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The average pair of sunglasses will do the job for regular everyday activities, but when adventure calls having the right sunnies can significantly enhance the experience. There’s nothing worse than a pair of shades sliding down your nose or falling off your face in the heat of the moment. Not to mention, high-quality sunglasses built for performance are way less susceptible to scratched lenses or broken frames.
Some sunglasses thrive in bright sun and glare, while others can boost contrast in low light conditions, allowing you to see important details for safe adventuring. Whether you’re hiking, biking, fishing, boating, or simply exploring a new city, the following 10 pairs of sunglasses are our top picks.
Field Mag’s Top Picks
- Best for Hiking: Sunski Treeline
- Best for Biking: District Vision Linto Rider
- Best for Travel: Vallon Waylons
- Best for Watersports: Zeal Northwind
- Best for Urban Exploring: Article One Moon
- Best for All-Around Adventure: Shwood Riley ACTV
- Best for Running: KOO Supernova
- Best on a Budget: Huckberry Cruisers
- Best for Winter Adventures: Smith Embark
- Best for Fishing: Costa Antille
The 10 Best Sunglasses for Every Adventure in 2023
Best for Hiking: Sunski Treeline
Sunski is an independent sunglasses company from San Francisco, California. They won a Red Dot design award for these polarized Treeline sunglasses thanks to the magnetically removable side shields designed to prevent glare while hiking or backcountry adventuring. A nose bridge design with rubber nose pads and a lightweight recycled plastic frame ensure a comfortable fit. This glacier goggle take on classic aviator sunglasses means you can embody the look of a classic mountaineer while doing mountaineer activities, too.
Frame Material: Recycled Plastic
Lens Protection: Polarized and 100% UV protection
Best for Biking: District Vision Linto Rider
District Vision got its start making impossibly lightweight sunglasses for runners using the finest Japanese craftsmanship. It’s no surprise that they’ve turned their sights to sports sunglasses for cycling. A collaboration with California’s renowned sunglasses brand Golden Saddle Cyclery, the Linto Riders are not the ubiquitous wraparound shields that every biker seems to be rocking these days. These heritage-inspired brown tortoiseshell specs look good on and off the bike and suit most face shapes, while still offering ample coverage, polarized lenses, protection from UVA and UVB rays, and a flexible, lightweight fit.
Frame Material: Injected Nylon with Titanium Armature
Lens Protection: 100% UV protection
Best for Travel: Vallon Waylons
Vallon makes some classic glacier goggles, but we’re partial to the Waylons because of the modern round sunglasses look with polarized lenses that offer superb clarity. The perfect hybrid between sporty and casual, the Waylons also make particularly great travel shades as they come with an easily detachable head strap, so you can rock them on the move and feel confident that they won’t budge or get lost. With round, acetate frames in classic colors, they’re not only durable but also provide a retro meets modern look.
Frame Material: Acetate
Lens Protection: Polarized and 100% UV protection
Best for Watersports: Zeal Northwind
The Northwind comes from the Zeal See Grass collection, with frames made from 70% recycled plastics and 30% grass fibers instead of new polycarbonate. The closed-loop production system makes these a zero-waste operation. They are not only good for the earth, but the polarized lenses also help reduce glare off of the water while providing sun protection in bright conditions. These durable pair of sunglasses feature a wide-brow design with unique color combinations to choose from.
Frame Material: Ellume Bio-Plastics Lens
Lens Protection: Polarized and scratch and impact resistant
Best for Urban Exploring: Article One Moon
The Moon might be the most sophisticated performance sunglasses you’ll ever try. Inspired by stylish 1950s-era sunglasses, these sports sunglasses truly transcend sport. Equipped with adjustable rubber nose pads, rubber temple tips, spring hinges, and anti-reflective polarized lenses. Testers have taken these on runs and bike rides and they’ve performed admirably. These not-quite round frames are ideal as weekenders for sporty activities, urban adventures, and everything in between. The lightweight frames come in a variety of unique colors, offering some clear pastel options, and lenses in various tints. Each pair comes with a protective case and a microfiber cloth.
Frame Material: Hexetate
Lens Protection: Polarized, anti-reflective, and 100% UV protection
Best for All-Around Adventure: Shwood Riley ACTV
Shwood made a splash on the sunglasses scene by selling sustainably harvested wooden frame sunnies. They have since expanded to mixed material frames, like those from the ACTV line, which are made from lightweight acetate and a nod to Shwood’s origins with genuine wood inlays. The frames are reminiscent of classic wayfarers with a sportier rectangular look, featuring adjustable temple tips and nose pads, and smudge and fog-resistant lenses—allowing the Riley’s to excel at just about anything.
Frame Material: Mazzucchelli Acetate
Lens Protection: Polarized, 7-layer anti-reflective coating, and 100% UV protection
Best for Running: KOO Supernova
The Italian eyewear brand KOO offers several different styles, primarily sports sunglasses for active pursuits. The ultra-lightweight Supernovas clock in at just 21 grams (about the weight of a single AA battery) and feature a frameless, shatterproof shield that protects your eyes from 100% of UV rays and debris. The photochromic lenses available on some models also shift with the conditions outside, allowing in between 11-73% of visible light (known as VLT, or visible light transmission), making the Supernovas a go-to for eye protection in any and all conditions. Plus, the Supernovas come in a variety of bright frame colors, lens colors, and monochrome and dual-tone color combinations, from pink to aquamarine to gray and more.
Frame Material: Frameless
Lens Protection: Shatterproof, anti-reflective, 100% UV protection
Best on a Budget: Huckberry Cruisers
If you’re prone to losing sunglasses, owning pricey shades may not be the way to go. Which is why we highly recommend the Cruisers from gear retailer Huckberry, and suggest stashing a pair of these round-frame sunnies in your car as a durable, knockaround, everyday option. There’s nothing worse than leaving the house when it’s overcast only for the sun to come out and your sunglasses to be stuck at home. At a $39 price point, you still get full UV protection with polarized lenses and a lightweight yet snug fit. Plus, they come in stylish color combinations with different frame versus lens colors, with a classic tortoiseshell option too.
Frame Material: Plastic
Lens Protection: 100% UV protection
Best for Winter Adventures: Smith Embark
Snow goggles are great and all, but they can be cumbersome and restrictive, especially if you are working up a sweat. With 50+ years of eye-protective experience, it’s no surprise the folks at Smith hit the sweet spot with the Embark. These sport sunglasses are designed with removable side shields, key for blocking side glare during snow-sun conditions. The Embark also comes with a range of high-quality polarized lenses, from photochromic for variable conditions to 10% VLT for navigating snow fields. An auto lock hinge holds the frames open for easy on-and-off, while non-slip nose pads keep the sunnies in place during movement. You might never go back to goggles.
Frame Material: Evolve Bio-Based Frame
Lens Protection: Polarized, non-polarized, and photochromic options, and 100% UV protection
Best for Fishing: Costa Antille
Costa knows a thing or two about designing the best sunglasses for water. The Daytona Beach brand has long made its own multi-patented polarized lenses that not only cut ocean glare in open water and boost contrast to help fishermen see beneath the surface but also absorb harmful blue light. The Antille is made almost entirely from recycled fishing nets, offering a performance-style frame with vented nose pads and larger lenses for ultimate sun protection.
Frame Material: 97% Recycled Fishing Nets
Lens Protection: Scratch resistant, polarized, 100% UV protection
Frequently Asked Questions
What are polarized sunglasses?
Polarization refers to a chemical that is applied to the lens of sunglasses to reduce ultraviolet rays and minimize glare. Polarized sunglasses won’t protect your eyes more than 100% UV-blocking sunglasses, but they can help with eye strain and lead to clearer vision, particularly when dealing with glare off of secondary surfaces like vehicles or bodies of water.
Are expensive sunglasses worth it?
That depends: are you the type of person that loses a pair of sunglasses within a couple of weeks? Are you active and outside frequently? For some people, the investment in eye protection, especially for specific activities like running, biking, hiking, watersports, and snowsports, is worth the price tag. Expensive sunglasses can protect your eyes and improve optical clarity while being virtually indestructible. That said, a pair of old beaters can be perfectly suited to the job so long as you are willing to replace them often. But those costs can add up, and it might be more sustainable to invest in a pair that will last.
What are the most popular brands of sunglasses?
The Italian company Luxottica owns the brands that account for 60% of sunglass sales in the US, including Ray-Ban and Oakley. Safilo owns companies that account for 6% of all sunglass sales in the US.