After the frustration of attempting to swim with a left-goggle full of water, I took the plunge and bought myself a pair of Alpkit Kisdon open-water goggles. I'd had my eye on them for a while, but the question is - do they get the seal of approval?
For the last few years I've been swimming in compact, tinted Speedo goggles. With the help of an Anti-Fog Spray they've been ok.
The first indicator of terminal trouble came with a slow leak into my left goggle. Over the course of three weeks, this escalated from occasional emptying, to being able to watch the internal water level rising with every stroke. For my last couple of swims I'd resorted to head-up breaststroke. I don't mind occasional pool swimming without goggles, but conventional wisdom is to wear goggles outdoors if your face is in the water. They protect your eyes from debris, typically twigs, leaves and insects, and they can help prevent dry-eyes if you swim in salt-water.
It's also worth noting that, even if you don't put your head in the water, goggles (should!) offer you some UV protection. On a bright day, there's a lot of glare from moving water.
My older Speedo goggles were very much pool oriented. When I bought them - so was I.
On the face of it, you may think - goggles are goggles - what's the difference? Open-water goggles are an actual thing and there are some key differences. The first thing you notice is their size. They're bigger. Combined with a curved lens, this gives you much better visibility. Great for awareness of other swimmers, and for sighting of landmarks, or buoys.
To summarise my initial observations:
The nose bridge is moulded, not adjustable, and that's the norm with most goggles these days. I found it makes a light contact with the bridge of my nose, but not uncomfortably so. As a man who's blessed with a generous conk, you know what they say... the bigger the nose, the bigger the issues you'll have finding a correctly fitted swimming goggle. Anyway, the fit was fine and felt air-tight.
Adjusting my Speedo goggles involved pressure on a spring catch next to the eyepiece, pulling through or loosening the strap, releasing the spring, then sliding a plastic guide to keep the spare loop of strap out of the way. It was a crazy procedure, and needed repeating at the start of every swim.
The Kisdon adjustment is far superior. In the image below you can see how the end of the strap is permanently fitted into the adjuster. There's nothing to press or tuck, you just slide it. Adjustment is made even easier by ridges along the inside of the strap. It clicks into place and stays where you put it.
I've included my old Speedos in the photograph. The size difference is apparent and, against the white backdrop, you can see the subtle tint versus the dark tint. I swim mostly in the North Tyne, which is clean but dark, and I don't feel like the shaded lenses were helpful. If you live somewhere sunny, then tinted or mirrored goggles might be worth it.
But, enough of the preamble. How are they in the water?
With the disclaimer that I've only used them twice so far, covering around 2.5km, my impressions are excellent. The headline is - no leaks, no fogging!
After the fleeting UK heatwaves a few weeks ago, the water temperature here was hitting 20-21C. Now it's back to 15C. For full context, at this temperature I'm limiting myself to 30 minutes in the water, and wearing the goggles for around 25 minutes of that. When we (hopefully!) get some decent weather again, I'll give them a longer test and report back.
Visibility under the water is much improved over my tinted Speedo goggles. I get a clear view of my hand position in a freestyle stroke, and I'm seeing some nice light-beams when the sun comes out. This isn't the Caribbean, and it's about as good as the visibility will ever be.
Above water visibility is better too. To illustrate, turning my head to breathe, I can now see my tow-float out of the corner of my eye. That wasn't possible with the Speedo goggles, so the angle is definitely a bit wider. In open-water I use what I believe is called "crocodile sighting". Head forwards and up until your eyes are just clear of the water, fixing onto a landmark, then turning for a normal breath. Again, the angles of visibility are great, and I wasn't feeling like the goggles were interfering at all.
Finally, a brief word on delivery. Earlier this week I bought a steel saucepan that came in about half-a-forest of packaging! The packaging from Alpkit is infinitely more sensible. Delivery is in a tough paper bag, reusable in the event of a 'return', and the goggles themselves are in their plastic case. OK, so it's more plastic, but you need something to protect them in your backpack, so I think this is a fair balance of being environmentally friendly.
You can read more about their packaging policy here: Our Journey Towards Plastic Free Packaging.
In summary, so far - so good. Comfortable, great visibility, free of leaks and fogging. In my view, that ticks all the boxes! :-)
In fairness to the Speedo goggles, they're a few years old and have lasted very well. The leak appears to be due to a 'hardening' of the rubber gasket and it's no longer making a good seal. The anti-fog coating had rubbed off, but that always happens eventually, and a spray with Anti-Fog Spray gave me over an hour of good visibility.
The Alpkit Kisdon are £16 at the time of writing, which is nice on a budget. Some name-brand goggles can be upwards of £50. If you like the sound of them, sign up to the Alpkit Rewards scheme first, for 10% back on future purchases.
I first began using the goggles on Friday 19th August 2022. I'll add a note to this summary if any problems arise.
It's now October 2022 and I'm back to some pool training. In the warm water I found they began to fog within a few lengths and I needed a spray with my Jaws Anti-Fog Spray to get them clear again. I covered 2.5km in an hour, and they stayed clear with a single spray.