Every year, the hiking season brings forth a wide array of opportunities for exploring trails in your local wilderness, though, to best-enjoy hiking and backpacking routes, one needs to be outfitted with the right equipment. Depending on the length of your trek, the necessary gear will greatly vary, though one element every hiker should be armed with, whether they’re facing a simple day trip or an extended tour along the Appalachian Trail, is a quality pair of sunglasses.
But, with literally thousands of sunglasses on the market, honing in on the pair most conducive to your hiking needs can be pretty exhausting. This issue is compounded by the vast array of styles, features, and price-points within the hiking shades sector. So, to save you the trouble, we’ve searched far and wide, reviewing the industry’s trail-ready optical offerings to bring you this guide to the 12 best hiking sunglasses.
What Makes A Good Set Of Hiking Glasses?
Ten Things To Consider
Unlike your average pair of men’s daily-wear shades, hiking sunglasses have to excel in a number of unique areas in order to benefit their wearer on the trail. Below, we’ll explore the properties that should be taken into account when shopping for a set of hiking-specific sunglasses.
Polarization: Polarized lenses afford a wearer bolstered protection from direct sunlight as well as glare from water or snow. This is an absolute must for any hiking sunglasses.
Weight: While less important for day-to-day use, a sunglass’s weight is incredibly important when said glasses are being worn for prolonged periods of time. Finding a quality pair of hiking shades should mean finding a balance between lightweight and durability.
Comfort: Just like with weight, the all-day-use of hiking sunglasses make how comfortable they are of extreme importance, especially in areas such as the bridge of the nose and behind the ears. Like a good pair of hiking boots, this area is all about finding a balance.
Frame Construction: When deep in the backwoods, the last thing you want is for your glasses to break. A robust, well-made frame is another must-have quality for any set of hiking sunglasses. Advancements in the segment have given rise to frames composed of materials like nylon alloys and high-strength plastics, in addition to traditional metal-framed items.
Price: No matter what you’re buying, price is always of importance. While one could, in theory, purchase a cheap pair of gas station glasses for hiking, investing in a quality, more high-end pair will not only serve you better on the trails, but will also insure that they last for years to come.
Style: While purchasing hiking sunglasses should be primarily dictated by your needs and the glasses’ features, there’s nothing wrong with letting your aesthetic tastes play a guiding role in what pair you opt for. Fortunately, hiking sun glasses come in all manner of styles, making this element pretty easy to navigate.
Lens Properties & Material: Just like with the frames, lens’ properties are of immense importance, and because of the potential hazards posed by nature, it’s always a good call to go with a pair with strong anti-scratch qualities. Material is another crucial area, with lenses made from everything from plastic and glass to polyurethane and polycarbonate — all of which boast their own varying levels of optical clarity and impact resistance.
UV Protection: Part of the visible light spectrum, ultraviolet light from the sun is harmful — not to mention blinding – to the human eye. When spending an extended time on the trails (anything more than an hour or two), UV protection is absolutely mandatory.
Supplementary Protection: In addition to polarization and UV protection, a handful of hiking sunglasses offer additional protection in the form of pieces that redirect sweat away from the eyes, or lateral cover portions that shield the eyes from lateral rays, as well as small bits of dirt, dust, and debris — all of which are more-than-common on hiking trails.
Brand: One surefire method of obtaining a quality pair of hiking shades — or any hiking essential — is to buy from a well-established and trusted company. While brands will occasionally release a flop of a product, 95% of the time, a company’s history and reputation will be a decent indicator of what you’re getting into.
Sunski Headlands Polarized Sunglasses
Constructed around a flexible and durable polycarbonate plastic frame that weighs less than 1oz and backed by a five-spoke hinge design, the Sunski Headlands are a pared-down, stylish take on hiking glasses. Designed in California and sold with the brand’s trusty “Forever Warranty”, these shades offer 100% full-spectrum UV protection and are sold with a carrying case and microfiber bag.
Lens: Triacetate cellulose
Magpul Explorer Sunglasses
Magpul’s products are trusted the world over by elite armed forces, so it should come as no surprise to learn that the military-focused company makes some seriously solid and dependable pieces of eyewear. Magpul’s military-style Explorer Sunglasses boast TR90NZZ frames that are lightweight yet still rated to Z87.1 for ballistic impact protection. The lenses sport an Oleophobic treatment that further ups the durability factor, as does the pair’s stainless steel pins and over-molded rubber nose and temple pads. The Explorer’s low-profile shape also makes them ideal for wearing under a helmet (or hat, or bandana, or whatever else you’re wearing on the trail).
Lens: Oleophobic-treated ballistic-grade
SPY Optic Atlas Sunglasses
With a timeless high-bridge silhouette and advanced lenses, Spy Optic’s Atlas glasses offer the perfect balance of style and functionality. Made from a high-performance polyamide from Switzerland called Grilamid, these shaded specs — which are offered in non-polarized and Trident polarized versions — feature hardwearing five-barrel hinges. Best of all, these glasses sport composite, six-base polycarbonate ARC lenses which bolster color, contrast, and clarity.
Ray-Ban Justin Glasses
Offered in five different sizes and a whopping 30 different colorways, Ray-Ban’s Justin Glasses are a high-end take on a set of classically cool rectangular shades. Inspired by the brand’s iconic Wayfarer model, these driving-style glasses are built around a lightweight composite plastic frame that houses the pair’s equally lightweight lenses which afford 100% UV protection and help to lessen eye-strain while outside.
Frames: Composite plastic
Smith Outlier 2 Sunglasses
Sleek yet simple, Smith’s Outlier glasses offer a host of features making them ideal for the trails. Their ChromaPop lenses — the most advanced polarized lenses on earth — meet ANSI Z80.3 standards for impact resistance and feature an oil and waterproof coating that keeps moisture, water, and other grime out, plus a vacuum-applied anti-reflective coating that helps to mitigate side-light reflections. They also sport Hydrophilic Megol nose pads and temple ends, auto-lock hinges, and a subtle six-base lens curvature. Not just good in nature, but also good for it, with their Evolve frames using a more-than-50% bio-based material infused into a polymer base.
Native Eyewear Catamount Glasses
Light on weight and heavy on cutting-edge features, the Catamount glasses from Native Eyewear feature a highly-durable co-injected Rhyno-Tuff thermoplastic frame with a Flex Metal adjustable nose pad system. The glasses also sport a Mastoid Temple Grip, Cam-Action hinges, and N3 polarized lenses which are interchangeable and block out 40% of all infrared light, helping to lessen eye fatigue. Co-injected temple tips and ends mean these will also be some of the most comfortable sunglasses you’ll ever wear. Also included with these glasses are a hard case, soft case, SportFlex lens kit, and a generous lifetime warranty.
Frame: Co-injected Rhyno-Tuff thermoplastic
Lens: Polarized crystal carbonate
Oakley Flak 2.0 XL
Masculine and unmistakably athletic, the Flak 2.0 XL is a no-nonsense pair of hiking shades that boasts a distinctive profile and design. Made in America, these glasses boast Oakley’s Plutonite lenses with the company’s patented High Definition Optics which afford the wearer unparalleled optical clarity. Also protecting against all UV and blue light up to 400m, the lenses also use PRIZM lens technology which enhances contrast and color. Housing the lenses are Oakley’s O Matter stress-resistant and lightweight frame which is comprised of a thermoplastic and boasts Unobtainium earlocks and nose pads for improved comfort, even when worn all day.
Frame: O Matter Thermoplastic
Ray-Ban Outdoorsman Craft Aviator
A Fashion-forward take on the original Aviators that were released in 1937, these Ray-Ban hiking shades features 100% UV-protective lenses born out of more than 70 years of development. The thin yet durable metal frames are complemented by genuine deer leather (or denim) wraps along the bridge and temple ends. Polarized and prescription-ready, these iconic sunglasses are sold with a case, cleaning cloth, and a limited factory warranty.
A wildly unique pair of protective hiking glasses that draw ample inspiration from vintage sunglass offerings, the Oakley Clifden manages to cram a whole lot of technology into a stylish and idiosyncratic package. Housed in an O Matter thermoplastic frame are the model’s PRIZM snow black lenses, which help to enhance contrast even on snowy mountain trails. The outfit’s High Definition Optics ensure stellar optical clarity, too. Side shields and a bridge blocker provide the Clifden with some extra protection from lateral rays, as well as dust, dirt, and debris.
Frame: O Matter Thermoplastic
Julbo Explorer2 Sunglasses
As the flagship mountaineering sunglasses from an extremely reputable outdoor eyewear outfit, you can expect a lot out of the Explorer2’s. Their ZEBRA Lenses offer 100% UV protection across the whole spectrum and are the fastest-changing photochromatic that money can buy. Better yet, they’re composed of NXT, a completely shatterproof material used for helicopter windshields. They also benefit from removable side shields, adjustable temples, and an included neck cord. And, should these sturdy shades for whatever reason break, Julbo fully stands behind them with a lifetime warranty.
Costa Rincon Glasses
A simple, stylish and elegant pair of hiking shades that hides a slew of trick features that improve comfort, durability, and optics. The star of the show is the glasses’ 580G Lightwave Glass lenses which feature encapsulated mirrors sandwiched between the outer layers of this six-layer lens, as well as stellar clarity and scratch resistance — all while managing to be almost 25% thinner than your average polarized lenses. Integrated rubber pieces in the nose and temple ends guarantee comfort, while seven different frame colors and half-a-dozen lens options help to assure these shades jive with your personal style. These also make for a great pair of
Lens: Polarized Glass
Maui Jim Waterman Polarized Sunglasses
A highly-calculated pair of hiking glasses, Maui Jim’s Waterman model is by far one of, if not the most rugged and dependable pairs of glasses on this list. The frame is comprised of a durable nylon complimented via rubber inlays for improved comfort and support, and a traditional pin hinge and saddle-style fixed bridge allows for smooth folding and a classic appearance. The lenses are made from a polycarbonate material adorned in a proprietary, silicon-based hard coat that bolsters clarity and makes them nearly impervious to scratches.
Onward & Upward: 8 Best Hiking Watches
Now that you’ve got your hiking eyewear-situation all sorted, why not delve into our guide to best hiking watches. Whether you’re looking for a simple time-keeper or a sophisticated and rugged smartwatch, this guide to the best trail-ready timepieces has got you covered.