Gear Review: Polaroid Habanero Sunglasses for Runners

polaroid habanerosWith Summer just around the corner,  it seems that it’s time to put my running tights away for another year and start planning for getting sweaty again.

All the signs are there. Blue tits darting hither and yon around the garden, Good Lady Wife spending fortunes at the local garden centre, and best of all, the latest in sunglasses for runners rocking up at Jelly Baby Towers, courtesy of those lovely people at Polaroid.

As regular readers of these pages may recall, In past years I’ve reviewed the darkly handsome Polaroid Medals and the slinky but somewhat bling Polaroid Vectors, falling in love with both of them for their outstanding performance.

So which way would Polaroid’s designers go this year I wondered? Understated elegance or all-out sportiness? And then I opened the very stylish hard case to find out that they’ve embraced the world’s current love affair with being orange, and created the Polaroid Habaneros.

First Impressions Out of the Box

Well, I knew there had to be some reason for all that oranginess, and a little research revealed that a Habanero is actually an orange chili, once regarded as being the world’s hottest (580,000 on the Scoville Scale, if any of you chili nerds are interested). So, not a tribute to David Dickinson then?

In fact, while the design of the Habaneros isn’t as obviously sporty as the Vectors, or even the Medals, these are pretty good-looking shades, at least once the orange legs have disappeared into the hair beyond one’s greying temples and increasingly hairy ears.

More importantly, they’re much, much lighter than they look, with the soft, orangey legs and adjustable nose pad giving a close but comfortable fit; and the high quality ‘polarized copper’ (or orange, as it’s more commonly known) lenses providing absolutely incredible vision in everything from bright sunlight to near-dusk.

Hitting the open road

As I’m prone to telling the GLW, and anyone else who’ll listen: looks aren’t everything. So to find out if these things are as hot as their name suggests, I waited for the sun to put his hat on, loaded my iPhone with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Greatest Hits, and headed out for a sweaty 10-miler along the beach.

While it isn’t exactly high summer out there, it’s certainly warm enough to work up a bit of a sweat. So I was pleased to note that while these are wraparounds, there’s enough width on the high optical quality lenses to let the breeze in at the sides and keep the hydrophobic lenses from steaming up. So not only do you get full UV protection, you also get to enjoy the best vision I’ve ever had through sunglasses: meaning that I’m probably going to be using these things for skiing as well as running.

Even after the full 10 miles, there was no condensation inside the lenses, no rubbing or discomfort anywhere, and I was enjoying the loveliest orange sunset over the Irish sea I’d ever seen. Then I took the Habaneros off and realised that it was just coming up to time for elevenses…

Apart from some mild reservations about the colour scheme, I reckon that the Habaneros are just about as good as it gets for running sunglasses, and even at a not insubstantial £79 a pair, they’re fully deserving of their 5 Jelly Baby Rating.

Technical Specification

Adjustable nose pads

• Wraparound style

• Brown frames with polarized copper lenses

• Filter category 3

• Polaroid UltraSight™ premium polarized lenses

• 100% UV400 protection

• Hard Polaroid case

• Inside frame width 132mm, lens height 39mm

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Gear Review: Polaroid Vector Running Sunglasses

There is a character in Douglas Adams’ wonderful book ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish’ who, unbeknownst to him, is a Rain God. Wherever he goes, the clouds follow him, and water him.

Which makes him pretty much the opposite of my good self.

Yep, all it takes is for me to idly wonder where my shorts are and all precipitation will magically cease in order for the sun to put his hat on to make me as hot and sweaty as possible.

So, as an inveterate plodder with a faulty thermostat, lightweight sunglasses that will stay in place regardless of the rivers of sweat pouring down my face are something of an essential buy.

For the last year or so, such duties have fallen to the darkly handsome Polaroid Medal sunglasses reviewed here. However, having enjoyed their lightweight comfort for a full 12 months now, I couldn’t resist trying out the new, improved and even sexier 2010 incarnation, the Polaroid Vector 99 P7007A.

First impressions? They’re sex on legs…

While they’re far from cheap, you always get a bang for your buck when you buy Polaroid sunglasses.

Open up that slinky case and your first thought is ‘Cool, they’ve wedged three pairs of sunglasses in there by mistake!’

But no, as you’ll quickly find out, they’ve stuck three pairs of running sunglasses in there completely on purpose. Okay, so there’s only one set of lightweight legs, but they come with one-piece brown tints fitted, and alternative sets of orange tint and clear lenses slotted into protective foam in the case.

What’s really clever about the Vectors though, is how quick and easy it is to switch between the three sets of lenses. Simply bend one side of the top frame up slightly, and the silver section that holds the lenses slides out, before your replacement lens clicks into place.

The result is a very robust arrangement, which really belies the waif-like weight and proportions of the Vectors. Polaroid don’t give an official weight, but they appear to be about 25g, which is next to nothing in the grand scheme of things.

These are also strikingly good-looking sunglasses to my mind, if a little bit on the ‘bling’ side. In fact, to be honest, my Good Lady Wife has started to refer to me as ‘Puff Daddy’ in front of the kids when I’m wearing them. Though that’s actually an improvement on the Ray Charles jibes I’ve endured while wearing the Polaroid Medals over the last 12 months.

But does even P Diddy need three different lenses? Well, yes. As the weather has been mildly atrocious since these things rocked up here at Jelly Baby Towers, I’ve run through golf ball-sized hailstones, where the clear lenses were simply a godsend; the deep gloaming of a late afternoon run at the beach where a slight miscalculation with regard to sundown made my choice of the orange tints an inspired one; and now that the weather has picked up a bit, I’ve enjoyed a sunny, sweaty traipse through the dunes where the brown tints showed that Polaroid really know their stuff when it comes to clarity of vision.

Second impression, they’re pretty clever too…

Well, when it comes to running sunglasses, lightness, comfort and fog-resistance are even more important than clarity of vision.

So while the Polaroid vectors undoubtedly keep UV at bay, that would be to little avail if they didn’t perform when the heat is on.

Fortunately, someone at Polaroid has obviously rethought the whole concept of sunglasses for runners, and incorporated a couple of superb design details.

The first of these is the adjustable rubber fitments you’ll find on the leg. The soft little things can be slid up and down the leg to allow perfect adjustment behind your ears, ensuring that the Vectors stay firmly in place while you’re running, without rubbing or chafing at all.

The second great design detail is that the lenses ‘float’ beneath the frames, pulling off the difficult trick of giving you all round protection from the sun, while ensuring plenty of airflow to prevent the lenses misting up.

The sweaty but slightly smug conclusion…

I must admit that while I acquired the Polaroid Vectors for athletic purposes, they now live in my car, because the orange tints make the most superb driving glasses I’ve ever had. When the sky turns black and the rains come down, putting these on is like making the sun come out. They’re also great for evening runs.

But it’s when the clouds part and it’s time to take my ageing, sweaty body out in the sunshine for a run that these things really come into their own. The vision through the brown tints is perfect, they’re so light and comfortable that you forget you’re wearing them, and best of all, with all that ventilation and a hydrophobic coating, it’s impossible to steam them up.

Even as I type this post, sweatier than a Lee Evans encore, after my first hot weather ten-miler of the season, I can see the screen of my Mac as clear as day through the Vectors.

And so, having given the previous incarnation of Polaroid’s sunglasses for runners a rare 5 Jelly Baby Rating, I’m afraid that the Vectors are such a massive improvement, I’m going to have to give them the whole damn bag.

Technical Specification

• Polaroid polarized lenses
• 100% UV400 protection
• Filter category 3
• Weight 25g (Unofficial)
• Specially designed ear fittings for better hold
• Unique construction with lenses secured at the nose
• Clear, brown and orange easily interchangeable lenses
• Clear and orange lenses are non-polarized
• Comes with padded, zipped Polaroid case
• Inside frame width 130mm, lens height 39mm