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Hands-on Gear Review
Smith Squad ChromaPop Review
Cons: Not the most stylish
Bottom line: An all-mountain goggle for any condition.
This is a classic, plain and simple. A solid frame and strap form the foundation of this all-mountain competitor. The Smith Squad is topped off with top quality interchangeable lenses to enhance your snowy experiences. This, combined with a ski-bum-friendly price tag and top-level performance secures its position as our Best Buy. Whether skiing or snowboarding, this contender is a great choice for backcountry and resort use, though, with its understated style, it may be more at home out of bounds rather than stylin' on the chair. We've used and abused nine pair of goggles this winter; see how the Squad stacks up to its competitors.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Squad is a classic goggle and has been a staple in Smith's Snow Goggle line for several years now. After skiing and boarding with this goggle in every imaginable weather condition, it's easy to see why. With a wide-ranging fit and an assortment of lenses for every setting, the Squad is a top performer that rivals the performance of our other test goggles like the Smith I/O7, Smith I/OX, and our Editor's Choice Oakley Airbrake.
The Squad has adequate ventilation and breathability with open-cell foam at the top and bottom of the goggle. For the majority of skiing and riding, we didn't have any issues with fogging and our lenses stayed nice and clear. Reviewers like us like to push things to really test performance and we found we were able to get our Squad lenses to fog up slightly, especially on the periphery of the lens, with aggressive skinning uphill. This wasn't surprising at all since the fogging didn't materialize until several minutes after we built up a heavy sweat.
That combined with our heavy breathing on a windless day almost assured some fogging would occur with almost any goggle. For skiers and boarders who like to wear their goggles uphill, the Oakley A-Frame 2.0 would be a goggle with more ventilation and breathability. And although the Squad has less breathability than some of our test goggles, it does possess more breathability than the Dragon NFX or Oakley Flight Deck.
The Squad is a comfortable, albeit not as plush as others, goggle with its two-layer DriWix foam padding. The comfort factor was slightly higher when worn with a helmet versus beanie, as riders can maintain a snug fit with a little less strap tension. Overall comfort is comparable with the Oakley A-Frame 2.0, but not as cushy as the Dragon NFX or Oakley Flight Deck. The strap is a silicone-backed model which helped keep things comfy on the backs of our noggins while out for long days on the hill.
The Squad has a bit less breathability than some of our test goggles like the Oakley Airbrake, likely due to the solid front of the goggle. Models like the Oakley Airbrake have integrated venting in the front of the goggle which keeps skies and boarders a little more cool and comfortable, while the Squad does not. For riders in colder climates, this won't be an issue. The fit of the Squad is a nice happy medium and fit all of our testers comfortably.
The Squad's cylindrical carbon lens gives users a crisp, clear view with minimal distortion, with impact and scratch resistance. Smith includes both a high and low light lens with this contender. Like other models in Smith's collection, the Squad's lenses utilize TLT lens technology with a Fox-X anti-fog inner lens. Due to the flatter profile of the lens, optical quality was not quite as high as that found with other goggles like the POC Lobes or the Oakley Airbrake, although it was still quite good with minimal distortion. After days of use and abuse, the Squad's lenses looked as good as the day we unboxed them. A microfiber storage sack is included and makes cleaning the lenses easy.
The frame of the Squad does have a small lip that extends beyond the surface of the lens, allowing some moisture buildup to occur. Most of the time this didn't matter, however, we did experience some wet snow buildup on a particularly snowy day. As the snow began to stick, we experienced some minor fogging at the lower edge of the goggle. While the ease of lens swapping was somewhat more difficult than the Oakley Airbrake or Smith I/OX, it was still fairly easy and we were able to successfully swap lenses while riding the chairlift. We were even able to do the chairlift lens swap with our gloves on, just slightly tougher than the Airbrakes. As was the case with the other top quality lenses in our test, there was some good crossover in lens capabilities and we found the bright light Chromapop lens kept things in view when the lighting level was lower and vice versa with the low light yellow lens.
We had high hopes for the durability of this stout goggle when we began testing and after a couple months of use and maybe a little abuse, the Squad lived up to our expectations. We didn't see any signs of wear or tear on the frame or strap at all, with the strap maintaining full elasticity even after heavy usage. As was the case with all of our test goggles, the question of lens durability was at the forefront when we began testing.
Even though the Squad's cost is friendlier to the ski bum budget, its durability was on par with higher priced models like the Oakley Airbrake and Flight Deck or the Smith I/OX. The Squad is in for the long haul.
Immediately after strapping the Squad on, whether it was on a helmet or over a beanie, the solid construction made itself apparent. The semi-rimless frame of this goggle is not completely rigid and maintains a bit of flexibility. The wide silicone-backed strap provides a positive connection between goggle and helmet, much like the Squad's siblings, the Smith I/O7 and Smith I/OX. The dual layer lenses, of which there many to choose from, depending on conditions, does an effective job at blocking UV light from skiers and snowboarders eyes, as well as providing impact protection.
For almost all of our reviewers, the Squad fit well with minimal air gaps around the frame and kept our eyes protected from the elements, whether it be bright sun or heavy wet snow. Although the protection factor runs high with the Squad, other options like our Editors' Choice Oakley Airbrake or the Dragon NFX would also be great choices. With that being said, we're certain the Smith Squad will handle even the most catastrophic double-ejector tomahawk falls.
The Squad is a pretty bare bones goggle; it's functional, but not necessarily the most stylish. Lower profile than our Editors' Choice Oakley Airbrake, the Squad has a semi-rimless design, similar to the Smith I/OX and POC Lobes.
Depending on the skier or boarder, this more classic and minimalistic style may be more appealing than the flashier goggles in our test like the Dragon NFX or Oakley Flight Deck, especially for the backcountry ski and split board world where function generally reigns over fashion. The Squad is also available in 14 color combinations.
The Smith Squad is a somewhat lower-priced goggle that shares a majority of performance characteristics with higher-priced models like the Oakley Flight Deck and Smith I/O7.
— Jason Cronk
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