In many outdoor sports, there’s one element that can throw a wrench into your plans more than you realize—the sun. Between the heat, brightness, and radiation, the sun can be a formidable force in just about any outdoor activity, including road and mountain biking, hiking and mountaineering, boating, and other outdoor sports.
One of your best defenses against the bright sun during any season and any sport is to choose the right pair of outdoor sunglasses that are designed specifically for your desired sport and fit your face well enough to allow you to focus on the task at hand.
Putting the Focus On Lenses
It may seem like a simple decision to choose which lens is best for you and your sport, but lenses can have a tremendous impact on how you perform. Vision is essential for just about every sport—this much is obvious. So it makes sense that if you improve the way you see, you can improve your performance. Tint and color, for instance, may be unique to individual sports to help you see all nuances, whether they’re changes in road conditions or the rotation of a ball.
Tinting and Lens Colors
The tint and color of the sunglasses you choose depend on the amount of sunlight expected and the activity you’ll be doing. Most athletes prefer color enhancement that lets them better see subtle contrasts, such as changes in terrain. However, tinting also alters the actual colors of objects, so if you’re looking to maintain 100 percent of your abilities in color perception, a neutral tinting, such as gray or green, is the best choice.
If you plan to be out in cloudy, hazy, overcast, or other low-light conditions, go with a yellow or an orange tint. This will give you the contrast you’re looking for while still protecting your eyes. Similarly, amber- or rose-tinted glasses can be used when it’s partly cloudy to enhance your vision. However, once the sun starts to come out, you’ll want a darker tint, such as a copper, brown, or gray. This will shield your eyes, while still showing contrast of terrain, like dirt and grass, making these glasses an essential part of your bike clothing.
Wearing the right sunglasses also tremendously reduces or eliminates glare from the sun. The best sports sunglasses have polarized lenses. Tinting and color alone are not sufficient to keep glare down, so polarized lenses are ideal for bright areas, such as water sports and snow skiing. In short, the system uses a series of filters to block certain light waves, which can significantly lower the strain on your eyes.
Polarized lenses can come in many colors, so you can still choose the kind that are right for the level of light you’ll be in. However, polarization can also affect how you see some items, such as iPhone screens and tinted windows. If this is a bother, you may want to choose a different style.
One of the most effective ways to eliminate glare from the sun is to choose mirrored lenses. This style has long been favored by mountaineers who travel in low-oxygen environments where the sun’s rays are especially intense, and are often reflected right back by snow on the ground. Mirror coatings can also be applied to any pair of sunglasses to make them a great addition to high-altitude hiking gear, skiing, and snowshoeing.
It’s crucial to keep your eyes protected from the intense and harmful rays of the sun, and many often assume that darker tints equal better protection. This, however, is wrong, so it’s important to seek out sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection. Often, this depends on the material the lens is made of, or the kinds of coatings that have been applied.
Photochromic lenses, which adjust to light as needed, are a great way to stay protected from UV rays while still seeing the best contrast in any given lighting. These are also great for anyone who needs prescription lenses.
Another major consideration to keep in mind is the material the lenses are made from. This can affect the sunglasses’ ability to protect you from UV rays, keep glare down, and withstand any blows they may receive. Some of the best sunglasses are made of polycarbonate, which is extremely lightweight, shatter resistant, and keeps 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays out of your eyes, requiring no coatings or additives.
Lenses made of glass certainly give you the utmost clarity and resist scratching better than polycarbonate, but glass won’t stand up to impacts as well, making them better for less-rugged sports.
Once you’ve got your vision protected, you’ll want to choose glasses built for the activities you’ll be doing while wearing them. Obviously, you’ll need a pair that fit snugly on your face without falling off, so make sure they sit high on the bridge of your nose, and the lenses are close to your eyes. Many sunglasses come with padding for your nose, as well as grip material on the temples
Here’s a quick rundown of the best glasses for a few popular outdoor sports.
Many cyclists prefer a wraparound design with large lenses that protect them no matter how their head is positioned. Often, these lenses come in one piece, making sure that the cyclist’s view is never obstructed. This also offers protection against dust, grit, and other debris.
Kayaking, Stand Up Paddleboarding, and Boating
If you’re going to be on the water, you may want to go with polarized polycarbonate lenses, which let a minimal amount of visible light through.
Mountaineering and Hiking
While standard sport sunglasses work for most hikes, at high altitudes and in the snow, you’ll want sunglasses that are durable and won’t budge from your face. Often, these types have a mirror coating, which keeps out glare the most effectively. Julbo, for example, has been a leader in mountaineering sunglasses for decades, using a mineral glass lens and 100 percent UV protection.
Your eyes are essential for performing well and staying safe, so take the time to choose a pair of sunglasses that are right for you and your activity.
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