If you’re going to be spending much time outside, you need good sunglasses. The protection they provide is truly essential, as UV rays can be permanently damaging to your eyes. And you need sunglasses to minimize glare, make terrain changes more visible, and see hazards. This includes when you’re on the water and when you’re on land. Sunglasses enhance your safety and make your outdoor experiences more fun.
But not all sunglasses are good for outdoor activities. While a cheap pair is fine for a quick walk, if you’re going to be seriously hiking, skiing, or fishing, you need sunglasses that can keep up with you. You want a pair of shades that can deal with being dropped. They need to stay on your face when you get sweaty. They should resist shattering and scratching, too.
There are lots of really good sunglasses options out there, and we want to help you find the best of the best. Today, we’re going to be talking about ROKA sunglasses. ROKA is a gear brand that makes both sunglasses and regular prescription glasses. Their optical focus is on making ultralight performance glasses for athletes of all levels. (They also make high performance wetsuits and triathlon skinsuits and race suits.) One of their biggest and best-known partnerships is with the Ironman organization; ROKA is their official global performance eyewear and swimwear partner. This should give you an idea of the stringent standards that ROKA’s gear is tested at and held to.
There is a lot to say about ROKA as a brand, particularly through their partnerships with Ironman and many high performing athletes. However, we are going to focus on the quality and innovation of just their sunglasses today. ROKA’s approach to sunglasses is driven by technical performance and innovation. They hold patents in multiple countries and are always focused on innovation to create a better fit and better eye protection.
One example of this dedication to innovation is the nose pads that come with their glasses. Each pair of glasses comes with three sets of nose pads to further customize the fit. Tiny details like this contribute to ROKA’s reputation for quality and performance.
About The Sunglasses
When looking at ROKA’s sunglasses lineup, a few things stand out immediately. There are numerous frame and lens options available, all of them ultralight. ROKA uses a proprietary nylon blend for their lenses, keeping all of their models as light as possible. Frames are made from ultralight plastic or titanium, and in addition to more typical-looking glasses, they also make minimalist frames to reduce weight even more.
ROKA glasses start at around $160. Some models approach the $300 mark. However, with ROKA, you truly get what you pay for. The high quality and durability of these glasses make the price tag feel reasonable.
ROKA uses some very interesting technology in their lens production. They offer polarized and mirrored lenses. They also have two models with lenses rated ANSI 87+, meaning they offer meaningful impact protection and safety for hazardous conditions. However, that’s not our favorite thing about ROKA’s lenses.
Additionally, they offer photochromic carbon lenses that adjust based on current light levels.
ROKA lenses are actually very easy to switch in and out of the frames. To take full advantage of this, ROKA makes accessory lenses available. This means that you don’t have to buy multiple pairs of your favorite frames to have different lens colors available; you can just buy extra lenses for many of their models and pop them in and out at will. This gives you access to multiple performance types.
To see what lens colors are most appropriate for different activities, we have a full guide here; but as a quick reminder, here’s our quick guide to lens color best uses. Keep this in mind as you’re shopping for sunglasses!
|– Reduce glare in snow and on the water
– Improve color and contour perception
– Improve visibility in mist
– Prevent eye fatigue
|– Skiing, winter hiking, snow sports
– Fishing, boating
– Cold or wet conditions
|– Better depth perception than most other lens colors
– Enhances warm colors, making scenery look even warmer
– Better protection from harmful rays
– High color contrast
|– Biking, golf
– Bright environments
|– More accurate color perception
– Glare reduction
– More versatile than other colors, can be used just about anywhere
|– Best for all-purpose use
– Most outdoor activities
– Most weather conditions and light levels
|– Even color visibility
– Versatile, good for everyday use
– Helps to brighten shadows
|– Perfect for outdoor activities with frequent glare exposure
– Useful in low-light environments
|– Better depth perception than other lens colors
– Eases eye strain
– Can reduce harsh contrast
|– Excellent for winter sports
– Great option for driving glasses
|Yellow (Orange, Gold)
|– Better clarity than most other lens colors
– Makes it easier to focus your eyes on moving targets
|– Best-suited to fast-paced sports, like tennis or hunting
– Excellent clarity in foggy or hazy areas.
Another thing we loved about was the photochromic carbon lenses. These lenses transition from 15% light transmission to 88%, meaning that they adjust to sun exposure. This makes them incredibly versatile for bright days, all the way to before and after sunset. They are perfect for sunset trail runs and evening ski touring.
The ROKAs we tested were the SR-1X model, and we put them through numerous trials. We used them in all types of weather– rain, clouds, and sun. We took them on big day hikes, trail running, lots of ski touring, and even skiing at night. We got blasted by snow and rain, and wore them on bluebird days.
Wait, what? Sunglasses at night?
Yes, we wore our sunglasses at night, for skiing. Snow has some interesting optical properties that mean that hazards and terrain changes can be hard to see. Thanks to the photochromic carbon technology in the lenses, 88% of the light from our lamps was let in. This makes them great for those sunset adventures where the sun is bright on the way up, and disappears on the way down. The lenses get clear enough that you can where them after dark and with a headlamp rather than needing other clear lenses.
The ROKA SR-1X model sunglasses have become our go-to sunglasses for high sports performance. They’re so incredibly comfortable– they weigh next to nothing, sit perfectly on your face, and have excellent breathability to prevent fogging. Shopping for them is easy, as ROKA provides all of the measurements for their models. Prescription lenses are also available if you need them.
And it’s not just us– other people love these shades, too. Other reviews for the ROKA SR-1X highlight the glasses’ light weight and comfort. The SR-1X has a lot of interest from the bicycling community, with road bikers in particular enjoying the light weight, lens coatings, and crisp, distortion-free visibility. These glasses are also very popular with female athletes, with one woman triathlete pointing out that “The glasses fit perfect for a small face and don’t interfere with my helmet, hat or whatever I’m wearing in my head and are light weight.” Another reviewer noted that he “use[s] these for beach volleyball and they really keep the sand out of my eyes and allow me to see the ball pretty well. They grip on my face better than any other glasses I’ve worn for sports. They are also really light weight so once I have them on I can barely notice they’re there.”
There’s a lot to love about ROKA sunglasses. The whole lineup looks very well-made, with lots of options for athletes of all types. However, we do have some cautions. ROKAs SR-1Xs are high performance sunglasses, meaning they can be a little bit tricky in some regards. The lenses are a little smaller than we expected; if eye safety is a big concern, the SR-1Xes might not be the sunglasses you want. For those situations, their safety-lens glasses might be a better option for you.
We also noticed that the photochromic lenses had some issues in certain performance areas. They aren’t great for driving because they don’t adjust well through car windows. And they also aren’t polarized, so they aren’t ideal for fishing or being on the water, where glare like that is a concern. But outside of these situations, they performed beautifully. We highly recommend them for any hard effort athletic event.
Where To Buy
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about