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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.