Goggles fog. For the most part, there’s no way to prevent it. That is, there wasn’t. In the last year, two companies have introduced ski goggles with heated lenses that melt fog away. One company did it right. The other seems to have rushed a hacked solution to market. The surprise, however, is that the hacked solution is the Oakley Line Miner Inferno.
That’s not to say that Oakley didn’t work some of their typical magic into the Line Miner Infernos. Our testers came with their new Prizm lenses (Oakley’s answer to Smith’s Chromapop) which make the world look great. Optics are crystal clear and colors do pop. The frame shape, identical to the regular Line Miners, is entirely nice. It uses a cylindrical lens shape which makes it cost effective and brings the lens closer to your face. Oakley’s triple-layer foam is comfortable and seals the goggles well, but there’s plenty of ventilation as well.
The Inferno tech means well. You can tell Oakley put some thought into the design, but things broke down somewhere along the way. Inferno has a single mode – hold the button down for a few seconds and haptic feedback tells you it’s turned on with a ramping vibration. Turn it off and the vibration ramps down. That may not make sense in words, but it makes sense on your face. Each defrost cycle is three minutes, which should be enough to cut through any fog, and the battery lasts for a claimed 25-30 cycles before needing a recharge.
In testing, the defrost cycle works.
That’s the end of the nice things we can say. From here on in, everything is pretty sucky. In an effort to make the goggles feel like regular goggles, Oakley puts a detachable battery pack on the strap. It has to be located on the right side, eliminating your ability to run a Sony action camera on the strap. The battery pack is a clunky looking thing that sticks out about an inch and a half from your head. The main button is on the rear above a microUSB charging plug. While the charging plug has a rubber cap to keep snow out, I couldn’t get the cap to stay in.
On the other end of the battery pack, Oakley uses a proprietary plug to connect the battery pack to the wire coming from the goggle frame. If you place the battery pack too far from the frame on the strap, the plug comes undone when you stretch the goggles over your head.
And stretch you must. In testing on a large Giro Range helmet, I had to extend the strap all the way to get a comfortable fit.
I get the concept of the external battery – Oakley wants you to be able to remove the battery on days when there’s no fear of fogging. Unfortunately, the execution is cumbersome and poorly executed. You have a big lump on the side of your head if the battery is attached and if you remove it, there’s a cord sticking out that doesn’t really have anywhere to go. It also may create some safety concern; anything extending out from your helmet is something that can snag in a fall, which may increase the chance of injury.
But, what really brings it home is a direct comparison with the only current competitor on the market, Abominable Labs’ ABOM goggle. Despite being from a new company, the ABOM is a complete, well-engineered solution that doesn’t look like they just slapped a battery on the strap and called it a day.
So, really, what in the world happened here, Oakley? I’d rock the regular Line Miners in a second, but Inferno just isn’t that hot.