A closer look at skydiving glasses

BY RALPH WILHELM (Camera Flyer / Keynote Speaker)

Hi Skydiving Community or let’s call it Skydive Nation!

An important detail of skydiving equipment, but far too often neglected: goggles!
Just imagine you have problems seeing up there while you’re jumping! No view of the altimeter, no view of the landing target. That can quickly become dangerous. All the more important to take a closer look at this small piece of equipment.

There at four reasons for a skydiver to wear glasses. Eye protection from the wind with an open face helmet, correction of a sight debility, sun protection and looking cool. No matter what your reason is, make sure you choose the right glasses. Here is some food for thought.

Oldschool Sunglasses

Inexpensive and easy to replace but definitely not the best google when it comes to protection or if you want to install corrective lenses.

When using an open face helmet, the shape of the glasses, which dictates the fit, is most important. The less wind you get into your eyes, the lower is the risk of temporary losing sight due to watering eyes. If a newbie ask which glasses to buy, people often answer with brand names. That does not really help. Every face has a different form. It’s paramount that the shape of the glasses fits the shape of your face as good as possible. Too much space between the frame and your face equals far too windy, might look cool but these glasses are not suitable for skydiving.
So I went around the DZ and asked everybody who was wearing glasses to let me try his brand. Trying the glasses of another instructor (thanks Jeanine), I found that WileyX fit my face perfectly. However they might not fit your face at all. Most manufacturers have different models for longer or rounder shaped faces. You have to try.

Oldie Skydiving Sunglasses

Oldschool Skydiving Glasses

fit of Skydiving Sunglasses

A perfect fit

Different shapes for different faces

Thin temples


Depending on the shape of your face, some glasses will sit nicely tight.


Most manufacturers offer different shapes. So try to find those glasses which fit your face best.

Quite important is the thickness of the temples. Thick temples are a pain (in the face) when you put the glasses on while wearing a full face helmet, and can cause discomfort and pain when wearing an open face helmet, as the temples are pressed against your skin/skull by the helmet. Remember you might sit quite a time with your helmet on during the way to altitude and on the way down under canopy. It sounds a bit unusual, but bring your helmet if you tryout the glasses for fit. They might fight perfectly without the helmet but may be hard to get on when wearing a full face helmet or may cause discomfort when wearing them under the helmet for a longer time.

Thin temples

Test the glasses with your helmet for a longer time, as putting them on might be tricky and wearing them longer might hurt if the rim of your helmet presses the temples against your skin.

Another nice to have point if you are using an open face helmet is if the glasses are set up for the use with a neckband. As you do not want to lose your glasses in freefall, the use of a neckband is strongly recommend. Some brands depend on aftermarket slip over neckbands. I don’t like this solution, as these neckband are not so easy to install or remove and I don’t need a neckband when driving a car or just doing something different than skydiving on a sunny day (what a strange thought). I prefer glasses where the temples are set up in a way that you can snap a neckband on and off in no time.

Neckband or temple

With some glasses you can quickly change from a neckband to temples.


Try the glasses you want to buy with the neckband. They may have holes to attach the neckband in different places which may sit a little uncomfortable under the rim of the helmet.

Some types of neckband help you not to loose your glasses when you don’t wear them. So the glasses can hang around your neck with the neckband on long setting while sitting firm on your face when tightening the neckband.

Some inexpensive rubber band will hold your glasses in place, but it cant be removed quickly if you wear you glasses for a non-skydiving activity.

If you have very wind sensitive eyes, if your contact lenses are easily dislocated be the wind or if none of the glasses you tried really fits you, a gasket is the perfect solution. This is a foam frame you can clip on your glasses, sometimes it’s called a facial seal. Depending on the jump I do, I sometimes additionally clip it on the glasses, with a good designed pair of glasses this is done in about 5 seconds. So make sure that the glasses of your choice offer this option.


A facial seal or gasket is a clip on foam frame that closes the gap between your face and your glasses. When you wear contact lenses or have wind sensitive eyes, this is a good and quick add on.

When you are not jumping, the gasket can be removed within seconds with a good pair of glasses.

The gasket closes any gap between face and glasses and sits comfortable due to the soft foam.

What about correction lenses? If you have a debility of sight (amblyopia – for the semi educated) and don’t want to wear contact lenses you have to check if the pair of glasses you want to choose is capable of getting some corrective lenses installed. Or does it have the possibility to clip another small frame with corrective lenses on the inside of the glasses?


Removable gasket

Corrective lenses

Open ventilation

Corrective lenses

While with some glasses you can get the normal lenses replaces with corrective lenses, other use a additional frame for the corrective lenses.

Changeable lenses

For different situations, different lens colors are helpful. You don’t want to do a night jump with tinted glasses. So changeable lenses might be an option.

Talking about lenses, make sure that your pair of glasses does NOT have polarized lenses. The sky looks better with them, but all the gauges in the cockpit and most digital altimeters on your wrist are hart to impossible to read with polarized lenses.


Depending on your non-skydiving activity as well as on the position of your face towards the wind in freefall, a ventilation system might be an option. The Wiley X Ozone offers such a system that can be open and closes with just one click.

Finally yet importantly, I prefer the lenses to be impact rated. While doing camera above bigways, I had a lot of near missed with even things like hook knives and metal handles. No matter if you do Freefly of Belly, sooner or later you will get somebodies foot or knee in your face. A cheap pair of lenses, plastic or glass, might scatter. And for sure the least thing you want to have directly of front or your eyes are broken pieces of glass. So I am only wearing glasses which are impact rated according to EN.166 or ANSI Z87.1. These glasses can also be used at the shooting range.


You wont get shot in freefall, but hook knives, handles, knees and feet will aim for your face sooner or later.

But very last and for sure least, always remember: First rule – look cool.

Other opinions
Virginie Seyler, France
videographer for tandem, 4way and large formation

For me, the most important thing about skydive goggles is that they are as tight as possible, since I wear contact lenses. Nevertheless, they must not fog up. As a videographer, there is nothing worse for me than not being able to see what I am filming because of driving wind or haze obscuring my view.
The formation is a short distance below me, so good visibility is elementary to get good shots and also safety relevant, because I don’t want to get burbled and fall onto the formation below me.

Another important criterion is that the glasses must not move when I wear them under the helmet. The helmet is very tight and when I put it on, the goggle strap on the back of my head has to stay in place. There’s an aiming mark on the lens that shows me exactly where I’m filming, so the glasses have to stay in the same position on my face, but they shouldn’t be so tight that they hurt. They should therefore be well padded.
It is also important that the lenses are as scratch-resistant as possible and do not shatter in the event of a collision. As a videographer, you’re in a very exposed position – at the exit – so it can happen that you get a hand or a shoe in your face.

Max Österling, Germany
Instructor and large formation videographer

I have been using the WileyX XL-1 Advanced “sunglasses” for years. In addition to the dark sunglass lenses, the glasses also have yellow and untinted lenses. I like to use the yellow lenses in the evening or when the sky is overcast. I also use the yellow lenses when jumping with students, as my eyes can be seen then as well.
Changing the lenses is a bit of fiddling, but no problem. In addition, you can still insert a gasket, whereby the glasses around the eyes completely sealed. In my experience, however, this is not necessary.

Virginie Seyler

Max Österling

Ewan Cowie

Ewan Cowie
Freefly videographer

I have a pretty strong prescription, and my eyes have become sensitive to contact lenses over the years, so these are no longer an option for me. This means I have to find sunglasses in which it is possible to accommodate my prescription. I find that the glasses which fit best and block out the wind are generally ‘wraparound’ ones with very curved lenses, but unfortunately the curved lenses are very difficult and/or expensive to make with a high prescription lens. The solution I have found is to search for glasses which do not have extremely curved lenses, but instead keep the wind out by using a built in wind shield on the gaps between the face and the glasses, which blocks the wind from hitting the eyes. The model I use at the moment is the Shield by Julbo.

About the Author

Ralph Wilhelm
6000+ jumps, Keynote Speaker, Videographer, filming tandems, boogies, skydive world records, commercials and TV shows worldwide.

Check out Ralph’s Instagram

Ralph Wilhelm

Ralph Wilhelm

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply