Your sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory that enhances your style, but they’re also functional items as they protect your eyes by reducing eyestrain in ultra-bright light conditions and harmful UV rays. If you spend a decent amount of time outdoors, chances are you also wear your sunglasses throughout the entire day. Finding the right pair of glasses and lenses is essential to being comfortable, no matter whether you’re hiking, driving, camping or fishing.
It’s no secret that Oakleys are the suggested eyewear for the outdoor enthusiast, but there’s more to sunglasses than just picking a quality brand. While all quality brands will block 100% of UV rays, what else they can do will depend on the type of lens the sunglasses come with. If you already own a pair of sunglasses, but don’t feel like they’re suited for the tasks you frequently perform, then you might consider getting a replacement lens.
Relensing glasses is something a lot of outdoor enthusiasts do on a frequent basis. By simply changing the lens on the sunglasses, they can change how they perform in various conditions. The lens can be fitted with a wide range of features, the most popular being polarization, interchangeability and photochromic capabilities.
Designed to reduce glare, making them ideal for people partaking in water sports and those sensitive to glare. In some cases, these lenses can react with the tints on your vehicle’s windshields, diminishing the visibility of LCD displays and creating blind spots, so you may want to consider mirrored lenses instead.
As their name implies, they allow you to change between different sets of lenses, tailoring your eye protection based on your activities and the lighting conditions. Relensing glasses is super easy with the right replacement lenses, and is a great option if you require utmost performance in different situations.
These lenses automatically adjust the amount of light that goes through them based on current lighting conditions. In other words, they get lighter on darker days, and get darker on brighter days. Photochromic lenses take longer to adjust in cold conditions, and they may not work at all when you’re driving as the UV rays don’t penetrate the car’s windshield.
Different lenses allow different amount of light through them. This is known as VLT (visible light transmission) and is measured as a percentage. The visible light transmission capabilities of lenses are affected by the thickness and colour of the lenses, the coatings they have and the materials they’re made of. 0-19% VLT lenses are ideal for sunny, bright conditions, 20-40% VLT lenses are great for all-purpose use, 40+% VLT lenses are ideal for low-light conditions, and 80%+ VLT lenses are almost clear for night use and dim conditions.
Sunglass lenses are available in a wide range of colours (tints). The colour impacts how much visible light goes through them, how well you see contrasts and other colours. Darker coloured lenses are great for everyday use and outdoor activities, as they’re meant to reduce eye strain and glare in bright conditions. Green and grey coloured lens won’t distort colours, for instance.
Lighter lenses, on the other hand, are best suited for moderate and low-level light conditions. They’re ideal for snowboarding, skiing and other snow sports, as they provide outstanding visibility, depth perception and enhance contrast in tricky light conditions.
As far as lens coatings go, there are lenses with multiple layers of coating, such as anti-scratch coating to improve their durability, hydrophobic coating to repel water and anti-fog coating for high-energy activities and humid conditions. Flash or mirrored coatings reduce glare by reflecting most of the light that comes in contact with the surface. However, these coatings may make objects look darker than they actually are, so lighter tints are commonly used in combination with mirrored coatings to balance things out.
The materials used to manufacture the lenses will impact their durability, weight, clarity and cost. There are four types of materials commonly used for manufacturing sunglass lens, including glass, polycarbonate, acrylic and polyurethane. Glass lenses provide the most clarity and are very scratch-resistant. On the downside, they’re heavier and more expensive. Additionally, glass lenses “spider” when broken, but they won’t shatter or chip.
Polycarbonate lenses feature outstanding impact-resistance and great optical clarity. They’re lightweight, not bulky and quite affordable. On the downside, they aren’t as scratch-resistant as other types. Acrylic is the more affordable alternative to polycarbonate, and these lenses are best suited for occasional or casual use. They aren’t very durable and are less optically clear than other types of materials. Lastly, polyurethane lenses provide the best impact-resistance while retaining great optical clarity. They’re flexible and lightweight, but can be quite pricey.
Don’t Overlook the Frames’ Importance Either!
While the lenses provide the majority of the functionality of your sunglasses, the frames also play a crucial role in how comfortable you are, and how durable and safe the sunglasses are for use. Frames can be made of either nylon, metal, acetate or castor-based polymer. Metal frames are easy to adjust, and they don’t intrude as much in your field of vision. However, metal frames are more expensive, and they’re less durable, making them unsuitable for high-impact and fast-paced activities.
Nylon frames are more affordable, lightweight and more durable than metal frames. Some nylon frames are specifically designed for sports activities. They usually aren’t adjustable, but they may include an adjustable, internal wire core. Acetate frames are variations of plastic found in high-style sunglasses. They aren’t as flexible as nylon and aren’t intended for sports activities. Lastly, castor-based polymer is durable, light derived from castor plants.
If Buying New Sunglasses, Pick the Right Pair for Your Needs
So, based on the type of lens and frames the sunglasses are fitted with, they can be divided in three basic categories – casual, sport and glacier sunglasses. Casual sunglasses are those meant for everyday use and basic activities. They protect you from the sun while you’re on your way to work or running errands around town.
Sport sunglasses are designed with activities like biking, running, hiking and camping in mind. They’re lighter in weight and are usually impact-resistant and flexible. Lastly, glacier sunglasses are specifically designed to protect from sunlight reflecting from the snow and intense light at high altitudes, making them part of the essential snow gear for snowboarding, skiing, mountaineering and other winter activities.