The Julbo Explorer was an iconic pair of sunglasses built for adventures in extreme outdoor environments. The Explorer, at it’s core, was a pair of mountaineering sunglasses that could handle anything from alpine treks to extreme class 5 climbing. I used the Explorer with Spectron 4 lenses for a few years, and they were easily one of my favorite pairs of sunglasses. Last year, Julbo released an updated Explorer 2.0, and I’ve been wear testing them ever since their release.
The major changes for the Explorer 2.0 come in the design of the frames. The original Explorer was stuck somewhere between a heavy pair of sunglasses and a light pair of goggles. The Explorer 2.0 weighs the same as the original, but leaves the bulky frame design behind for something that looks and feels more like Julbo’s trail running performance lineup. The Explorer 2.0 still offers plenty of coverage and protection for harsh glare and direct sun, they just feel more comfortable while doing so. For people seeking their first pair of alpine hiking and/or mountaineering sunglasses, the Explorer 2.0 is a must buy. But is the Explorer 2.0 a worthwhile upgrade for those of us that already own the original Explorer? You’ll have to read this review and decide for yourself!
Buy The Explorer 2.0: REI | Amazon | Backcountry
The Julbo Explorer 2.0 are 130mm wide with an 11mm nose bridge and 135mm ear stems. The lens sockets have a width of 61mm. The dimensions on the Explorer 2.0 are the same as the original, but the shape of the frames is much improved. The original Explorer had a bit of a ‘bug-eye’ look to them. The top line on the bridge of the Explorer 2.0 is now straight across. This improves the looks and keeps more light from seeping in from above. I had an issue with the original Explorer where light would seep in from above the frame. This is no longer an issue with the 2.0. The nose guard clip on the top of the nose bridge remains, but it is now flatter and more low profile. The overall coverage of the Explorer 2.0 is superb, with the frame and attached side shields mapping the contours of my face to prevent any light from getting in.
The Explorer 2.0 comes in at a weight of 44g or 1.5 oz. Although this is the same weight as the original Explorer, they seem to feel lighter on my face. I think this can be attributed to the rubberized nose grips that allow the frame to sit in a better position on my nose bridge.
The Explorer 2.0 has adjustable ear stems that are less malleable than the previous version. I like the more rigid ear stem structure, as they don’t bend out of place so easily. I’ve worn these sunglasses for long days on and off the trail and have never felt any unwanted throbbing or pressure points. The Explorer 2.0 gets top marks for comfort.
The Explorer 2.0 comes with detachable side shades like the original Explorer. I’m glad julbo got rid of the bright green accents on the side shades in favor of a matte grey. The green accents on my old Explorers always bothered me. The new side shades on the Explorer 2.0 disappear and go unnoticed, just as they should.
The Julbo Explorer 2.0 comes with a detachable neck lanyard, and is the same one found on my original Explorer and Bivouak model. This lanyard is a no-fuss accessory that allows me to drape the Explorer 2.0 from my neck when I need to take them off while on trail.
On my previous pair of Julbo Explorers I opted for the Spectron 4 lenses. For the explorer 2.0, I paid a little more and got Julbo’s photochromic Camel lenses. I fell in love with the Camel lenses on my Julbo Bivouak, and have a hard time using any other lens option now. The Spectron 4 is still a great choice and superb option for those looking to save a little money. For those not familiar with lens features, functions, and terminology, I’ve put together an entire post to help you get accustomed. For those that just want a quick overview, I’ll cover the main points here.
The first thing to look for when picking a lens to wear for hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering is that they offer complete and full spectrum UV protection. Most expensive sunglasses will have this. From there, you need to look at the protection standard category. For most outdoor activities, you’ll want a Category 3 or 4 lens. This means they’ll only permit a maximum of 18% of visible light. For activities in the shade and fog, Category 2 is fine (18% to 43%). If you plan on spending anytime in exposed mountains, on glaciers, or on snowy trails, you’ll want to block much more light.
The Julbo Spectron 4 lens is Category 4 allows for 5% light transmission. The Julbo Camel lens ranges from Category 2-4, adjusting to light to allow anywhere from 5% to 20% light transmission. The Camel lenses are also polarized. You can find the light transmission range and features of each Julbo lens offering in the tables below.
As I mentioned above, the Julbo Camel lens adjusts from 5% to 20% light transmission based on lighting conditions. This is optimal for my hiking, as I can keep my sunglasses on as I pass from shaded areas of the trail into areas with more exposure. Doing this with a static 5% lens is not as easy, where shaded areas can appear very dark. The Camel also keeps my eyes more comfortable with their polarization.
The Camel lens comes with an effective anti-fog coating that keeps any condensation from forming. This anti-fog coating pairs well with ventilation cutouts on the upper lateral sides of each lens.
The photochromic ability of the Camel lens is not temperature sensitive, which is critical in mountain environments. Through use of the Camel on my Bivouak and Explorer 2.0, I’ve used these lenses from single digit temperatures up to triple digit temperatures. They’ve never failed me.
You’ll notice in the photo above that the Camel lens has a brown tint to accentuate relief. This is especially noticeable when they’re at 20% light transmission. As they darken to 5%, they appear black, but still maintain the brown tint while looking out.
For the desert and mountain trails I frequent, there really couldn’t be a better lens. I can start my hike at daybreak or in the shade, and then hike my way to a fully exposed mountain peak without ever having to think about eye protection. This is why I can’t use anything but the Camel lens now. They have allowed me to completely forget about my eye protection while hiking, which is probably the best compliment I can give to a piece of gear.
In my opinion, the Explorer 2.0 is a very worthy upgrade over the original Julbo Explorer. The refinements to the lens frame fixed all of the minor issues I had with the Explorer, and has made these a pair of sunglasses that compete for time with my beloved Bivouaks. I already knew I’d love the Camel lens, but it’s nice that Julbo is also offering the Explorer 2.0 in a Spectron 4 and Zebra lens model. I’ve used both options on other sunglasses and only have good things to say.
At $200, the Explorer 2.0s are very expensive. The $130 Spectron 4 lens and $180 Zebra lens give prospective buyers different pricing options based on their specific needs. I find that they offer decent value for the price, as I can’t really put a price tag on the long term health of my eyes. Unless technology improves in my lifetime, I only get this one pair! I also have a difficult time pricing a competitor with similar specs.