got a couple of candidates to try out.
First up is the Aquasphere Kaiman....and as an extra bonus, this review comes with a lesson in how not to test out new goggles. What you absolutely shouldn't do is excitedly grab your new goggles and head out at 6.30 am to your local lake, snap them quickly on, think that they feel 'about right', and then hop into 10 degree water for the first time this season. Because what happens next is they start to leak....not because they're not capable of forming a good seal, but because you didn't bother to make sure they were properly fitted before you started. And of course now you're freezing cold with fingers too sausage-like to adjust them properly; plus, every time you stop to empty them out and fiddle with them, the nice people doing safety cover on the bank who already think you're barking mad for going in without a wetsuit on think that you're in trouble and start reaching for torpedo buoys.
So after this rather inauspicious start, I took them to the pool, taking the time to get the tension just right. The adjustment mechanism is easy to use, and in no time at all, I had them fitting like a glove, with not so much as a dribble seeping in during an hour's session. The rubbery skirts that form the seal against the face are inordinately soft - so soft, in fact, that they've made up a new name for the material: Softeril. The point is, they're really comfortable. The goggles have a double head strap at the back - important especially for women (or men) with long hair, because the straps can sit easily each side of the knot under your cap, whilst still exerting even pressure on the goggles. The clear lens have no distortion and a good field of vision, with an excellent anti-fog. So, all in all, a success.
The second pair wasn't quite such a success for me: the Speedo Rift Pro Mask. I've never really swum in a mask, but thought it would be worth trying. I had the lightly mirrored one since these are mostly for outdoor swimming anyway, but there is also a clear-lensed version. On the positive side, they are easy to adjust and they fitted easily on the first go and then didn't budge, not letting a drop of water in; like the Kaiman's, it's got a double head strap, and it's also got a pretty wide field of vision too, although I experienced some distortion when I tested it in the pool (which was less significant in the open water, but was exaggerated by all the tiles and lines). I had two key problems with it: one which is perhaps of general interest, and one which is more about my own preferences. Firstly, I wasn't very impressed with the anti-fog, and had to keep stopping to wipe the inside of the lenses clear; this was helped eventually by a bit of lick and spit, but that shouldn't really be necessary on a brand new pair. But secondly, and the real drawback for me, was that the mask is just too big. Relative to other similar products, it is small and light, but like all masks, it sits on the forehead (rather than around the eye socket), and even loosely secured, I felt like the pressure would get to me on a long swim - like having a hat that's too tight. But also, even when you turn your head to breathe, you can feel the mask dragging slightly against the water. I can imagine that for someone who is not too confident in the water and wants good visibility combined with a mask that is not going to leak or come off easily, perhaps over a relatively short swim, this would be a good option; for me, it was too big and too 'on my face' for me to be able to get on with it.
So, the Aquasphere Kaiman is the winner for now, and has been promoted to 'clear goggles of choice' status in my kit bag.