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a new pair of sunglasses arrived in the mail this morning; thought it would be fun and educational to talk about this small but occasionally essential piece of gear. 

setting aside the occasional throw-away cheap shades I have bought when I forgot to bring some, I have really only used three pair of sunglasses the last 30 years.  cheap sunglasses tend to be worth what I pay for them - the lenses scratch very easily, as in don't put them in a pocket without some kind of case, and don't expect them to survive any modest contact with anything.  and i don't trust them to protect my eyes from bright sun anyway.

all of these below claim to provide 100% protection from UV rays:

I bought a pair of Vuarnet skilynx glasses in college.  a luxury purchase at the time, but I had a job & was spending a lot of my free time skiing or winter climbing.  Still functional today, so the 75 bucks I spent back then was obviously worth it.  glass lenses, extremely durable frames, comfortable, light.  best for very bright sun - lenses are dark yellow with strips with greater protection top and bottom.  OK for driving in bright sun, too dark otherwise. the lenses have acquired a few annoying scratches over the years, and some areas of the inside coating on the lense look off, like the coating might be wearing off a little.  I thought it was time for a new pair.


several years ago, I bought a pair of pretty basic Julbo Colorado glacier glasses - wanted the side shields, wanted to be able to wear them in bright sun and snow.  side shields are removable.  Lenses are pretty dark,  brown tint, comparable to the Vuarnet skilynx lense.  Poly lenses, but I have done a better job keeping them in a bag to avoid scratches.  flexible, bendable rubberized temples are good for wind and cold weather. solid, quality eyewear.  I mostly keep these aside for hikes and snow because they look a little odd - the side shields are annoying to take on and off, and the rubberized ends on the temples occasionally pull away and have to get pushed back in.  annoying but easy to fix.  i don't exactly recall but think these were about 50 bucks at the time.  also well worth it in my opinion; a fairly modest spend, as many glacier glasses cost more than twice as much. 


last summer, I forgot both of the above & spent a week at the ocean/on the water, so I stepped up from the usual cheap sunglasses to a pair of sunclouds - about fifty bucks.  also have polycarbonate lenses.  perfectly comfortable, polarized so great for glare, not terribly durable.  the lenses already have more scratches than the 30 year old Vuarnets in less than a year.  they went on a few hikes, and I used them for cycling and watching youth soccer - not exactly hard use.  serviceable but not worth the price for the relative lack of durability - i didn't mistreat these any more than my other sunglasses.  the picture approximates what they look like, I'm not sure what model they are. 


the new pair? another pair of Vuarnet glasses.  smaller lenses than the old ones, black frame, Unilynx glass lense (brown/yellow, pretty dark but not quite as much as the older pair or the glacier glasses i discussed above).  Retail prices are outrageous because I don't think anyone in the US is authorized to sell them.  However, the pair I found were available grey market for about $120 plus shipping.  (my understanding is that it's not illegal to sell them in the US, but that they aren't intended for sale here, either by a brick-and-mortar retailer or on the web.  Hence they are not under official warranty, and no dealers you can turn to if there were a manufacturer's defect within the first 12 months, the length of the warranty).  Pricy but compare that to Revo, Oakley, Smith Optical, most of the Julbo glasses.  if they last as long as the previous pair, they're a bargain.  i wore them walking to/from a meeting today in bright sun, and i like them. 


Snow and ice, and especially water can really cause a lot of reflection at higher altitudes. Protecting your eyes is very important. I like the idea of glacier glasses but have used prescription sunglasses mostly. Adding a brimmed hat really helps. I grew up on the water, and my Mom rarely used sunglasses or a hat. She really suffered from macular degeneration in her 80s partly as a result.

I prefer polarized lenses on snow since my doc recommended them to me a few years back, great for fishing too.

Since I wear glasses anyway, I use a pair of huge polarized "over the top" shades that I can find in most drugstores for about $15.. Thye completely cover my glasses and more of my face than regular shades.

And I wear a hat with a big brim, too,

The sun at altitude is not your friend.

Just for fun I noticed these sunglasses offered at an ad on my Facebook page one day.


Weather its bird watching or going 120 MPH on your motorcycle these durable, lightweight video camera sunglasses are perfect for catching your point of view in action. Want to improve your golf swing? Record yourself and review later to pick up points to improve on.


Got a pair I can recommend.

50 bucks, lasted 3-4 years of skiing, beach, travelling asf.

I will never again buy a pair of glasses without polarisation glass...

balzaccom, I 100% agree that the sun at altitude is NOT your friend.  I once thought that my tan would protect me from the glacier-reflected son at 10K+ feet...bad idea. 

In fact, I always bring two ways to protect my eyes when I climb, I bring sunglasses and goggles as well.  I make my kids do the same and it has saved them when they have either broken or temporarily 'lost' their sunglasses in their backpacks.

suppose i could have said that overexposure of your eyes to UV rays, a particular risk at higher altitudes but possible anywhere, can not only lead to long term damage but can result in snowblindness - painful and disabling.  Scientific term is severe photokeratitis, inflammation of the cornea.  one reason people wear glasses that wrap around or have side shields is to avoid stray UV rays sneaking in around the sides.   

also worth noting that polarized lenses and UV protection are two entirely different things.  most good quality polarized sunglasses also block 100% of UV rays, but it's worth checking.  

I have several pairs of glacier glasses and paddling glasses. When I raced sailboats, I found that the polarized glasses were very important, so my paddling glasses are polarized also. I have a pair of Julbos I bought about 15 years ago.

When I started climbing, was in college as well, but didn't have a job, so could;jd afford Vuarnets, though I coveted a pair. My go to glacier glasses were US surplus goggles. Although they made me look like Atom Ant, the dark green lenses were(and are) very effective. I also have a pair of Austrian surplus goggles. One advantage of goggles (besides being inexpensive) is that they are compact, and easily fit in a pocket in a small case.

Julbos have always had an issue with losing the plastic piece that wraps around the ear. A dab of glue helps.

i hardly ever see snow googles which are a full eye covering with a slit in the middle. While they do not protect from UV, they do cut down on the amount of light reaching the eye.

As pine says, hats are very important. Do no buy a brimmed hat with a bright underside to the brim. There is a reason that many sun hats, including the old tropical helmets had a dark green underside, it cuts glare.

Being I rarely hike on snow I find that just the visor on my hat does enough for me.  I have had prescription sunglasses in the past but didn't get any the last time when I got my current lenses from the VA.

Even sunglasses from a Dollar store would provide the same UV protection (because they use the same plastic as Luxotica sunglasses).

The main benefit of sunglasses is prevention of cataract.

September 22, 2020
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