If you spend any amount of time outside in the winter snowboarding, skiing, or doing anything else that involves speed and/or sudden impacts, you absolutely have to have protective head gear to ensure your head and eyes are protected. I’ve gone through my fair share of helmets and goggles over the past decade and a half, and it seems like no matter which combo I’ve tried, I never was entirely happy with both. Either the helmet was uncomfortable, too hot, too cold or too heavy, or the goggles didn’t fit me well, they fogged up too much or they didn’t fit well with my helmet.
Finally, after enduring years of various design flaws, I’ve finally found what is without question the best goggle/helmet combo I’ve used, and it comes in the form of the Smith Optics I/O Goggle paired with Smith’s Vantage Helmet. Together, they form a perfect union of protection for your all-important noggin, keeping out the cold and sun, offering perfect venting in any weather conditions and absorbing brain-rattling impacts.
Rather than describe both simultaneously, I’m going to detail the Smith Optics I/O Goggle and Vantage independently, but truth be told, if you buy one, you need the other. They’re like Simon and Garfunkel, peanut butter and jelly, beer and brats – individually they’re great; together they’re perfect.
Smith Optics I/O Goggles
First up we’ve got the Smith Optics I/O Goggle, a gorgeous, rimless pair of goggles that, first and foremost, look damn sexy. Now, let me state for the record that you shouldn’t select a goggle based on its looks – form without function is worthless – but when you first see the Smith Optics I/O Goggle, you’ll understand what I’m talking about, as the sleek rimless design is just damn good looking. Thankfully, however, they’ve got the engineering to match, as they’re the best performing, most comfortable goggles I’ve ever used.
Technologically, the Smith I/O Goggle is built on an ingenious interchangeable lens concept. To change the lens on Smith I/O goggles, simply turn a couple clips on top, and the lens pops out. Once you’ve done it, you can swap out lenses in 30 seconds, meaning that as conditions change on the slopes, you can change the lens quickly, anytime you need to. As for the lenses themselves, each feature tapered lens technology to address refraction. Without getting overly scientific, the concept is that when light passes through a medium (i.e. the lens), it changes course slightly (refracts), which when left uncorrected, leads to both visual distortion and eye fatigue. To correct this distortion, Smith I/O lenses feature a thicker construction in the center and then taper out to a thinner design closer to the peripheral view, meaning that what you’re seeing is 100% accurate. Improving your vision even more, Smith Optics offers a total of nine polarized and mirrored lens options that provide 100% protection from UVA/B/C rays along with three non-mirrored lens option – each of which will allow you to fine-tune your visibility in any weather conditions. They’re quite simply the best, clearest lenses I’ve ever used.
But as great as Smith Optics lenses are, I love the I/O goggle’s fit equally as much. Simply put, they’re built to be used with the Smith helmets, and with the Smith Vantage helmet, the I/O fit absolutely perfectly. The curve of the helmet is contoured to perfectly match the curve of the I/O’s frame, meaning there’s no gaper gap. Even better, both the Smith I/O Goggle and Vantage helmet feature an AIREVAC ventilation system to eliminate fog. Traditional goggle/helmet combos have a tendency to trap warm air in the goggle chamber, which is what causes fogging, whereas the I/O goggle and Vantage work together to create constant airflow. To create this airflow, the AIREVAC system works by directing warm up up through the top ventilation systems of the I/O goggles, where it then is dispelled by the ventilation system of the helmet. I’ve been using both the Smith I/O Goggle and Vantage helmet all winter, and I’ve yet to encounter any fogging – the two perform absolutely brilliantly together.
Smith Optics Vantage Helmet
Just as the Smith Optics I/O Goggle fixes all the negatives I’ve encountered with other goggles, the Smith Vantage helmet solves all the problems I’ve encountered with other helmets. First and foremost, the comfort of the Vantage is fantastic, largely due to its incredibly light weight. Featuring Smith’s unique Hybrid Shell construction – a fusion of Bombshell ABS construction with flyweight In-Mold technology – the Vantage is not only extremely impact resistant, but it’s also extremely lightweight and boasts a significantly lower profile than other helmets. It’s so light, it’s easy to forget you’re even wearing a helmet. Another great feature of the Vantage that enhances comfort is the adjustable helmet fit system in the rear – it opens and closes as needed to help fine tune the fit on an individual basis.
The second area in which Smith has taken the Vantage to a new level in helmet technology is in the area of ventilation. The Vantage features a total of 21 vents to provide an incredible level of venting for warmer days, a huge problem I’ve encountered with prior helmets. Even better, however, is that the Vantage features what Smith calls the Dual Regulator climate control system. The Dual Regulator system controls a total of twelve vents – four in the front and eight in the rear – and then allows you to open or close the front and rear vents independently of each other. So you can open just the four front vents, just the rear eight vents, and you can even open the vents on a sliding scale, meaning you can open them halfway, for just a bit of extra cooling. It’s brilliant at keeping you cool (or warm), depending on what you need, and it performs exactly as advertised.
And lastly, the final area of the Smith Vantage Helmet that bears mention is it’s lining, made from what Smith calls EVOLVE X-STATIC. Constructed from up to 50% recycled silver with other recycled materials, it eventually becomes 3.7% X-Static and 96.3% recycled polyester. It’s super comfortable, warm when you want it to be, and best of all, it’s environmentally friendly. Another great interior feature of the Vantage is the ear pad design, which feature integration for your favorite audio player by allowing you to insert your favorite ear buds. In addition, you can also choose from two optional Skull Candy variants that feature either wired or Bluetooth sound systems included (at an extra cost, of course), allowing easy access to either your music library or phone while you’re on the slopes.
Ultimately, the Smith Optics I/O Goggles paired with Smith’s Vantage helmet are, in my opinion, the best goggle/helmet combination on the market. Together, they’re super comfortable, they provide a tremendous level of protection from the sun and impacts, and they don’t suffer from any of the things I’ve been forced to endure using other helmet/goggle combos. They’re simply brilliant together.
To learn more about either the Smith Optics I/O Goggle or Vantage helmet, you can check out both at the official Smith Optics website. To pick up both for yourself, head over to Amazon for the Smith Optics I/O Goggle and the Smith Vantage helmet, currently priced at $165 and $180, respectively.