If you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, chances are you could use a solid pair of sunglasses. There’s a near-endless array of options you can choose from, and while this means you can find just what you need, it also means that shopping can get overwhelming.
However, it’s important that you make an informed decision when purchasing any new piece of gear. This means you’ll want to understand the benefits of extra features, the differences between each lens color, and all the other bells and whistles. To help make things a bit clearer, we’ve put together all the information you’ll need to perfect the perfect new pair of shades!
Benefits Of Lens Colors And Tint
Before getting into the best tinted lenses to wear, we should cover why you need to wear them in the first place. Tinted lenses provide a multitude of benefits that make them well worth the investment before your next travel experience, hiking trip, fishing trip or any other daytime adventure. We’ve listed the most important reasons below to provide you with some basic information.
As you’d probably guess, one of the most important reasons for wearing tinted lenses is to reduce your eyes’ exposure to harmful rays (UVA and UVB). When you’re out in the sun, you’re bound to be exposed to these harmful rays, which can negatively affect your vision, even leading to blindness in severe cases. While tinted lenses aren’t a cure-all, they still provide a significant amount of protection, so if you’re planning to go out on an adventure, you shouldn’t leave without them!
We’ve all had the unpleasant experience of being unable to see in bright sunlight. It can be uncomfortable to keep your eyes wide open, and even if you do, the sunlight can overwhelm your vision, keeping you from seeing accurately. By dulling the sunlight, tinted lenses allow you to see with higher contrast and far better clarity. Aside from being convenient in general, having this clear vision is key to enjoying your favorite outdoor activities safely.
Polarized Vs Mirrored Lenses
Though your typical pair of sunglasses will do the trick just fine, there are a few other features you may want to consider when making your purchase. These can serve to make your sunglasses more convenient to use, more effective in protecting your vision, or just a bit more aesthetically appealing.
Can You Get a Lens That is Both Polarized and Mirrored?
Any pair of sunglasses can have polarization, mirroring, neither, or both. Both of these features are independant, and offer different benefits. You can read more in our article on polarized vs mirrored sunglasses.
While standard tinted lenses will reduce the strain on your eyes, they don’t do much to help in the way of glare. If you enjoy skiing or fishing, you’ll be spending a fair amount of time exposed to this glare. The sun’s reflection can place strain on your eyes, sunglasses or not. Sunglasses with polarized lenses, however, work to disperse this glare, giving you even better visibility and allowing you to enjoy outdoor living to the fullest! In our opinion, polarization is a must have feature in nearly all sunglasses.
Similar to polarized sunglasses, mirrored lenses serve to reduce glare, preventing eye damage. These lenses have a thin metal layer that repels harsh glare, and creates a mirror like image to those looking at the glasses. This mirroring reduces the amount of light coming through even more, which makes mirroring useful for lenses used in the brightest conditions, like winter sports or water sports.
In addition, mirroring allows for the aesthetic look of having your lenses look like mirrors. It is worth noting, that you can select mirror colors of just about any color to get the aesthetic look you are going for, plus, you can choose a heavy mirror (solid mirror), to a a light mirror (subtle mirror) depending upon the style you may be looking for.
These are often great options for driving as they reduce glare, but the mirrored lenses don’t cause any distortions with windshields which can sometimes be an issue with polarization.
Lens Color and Mirroring
It is important to know that the mirror of a lense is independent to the actual lense color. For example, you could have a brown lens, with a green mirroring, and these two colors will interact with one another to create a different look. Most manufacturers won’t pair a lens and mirror color that doesn’t work, as they want to sell good products, so you don’t have to worry about this in your buying process too much. You simply need to know the lens color you want for your needs, and then aesthetically, how you want your glasses to look on you.
Here is a great video explaining polarized vs mirrored lenses:
If you want to make sure you’re getting the best protection around for your eyes, make sure the sunglasses you’re buying have UV400 protection. The highest available grade of UV protection, UV400 lenses are proven to block almost 100% of harmful UV light, keeping your eyes in tip-top shape. You’ll be hard-pressed to find sunglasses that do their job better than those with UV400 lenses. This is a feature that helps protect your eyes from harmful rays/
Overview of Sunglass Lens Colors & Tints
So, what’s the deal with lens colors? Are they just cosmetic, or does it actually matter what you end up purchasing? As it turns out, the color you choose for your sunglass lens does actually impact its function, and each color option is specialized to different tasks and environments. Though the aesthetic appeal is still certainly something to consider, you’ll also want to keep in mind what the color you decide on is best suited to. Here’s a quick summary of the most common lens colors, what they do well, and some of our suggestions for each color.
|Lens Color||Benefits||Use When…|
|Yellow (Orange, Gold)||
Blue lenses are a stylish color choice, allowing vision that’s just as sharp as they are. They’re best for people who enjoy hobbies that would frequently expose them to harsh glare, like fishing or skiing. Their unique coloration serves to mute the bright light, so they’re perfect for times when the sun is at its strongest. However, this also means that on overcast days or dimmer environments, they can hamper your vision.
- Uses: Best for brighter, highly reflective environments, like those near water or snow.
- Pros: Reduces extremely harsh glare, and allows for sharper visibility than many other colors.
- Cons: Doesn’t perform as well in dim environments, offering much poorer visibility when not in brighter environments.
- Examples Of Blue Lens Sunglasses: Redfin Amelia – $229 // Costa Del Mar Untangled Santiago Polarized Blue Sunglasses – $249.00 // Julbo Shield M Mountain Sunglasses – $149.95 // Glacier Polarized Sunglasses – $59.00
Brown lenses are the perfect lens color for those who like to take in the view while they’re hiking. They provide both excellent depth perception and protection from dangerous rays and give your vision a pleasant warm tint. This warm tint brings out the natural warm colors in the environment, making the natural scenery seem just a bit more vibrant than usual. We strongly recommend brown lenses for anyone who wants to appreciate the wonders of nature and the thrill of a challenging hike.
- Uses: Best for bright environments and activities like hunting or golf.
- Pros: Can enhance the natural scenery, and provide better depth perception than the alternatives.
- Cons: Doesn’t work as well in low-light environments.
- Examples Of Brown Lens Sunglasses: Highridge Polarized Sunglasses – $59.00 // Parallel MAX 2 – $149.00 // Ray-Ban – $202.00
Gray lenses are probably the most versatile lens color, and are perfect for those who want a pair of sunglasses that’ll do a little bit of everything. Due to their muted tint, you’ll be able to see colors much more accurately than you would with other lens colors. Between this and their excellent glare reduction, a sturdy pair of sunglasses with gray lenses will serve you well, going wherever you go and doing whatever you need them to do.
- Uses: Can be used just about anywhere, from everyday use to sports.
- Pros: They’re extremely versatile, and provide you with more accurate color perception than the alternatives.
- Cons: Less prominent contrast than other color options. Because these are great all around, in ultra bright, or dark scenarios, other lens tint choices may perform better.
- Examples Of Gray Lens Sunglasses: Terrain Blackout Incognito – $84.00 // Bajio Nato – $249.00 // Gray Ant Bank Wraparound Sunglasses – $225.00
Green lenses are another extremely versatile lens color option, but are slightly better in low-light, shadowy environments than gray lenses, and have a bit of extra personality to boot! Their unique coloration cuts down harsh glare, allows clearer vision in the shade, and allows you to perceive all colors evenly. We recommend green lenses to anyone who wants a stylish pair of sunglasses well-suited to everyday use and outdoor adventures alike.
- Uses: Great for high-glare environments, and low-light conditions.
- Pros: Even color perception, high contrast that allows for better clarity, and glare reduction.
- Cons: Doesn’t work as well in environments with long, continuous exposure to bright light.
- Examples Of Green Lens Sunglasses: Descended O – $199.00 // The Sloan – $199.00 // Pepper’s Daybreak Polarized Sunglasses – $59.95
Similar to brown lenses, red lenses provide you with excellent depth perception and make harsh, high-contrast environments a bit easier on the eyes. A unique color choice, they’re perfect for reducing glare, contrast, and eye strain as a whole, making them popular among winter sports enthusiasts. We recommend them to those who want an unusual and exciting color choice that’ll save their eyes a bit of trouble.
- Uses: Reduces eye strain due to glare and high contrast, making it perfect for winter sports and long drives.
- Pros: Excellent depth perception and reduced eye strain.
- Cons: Can keep you from properly perceiving certain colors.
- Examples Of Red Lens Sunglasses: RedFin Amelia – $229.00 // Rudy Project Propulse Merlot Matte – $184.99 // Tsali Sunglasses – $79.95
Though their use is a bit more limited than many other color options, yellow lenses are by far the best option for low-light, foggy, or hazy environments. The color provides you with excellent clarity, even in obscure conditions, and allows you to better focus on moving objects or targets. Because of this, countless athletes and outdoor enthusiasts will swear by yellow lenses. We recommend them to those who enjoy fast-paced and precise activities like tennis, archery, and hunting.
- Uses: Best for activities that require you to track a moving object and react quickly in lower light scenarios.
- Pros: Provides significantly better clarity in obscure, dark, and foggy conditions than most other lens color options.
- Cons: Can impede the perception of certain colors.
- Examples Of Yellow Lens Sunglasses: Ombraz Dolomite Sunglasses – $150.00 // Reks Sling-Blade – $75.00 // Wiley X Saber Advanced – $44.00
As with any other piece of gear you take with you on your outdoor adventures, buying the perfect pair of sunglasses ultimately comes down to doing your research. By understanding what makes a solid pair of sunglasses, which options are suited to which activities, and how well they’ll meet your needs, you can make your purchase with confidence and enjoy convenient stylish eye relief.
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