Should I Wear Sunglasses For Hiking?

Sunglasses make a great addition to a hiker’s backpack, they are light, easy to pack, and very useful. Although not all hikers wear sunglasses, it is common practice, especially in the summer months or whilst hiking near water or snow.

In this article, we will look into the benefits of wearing sunglasses for hiking and how to choose the perfect pair.

The Benefits of Wearing Sunglasses for Hiking

Wearing sunglasses have many benefits and it’s a good idea to have them in your pack.

Some of the main benefits of wearing sunglasses are:

  1. UV Ray Protection: Sunlight emits harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that can damage your eyes over time. Prolonged exposure to UV rays may lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye issues. Wearing sunglasses with proper UV protection shields your eyes from these harmful rays, ensuring the long-term health of your vision.
  2. Reduced Glare: Hiking often takes you through a variety of terrains, from rocky trails to glistening lakes. The glare produced by sunlight reflecting off these surfaces can strain your eyes and impede your visibility. Polarized sunglasses, in particular, can significantly reduce glare, allowing you to see clearly and navigate safely.
  3. Enhanced Comfort and Focus: Bright sunlight can lead to squinting, eye strain, and discomfort, diminishing the enjoyment of your hike. Sunglasses provide comfort by shielding your eyes from excessive brightness, allowing you to focus on the beauty of your surroundings and the path ahead.
  4. Protection from Debris and Elements: Wind, dust, insects, and other debris are part and parcel of the outdoor experience. Sunglasses act as a barrier against these elements, preventing irritations and potential eye injuries. Your hiking adventure becomes more enjoyable when your eyes are well-protected.
  5. Prevention of Dry Eyes: Windy conditions prevalent during hiking can contribute to dry eyes. By wearing sunglasses, you create a shield that minimizes the impact of wind, helping to prevent dryness and discomfort.
  6. They make you look cool

girl hiking in sunglasses - Should I Wear Sunglasses For Hiking?

How To Choose Sunglasses for Hiking

To save money, consider using the sunglasses you already own for hiking. However, keep in mind that delicate designer shades may not hold up to rough terrain or accidental drops. Investing in durable hiking sunglasses can provide added protection and peace of mind, as they are built to withstand wear and tear without damage.

When choosing sunglasses for hiking, think about the below factors…

  1. UV Protection: Prioritize sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection to ensure a comprehensive shield against harmful rays.
  2. Lens Type and Tint: Consider polarized lenses to combat glare effectively. Choose a lens tint that suits your preferences and hiking conditions; for example, gray lenses maintain color accuracy, while brown or amber lenses enhance contrast.
  3. Fit and Comfort: Opt for sunglasses with a secure fit, rubber nose pads, and temple tips to prevent slipping during your hike. We like glasses with no lower rims as it stops the sweat from pooling on the lens during hard climbs.
  4. Durability: Hiking can expose your sunglasses to various impacts. Look for durable frames and scratch-resistant lenses that can endure the rigors of the trail. Also, glasses that come with a hard case add extra weight to your pack but also give lots more protection and give you the option of bringing different lenses.
  5. Coverage: Sunglasses with larger frames or wrap-around styles offer increased coverage, safeguarding your eyes from different angles.

The Best Sunglass Lenses For Hiking

No matter the color or shape of your lens, the most important thing to look for is 100% UV protection. When hiking you can potentially be spending lots of time in direct sunlight so the maximum level of protection is a must!

There are lots of types of lenses available in the outdoor sunglasses market, below is a list of some of the most popular types of lenses and their benefits:

  1. Polarized Lenses: Polarized lenses are highly beneficial for hiking, as they effectively reduce glare from reflective surfaces like water, snow, and rocky terrain. This feature enhances visual comfort and clarity, allowing you to better navigate your surroundings.
  2. Lens Tint: The right lens tint can enhance your hiking experience by optimizing contrast and visibility. Consider the following tints based on different lighting conditions:
    • Gray or Smoke: These tints maintain color accuracy and are suitable for bright conditions, making them a versatile choice for various terrains.
    • Brown or Amber: These tints enhance contrast and depth perception, making them ideal for hiking in variable lighting conditions or areas with uneven terrain.
    • Yellow or Orange: These tints enhance contrast and are great for overcast or low-light conditions, such as hiking during dawn or dusk.
  3. Photochromic Lenses: Photochromic lenses automatically adjust their darkness based on the level of UV exposure. They’re convenient for hiking in environments with changing light conditions, such as transitioning from shaded areas to open terrain.
  4. Mirror Coatings: Mirrored lenses can further reduce glare by reflecting excess light away from the eyes. They’re particularly useful for hiking in bright and sunny environments.
  5. Anti-Reflective Coating: An anti-reflective coating on the back surface of the lens can help prevent light from reflecting off the back of the lens into your eyes, reducing internal reflections and improving overall clarity.

The Importance Of Wearing Sunglasses In The Mountains

UV radiation becomes more intense at higher altitudes due to the thinner atmosphere present at elevated heights.

To fully enjoy mountainous environments, it is crucial to protect your eyes with sunglasses. High altitudes expose your eyes to intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can cause long-term damage. Additionally, reflective surfaces like snow, water, and rocky terrain create blinding glare that can lead to accidents.

Wearing sunglasses with proper UV protection and polarized lenses not only shields your eyes from these hazards but also enhances clarity and contrast. This reduces eye strain and discomfort caused by intense sunlight, allowing for better trail navigation.

Furthermore, sunglasses act as a barrier against wind, debris, and insects, ensuring overall comfort during mountain hikes. They prevent dry eyes in windy conditions and ward off snow blindness in snowy landscapes. Sunglasses are an indispensable accessory that offers essential protection and enhances your enjoyment of breathtaking mountain vistas.

How Much Should I Spend On Hiking Sunglasses?

Your budget for hiking sunnies is of course based on your financial situation, that said it is always worth buying the highest quality that you can afford and taking good care of them. Keeping your classes in a hard case and properly cleaning the lenses between uses.

Higher-priced sunglasses are often more durable about frame strength and lense scratch resistance. If you buy cheap you might end up buying several times. Try to find a good middle ground

Here is what you can expect at each price point:

  1. Budget Options: You can find basic hiking sunglasses with UV protection and decent durability at lower price points, typically ranging from $20 to $50. While these options may not have all the bells and whistles, they can still provide essential eye protection.
  2. Mid-Range Options: Spending between $50 to $150 can offer you a wider selection of quality hiking sunglasses with better lens technology, polarization, and additional features such as anti-fog coatings and durable frames. These mid-range options often strike a good balance between price and performance.
  3. Premium and High-Performance Options: If you’re a serious hiker and want the best in terms of optics, durability, and advanced features, premium hiking sunglasses from well-known outdoor and eyewear brands can range from $150 to $300 or more. These options may include high-quality lens materials, advanced polarization, impact resistance, adjustable features, and various lens options for different conditions.

How To Take Care Of Your Hiking Sunglasses

Taking proper care of your hiking sunglasses can extend their lifespan, ensure optimal performance, and keep your eyes well-protected when out on the trail.

Follow these tips to keep your sunglasses in tip-top shape for as long as possible.

  1. Use a Protective Case: When you’re not wearing your sunglasses, store them in a sturdy and padded sunglasses case. This will shield them from impacts, scratches, and dirt.
  2. Clean Regularly: Use a microfiber cleaning cloth to gently wipe away dust, dirt, and smudges from the lenses. Avoid using abrasive materials that could scratch the lenses.
  3. Use Lens Cleaning Solution: For more stubborn dirt or smudges, use a lens cleaning solution specifically designed for eyewear. Apply a small amount to the cloth and then gently clean the lenses.
  4. Avoid Touching the Lenses: Handle your sunglasses by the frames to minimize the transfer of oils and dirt onto the lenses.
  5. Rinse with Water: If your sunglasses get muddy or covered in salt water, rinse them under lukewarm tap water before cleaning them with a cloth.
  6. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Avoid using household cleaners, ammonia-based products, or other chemicals on your sunglasses, as they can damage lens coatings and frames.
  7. Use Retaining Straps: When not in use, keep your sunglasses secure around your neck using retaining straps. This helps prevent them from falling off and getting lost.
  8. Avoid Placing on the Forehead: While it’s a common habit, avoid placing your sunglasses on top of your head, as this can stretch out the frames and cause misalignment.
  9. Store them safely in your backpack: Too many sunglasses have been broken when they are stuffed in a backpack and forgotten about. Try to store yours in a special pocket in a case and don’t sit on them!

The Best Hiking Sunglasses Brands

Here is a list of the most popular and trusted sunglass brands on the market:

  1. Oakley
  2. Smith Optics
  3. Julbo
  4. Maui Jim
  5. Native Eyewear
  6. Zeal Optics
  7. Ray-Ban
  8. Bolle
  9. Rudy Project
  10. Electric Visual
  11. Dragon Alliance
  12. Adidas Eyewear
  13. Sun God Eyewear

Other Helpful Articles

If you found this article helpful you will love these too!

Dragon Alliance – The Box Sunglasses Review

Do Hikers Wear Hats? (And What Type?)

The 9 Most Expensive and Luxury Ski Jackets


National Eye Insitiute 


Palm & Pine Sunscreen