These stylish goggles use fighter pilot technology but come with just one lens
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Justin Park / TripSavvy
Large field of view
Only one lens included
Clunky lens locking
The Oakley Flight Deck XM goggle is a high-performing ski and snowboard optic with a simple design.
We purchased the Oakley Flight Deck XM Ski Goggles so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Oakley has been a leader in sports eyewear for over forty years and its sunglasses and goggles are the company’s best-known products. To see if the goggles’ reputation held up, we tested the Oakley Flight Deck XM goggles during the spring skiing season in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. We assessed their performance over several weeks, testing them in conditions ranging from thick storms to hot spring bluebird days at the ski resort. Read on for the details and evaluation.
The trend in high-end goggles over the past few years is definitely toward edgeless large-size mirrored lenses, giving skiers and snowboarders a fighter pilot look that makes even beginners appear ready for take-off. The Flight Deck XM is no exception and the name itself is a nod to the rounded convexity which adds to the pilot theme.
As with most edgeless goggle lenses, the frame sits completely behind the lens. That doesn't necessarily mean the entire area is a functional viewing area since the frame still borders your view. But it undeniably adds some cool factor, especially when mirrored as many of the Prizm lens options are for this goggle.
Like sunglasses, ski goggles have a functional aspect that should be paramount. But if you want to look the part on the slopes, the Flight Deck XMs deliver in that department as well.
The trend toward oversized goggles doesn’t do any favors to those with small to average-sized heads. And while you may look cool with half your face obscured by a mirrored lens, the fit can suffer leading to fog, frustration, and gaps between your goggles and face or helmet. (A "gaper gap," if you will.)
For my average-sized head, the Flight Deck XMs fit great. The "M" in XM stands for medium and is meant to deliver the oversized look and field of vision of the XLs but with a fit that works better for most people.
Additionally, the frame is fairly pliable which helps the goggles mold to your head and ensure a more snug fit. I’ve tested other high-end goggles such as the Smith I/O Mag XLs and found that their larger and stiffer frame left more gaps along the seal with my face causing me to constantly adjust them while skiing. The Flight Deck XMs seemed to fit well without me needing to carefully place and adjust them, which I attribute largely to a flexible frame and more appropriate sizing.
One downside of this goggle is—unlike many other high-end goggle options—the Flight Deck XM only comes with one lens option. Most skiers and boarders like to have at least two lens options: One darker lens for bright sunny days and a clear or yellow, orange, or rose lens for overcast days and night skiing.
That said, a local snowboard shop employee that recently switched to the Oakley Prizm lenses told me the lenses adapt so well, he doesn’t swap lenses anymore. So rather than purchase an additional lens for the Flight Deck XMs, I tested them using only the Prizm Torch Iridium lens that came with them across a range of conditions from backcountry skiing in hot spring conditions to storm skiing late in the day with minimal visibility.
The fact that the Flight Deck XMs endured a month of skiing with no visible scratches might be a testament to Oakley’s construction and coatings.
While I still believe having a dedicated low-light lens would be superior (why would Oakley make them as an option if they didn’t offer benefits), I did find that compared to other sunny-day lenses I’ve used in the past, the Prizm lens seemed to adapt to the conditions fairly well. I didn’t find myself struggling to see the terrain in flat light in a storm and what highlights did exist in the dull conditions popped through the mirrored lens, even though it, of course, could’ve stood to be a tad brighter.
I didn’t have a second lens to swap frequently, but the locking mechanism (while secure) was difficult to use. This is another area where the goggle perhaps lags behind competitors such as the Smith I/O Mag which features the convenient, though also not perfect, magnetized locking mechanism. The Oakley Flight Deck XM snaps securely into place, but there’s nothing particularly smooth or easy about it and I had to double-check the edges to be sure it had locked in all around.
Durability across brands continues to be an issue despite the quality of optics consistently improving over the decades Oakley’s been making goggles and sunglasses. Despite advanced coatings and attempts to address scratching, it’s still depressingly easy to ruin a pair of $200 goggles by brushing a tree branch or bumping them against your skis getting into a gondola.
It seems like every pair of goggles I’ve bought over the decades has gotten a major scratch in my field of vision within the first week of owning them. Whether it’s luck or improved tech, I was able to wear the Oakley Flight Deck XMs for a month skiing in them several times a week without a single scratch.
The highlights of the Flight Deck XM are its Prizm lens quality and adaptability, while the downside is the lack of a second lens.
While luck certainly may have played a role, there were several scenarios that could’ve damaged the goggles and didn't. Skiing an above-treeline bowl, a chunk of ice popped up from beneath my ski and struck me right between the eyes in the center of the lens. Another time, gearing up at my truck, I managed to bounce the edges of my skis off the front of the lens, and, fearing the worst, I was pleased to see the lenses were no worse off.
Again, these are anecdotes, but given my history with damaging goggles, the fact that they endured a month of skiing with no visible scratches might be a testament to Oakley’s construction and coatings.
At $200, the Flight Deck XMs aren’t the most expensive goggles in the category, but given they only come with a single lens makes them one of the pricier options, considering that a second lens will run you $50 to $70. That said, given the quality of Oakley’s optics, the price is on par with comparable offerings from other top goggle brands such as Smith.
The highlights of the Flight Deck XM are its Prizm lens quality and adaptability, while the downside is the lack of a second lens. If you ski mostly in sunny conditions and like the idea of not having to switch lenses, the Flight Decks could be a great option that’s reasonably affordable if you aren’t purchasing an extra lens.
Author Justin Park is a lifelong skier based in Breckenridge, Colorado. He’s old enough to have used some really cheap, primitive goggles over the years and appreciates what tech has done for snow sports eyewear. He logs about 100 ski days each year between resorts and backcountry terrain that offer a wide range of conditions for testing gear.
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