Your guide to the best sunglasses for hiking
Whether you’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or going out for a casual day hike, the type of sunglasses you choose is crucial. Hiking rough terrain in treacherous climates can do more damage than you think to your eyes.
Your sunglasses should fend off the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays, plus protect your eyes from dirt, debris and distracting glare (especially when hiking in snow).
What to look for in hiking sunglasses
The best sunglasses for hiking should be durable, lightweight and provide ample protection from the sun’s UV rays.
Here's more specifically what to look for:
100% UV protection
Look for sunglasses that are clearly labeled UV 400, which provides nearly 100% protection from ultraviolet rays.
UV light from the sun penetrates the Earth’s atmosphere and reaches your eyes in the form of UVA and UVB waves. Without protection from UV radiation, you’re at risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, photokeratitis (also known as snow blindness) or other serious eye conditions.
Consider polarized lenses when shopping for hiking sunglasses. These lenses help block glare from light reflecting off flat surfaces and can be beneficial when hiking in snow or near water.
With polarized sunglasses, you can see more clearly in bright conditions, for example more easily seeing what is below the surface of water or appreciating a sunset along the horizon.
ABOUT TO TAKE A HIKE? Shop for the best hiking sunglasses at an optical store near you or an online eyewear retailer.
You’ll also want to consider your sunglasses’ lens material. High-quality lenses are made from strong, durable materials like polycarbonate, Trivex or plastic. And they should include scratch-resistant and other protective coatings to ensure they hold up well to all the elements.
Polycarbonate is a type of plastic that is thinner and lighter than regular plastic lenses. Polycarbonate has an impact-resistant structure, making sunglasses with this lens material a great choice for hiking.
Trivex lenses are composed of a newer plastic that has the same characteristics as polycarbonate lenses. Sunglasses with Trivex lenses are lightweight and impact- and scratch-resistant but also typically more expensive than other types of lenses.
Plastic lenses are often the most cost-effective, but they are also more easily scratched and damaged, so they aren’t always as durable as other lens types.
You may also want to consider a pair of wraparound sunglasses to shield the sides of your eyes from glare and even wind.
5 sunglasses options for hiking
Depending on what kind of hiking you may choose to do, here are some good sunglasses options that can cover most terrain while giving you the best bang for your buck.
1. Oakley Flak 2.0: The Oakley Flak 2.0 features a durable, lightweight O Matter frame material with ellipse metal icon accents and earsocks and nose pads designed for increased comfort and performance. These sunglasses are available with Prizm lenses to enhance color, contrast and detail to help you see the wonderful sierra during that hike in the desert.
2. Costa Del Mar: The Costa Del Mar Collection features more than 10 stylish sunglasses options ideal for a day hike with friends. All have scratch-resistant polarized lenses to decrease eye strain by reducing visible glare from water, snow, sand and pavement. The Del Mar Collection also includes 100% protection from UV light with 580 glass lenses filtering out harsh yellow light for enhanced color definition and sharper contrast.
3. Ray-Ban Andy: The Ray-Ban Andy sunglasses feature polarized lenses to reduce 99% of visible glare from water, snow, sand and pavement for increased visual acuity and decreased eye strain. So, hiking in Alaska in the winter should be a breeze. Green-tint flash lenses feature a blue multilayer mirror finish for even more glare reduction and visual comfort. Propionate nylon frames provide lightweight comfort.
4. Julbo Trek: The Julbo Trek features detachable shields to block lateral rays from intense glare and provide superior ventilation. These sunglasses offer a flex nose design, Grip Tech and 360-degree adjustable temples to ensure they won’t fall off when you are running up a hill. The Trek also comes with a removable sweat blocker and adjustable cord, Spectron 4 polycarbonate lenses, and an anti-reflective coating to reduce eyestrain and eliminate glare.
5. Oakley EVZero Path: These sunglasses feature Oakley’s Plutonite Lenses, which offer top UV protection filtering 100% of all UVA, UVB, UVC and harmful blue light up to 400mm. Prizm lens technology is designed to enhance color, contrast and detail, while HD Polarized lenses block 99% of reflected glare.
If you don’t already sport sunglasses that withstand your rugged hiking adventures, keep these suggestions in mind as you search for your next perfect pair of shades.
SEEKING SUNGLASSES FOR YOUR NEXT UPHILL ADVENTURE? Shop for hiking sunglasses at an optical store near you or an online eyewear retailer.
Page updated January 2021