In autumn 2020 we published a review of the Julbo Shield. With their darkened lenses and alpine focus they're a super technical product with a high price tag and high performance; however, for someone that doesn't climb in the Alps (someone such as me) they're not only total overkill, they're also just inappropriate. What I was after was something I could use bouldering, sport climbing or hillwalking, or for use whilst out and about more generally. Superficial though this might sound, I also wanted something that looked good. The Spark fit each of these requirements, but also go a whole load further too.
The Spark comes in a number of frame colours, with a choice of either a fixed Cat. 3 lens or, for a bit more money, a photochromic lens. I've been using the latter. For changing light conditions, I think the reactive lenses are worth paying for, versus the fixed option.
The first thing you notice when putting on the Spark are indeed its lenses, which are arguably what makes them so good as sunglasses. Using Julbo's REACTIV technology, the photochromic lenses are capable of adapting to the level of light around you. Whereas the Shield (mentioned above) can adjust from Cat. 2-4, the Spark lets in a little more light, ranging from Cat.1-3. This is perfect for use in the UK, as it's not all that frequent it gets that bright, but also means that when you do go abroad they've got plenty of protection to account for Spanish sunshine. They also perform equally well in the warm as they do in the cold, so are suitable for days out in the winter sun, where it might be a little on the cool side.
You could use them in the high mountains too, but for maximum UV protection at altitude on snow/glaciers you really need to be looking at Cat. 4 models such as the Shield. The Spark are more for general use in everyday settings.
The lenses themselves have a red/orange hue to look at, but whilst looking through them provide more of a cool, neutral colour (unlike the Shield, which give the world a warm brown tint). Whilst it comes down to what you prefer, I personally found the Shield's warm tint a little too much, and much prefer the Spark's relative neutrality (not least because things actually look the colour that they are). Their rounded shape not only looks good (I like the styling), but it also helps to provide a good level of protection from the sun.
Considering I was hoping to climb in the Spark, another thing that was important was how durable they are. This isn't just a matter of whether or not they can take the knocks, but also whether you can stuff them into your rucksack without them falling apart. They've passed the test on both counts. Beyond all that, we have a toddler who has provided the most rigorous testing of their durability, bending them back and forth and chewing on the frames. Remarkably, they've stood up to it all.
In terms of their packability, the Spark glasses come with two separate carry cases. One is a cloth bag, which is useful for lightweight 'on the go' storage, or to clean the glasses. The other case is a bit more substantial, with a hard outer to protect the lenses and frame, then a softer neoprene inner and sides so that the whole thing can compress down (perfect when storing the case).
When it comes to their price, £115 is a lot of money. But, to put things into context, I have a pair of Ray Bans, which cost pretty much exactly the same as the Spark but lack all of the technical advantages the Spark provides.
The Spark features lenses that are undeniably a luxury, and a premium luxury at that, but once you've used them it's hard to go back to bog-standard sunglasses. The thing I most like about the Spark is that you can keep wearing them in and out of the sun, due to the reactive lenses. They adapt to light exposure so quickly that it happens almost imperceptibly and it's easy to forget you're wearing glasses at all.
Whether you're off on urban or sporting adventures, SPARK is a must-have for women who want a single pair of elegant, high-performance sunglasses. A technical bridge and temples make sure they stay in place, and the perfect vision offered by our REACTIV Photochromic lenses will give you a pair of highly versatile shades. Our SPARK frames mirror the women who wear them: active and stylish whatever the terrain.
- Lens size: 54
- Age: Adult
- Hinges: Non
- Base: 6
- Temple length: 140
- Distance: 13
- Lens depth: 46
- Weight: 25 g
- Nose Grip: Flexible, shock-absorbing grip insert on the bridge
- Curved temples: Ergonomic profile for good grip on the face and head
- Grip Tech temples: Exclusive soft material on the temples that doesn't stick to hair, for perfect grip and comfort
For more info see julbo.com