When you think of important hiking gear, you will likely consider proper footwear, clothing, packs, and hydration. Yet, one often overlooked—but absolutely necessary—piece of equipment will make your hiking experience more enjoyable and can even prevent serious injury: protective eyewear. That’s right, don’t forget the sunglasses!
Not only will sunglasses make your outdoor adventures more comfortable, but, according to the American Hiking Society, a pair of shades offering 99-100% UV protection significantly limits your chances of developing serious eye damage, which can lead to unfortunate long-term vision issues, like cataracts and other eye conditions.
1. Julbo Sherpa Glacier Sunglasses
They might look like something from a steam-punk novel, but these traditional mountaineering sunglasses from Julbo are specifically designed for hikers and climbers. Featuring removable leather side-shields to protect even your peripheral vision, these Sherpa Glacier sunglasses are guaranteed to make a statement on your next adventure.
Not only are they striking in appearance, they include several other interesting and helpful features, like “temples” that can be adjusted 360 degrees to fit perfectly behind your ears or up inside a helmet.
Best of all, this Julbo model offers many of the advantages of some of Julbo’s other, more advanced models (see Julbo Explorer 2.0 below) at a much more affordable price, making them a great starter pair for you if you’re getting serious about hiking or climbing.
- Many will think they look super cool.
- Adjustable temples
- Some will think they look super lame.
- This particular model does not feature polarized lenses.
Why They’re Recommended: These are the classic hiker and mountaineer sunglasses for a reason: they are designed to fit well without slipping and offer peripheral protection for increased visibility and comfort. And we think they look awesome!
2. Costa Del Mar Blackfin Sunglasses
These stylish sunglasses are the perfect choice for you if you are looking for something versatile. The sleek, curved design of the Blackfin shades offer the perfect look for both vigorous hikes and everyday use. Plus, they come in a wide array of frame and lens colors, so you will have no trouble finding a pair that perfectly fits your personal taste and style.
While they are more expensive than many of the other options on our list, the higher price is offset by the lifetime manufacturer warranty and the product’s durable nylon frame. You might also argue that its worth a little extra to look this good while doing something you love!
- Polarized lenses
- Variety of styles and colors
- Lifetime manufacturer warranty
- Relatively pricey
- Lack of additional features
Why They’re Recommended: These sunglasses offer the ideal balance between value and longevity. If you are willing to pay a bit more now, you will enjoy the many benefits of these high-quality sunglasses for the long-haul in style.
3. Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 Sunglasses
Oakley has long been one of the most reputable names in eyewear, and that reputation holds true for their sport sunglasses as well. Oakley’s Half Jacket 2.0 sunglasses offer several innovative design features, including interchangeable lenses, Oakley’s patented and durable “O Matter” frames, curved lenses to improve peripheral vision, and many others.
These shades are sure to demand attention from admirers out on the trails, while providing wrap-around 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection that improves vision and prevents long-term damage from the sun.
- Polarized lenses
- More affordable than similar high-end models from Oakley
- Striking, unique design
- Relatively pricey
- Few style/color options
Why They’re Recommended: Their unique design and wrap-around style offer great solar protection and make these a somewhat more affordable alternative to other Oakley models with similar styles and features.
4. Julbo Explorer 2.0 Sunglasses
Julbo Explorer 2.0 sunglasses are not for simple strolls along easy hiking paths. These are designed with the serious hiker and mountaineer in mind. More specifically, these sunglasses are more suited to those who find themselves in more daring, treacherous conditions, like high altitudes.
This model is the flagship product of the French company, Julbo—a trailblazer in the world of sports and outdoor eyewear that can trace its history back to 1888. The Explorer 2.0 model has all of the features of the previously mentioned Julbo Sherpa model, but with much, much more. From the lightweight polycarbonate lenses to the shock-absorber nose grip, Julbo has considered every last detail, and you’d be hard-pressed to encounter a pair of glasses (of any kind!) with more innovation and style across the board.
- Truly hi-tech features
- Great manufacturer reputation
- Cord included
- Quite expensive
- Probably overkill for the vast majority of hikers
Why They’re Recommended: While they’re certainly not a practical choice for everyone, serious and experienced hiking, climbing, and mountaineering enthusiasts are unlikely to find a pair of sunglasses with this many innovative features, nor with such a superb design, from any other manufacturer.
The bottom line? They are top-of-the-line.
5. Peppers Cutthroat Polarized Sport Sunglasses
These sport shades are a great option for you if you are looking to try out polarized lenses on a budget. Similar in design and style to many of the higher-end sunglasses listed, the Peppers Cutthroat model features a sleek, curved frame and wide lenses for more complete protection and a snug but comfortable fit.
While the lenses and frame are constructed out of less-durable plastic, the fact that the lenses are polarized and prescription ready at this price point make these sunglasses a great value. If you’re the type of person that tends to lose or break your sunglasses often, these might be a safe choice.
- Very affordable for polarized lenses
- Plastic frame and lenses
- Limited color/style options
Why They’re Recommended: If you want to try out quality polarized lenses without breaking the bank, the Peppers Cutthroat model is for you.
6. ROCKNIGHT Polarized Sunglasses
If you are looking for basic, no-frills sunglasses with polarized lenses on a very tight budget, you are in luck: these polarized sunglasses from ROCKNIGHT offer the most essential features for any hiker and are remarkably affordable.
Of course, you won’t be getting any of the fancy features and add-ons that you would with the higher-end options. But don’t let that dissuade you from considering this unassuming gem! Offered in a variety of colors and featuring an alloy frame, these are the perfect option for value-hunters or those in need of a second or backup pair.
- Durable metal frame
- Polarized lenses
- Adjustable nose pads and temples
- Very budget-friendly
- Less stylish, more generic-looking than other options
Why They’re Recommended: Though they aren’t the most attractive or distinctive option out there, these glasses offer an outstanding value, given their metal construction and polarized lenses.
7. RIVBOS Polarized Sports Sunglasses
Another quality budget choice, RIVBOS Polarized Sports sunglasses feature many of the benefits of other affordable options, but with a bit more style. They come in a variety of colors, allowing you to find the best match for your tastes, and they lack the “generic” look that tends to plague cheaper sunglasses.
The fact that these come with polarized lenses further adds to the incredible value of these shades. Add to that a 30-day money back guarantee and a lifetime breakage warranty, and you would be foolish not to consider these sunglasses for, at the very least, a backup pair.
- More stylish than other budget options
- Durable frame
- Polarized lenses
- Lacking in extra features
Why They’re Recommended: These shades manage to be affordable without looking cheap and feature polarized lenses at a practically unbeatable value.
8. Oakley Holbrook Sunglasses
If brand names and longstanding positive company reputation are important to you, but you don’t have hundreds of dollars to shell out for top-shelf shades, then check out Oakley’s Holbrook sunglasses. They come in a wide assortment of frame and lens colors, provide 100% UV protection, and feature a rectangular design sure to fit any hiker’s style.
While this model doesn’t come with many bells-and-whistles, its simplicity is what makes it great. These sunglasses are an attractive choice for anyone looking for mid-priced shades from a company with a virtually unsurpassed reputation for quality, durability, and style.
The classic style of these shades makes them perfectly appropriate for any occasion or environment. So, you can wear them on a nice hike, and leave them on while you take on the rest of the day.
- Attractive, versatile style
- Affordable big-name option
- Lacks additional features
- Not polarized lenses
Why They’re Recommended: These shades are practical for hiking and simply stylish for everything else, yet they are relatively affordable for a big-name eyewear manufacturer.
Maybe you are a novice preparing for your first trek in the great outdoors. Or perhaps you are a seasoned hiker shopping for upgrades to your gear. Whether you’re the former, the latter, or somewhere between, we have compiled a list of the best products to protect your eyes from the harsh UV rays while you’re tackling your next outdoor challenge.
But first, take a moment to read through the following things you should consider when shopping around for hiking sunglasses—there’s more to it than you might think!
Key Considerations When Choosing Hiking Sunglasses
- Polarization: While polarized lenses might not be appropriate for every hiker, they’re definitely something to consider if you expect to hike near bodies of water or in snow. Polarized lenses significantly reduce the glare produced by the sun’s reflection off water and snow. So, if you plan on hiking some river trails or snowy peaks, you’ll want to do yourself a favor and go with polarized sunglasses.
- Cost and Potential Damage: This is an entirely personal concern, but one to seriously consider. You should weigh the cost of each product you consider against their potential to become damaged or lost, given their intended use. Even the most careful hikers make mistakes and run into issues out in nature. Do you want to risk losing or damaging high-priced shades in the unpredictable wild? Or are the added benefits and quality of high-end sunglasses worth the gamble?
- Versatility: Are you looking for a pair of sunglasses to wear exclusively for hiking and other outdoor activities? Or would you prefer something more versatile, something you can wear hiking but wouldn’t feel awkward about wearing in other situations and environments? This will have a significant impact on the style you choose and the price you are willing to pay
While eye protection might not be the first thing you think of when shopping for hiking gear, a solid pair of sunglasses is an absolutely essential piece of equipment for all hikers.
Beyond the obvious importance of protecting your eyes from solar damage, sunglasses provide another crucial safety benefit: they help you see better! What could be more important while trekking through an unfamiliar and unpredictable hiking trail than the ability to fully see your surroundings? Improved vision will help you spot correct paths and trails, identify and avoid threats and dangers, and reduce the long-term vision impacts of squinting and straining.
Of course, the pair of hiking sunglasses you choose is really a matter of both personal, stylistic tastes and the kind of hiking you intend to do and the areas you’ll be visiting.
Most importantly, you will want to consider whether or not you require polarized lenses. If you do a lot of hiking around lakes and rivers or in snowy areas, you will likely want to go with an option that features polarized lenses. The difference polarization makes when it comes to the glare off water and white snow is remarkable. Not convinced? Pick up one of the cheaper polarized options listed here and see for yourself—you will be surprised how well it eliminates that glare.
Beyond those practical matters though, a good pair of hiking shades just make you look great, whether you are taking a casual stroll along some local trails or attempting more challenging adventures around the world.