Clothing, Apparel, and Accessories Reviews

Gear Review: Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Lenses

Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses

I’ve been doing a lot of hiking in the direct sunlight at high altitude these past few weeks. In these conditions, I feel that the Julbo Bivouak with Camel lenses are the best sunglasses on the market. What makes these sunglasses so great is the combination of attributes from both the frames and the lenses. The Bivouak frames offer a lightweight and comfortable fit, with loads of protection, and bomb proof durability. The Camel lenses offer polarization, photochromic light adjustment from 5-20% (Category 4 to 2), vents, and an anti-fog coating. The best part is, they’re only half the price of similar offerings from Oakley (and Oakley doesn’t even offer Category 4 protection!). Below, you will find my comprehensive review of the Julbo Bivouak sunglasses with Camel lenses.


Support Trail to Peak by  purchasing the Julbo Bivouak on Amazon:

Julbo Bivouak With Camel Lens


Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses

Frames:

The first thing you’ll notice about the Bivouak is that it has magnetic protective shields that attach to the frame and ear stems. This is a really nice touch for added protection, without adding too much of the goggle feel you’ll find with the Julbo Explorer or other mountaineering glasses. Julbo states that you can “add the magnetic side shields to increase protection against enhanced light reflection, on snow for example, or remove them for regular use.”  I never take the side shields off, as I don’t require the additional peripheral vision while hiking, and prefer the added protection.

Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses
Julbo Bivouak Side Shields

The Bivouak has wide coverage from ear to ear without feeling like a wide fit. There are times when I wish the lenses covered a little more of my cheeks like you’d find with a taller and rounder frame, but that’s just a personal preference. Below, you will find the measurement specs of the 32g (1.12oz) frames.

Julbo Bivouak Frame Dimensions
Julbo Bivouak Frame Dimensions

These frames fit my face very well, as do most Julbo offerings. The nose cutout rests comfortably on the bridge of my nose without letting in any light. The bottom of the frame traces my cheek well and keeps any reflective light from sneaking in. The only area that wasn’t a perfect fit out of the box was the frame section on my eyebrows. I found a little bit of light snuck in when I wasn’t wearing a hat. Luckily, Julbo designed these frames with customization in mind and used adjustable ear stems. By conforming the ear stems to the shape of my head, I’m able to get a ‘close to the face’ fit. This can also be done with the neck lanyard, although I’m not a big fan of securing that too tightly. The ear stems are very comfortable and grippy, and the adjustability means no headaches on longer days.

Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses

Lenses:

As much as I love the Bivouak frames, the Camel lens is the real star of the show. Julbo states, “Photochromic and polarizing, the Camel lens offers evolving protection, darkens and lightens according to the intensity of the light, provides anti-dazzle protection and high definition vision. The anti-fog coating is ideal for active sports…developed for the Mountain and Performance ranges, and is designed for use in mountain and desert environments.” Let me just say, that text isn’t just marketing talk. These Camel lenses are the real deal.

Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses

 For those unfamiliar with the lens protection standard, I have added a table below, and have also included a second and third table showing all of the Julbo lens offerings. For daily use, most of us prefer a category 3 lens. When it comes to the blistering sun at high altitude with glare from snow and granite, only category 4 will do. This is actually what lead me to wearing Julbo after years of wearing Oakley. The Camel lens starts at the very low end of Category 2 with 20% light transmission when you’re in low light. As the sunlight intensity increases, the lenses darken to category 3, and max out at Category 4 with 5% light transmission.


Support Trail to Peak by  purchasing the Julbo Bivouak on Amazon:

Julbo Bivouak With Camel Lens


Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses
Catergory Protection Standard
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses
Julbo Photochromic Lenses
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses
Standard Julbo Lenses

In practice, I found the Camel lens to transition very well and offer incredible protection against the sun’s harsh rays. My hike this weekend on Bear Canyon Trail was a good test. This trail starts in a very shaded forest, and runs alongside a creek. The first thing I noticed is how well I was able to see with the 20% light transmission. This is the huge perk of wearing a photochromic lens, as opposed to a static Category 4 lens. The other really nice thing I noticed in this area was that the lenses didn’t fog at all. It was moist and damp next to the creek and I could feel the humidity in the air. The anti-fog coating and lens vents did their job very well and the lenses stayed dry. After about two miles of hiking, the trail breaks out from the forest and onto an exposed ridge. The sun was high and climbing over my right shoulder. The lenses darkened quickly, so much so that I hardly noticed it happening. The dark polarized lenses with the side sheilds kept my eyes feeling comfortable and relaxed all day.

Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses

You can’t really tell from the photos, but the lenses have a brown tint, this does a great job of accentuating relief. I really got a chance to feel out the relief accentuation on the long, winding, scree covered ridges of Bear Canyon. When the sun is high in the sky, it all appears to be a wall of grey. With the Camel Lenses, I’m able to view things as they come without any distortion or taxing effort on my eyes.

The polarized lenses were a huge selling point for me when selecting the Camel lenses. I’ve hiked with Category 4 lenses before that didn’t have polarized lenses, and my eyes still felt the fatigue of glare. Glare is at it’s worst with snow and ice, but with all the scree, talus, and granite slabs in the mountains I frequent, glare can be a real problem in the summer too. I don’t have any hard science on this, but my anecdotal observations have lead me to believe polarized lenses reduce the strain and fatigue on my eyes by a great deal.

The final feature of the Camel lens is NTS technology. NTS makes it so the lens gets darker or lighter regardless of the temperature. This is key for alpine environments where temperatures can swing wildly under a beaming sun. It’s nice to know that my eyes will be protected in all of these conditions.

Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Photochromic Polarized Lenses

Conclusion:

I would highly recommend the Julbo Bivouak sunglasses with Camel lenses to anyone looking for a high quality pair of shades for hiking in trekking in demanding conditions. The frames fit a wide variety of faces and head shapes due to the customization ear stems, and the photochromic lenses adapt to a wide variety of light conditions. This combination makes the Bivouak pretty tough to beat when it comes to multipurpose outdoor eye wear. Most importantly, you only get one pair of eyes, make sure to protect them.


Support Trail to Peak by  purchasing the Julbo Bivouak on Amazon:

Julbo Bivouak With Camel Lens


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26 comments on “Gear Review: Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses With Camel Lenses

  1. …and they are damn good looking!

  2. Do the Camel lenses get darker than the Zebra lenses? How do they compare to your Explorers with the Spectron 4 lenses? I ordered a pair of Bivouak’s last week with the Zebra lenses (not the Zebra Lights, I double checked the part #’s) and found they did not darken much, if even at all. They are supposed to be Cat 2 to 4, just like the Camel (though not polarized), but found my Oakley’s to be much darker. Was just asking here as I see you have a review for Julbo Dust with Zebra lenses, as well. Just wondering if it’s worth exchanging for the Camel’s or just go ahead and exchange for the Spectron 4 lenses. My Oakleys just aren’t quite enough for me above the tree line…

    • Yes, these get much darker than the Zebra lenses and they add polarization. On the chart the difference says 5% vs 7% on the low end, but it feels much more than that outside. I used to wear my Julbo Dust all the time, but I kept getting eye fatigue on long hikes at high elevation so I bought these with the Camel lenses. Similar to your experience with Oakley, I had a pair of the old Jawbones (now Racing Jacket) with Black Iridium lenses. They were great shades, but not enough above treeline.

      As for the Bivouak Camel vs Explorer with Spectron 4, they have less frame protection due to the design and shape of the frame body. The lenses get equally dark and in my opinion are a bit better due the polarization. The one thing you give up with with the Camel is the flash finish on the Spectron 4 lens, which makes it seem darker than the Camel (even though both are listed at 5%). I like the flash finish for highly reflective snow and ice, but not as much for summer time dry hikes.

      If you know the Bivouak frame works for you, the decision between Camel and Spectron 4 is tough, and probably depends on the nature of your hiking. If you don’t do a lot of sunrise, sunset, or shaded hiking, the Spectron 4 would be perfect, and they’re also a fair deal less expensive. If you feel like you need the photochromic option, the Camels are great.

  3. Hey Drew, is the JMT still on the list this year?

  4. Bill Dingman

    Great and helpful info on these glasses. I like the look of the Bivouak better than the Trek or the Explorer. I was having a tough time deciding between the Spectron4, Zebra and Camel lenses. My use for these will be a 3 week Himilayan Trek via Cho La pass to Everest Base Camp next March to April. With early morning starts, possible clouds, hiking in and out of sun on switchbacks and snow up higher, I believe the Camel lens will be best. Im planning on buying the Bivouak Camel on Amazon for $143 and hope REI which sells them only in Spectron4 $125 & Zebra $160 has them in stock so I can try them on first.
    Thanks for helping me decide. Please let me know if you think I’m wrong about my decision though.
    Thanks again

    • It sounds like you went through the exact same thought process as I did. I think you’re making a great call. The Zebra lens is great, but not for high altitude, snow, or prolonged exposure. I wear mine in situations where I’ll be encountering more shade than sun, or in places where the light conditions change very frequently. The Spectron 4 is another great lens, but not for trekking. For me, it’s an alpine lens for days with full exposure and lots of snow. The Camel can’t be beat for trekking. I wore them on everyday of my 222 mile hike of the John Muir Trail from sunrise to sunset. My eyes never felt strained of fatigued. As long as the Bivouak frames work for your head and face shape, they’re going to be a perfect fit for you.

  5. The REI near me has them in stock but in Zebra or Spectron4 so I will be trying them on first for fit soon. If their a good fit, I’ll definitely be buying the Camel lens Bivouaks online.
    Thanks for all the helpful info.

  6. Drew, another concern I have on purchasing the Camel lens over the Spectron 4 is that I have read wearing a hat will block some of the light hitting the lens and therefor not darken fully to only 5%-7% with either the camel or Zebra Photo Chromatic lenses. Being medium to fare skin, I will most likely be wearing a baseball cap, (facing forward) or boony hat to protect myself from the sun and sunburn during the day at high altitude as well as using plenty of sunscreen. I have read stories and seen YouTube video of people getting severe sunburn on the EBC Trek. This is of some concern to me with buying the Camel lens. If I am wearing a hat all the time, would the Spectron 4 be a better choice or do you believe that the Camel lens will darken enough or fully while wearing a hat? I’m going to the REI tomorrow to try the Bivouak Spectron 4’s on. Unfortunately, they don’t have Zebra or Camel lens to try on and see the change while wearing a hat.

    • Bill, having used both the Zebra and Camel lens with a hat, I still prefer the photochromic over a static 5% lens. I wore a wide brim fishing hat for the entire 222 miles of the John Muir Trail this year and the Bivouak with Camel lenses. I went over multiple 12,000ft+ passes with lots of reflective granite, walked by glaring alpine lakes, and never had an issue with them not being dark enough. The Spectron 4 isn’t polarized either, which I have found to reduce eye fatigue more than just lens darkness. Try both of them on and see what works better for you, though. I’ve worn the Camel, Zebra, and Spectron 4, and will take the Camel with me for any future treks or high altitude hikes.

  7. I’m leaning towards the Camel with your advice and since they are Polarized. More expensive, approx. $50 more or 50% more than the Spectron 4 but sounds like it’s well worth the additional cost.
    Thanks again.

  8. Hi Drew, thank you for your review. However I have a couple of question for which I have a very hard time finding answers to. The NTS (Non Temperature Sensitive) technology how well does it work below 0°C/32°F? What’s the lowest range at which the lenses will still get lighter in the shade? I hike in the summer and run/crosscountry ski in the winter, and I would love to have a lens that can get back to a lighter shade in forested areas when it’s cold outside. A lens I could use in any season. I contacted Julbo but fin it really difficult to get a good answer other than the phrase listed on their website. I’m just trying to find out if those lenses with NTS technology would work for my winter use or not. Maybe/hopefully you could get a better answer than what I found so far. I would be very great fun if you could. Thx! René

    • Rene, this is a questions I had as well when I was researching the NTS tech. There really isn’t much information online regarding the sensitivity of the photochomic lenses to temperature. I can say from my experience that temperature does not play a role in the their ability to adjust. I did a few miles of hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park on Sunday, where the temperature started at 6F/-14C. It was very sunny in parts, but due to the early morning, the hoodoos were casting a lot of shade. I didn’t have any trouble with the transitions and feel as though the lenses darkened just as they would in more stable conditions. That being said, the Camel lens stays pretty dark for shaded areas at 20%. I like this for hiking or slower moving activities, but find it to be a little dark on faster moving activities like trail running or mountain biking. I’m not a skier, so I can’t say how they handle those conditions. If I think I’m going to be doing a lot of light/dark changes, I usually grab my Dust with Zebra lenses, which lighten up to 42% transmission.

  9. Malcolm Smart

    Love your site, and your YouTube video of your time in Peru really brought back fond memories of my own journeys there exploring the Sacred Valley and Cusco. Loved ‘Blue’ the dog. Anyway… I know that Julbo doesn’t recommend the Camel lenses for driving, but I have very sensitive eyes and was wanting your opinion. I have a pair of Costa Big Tuna’s and they just don’t seem to be dark enough for me in the bright sun when driving and I’m looking for an alternative. Seems to me like the Camel lenses, with their ability to adjust to different conditions, would be a good choice.

    • Thank you! Very cool to hear you explored the Sacred Valley and Cusco. Julbo may not recommend the Camel lens for driving, but I wear them all the time! I just take the side shields off of the Bivoak and they make for the perfect driving sunglasses. I love dark lenses that are polarized, so they are perfect for my needs in the car. I even wear my Explorers with Spectron 4 lenses while driving if I’m heading right into the sun, and haven’t had any visibility problems.

  10. Hi there!
    Have you done any comparison of the Camel and Zebra lenses for skiing in foggy environment? In such a case it is possible to experience vertigo. With a proper lens you may understand better the field and probably reduce this effect.
    What would you recommend best for mountaineering and ski touring mainly in Greece (sunny) and rarely in the Alps?
    My dilemmas are: Bivouak or Trek glasses? Camel or Zebra lens?
    Thanks in advance for your answer.

    • I’m not a skier, so I have not been able to test them in those conditions. I have been able to test them in fog, and the Zebra fares much better due to it’s wider range of light transmission. The Zebra also seems to change shade quicker than the Camel which is nice when the fog is intermittent. For mountaineering and ski touring in sunny weather, I would choose the Camel or Spectron 4 lens. If your dilemma is the Bivoak or Trek, see if you can try both on. I compared both when I was shopping for frames, and the Trek didn’t fit my face very well. It sat high on the bridge of my nose and would allow light in. The Bivouak fit my face perfectly. Both are great frames though. The Camel vs Zebra is a tougher call, as your conditions will dictate which is needed more. I started with the Zebra, and a year later purchased the camel. I love having both.

  11. Land Of Little Rain Man

    I’ve owned these for two years, and now its time for a new pair. I’ll be buying the same thing. It would be nice if there were more frame choices for the Camel lens, because its absolutely badass. I spend my time between the deserts of Arabia and California and the Camel lenses are awesome. The magnetic side piece of the frame pops off sometimes (I’ve lost one) and the Julbo logos fell off from both sides. The lens though makes it all worthwhile. Optically perfect and comfortable color, it’s great knowing that my eyes are protected.

    • I agree. I wish the frames were a little more durable in regards to how they wear down. I’m pretty hard on them though, and it appears that you are, too 🙂 Nothing comes close to the Camel lenses for me, their versatility is second to none.

  12. Webbster

    I recently received a pair of Julbo Montebianco sunglasses and the fit just isn’t there. Have you tried the Montebianco compared to the Bivouak? I agree the camel lenses are phenomenal, but if the frame is too far away from my cheeks then it defeats the purpose. I see the Bivouak is supposed to have a wider bridge which should help. Any thoughts are appreciated.

    • I had the same fit issues with the Montebianco. They are more of a vacation frame and not so great for hiking and the like. The Bivouak has a much more precise fit. Julbo also has the new Explorer 2.0. These might be my favorite frames yet. The only problem is that they only have white frames with the Camel lens right now, which I’m not a fan of. The black frames come with the Spectron 4 lens. Hopefully they’ll release a black frame with Camel lens options soon on the Explorer 2.0.

  13. Thanks for all the info. This is a really useful article. I’m looking for glasses I can use for alpine mountaineering so I’m hesitating over the polarized lenses because I read elsewhere that they can inhibit your ability to distinguish snow from ice, which could be a problem when you’re on a glacier and trying to spot a crevasse for example. What’s your view on this?

    • Drew Robinson

      Jed, this is true and the reason most wear Julbo’s Spectron 4 lenses in alpine conditions.

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