As hikers, we are always thinking about hiking safely, protecting our bodies from bumps and bruises and ensuring we get home to our friends and family. But, how much do you think about protecting your eyes? Would you know how to choose the best hiking sunglasses?

From frame materials to space-age lenses and ergonomics, the technology of sunglasses is complex! Here at The Adventure Junkies, we’ve done the research and identified the six most important things you need to think about when choosing the best hiking sunglasses.

Choosing the right pair of sunglasses isn’t a trivial matter. Your eyes are one of the most fragile and least resilient parts of your body, so it makes sense to invest in the best protection for your style of hiking.

 

THE BEST HIKING SUNGLASSES – QUICK ANSWER

  1. Oakley Flak 2.0 XL
  2. Maui Jim Haleakala
  3. Oakley Holbrook
  4. Julbo Trek
  5. Julbo Bivouak
  6. Oakley Radarlock Path
  7. Costa Del Mar Blackfin
  8. Smith Pivlock V2 Max
  9. Peppers Cutthroat
  10. Duduma Tr90

 

 

FREE BONUS! Click here to download the AJ Quick Starter Guide to Hiking

 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST HIKING SUNGLASSES

PICTURE
HIKING SUNGLASSES
BEST USE
POLARISED
LENS MATERIAL
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
HIKING SUNGLASSES
BEST USE
POLARISED
LENS MATERIAL
PRICE
RATING
Oakley Flak 2.0 XL
Overall
Yes
Polycarbonate
$$
4.8
Maui Jim Haleakala
Overall
Yes
Glass/Polycarbonate
$$$
4.8
Oakley Holbrook
Overall
No
Polycarbonate
$$
4.5
Julbo Trek
Photochromic
Yes
Polycarbonate
$$
5.0
Julbo Bivouak
Photochromic
Yes
Polycarbonate
$$
4.3
Oakley Radarlock Path
Polycarbonate
Yes
Polycarbonate
$$$
4.6
Costa Del Mar Blackfin
Polycarbonate
Yes
Polycarbonate
$$
4.5
Smith Pivlock V2 Max
Polycarbonate
No
Polycarbonate
$$
4.5
Peppers Cutthroat
Budget
Yes
Plastic
$
4.6
Duduma Tr90
Budget
Yes
Plastic
$
4.2

 

 

HIKING SUNGLASSES 101

 

6 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST HIKING SUNGLASSES

 

1. HIKING STYLE

Before you dive into all the technical considerations, sit back for a moment and think about the type of hiking that you’ll be doing most often.

Are you simply looking to escape to the trails for a few hours on a weekend? If so, then you’ll be wanting a good “all-rounder” that doesn’t cost the earth.

Perhaps you’ll be spending most of your time above the snow line? Protecting against glare is critical when you’re in the snow.

Or maybe you’re a trail runner? In this case, you’ll be looking for sunglasses that are lightweight and ultra-durable. You’ll be encountering a lot more debris than a regular hiker, and you need to know that your sunglasses will be up to the challenge.

Each style of hiking has its own unique requirements. By keeping these in mind when reviewing the technical criteria, you can guarantee you’ll invest in the best hiking sunglasses!

 

2. LENS TYPE

Among all the different considerations when choosing hiking sunglasses, the lenses are the most critical. They are the barriers between your delicate eyes and the sun, protecting against skin cancer and allowing you to enjoy your outdoor activities without painful glare.

 

VISIBLE LIGHT TRANSMISSION

At their most basic, sunglasses lenses reduce the amount of light that is transmitted to your eyes. This is known as the level of Visible Light Transmission (VLT).

Sunglasses with a low VLT level (less than 40 percent) are generally excellent for outdoor activities in bright conditions because they block most of the light trying to get through the lens.

While sunglasses with a high VLT level are not as common, they can be useful if you’ll be hiking in mostly dim or overcast conditions.

 

UV PROTECTION

While we can’t see ultraviolet (UV) light, the effects can be extremely damaging to our eyes and health. There are three types of UV light, UVA, UVB, and UVC. Of these, UVB is the most dangerous as it can cause skin cancer. Check to make sure that the sunglasses you are purchasing block 100 percent of UVB light.

There is still considerable debate regarding the danger posed by UVA light. Recent research suggests it may be harmful, so it is recommended that you err on the side of caution and ensure your sunglasses also protect against UVA.

Thankfully, there’s no need to worry about UVC as the earth’s atmosphere stops any of it from reaching us!

 

POLARIZATION

Another important aspect of lens design, particularly if you’re planning on doing a lot of skiing, alpine hiking, kayaking, or hiking near large bodies of water, is the provision of polarization. When light reflects off a surface, such as snow or water, the light becomes “polarized.”

Polarizing sunglasses are designed to filter out this reflected light, and the difference is incredible. Glare is significantly reduced, colors become richer, and your depth of vision into lakes and rivers will be improved.

 

PHOTOCHROMIC LENSES

Photochromic lenses are created from materials that automatically adjust to the level of ambient light and have a variable VLT level. If it is dark, then the lenses will remain clear, but as the sun comes out the lenses will automatically darken to protect your eyes.

Some users do report that they aren’t quite as good as a dedicated pair of sunglasses, but sometimes you don’t always want full light reduction and might prefer something halfway.

This technology is also excellent for those with prescription glasses, as we discuss in more detail below.

 

3. LENS MATERIAL

It used to be that you only had one option when it came to lenses; glass. While glass is still an option, advances in technology have brought a myriad of new materials such as polycarbonate, polyurethane, and plastic.

Glass provides the best scratch-resistance and has excellent optical qualities (ie. clarity and lack of distortion), but it is also the heaviest and can shatter when struck.

Polycarbonate is a plastic with very good optical qualities and a very strong, impact-resistant molecular structure. This makes it a natural choice for hikers, but it’s worth knowing that it can easily scratch, so care is needed when outdoors.

Polyurethane is another synthetic material that brings together the best of glass and polycarbonate, making them optically excellent, light weight, and extremely tough. As you might expect, they are also the most expensive.

Plastic is a very cost effective option, being light and having good optical qualities in most cases. However, they can scratch easily and aren’t as impact resistant as polycarbonate or polyurethane.

When researching hiking sunglasses be sure to check whether the lenses are coated. More advanced materials such as polycarbonate don’t normally need a coating.

However, the deficiencies of other lens materials can be overcome through the application of a coating to provide benefits such as anti-fogging, anti-reflection, water repellency and scratch resistance.

 

4. FRAME MATERIAL

When it comes to sunglass frames there are many different materials to choose from.

Metal frames, such as steel, aluminium and titanium, may look great. But, these aren’t practical as they can get extremely hot in the sun and provide poor impact resistance.

Instead, keep an eye out for materials such as acetate, nylon or nylon/plastic combinations, as these are low cost and will provide an excellent combination of durability and flexibility.

Plastic frames are most cost-effective of all, but aren’t as suited to the tough conditions you’ll face when hiking.

 

5. DESIGN

You’re going to be wearing your sunglasses in all types of conditions when you’re hiking, so you need to know that they will be comfortable, functional and effective!

If you’re looking for excellent protection from wind and rain, then you may want to go for a “wrap around” design.

For more ventilation and less likelihood of fogging up, you may want a more open pair of sunglasses.

Consider the nose-piece and arms of the frame, as they will be resting on your nose and ears for considerable periods of time. Some sunglasses come with additional padding in these areas, or are adjustable to ensure a great fit.

If you enjoy trail running, rock climbing or mountaineering, then you may also prefer sunglasses with rubberized contact points to ensure they don’t slip around during extreme activities.

If you’re purchasing online then do try and ensure that the website has a great returns policy, as sometimes trying a pair of sunglasses on is the only way of finding out whether they fit the unique contours of your face.

 

6. PRESCRIPTION GLASSES

If you need to wear prescription glasses in your everyday life and can’t wear contact lenses; don’t worry, this isn’t going to stop you hiking!

Many manufacturers and retailers of sunglasses now provide you with the ability to provide your prescription details and they can either custom build or order a pair of sunglasses to meet your needs.

Alternatively, photochromic lenses might be of interest, as they too can be custom built to your needs and can be used not only when hiking, but at home as well.

The last option is to find a pair of “clip on” lenses, or a large pair of “fit over” glasses that can be worn over the top of your regular prescription glasses.

 

perfect sunglasses to wear for hiking

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/darunechka

 

HIKING SUNGLASSES REVIEWS

 

BEST HIKING SUNGLASSES FOR OVERALL USE

OAKLEY FLAK 2.0 XL

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Hikers looking for the best light weight, multi-purpose sunglasses that won’t get dislodged during physical activity.

POLARIZED: Yes

LENS MATERIAL: Polycarbonate

PROS: Light weight, rubberized grips at ears and nose, extremely good optical performance

CONS: Some hikers may prefer a larger lens for extra protection

 

 

 

MAUI JIM HALEAKALA

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Hikers wanting the very best in lens technology, while looking good on and off the trail

POLARIZED: Yes

LENS MATERIAL: Glass/Polycarbonate

PROS: Extremely light weight, very high impact resistance, excellent optical performance, stylish

CONS: Edges of frame may obstruct peripheral vision

 

 

 

OAKLEY HOLBROOK

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Day hikers needing a pair of sunglasses that can take a real beating on the trail, and yet still look good on the street

POLARIZED: No

LENS MATERIAL: Polycarbonate

PROS: Simple and extremely tough frame, very stylish

CONS: Lenses are not polarized, not as much peripheral coverage as other sunglasses

 

 

 

 

BEST PHOTOCHROMIC HIKING SUNGLASSES

JULBO TREK

 

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Hikers wanting sunglasses that provide the ultimate protection for their eyes from sweat, glare and debris in all conditions

POLARIZED: Yes

LENS MATERIAL: Polyurethane

PROS: Adjustable frame, tough lenses, removable side-shields, removable sweat barrier

CONS: In low light conditions the lenses can be a little dark

 

 

 

JULBO BIVOUAK

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Hikers wanting ultra light sunglasses providing excellent all round protection

POLARIZED: Yes

LENS MATERIAL: Polyurethane

PROS: Adjustable frame, light weight, good side protection, tough, fit a variety of face shapes

CONS: Lens transition time can be slow, in bright light the lenses may not be dark enough for some hikers

 

 

 

 

BEST POLYCARBONATE HIKING SUNGLASSES

OAKLEY RADARLOCK PATH

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Hikers wanting a super light weight pair if sunglasses with an excellent field of view

POLARIZED: Yes

LENS MATERIAL: Polycarbonate

PROS: Excellent field of view, removable lenses, light weight

CONS: Small size and may be tight fit on larger faces

 

 

 

COSTA DEL MAR BLACKFIN

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Hikers that spend a lot of time on or near the water, and needing excellent glare reduction

POLARIZED: Yes

LENS MATERIAL: Polycarbonate

PROS: Rubberised nosepad and temple tips, good protection, excellent glare reduction

CONS: May fog up more easily than other sunglasses

 

 

 

SMITH PIVLOCK V2 MAX

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Hikers wanting extremely good visibility and field of view, in an ultra light pair of sunglasses

POLARIZED: No

LENS MATERIAL: Polycarbonate

PROS: Ultra light, excellent field of view and visibility, frameless design

CONS: Nosepiece may need adjustment to prevent fogging, may be too large for some face shapes

 

 

 

 

BEST BUDGET HIKING SUNGLASSES

PEPPERS CUTTHROAT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Hikers needing sunglasses that are uncomplicated and provide a good level of protection from all angles

POLARIZED: Yes

LENS MATERIAL: Plastic

PROS: Good clarity and glare reduction

CONS: May be too large for some face shapes

 

 

 

DUDUMA TR90

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Hikers needing comfortable sunglasses for all day use and excellent wrap-around protection

POLARIZED: Yes

LENS MATERIAL: Plastic

PROS: Excellent wrap-around protection, very comfortable, stylish

CONS: Polarization not as effective as other sunglasses

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