In the spring I received the CimAlp Helium sunglasses for testing. CimAlp is especially known for producing high-quality hiking and mountaineering apparel but they do also manufacture various accessories such as trekking poles, water reservoirs and sunglasses. I only had good experience with CimAlp apparel (see the Gear Tests section) and thus I was speculating whether their sunglasses are equally good. The CimAlp Helium sunglasses are photochromic which means that the lenses darken on exposure to light, and return to their clear state in the absence of light. I have been wanting a pair of photochromic sunglasses for a long time because they are useful for via ferrata trails and other technical activities. On such trails I was often fiddling back and forth with my sunglasses, putting them on when reaching sunny areas and off when reaching shady zones.
The CimAlp Helium are my first photochromic sunglasses. Earlier I have been using polarized Oakley sunglasses, which were okay, but as they weren’t exactly designed for outdoor sports, they fell short in terms of durability, grip and venting. For the last couple of months I’ve been regularly wearing the CimAlp sunglasses for hiking, running and everyday use. I also tested them on our hiking holidays in Norway where I wore them on three different hikes. Below is what I learned about them.
The CimAlp Helium Sunglasses are suitable for:
- Trail Running
- Mountain biking
- Everyday use
Frame and Materials
The CimAlp Helium sunglasses have a U-shaped frame which is made of plastic. The plastic is of good quality (the so-called Grilamid) and permits stretching which makes the sunglasses very comfortable to wear. The frame is also super lightweight. The sunglasses weigh merely 24 grams and are thus more than suitable for high-impact activities such as trail running and mountain biking. When I switched to CimAlp Helium sunglasses, I was really surprised how light and comfortable they are. I often forget that I’m wearing them, even while running on rough terrain. The temples are coated with a rubber-like material which provides good grip and prevents the sunglasses from slipping off. The frame is also relatively wide and nicely wraps all the way around to the temples. This is indeed a good thing as it prevents sun rays from coming in at the side.
When I unpacked the sunglasses, I was at first a bit worried that they won’t fit me well because I have a relatively narrow head and the frame is quite wide. Nevertheless, my worries proved to be unnecessary. The sunglasses fit me perfectly. I believe that they provide equally good fit also if you have a wider head because the frame is very stretchy. The only complaint I have about the frame is that the hinges are a bit squeaky.
The CimAlp Helium are single lens sunglasses. The lens provides good coverage and comes all the way to the temples. At the bottom corners it’s slightly extended and follows the temples for extra coverage. I really like that because this design is better at keeping the sun light out. All my previous sunglasses had small gaps at the temples.
The lens is photochromic which means that it adjusts itself according to the amount of incoming visible light. Put simply, in cloudy/foggy weather the lens will be bright and in sunny weather it will become dark. The lens can move from category 2 to category 3 in terms of VLT (Visible Light Transmission) depending on the brightness. Category 2 lenses allow up to 43% percent of the visible light to come through to your eyes while category 3 lenses allow only up to 20% of the visible light to penetrate.
Now, the CimAlp Helium are my first photochromic sunglasses and I was really excited to test this feature. I found it very useful for hiking and trail running, and ever since I started wearing the CimAlp sunglasses I rarely put them off during the activity I’m doing unless the activity extends into the evening. In shady zones the sunglasses block very little light and I never had to put them off, even while I was for example searching for items in the backpack.
The only downside here is that the sunglasses are not the best option for driving. Nevertheless, this goes for all photochromic sunglasses. Photochromic sunglasses react to the UV rays in sun light and since car windshields block nearly 100% of UV light, the lens will not adapt. It will let through the maximum amount of the visible light.
Fit, Comfort and Functionality
Due to the stretchy frame the sunglasses provide very good fit for various head sizes. The CimAlp Helium sunglasses are probably also the most comfortable sunglasses I’ve ever had because they are extremely light, and the temples are coated with comfortable rubber material. The nose pad is also made of rubber and very comfortable. During the testing period I haven’t experienced any issues with the sunglasses fogging up, and the photochromic lens worked perfectly in shifting light environments outside. As the lens features a hydrophobic coating the sweat doesn’t accumulate on it which is also very useful.
I’m very satisfied with CimAlp Helium sunglasses because they are lightweight, comfortable and provide good fit. The photochromic lens is also very useful for hiking, trail running and more technical activities such as via ferrata trails. The only thing that bothered me is that the hinges are a bit squeaky but that’s a minor complaint, nevertheless. The sunglasses are otherwise made of high-quality materials and provide good durability. If you are looking for a pair of high-quality sunglasses for sports, I highly recommend the CimAlp Helium sunglasses.
Note: The CimAlp Helium sunglasses are no longer available to buy. The brand’s Spectre model does, however, offer many of the same qualities (same material, lightweight design), and is available with photochromic and polarized lenses. The link below thus point to the CimAlp Spectre sunglasses.
If you have any questions about this product, drop me a line in the comments below.