Native Eyewear has long been a purveyor of quality sunglasses for adventurous outdoor pursuits. As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast as well as a dedicated mountain biker for the last 15 years (who goes through shades like most people go through tires–at least one pair a season), it’s rather surprising I’ve never owned a Native product. Since the Native name is synonymous with quality and useful features, I was pleased with the prospect of testing out some new Native shades. As someone who prefers relatively simple (some might say conservative) sunglasses with open frames (I sweat a lot), the new Hardtop Ultra XP offered the best opportunity to meet my rather stringent specs for new specs.
The sporty Hardtop Ultra XP sports the following features:
- N3™ Lens Technology
- SportFlex™ Lens Kit Included
- Co-Injected Rhyno-Tuff® Air Frames
- Hybrid Venting
- Cam-Action Hinges
- Mastoid Temple Grip™
- Optic Gear Kit
- Interchangeable Lens System
- Flex Metal™ Adjustable Nose Pad System
(see Native’s Hardtop Ultra XP page for more)
When I look for new sunglasses, I look for outstanding performance in the areas of fit, security, and vision. Here’s how the Hardtop Ultra XP stacked up:
1. Fit. The Hardtop Ultra XPs seemed like a good fit right out of the box. They felt snug on my head without applying undue pressure, and the Flex MetalTM Adjustable Nose Pad System allowed me to match the nose grips exactly to the shape of my own schnoz. What I started out with was a great-fitting pair of shades and one possible concern. The side arms are rather narrow and curve around aggressively, leading me to believe they might lead to that minor annoyance headache that comes with wearing shades for a long time. Fortunately, after multiple long days in the saddle, I felt no such digging into the sides of my skull. In the end, I give the Hardtop Ultra XPs a solid “A” for fit.
2. Security. The last thing anybody wants when shredding the gnar is for their shades to slip or dangle. Shades should sit still through all manner of jumbles and lead to no distraction whatsoever for their pilot. Three aspects of the Hardtop Ultra XP conspired to help them deliver outstanding security. First is the aforementioned adjustable nosepiece. Second was the shape of the side arms, which are augmented by cam-action hinges. Those hinges hold the side arms in place without any slop or variation. In fact, when one folds the arms out from the storage configuration to the wearing configuration, the side arms snap into place with authority. Every indication is that they will continue to do so for many cycles. Lastly is the aforementioned side arms themselves, whose shape ensures a secure wrap around the head. I was able to charge rocky, near-vertical lines with no slippage. The Hardtop Ultra XPs also earn a solid A for security.
3. Vision. I could live with discomfort, and even a little slippage, but the whole point of shades is to provide quality vision, even in adverse conditions. My version of the Hardtop Ultra XPs came with two sets of lenses: a nicely polarized dark pair for bright days and an amber pair for variable conditions. Native claims their N3TM polarized lenses block four times as much infrared light as regular polarized lenses. While I don’t have a polarizometer infrared measurement thingy, I can confirm that these lenses were exceptional at eliminating glare and adapting to rapidly-changing conditions. When flying through treed sections, between blinding light and near debilitating darkness, the dark polarized lenses took it all in stride and gave me no distracting jolts in vision. The amber lenses were effective in everything from cloudy days to dawn and dusk conditions. However, I’m used to having a third set of lenses with my shades: clear for night riding. My Hardtop Ultra XPs only had the dark and amber, but no clear. The dark and amber lenses also earn a solid A, but without the clear, I only give the overall vision package a B-.
I appreciate the lens shape. They are slightly oversized, providing excellent coverage without being excessively large. While both included lenses performed exceptionally well, changing them was not as easy as other muti-lens sets. In fact, with each lens swap, I feared breaking either lens or frame. Pulling the installed lens was a challenge and installing the new lens was a larger challenge. With other multi-lens shades, all that easier lens swapping seems to lead to too-easy outs, meaning they can come out when you don’t want them to. Hopefully, these far more secure lenses will never reach that point and will remain secure over the long haul.
One last feature I really appreciated was the venting holes across the top of the lenses. As one who sweats easily, I tend to get rapid fogging on each and every pair of shades I use, especially on long, slow climbs where there’s little airflow to aid evaporation. I didn’t have high hopes just by looking at the six very small vents, but I could not get these shades to fog. Big bonus there.
At an MSRP of $129 – $149 (depending on frame color and lens selection), the Native Hardtop Ultra XPs are not the cheapest shades out there. However, given the quantity and level their virtues, I believe they’re worth every penny—that is provided I can keep from losing them as quickly as I lose most of the shades I buy! I will take extra special care of these, as I believe they will be faithful companions over the long haul if I only allow them to be.
Thanks to Native Eyewear for providing the Hardtop Ultra XPs for review.