Sunglasses

Best Hiking Sunglasses

Written by: Dave NartinDecember 5, 2019Updated: February 13, 2020

Guide Overview

Hiking involves being exposed to harmful sun rays for several hours, and if you’re hiking in high altitude, these harmful rays are much stronger. Frequent exposure to strong UV light can cause cataracts and pterygium that can have adverse effects on your vision. Whether you hike regularly or just a few times a year, a good pair of hiking sunglasses should be part of your hiking gear. They shield your eyes from harmful UV rays, protect them from glare and snow, and keep your sight unimpeded.

With hundreds of sunglasses available in the market, it can be quite confusing to choose one. We’re making the search easier for you by comparing five of the best hiking sunglasses today. Since these tend to be expensive, we also made a list of the features you should consider so you’d know whether the pair you’re eyeing is worth the hefty price or not.

Things to Consider

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When buying sunglasses, a lot of people often look at only the style and base their decisions on how well the glasses look on them. Making a choice based on aesthetics is usually fine for sunglasses that you wear to the mall or for family picnics. However, you’d want your sunglasses to be more functional than fashionable when you’re hiking. While it’s fine to still be stylish, it’s more important to make sure that you get as much protection as you can for your eyes.

Beyond checking whether a pair has polarized lens or not, here are the things you need to consider when buying sunglasses for hiking.

Lens Material

Sunglass lenses are typically made with glass, plastic, or other synthetic materials. Whichever material the lens are made of, you’d also want to check whether they are UVA UVB and UVC protected, scratch-resistant, impact-resistant, anti-glare, and water repellent.

Glass lenses are scratch-resistant and have among the best optical clarity. However, they are a bit heavier than other materials and can shatter or break easily. They aren’t always the best choice for hiking and any extreme outdoor activities.

Plastic lenses are lightweight and don’t shatter easily. However, they tend to be prone to scratches and aren’t as durable. Still, they are also the most cost-effective material.

Polycarbonate lenses are made of a special plastic but features high-quality optics and an impact-resistant structure. Similar to ordinary plastic lenses, they can get scratched easily. However, they also offer 100% protection from UV light and radiation. 

Polyurethane lenses are made from a synthetic material that combines the properties of glass and polycarbonate. While they are the most expensive lens material on the market, they are the most durable and the most lightweight.

Lens Type

Aside from the material used, there are more factors you need to consider when choosing the lens for your hiking sunglasses.

UV protection is essential so make sure that the lenses are protected against UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVB is the one that is associate with skin cancer and is also very strong in high altitudes. For hiking, get sunglasses with the highest grade, which is UV400+.

Visible Light Transmission (VLT) should also be a basic feature for hiking sunglasses. This reduces the amount of light transmitted to the eyes. Choose a low VLT when hiking in bright conditions as it blocks most of the light getting through the lens.

Polarized lenses filter out reflected light and reduce glare. They make colors appear richer and can improve your depth of vision. These are crucial if you’re hiking in snow or near large bodies of water that reflect sunlight.

Photochromic lenses are optical lenses that darken when exposed to specific types of light such as UV radiation. Without the activating light, they stay clear. They adapt to varying light conditions and save you the inconvenience of having to change glasses depending on how bright it is.

Frame material

When choosing the frame material, consider its durability and weight because you’ll be using it in tough conditions and for hours on end. You should also check the hinges, which are often either a standard barrel hinge or a spring hinge. The former doesn’t overextend while the latter can overextend, so a spring hinge would be more advisable.

Plastic frames are the cheapest material but are prone to breaking easily, making them less suitable for outdoor activities.

Metal frames are usually made from stainless steel, titanium, or aluminum. While they may be more durable than plastic, they don’t react well to sweating and can get hot in the sun. As such, they aren’t ideal for outdoor sports.

Nylon frames are strong, lightweight, and flexible. This makes them ideal for sports and safety frames. Most sunglasses for sports use are made of nylon or nylon-plastic combinations.

Coverage

Hikers must also consider how much of the eye area is covered and protected by their sunglasses. It’s best to choose a pair that has an ergonomic curvature instead of a flat one. Curved lenses that contour around the face have better coverage and can protect you from glare that comes from unexpected angles.

Fit & Comfort

You wouldn’t want to have to keep adjusting your sunglasses while hiking. You will want it to be snug and comfortable enough that you’d practically forget that you were even wearing a pair at all. When you fit your sunglasses, check if the nose piece slides off or if the arms are too tight above and behind the ears. Avoid getting a pair that comes into contact with your cheeks, eyebrows, and eyelashes. 

Hiking Conditions

You must also consider where you’ll be using the sunglasses. Will you be hiking on an easy trail at low altitude? Will it be at high altitude? Will you be using it in snow, near the water, or in extreme weather conditions? The terrain and weather conditions on your hike should determine what features you look for in your sunglasses. For instance, if you’re hiking on snow, it’s will be especially useful to get lens coated with anti-glare. If the weather will be windy, you should look for wrap-around glasses or those with side shields. If you’re hiking in high altitude, it’s crucial to get lenses that are UVB protected.

With all these features to consider, it can be daunting to choose a pair among the many hiking sunglasses available. We narrowed down the choices for you with our top 5 picks for the best hiking sunglasses today.

Top Hiking Sunglasses

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Maui Jim – Haleakala 419Maui Jim Haleakala 419Maui Jim Haleakala 419Maui Jim – Haleakala 419

The Maui Jim Haleakala is among the most stylish hiking sunglasses in the market today. Its rectangular frame suits different facial shapes and provides a sleek look for both men and women. The frame is also ultralightweight, flexible, durable, heat resistant, and UV resistant.

Maui Jim have polarized lenses made of glass and polycarbonate that feature MauiPure technology. While they’re not made of pure Superglass, they are still scratch and shatter resistant. They also have water and oil protection that increases their durability. They are 100% UV protected and are able to block blue light or high energy light. They also feature PolarizedPlus 2 lens technology that enhances natural colors while shielding the eyes from glare and UV rays.

The polarized lenses come in several color options that are suitable for specific light conditions. The Maui Rose and HCLA Bronze are both great for sunny to overcast weather. The Maui High Transmission also balances contrast and depth of field in various weather conditions. The Neutral Grey is perfect for use in direct sunlight. These lenses can be either be bi-gradient or multi-gradient with varying tints from top to bottom.

While the Maui Jim Haleakala boasts of advanced lens technology and stylish design, it does come at a higher price. Still, the price is worth its high-quality and excellent performance in tough outdoor conditions.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • High-impact resistance
  • Advanced lens technology
  • Prescription-ready lens
  • Sleek and stylish design

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Not for extreme sports
  • Frame design obstructs peripheral vision
  • Lightweight
  • High-impact resistance
  • Advanced lens technology
  • Prescription-ready lens
  • Sleek and stylish design
  • Very expensive
  • Not for extreme sports
  • Frame design obstructs peripheral vision
RIVBOS – Polarized Sports SunglassesRIVBOS - Polarized Sports SunglassesRIVBOS - Polarized Sports SunglassesRIVBOS – Polarized Sports Sunglasses

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts were in mind when the RIVBOS Polarized Sports Sunglasses were designed. This makes them ideal for outdoor activities such as biking and hiking. They are resistant to high impact with both the frame and the lens unbreakable. The manufacturers are so sure of their durability that they confidently offer a lifetime breakage warranty on the frames and lenses.

High-grade Switzerland TR90 is used for the frame, making it both comfortable and durable. The TR90 is a thermoplastic material known for its durability, flexibility, and resilience to damage. Moreover, it is comfortably lightweight. 

Hikers are ensured of 100% protection from harmful rays up to 400nm with RIVBOS’s triacetate cellulose (TAC) polarized polycarbonate lenses. TAC lenses are formulated for optimal visibility and polarization clarity. They not only protect the eyes from harmful rays but also eliminate reflected light and restores true color. Aside from being polarized, the lenses are also mirrored to minimize glare with better wear-resistance.

The lenses come in various colors, including yellow, grey with green-purple revo, grey with blue-purple revo, grey with red revo, and rainbow revo. Even the frames come in several colors, and with over a dozen colors to choose from, you’d definitely find one that matches your hiking outfit.

Pros:

  • Very durable
  • Has rubberized grips that won’t slip even during strenuous activities
  • Features high-quality craftsmanship
  • Has highly flexible arm
  • Effectively reduces glare

Cons:

  • Mirror coating chips easily
  • Feels and looks cheap because of plastic frame
  • A bit on the pricey side
  • Very durable
  • Has rubberized grips that won’t slip even during strenuous activities
  • Features high-quality craftsmanship
  • Has highly flexible arm
  • Effectively reduces glare
  • Mirror coating chips easily
  • Feels and looks cheap because of plastic frame
  • A bit on the pricey side
Oakley – HolbrookOakley – Holbrook

Oakley has always been among the pioneers in the industry, constantly innovating designs and features for sunglasses. Their Oakley Holbrook doesn’t let us down when it comes to quality and performance.

Like other Oakley glasses with Grilamid frames, the Holbrook features an injection-molded thermoplastic O-matter frame for lightweight comfort even after hours of hiking. It’s also durable and has the ability to withstand deformation and shifting. The arms are highly flexible and pops right back into shape.

PRIZM lens technology was used to provide Plutonite lenses with high definition optics. This makes the surroundings appear more vibrant as contrast is boosted and colors are enhanced. The lenses also have 100% UV protection and protects the eyes from up to 400nm of harmful blue light. Moreover, these lenses are prescription ready for those who’d rather not wear contacts when hiking.

The Oakley Holbrook is great for hikers who are tough but stylish at the same time. The frames and lenses come in various colors, making it quite customizable. While the standard frame is not polarized, you have the option to get polarized Prizm instead.

Pros:

  • Has a wide variety of colors, lens type, and frame material
  • Has a very stylish design
  • Features high definition optics
  • Has a very comfortable fit
  • Made with tough frame

Cons:

  • Lens are not polarized so they don’t block glare
  • Metal rivets are prone to corrosion
  • Has lots of fake counterparts so better buy your pair from a reliable store
  • Has a wide variety of colors, lens type, and frame material
  • Has a very stylish design
  • Features high definition optics
  • Has a very comfortable fit
  • Made with tough frame
  • Lens are not polarized so they don’t block glare
  • Metal rivets are prone to corrosion
  • Has lots of fake counterparts so better buy your pair from a reliable store
Duduma – Polarized SunglassesDuduma - Polarized SunglassesDuduma - Polarized SunglassesDuduma – Polarized Sunglasses

The Duduma Polarized sunglasses allows you to hike on trails the whole day without fear of getting your eyelids and surrounding eye area sunburnt. Its form-fitting design embraces your face and effectively filters out UVA, UVB, UVC, and harmful blue light. The curved design also makes sure you won’t have any red lines on your eyes after spending the whole day outdoors.

These sunglasses come with a TR8116 frame made with premium polycarbonate. They are highly durable and resistant to scratches and high impact. The lightweight frame also ensures comfort even after hours of hiking. It features specially designed legs that hold the glasses firmly in place during active sports activities. 

High definition polarized lenses eliminate reflected light and scattered glares for more accurate vision. They are also high-impact resistant and are almost unbreakable. This makes them popular in outdoor sports activities such as running, cycling, fishing, golf, and hiking.

The Duduma Polarized sunglasses are quite stylish with their blue lens and matte black frame combination, although you can also have the lens in amber or black. They are suitable for both men and women, and come at an affordable price, so you can even get matching pairs for your friends or family. These sunglasses really offer value for your money.

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Sleek and stylish design
  • Lightweight design
  • Comfortable fit that doesn’t slide off
  • Great for various outdoor activities

Cons:

  • Not that durable
  • Lens quality is substandard
  • The frame around lens tends to crack easily
  • Affordable price
  • Sleek and stylish design
  • Lightweight design
  • Comfortable fit that doesn’t slide off
  • Great for various outdoor activities
  • Not that durable
  • Lens quality is substandard
  • The frame around lens tends to crack easily
Julbo – Explorer 2.0 SunglassesJulbo- Explorer2 SunglassesJulbo- Explorer2 SunglassesJulbo – Explorer 2.0 Sunglasses

Compared to its predecessor, the Julbo Explorer 2.0 is more ergonomic, stylish, and a lot slimmer. Aesthetically, it’s a leap from the older Julbo Explorer. In terms of other features, they’re both pretty similar.

Julbo Explorers are designed for extreme conditions and are built to withstand tough terrain and harsh weather. You can explore in and out of the mountains with these sunglasses. The frames are made of lightweight nylon with removable side shields for better coverage and maximum protection in harsh conditions. Flexible shock-absorbing grip inserts on the bridge ensures that the glasses don’t fall off and stay comfortably in place even when you sweat. Its 360-degree adjustable temples enable you to place the sunglasses over a hat or under a helmet without them falling off or getting broken. The adjustable temples also work great for those with wider faces. 

Get 100% protection UV rays with the Camel lens, which are both polarizing and photochromic. You are assured of high definition vision in appropriate light conditions as the lens darken and lighten depending on the intensity of surrounding light. These lenses are also made from shatterproof NXT that’s highly resistant to impact. Moreover, they are wider that usual to maximize your field of vision for a better panoramic view.

Pros:

  • Great protection in intense light
  • Offers good peripheral vision
  • Is very comfortable
  • Perfect for mountaineering and snow
  • Has anti-fog protection

Cons:

  • Easily scratched
  • Higher priced
  • Suitable for extreme hiking but an overkill for casual hikes
  • Great protection in intense light
  • Offers good peripheral vision
  • Is very comfortable
  • Perfect for mountaineering and snow
  • Has anti-fog protection
  • Easily scratched
  • Higher priced
  • Suitable for extreme hiking but an overkill for casual hikes

Our Pick

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If we were to choose the pair with the best value for money, we’d go for the Duduma polarized sunglasses. It’s just a tenth of the price of the other sunglasses. However, if we consider all the other features and the amount of protection provided, the Maui Jim – Haleakala 419 is above all the rest. Based on overall performance and quality, it’s undoubtedly the best hiking sunglasses among our top 5 picks.

Here’s why we think the Maui Jim Haleakala is the winning choice:

  1. Versatility: It can be used not just for hiking but for other outdoor activities as well.
  2. Advanced lens technology: It offers protection and excellent optics.
  3. Durability: Both the frame and lens are highly durable and can withstand heat, UV, scratches, and high-impact.
  4. Lightweight design: The ultralight weight frames makes it very comfortable to wear even for several hours.

Stylish design. With its sleek rectangular frame, you’d feel like a celebrity wearing it.

Dave Nartin
Founder at Mountain Leon
Hi. Im Dave. Mountain Lion is the name of this travel blog. It came from my love for both the English and Spanish language, my favourite animal (Lion), and my favourite activity (mountain climbing). Enjoy!