The five things you need to know about picking the best goggles for open water swimming all come down to one crucial element: visibility. That sounds obvious, right? But the variables in open water make visibility more challenging. While a pool has lane ropes, walls, and even a black line for you to follow while you’re swimming, that goes out the window when you’re swimming in the wild and you need to deal with things like fog or murky water. You need to be able to see where you’re going and that comes down to five crucial considerations: mirroring, lens color, whether you’re racing or swimming recreationally, UV protection, and fit.
The first thing you should consider when buying open water swimming goggles is whether to get mirrored or non-mirrored lenses. The mirrored surface—which is an additional coating on the outside of the lens— reflects light away from your eyes, reducing glare and brightness. Contrary to popular belief, you can use mirrored lenses in both indoor and outdoor situations; but, as per their reputation, mirrored goggles are particularly effective outdoors when the lighting conditions can create glare. Even if it is not a bright and sunny day, glare can still be a factor, so, since mirroring can be added to any color lens, bottom line: you can’t go wrong with a mirrored lens when you’re swimming outdoors.
It is worth noting that some goggles have polarized lenses. While polarization is popular in the sunglasses market because it eliminates sun glare, when you’re in water, it doesn’t work the same. Polarization only works when you look into the water directly, not when you’re looking under or around the water. Choosing a mirror with UV protection in combination with an appropriate lens tint will yield comparable protection and a similar wearing experience.
2. Pick the Right Lens Colors
Goggles come with a variety of lens tints, or colors, to choose from. Different colors are used to enhance visibility in specific conditions. For example, blue tinted lenses reduce glare and increase color perception, which can be great for ocean swims. Gold, yellow, or orange tinted lenses increase clarity in low light and increase contrast and depth perception, making them great for hazy, misty, or foggy open water conditions. Black or gray tints can reduce eye fatigue for when it’s bright, acting like sunglasses, if you’re swimming in sunny conditions. Consider what conditions you will be swimming in including variables such as time of day, light conditions, water visibility, the color of buoy markers or focal points, and the surroundings that will be visible to you in the water.
Learn about all the tint options from THEMAGIC5.
Race or Recreation?
If you’re racing, swimming for recreation, or doing a combination, the nature of your activity can impact your choice of goggle. If you are swimming recreationally, you have more choice about the conditions you will be swimming in. You can buy the best lens for your specific situation. Always swim on bright sunny days? Go for a dark tinted pair. Want more of an “all-seasons” pair? A great option is a blue tinted mirror. But, if you’re racing, you have less or no choice about the time of day, what direction you’re swimming in, and even where. So, if you are racing, it’s best to have a few goggle options, such as a darker and a lighter tint, so you can choose which will give you the best visibility on the day.
Get UV Protection
UV protection is almost standard these days when it comes to goggles but, still, not all goggles offer UV protection. While that might be fine swimming in an indoor pool, if you’re swimming outside, pool or in open water, UV protection is a must for the health and safety of your eyes. All THEMAGIC5 goggles offer UV-400 protection from damaging sun rays.
Find the Perfect Size and Fit
You might have the most expensive goggles money can buy, the best reviewed, or what the Olympians are wearing, but it doesn’t mean a thing if they don’t fit. The best open water swim goggles are ones that fit. Fit is by far the most important consideration when picking a goggle for open water swimming, or any swimming for that matter. Poor fitting goggles can impair visibility if they are leaking and stopping to empty your goggles or adjust them for comfort can ruin a swim. Ensure your goggles fit by, first and foremost, getting the appropriate size. Most goggles are a “one-size-fits-all” model, so you need to consider the size of the gaskets, or eye pieces. Some goggles, especially those in the open water category, are big and look closer to the style of snorkeling masks. Others are minimal, offering a sleeker racing style. Whichever you prefer, also look out for the added benefit of an adjustable nose bridge. The piece that connects the gaskets and sits over your nose can vary in length and can heavily influence the fit. Typically, goggles with adjustable nose bridges will come with small, medium, and large options in the box so you can test which size gives you a better fit. Of course, custom goggles are the easiest and most reliable way to get the best fit, otherwise, it’s completely normal to buy and try a few styles before you find one that works best.
In addition to the 5 considerations highlighted above, anti-fog is crucial in preventing your goggles from clouding your visibility. Try TheMagic5 anti-fog spray to keep your goggles crystal clear!
Olympian open water swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky chooses the Blue Magic Mirror Gold and the Blue Magic for his racing and open water swimming. Olympian and long-distance triathlete Ben Kanute also recommends the Blue Magic Mirror Gold for open water as well as the darker Black Magic Mirror Silver.