Gear Review: Julbo Explorer With Spectron 4 Lenses

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When it comes to protective eyewear for the mountains, Julbo is the only company I buy from. I used to be a huge fan of Oakley, but they don’t sell sunglasses with the category 4 lenses my eyes need for protection at high elevation. For 90% of my time on the trail, I wear my Julbo Dust with photochromic Zebra Lenses. The Zebra lens adjusts from 7% light transmission to 42% light transmission, and does so in less than 30 seconds. For this reason, they’re perfect for almost all hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, and trail running activities. The only time I find myself needing more protection is when I am hiking at high elevation for long periods of time, with ice and snow reflecting light back into my eyes. For these situations, I wear my Julbo Explorers with Spectron 4 lenses.

Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Julbo Explorer Spectron 4 Lens

“The highest mountains and extreme conditions bring out the best in these sunglasses that have been developed in collaboration with the elite climbing school in Chamonix. The Explorer takes glacier sunglasses to the next level: lenses with impressive protection, coverage from damaging UV rays, an anti-fog ventilation system…” This text is from the Julbo brochure for the Explorer, and does a nice job at introducing what I have found to be some pretty incredible sunglasses. The Explorers were developed and are used by some talented mountaineers under very demanding conditions. I’ll admit, hiking really isn’t what they’re made for, but they do a great job of protecting my eyes nonetheless. I’m hoping to get some real mountaineering use out of them in the near future, but for now, I’ll focus on their use as high altitude hiking sunglasses.

Support Trail to Peak by  purchasing the Julbo Explorer on Amazon:
Julbo Explorer Spectron 4

Julbo Explorer Frames:

The Julbo Explorer comes in a standard frame size as well as an XL size for larger faces and heads. Below you will find the dimensions for the standard Julbo Explorer and the XL. I bought the Explorer XL, as I found the standard frame to fit a bit tight on my temples. The Explorer ear stems are fully customizable with 360 degrees of articulation, so you can dial in the fit on your face and also while wearing a beanie, hat, or helmet. The ear stems are rubberized and grip very well on my head without causing any discomfort or pressure points. The ear stems also give you the ability to attach an adjustable neck strap, which is something I’ve found to be very useful and comforting. At 1.4 oz, these sunglasses are a little heavier than what I’m used to wearing, but that’s to be expected with the extra materials used for sun protection.

Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Adjustable Ear Stems In Action
Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Adjustable Ear Stems

The Julbo Explorer comes with removable wing eye shields that do a great job of protecting my eyes from sun and glare reflecting off of ice and snow. The fit of the eye shields gives these sunglasses the feel of being goggles at first, but my eyes quickly adjusted and appreciated the fully enclosed sun blockage. I like the green accents for styling, but the color is a little distracting at first, as it sits in my peripheral vision. I wish they would have kept this as a uniform grey color.

Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Side Sheilds In Action
Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Side Sheilds

The frames of the Explorer have incorporated vents on the bottom outside corner of each eye and at the attachment point of each ear stem. Even though the lenses are anti-fog, I’ve found that the frames trap quite a bit of heat and moisture, causing some buildup on the lenses in moist environments. This is usually only the case when I’m wearing a hat, as the bill keeps the heat from escaping upwards. It’s a bit of a trade off, as the fully enclosed glasses offer a ton or protection, but in doing so leave limited spaces for ventilation.

The wings aren’t great for ventilation, but that was to be expected. What they are great for is blocking out the sun and other light sources. Starting at the middle, the frame hugs my nose closely and doesn’t allow any light in from the keyhole at the bridge of my nose. The wings fit my face very well and map the contours of my cheekbone without actually touching it. There is a very limited amount of space for light to sneak in here, and the only time I notice any seepage is when I intentionally look down to check. The peripheral light blockage is also superb, which is a combination of the wings and a thick ear stem. I had a few issues with light seeping in from above at first, but I was able to remedy this by adjusting the earstems to hold the frame tighter to my face. This is only necessary when I’m not wearing a hat. Mountaineer spending long days on the mountain will be happy to see that the Explorer comes with the clip between the eyes for a nose guard. This is not something I use, but worth mentioning for those that do.

Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Good Fit
Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Perfect Fit

Julbo Spectron 4 Lens:

The Julbo Spectron 4 lens is a category 4 lens that allows 5% light transmission. The Spectron 4 has a beautiful chrome flash finish for reflection, and the inside of the lens has an anti-fog and anti-reflective coating. As I mentioned above, the anti-fog works well in most conditions, with the exception being moist environments when I’m sweating hard. The anti-reflective coating works really well, as I hardly notice the reflection of my own eye, where I tend to on other freshly cleaned lenses. The anti-reflective coating also improves visual comfort by eliminating stray reflections according to Julbo. On the Julbo website, the flash finish is described as improving “visible light filtering with mirror effect lenses. It reflects the rays of light and increases the filter effect. It eliminates the radiation reflected by the outer mirrored surface of the lens.”

Julbo Explorer
Julbo Explorer Spectron 4 Chart
Julbo Explorer
Protection Standard Chart

I’ve worn the Explorer with Spectron 4 lenses in a number of different conditions, and they excel at just about everything. Julbo recommends that you don’t use these for driving, but I wear them from my house to the trailhead in the car, and don’t find them to be too dark during the daytime. When I’m starting my hikes just before daybreak, the 5% transmission is a bit dark, and I leave the frames hanging from my neck until the landscape lights up. The Specron 4 is the very best on really bright days. These are my sunglasses of choice on hikes above 10,000 ft, hikes with snow and ice, or any hikes with lots of reflective granite. From the inside, the lenses render the world in an amber hue which offers great contrast and visual clarity.

Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Flash Finish
Julbo Explorer Gear Review Spectron 4 Lens
Flash Finish Spectron 4

Support Trail to Peak by  purchasing the Julbo Explorer on Amazon:
Julbo Explorer Spectron 4


The Julbo Explorer has a ton of great features to offer. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better value as these can be found online at right about $100. You only get one pair of eyes (unless we make some scientific breakthroughs in the future), so be sure to take good care of them while enjoying the great outdoors. If you find yourself with tired, fatigued, or sun weary eyes after long days on the trail, do yourself a favor and invest in some protection. I give the Julbo Explorer my highest recommendation, and would suggest you give them a try if you’re in the market for a great pair of protective shades.


Photo Gallery: Mt. Baldy via Ski Hut Trail In The Snow

San Gorgonio via Vivian Creek 05.24.15


10 thoughts on “Gear Review: Julbo Explorer With Spectron 4 Lenses”

  1. Wow quite the extensive review! I’m debating my Julbo selection for Kilimanjaro- this is really helpful. I found the fit tight too and the color very distracting, good to know I may get used to it! Roar!

    • I’m glad you found it helpful! I’m glad they make an XL in the frame, the extra size makes all the difference for comfort. For Kilimanjaro, the Julbo Bivouak could be a good option. They come with Spectron 4 or Chameleon lenses.

      • I tried on all of them at a local store and the only ones that were comfortable were the Tensing. They are category 4 so I’ll go with them. The Explorer look nicer but didn’t fit my face well. Boyfriend likes the Explorer so your review was perfect for him. Wish they came with Zebra lens for both of these.

      • The Tensing is really nice, and the most affordable in the lineup. I love the Julbo Dust with Zebra lens. I wear them for 95% of my outdoor activities.

      • I wanted the Zebra lenses on our glasses but I don’t think they come with them. I was surprised that the ones that fit the best were the most affordable- doesn’t happen like that often!

  2. Hi,

    Wanted to know how do Spectron 4 compare with Camel lens? And which one do you recommend for high altitude mountaineering in the Himalayas?

    • Hello Roushan, I would recommend the Spectron 4 for mountaineering as they have a flash finish and stay very dark at 5% transmission regardless of the available light. For trekking, I would recommend the Camel, as the 5%-20% range is very nice.

  3. Hi. Great review, saw the video as well. Can’t find the XL on ebay, can you post a link? Thanks again from Israel

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