If you spend any amount of time on the road, one of the most important things you can invest in is a decent pair of sunglasses. I’m not talking about the $10 Fauxkley wrap-arounds you pick up at the flea market, which are disposable at best. On the other hand, you don’t have to spend Sunglass Hut prices to pick up a decent set of shades. I’ll admit that I’m heavily biased when it comes to sunglasses, since my eyes are particularly sensitive to color (the by-product of too many years spent color correcting photographic images and digital files). I literally can’t wear knockoff sunglasses with cheap plastic lenses, since their odd tints and distortion give me a brain-splitting headache in just a few minutes. Bad drivers are nearly enough to turn me into a serial killer, so I don’t need any help from cheap sunglasses.
I also wear prescription glasses, which means I either drive with prescription sunglasses or with contacts and retail sunglasses. Since options for prescription sunglass lenses are limited (and damned expensive), I’ll just say this: I prefer the dark amber tint for driving, similar to the lenses used in Serengeti Driver sunglasses. On really bright days, a dark, neutral gray tint (like the kind used by Ray Ban) also works well. If you ride a motorcycle, sunglasses with some wrap-around protection (like Oakleys) help keep the wind out of your eyes with the visor up.
I know that polarized sunglasses are best for reflected light, like sun off of snow or water. Polarized lenses also cause distortion when used with motorcycle faceshields and even when viewing a car’s instrument cluster with a polycarbonate face. Tuning the radio may be a challenge, since the polarized lenses can make all or part of the display look black. I own both polarized and non-polarized sunglasses, but my preference for driving is non-polarized. When it comes to brands, my favorite choice for non-polarized sunglasses is Serengeti Drivers. Most of their lenses are photochromatic, so they darken in bright sunlight and lighten in cloudy conditions. I find I can see through fog and light rain better with them on, as they add a bit more contrast to low visibility settings. You can get them in just about any style you want, and the company even makes prescription Drivers sunglasses, as long as you’re willing to pay the astonishingly high price of admission.
My second choice for off-the shelf sunglasses is Ray Ban, since their neutral gray or dark green tint doesn’t bug my eyes and works well on even the brightest of days. Their frames are (generally made well, so Ray Bans tend to hold up better than most other premium brands. The company also makes a mind-boggling number of styles, and has even branched out into the prescription eyeglass frame business (which doesn’t really mean anything, since virtually all frames are made by the same Chinese factories these days).
If you need a multi-sport pair of sunglasses, take a look at the stuff from Native Eyegear. I own a pair of Native Hardtop XPs, which I use primarily for mountain biking and outdoor shooting. Mine came with interchangeable lenses, so I can switch from a dark brown tint for driving to a high contrast yellow lens for shooting. The frames are more comfortable and more durable than anything I’ve seen from Oakley, and the Native glasses cost a whole lot less than the big name wrap-arounds.
Speaking of cost, where you buy your sunglasses has a huge effect on how much you end up paying. Avoid mall sunglass stores like the plague, unless you enjoy paying bend-over-grab-your-ankles-and-squeal-like-a-pig prices. If you belong to a warehouse club, like Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club, start there. Mail order outdoor retailer Campmor usually has some amazing bargains, especially if you shop their closeout or hot deal sections, and you can always find what you’re looking for at Amazon.
Got a favorite brand? Any we should stay away from? Know a good place to buy sunglasses? Let us know.