Sunglasses shield your eyes from a range of hazards, including harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, eyestrain in bright conditions and swirling dirt or sand.
While you may care more about style, also pay attention to protection factors. (There's a reason why sun protection items are included in the list of Ten Essentials to bring on any outdoor adventure.) For starters, choose sunglasses that block 100% of ultraviolet rays, a spec you can find in online product details or on a sticker on the sunglasses themselves. (All sunglasses offered at REI.com block 100% of ultraviolet light.)
When choosing sunglasses, consider the following lens features:
- Polarized lenses: Specially coated to minimize glare, these lenses greatly reduce eye fatigue. (LCD screens can be hard to read while wearing sunglasses with polarized lenses, though.)
- Photochromic lenses: These darken as ambient light gets brighter and get lighter as ambient light dims. The transition takes time and doesn't work in a car since windshield glass blocks UV rays that trigger the change.
- Visible light transmission (VLT): This spec is a simple percentage value, where 0% VLT would be an opaque wall and 100% VLT would be a clear window. Choose a lower value (in the 20% VLT range) if you're more sensitive to light or will be out in very bright conditions. Photochromic lenses, which darken and lighten, list this spec as a range.
- Lens color: Dark colors (like black, brown and gray)are good for moderate-to-bright conditions. Lighter, brighter tints (like yellow, red and pink), while rendering colors less true, will enhance depth perception in flat light. Sunglasses with interchangeable lenses let you adapt to changing light conditions.
Other Sunglass Selection Tips
- For snow or especially bright conditions, lenses that wrap around offer needed UV protection from the sides. Glacier glasses come with special side shields.
- For scratch resistance, glass lenses are best. For impact protection, polycarbonate or polyurethane lenses are good choices.
- Try on sunglasses in person to find a comfortable fit. If you're shopping online, look at fit width: narrow, medium and wide frame sizes.
For more detailed shopping advice, read How to Choose Sunglasses.
Sunglasses accessories: Once you've found a favorite pair, it's important to take good care of them, so don't forget sunglasses retainers, sunglasses cases and lens cleaners.
And with your eyes shielded from the sun, you may also want to consider other sun protection essentials such as sunscreen and sun-protective clothing.
REI Has the Top Brands
REI carries gear from the leading sunglasses makers, including Smith, Oakley, Maui Jim and Native Eyewear.