Whether you’re hiking in the alpine, paddling on the ocean, or skiing some backcountry powder, a pair of polarized sunglasses are a must for protecting your eyes. However, there are quite literally hundreds of different sunglasses available, so all those choices can feel overwhelming as you’re shopping around.
To ensure that you get precisely the right polarized sunnies for your needs, we’ve created this article that’s complete with to everything you need to know about outdoor eyewear. We’ve also reviewed five of the top polarized sunglasses for outdoor use so you can find the best option for your needs.
What Are The Benefits Of Polarized Sunglasses?
Polarized or not, sunglasses are essential if you want to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure. But, what exactly are polarized glasses, and why are they good for use on your adventures?
Basically, polarized sunglasses feature lenses that have a built-in filter that can reduce or eliminate the total amount of reflected light that reaches your eyes. Polarization has a number of benefits, including:
- Added Comfort. Polarized lenses can eliminate the negative effects of glare on your eyes. This makes for a more comfortable visual experience when you’re outside.
- Extra Protection. When you opt for polarized glasses, you get more effective eye protection from the sun’s harmful rays.
- Improved Colors. Polarization helps to intensify the colors of the landscape around you and can also improve contrast, which makes it easier to see in complex environments.
- Clearer Vision. Since polarized lenses can reduce glare, they make it easier to see clearly while you’re hiking, climbing, or paddling.
The Julbo Beach is a pair of high-quality polarized sunglasses from one of the best active eyewear manufacturers on the planet. These sunglasses are made using polarized Spectron 3 lenses that can block up to 88% of the light entering the eye.
They feature a lightweight frame that’s flexible and durable enough to withstand years of frequent use. Plus, both the frames and lenses on these glasses are shock-resistant, so they’re not likely to shatter if they’re dropped on the ground.
For outdoor use, the Beach glasses have a slight wrap-around shape and large square lenses. This provides ample protection for the sides of the eyes without sacrificing much in the way of style.
I’ve personally used these sunglasses for years in some of the world’s harshest environments. For sunny days in snow-free mountain landscapes, they’re a solid and comfortable choice.
- Lightweight, flexible, and shock-proof frame
- Durable lenses with Category 3 eye protection to block 88% of light
- Slight wrap-around shape for protecting sides of eyes without sacrificing style
- Somewhat expensive
- No grip on the legs to stop glasses from falling off
The Costa Del Mar Saltbreak is designed for people with active lifestyles that need quality sun protection without skimping on style. Costa Del Mar designed these sunglasses using TR-90, a tough and durable nylon frame material.
As far as the lenses go, these sunglasses feature 580 polycarbonate glass polarized lenses, which are impact and scratch-resistance. These “blue mirror” lenses are made from 6 different layers and offer ample clarity and eye protection, particularly in full-sun open water situations.
These glasses also come with a sturdy carrying case and a cleaning cloth to help you keep them in good working condition. Finally, they have a wrap-around shape that helps to shield your eyes from light entering at any angle for maximum protection.
- Blue mirror lenses are specifically designed for eye protection in open water environments
- Durable nylon frame material for long-term use
- Wrap-around shape for added eye protection
- Very expensive
The Julbo Cham is a full-coverage pair of sunglasses crafted specifically for mountain use. They feature a new twist on a classic mountaineering glasses design, which integrates leather side shields for maximum sun protection.
These glasses have fully-adjustable temples that can be moved in a 360º range so you can fit them under a helmet or over a beanie. They also have a super soft and grippy material that keeps your glasses on your head but doesn’t stick to your hair.
While they might not be the most stylish option around, these glasses have polarized Category 3 lenses that cut out up to 88% of light from the sun. They also offer maximum glare reduction on snow for a clearer visual experience in the mountains.
- Full coverage from the sun using leather side panels
- Fully adjustable temples with grippy legs for a better and more comfortable fit
- Category 3 polarized lenses cut glare and maximize comfort
- Not very stylish
Under Armour’s Octane Wrap sunglasses use their proprietary polarized lenses to help cut down on glare and reduce eye strain. Their “ArmourSight” lenses allow for distortion-free vision across the entire lens while protecting against 100% of UV rays, which are harmful to human health.
These glasses are built using ArmourFusion frames, which are made from an injected polyamide. This provides them with the durability and strength you need for regular use in harsh outdoor environments.
One of the most unique features of these glasses is their screwless cam-lock hinges. These allow you to lock the legs of the glasses in place to create the perfect fit for your particular head. They also have multi-positioning nose pads that you can click into place to get a more customized fit.
- Distortion-free polarized lenses cut out all UV light and reduce glare
- Durable frames that can be customized to fit the shape of your head
- Wrap-around design cuts down on light entering from the sides
- Sports-style sunglasses with no bottom frames are not comfortable for everyone
The Duco Sport is an affordable option for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget. These glasses are made with TAC polarized lenses that feature a UV400 coating to block out all harmful rays of light.
These polarized lenses are scratch and impact-resistant but still allow you to see proper colors in very sunny environments. Additionally, they are built using a metal alloy frame, which is lightweight and highly durable.
For added comfort, these glasses have soft silicone nose-pads that prevent them from slipping off your face as you hike. They also have an easy-to-disassemble design that makes it easier to clean them every once in a while.
- Very affordable
- Lightweight metal frames are durable and impact-resistant
- Quality polarized lenses block out harmful sun rays
- Does not come with a hard-shell case
- Don’t offer a lot of side protection
How To Choose The Best Polarized Sunglasses
There are hundreds of different polarized sunglasses out there, so finding the right pair for your needs is all about knowing what to look for. Here are some of the most important features to remember as you shop:
Sunglasses come in a wide range of different shapes. In general, sunglasses shapes are a matter of preference and style, though models that provide more wrap-around coverage are preferred in very sunny environments.
This wrap-around coverage means that light is less likely to enter your eye from the sides, especially if you’re spending a lot of time in snowy environments or on the water. In these situations, having glasses with good side-protection is critical.
Traditionally, glasses lenses were, well, made of glass. These days, lenses are actually rarely made of glass unless you purchase high-end glasses. This is how each type of lens stacks performs in the real world:
- Glass. Good ol’ fashioned glass is the best when it comes to clarity, but they are heavy and can easily break.
- Polycarbonate. This kind of lens is impact-resistant and provides good optical clarity. In general, they’re quite affordable, though they tend to scratch quite easily.
- Polyurethane. Polyurethane lenses are very impact-resistant and offer top-notch clarity. While they are very lightweight, though, they are usually more expensive.
Sunglasses lenses come in a whole host of different colors, each of which has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what you need to know:
- Blue/Purple. These lenses are useful in flat light or on overcast days because they offer some good contrast to your environment. You’ll often see them on glasses designed for boating, fishing, and kayaking.
- Yellow. Yellow lenses aren’t as good at blocking light as some other options, but they are effective at increasing contrast, especially in low light conditions. They’re a fan-favorite for golfing and shooting.
- Green. This lens color is most commonly found in sports lenses (particularly baseball and tennis) because they provide lots of contrast but minimal color distortion. However, they’re not great at blocking blue light.
- Grey. Grey lenses are perhaps the most popular option because they don’t distort color and they are good at cutting down on glare in bright conditions.
- Brown. Similar to grey lenses, brown lenses are good for everyday use because they enhance contrast without distorting color. They are particularly useful in variable light conditions.
- Rose/Red. Red and rose colored lenses are effective at blocking out blue light but they also significantly distort color. This kind of lens is most commonly found in cycling glasses.
You generally have two options when it comes to frame materials: metal and plastic/nylon. Metal glasses are durable and stylish but are often quite heavy. On the other hand, plastic frames tend to be lightweight and impact-resistant at the same time.
Polarized sunglasses are an essential piece of gear for any outdoor pursuit. They offer excellent eye protection from the sun’s harmful rays while simultaneously reducing glare. Choosing the right pair is critical for enjoying any sun-filled outdoor adventure.