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Protect Your Eyeballs This Summer With Eight Great Sunglasses for Outdoor Lovers

Graphic: Shep McAllister

Any outdoor enthusiast will tell you that a pair of decent sunglasses are an absolute must-have item for any adventure. Obviously, shades are great for protection in the warmer months, but they are also crucial in the winter to protect your eyes from snow blindness, wind, rain, and sleet. Bottom line: don’t leave home without your sunglasses.

But, there are also eleventy billion options on the market, and it can be tough to determine which pair will work for your needs. A friend once grabbed a cheap pair at a gas station en route to our summit bid of Colorado’s Mt. Sneffels, and she suffered the consequences with (literally) sunburned eyeballs. We learned our lesson: you don’t want to cheap out on sun protection.

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Below, I’ve included eight sunglasses that I’ve personally tested over the past two months. Some are fancy and pricey, and others are affordable yet functional.

Smith Caravan MAG
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Smith Caravan MAG

If you want a one-stop-shop pair of glasses with all the features possible, the Caravan MAG are your best bet. Designed for the well-rounded athlete, Smith uses proprietary magnet technology that allows user to swap out the lenses for different activities and light conditions. Moreover, the lenses themselves feature ChromaPop which heightens color and clarity across the board. The Caravan MAGs aren’t inexpensive, but they do include the frames, two sets of ChromaPOP lenses, and a large hard-sided case for storage, so you get your money’s worth.

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Native Eyewear Four Corners
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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Native Eyewear Four Corners

My husband fell in love with these glasses, and they quickly became his personal favorites. In particular, the Four Corners work well if you have a medium to a large face; they don’t squeeze your head or cause headaches during long days on the trail. Non-slip nosepads keep the frames in place and the sleek metal brow bar adds a touch of style that allows the Four Corners to easily transition from trail to town.

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Decathlon Quechua Hiking Sunglasses
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Decathlon Quechua Hiking Sunglasses

There is no way around it: Quechua’s Hiking Sunglasses are a screaming deal. At a mere $25, they cost a fraction of other lenses on this list but still offer a fair number of bells and whistles including a 100% UV filter to protect those pupils. The frame and arms are extra flexible which is nice if you throw your glasses around a lot, but causes me to wonder if they’ll eventually snap (although they haven’t yet). But for $25, I’m willing to take that risk!

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Costa Del Mar - Cheeca
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Costa Del Mar - Cheeca

For ladies looking for an all-around outdoor frame, consider the Cheeca. In the past month, I’ve worn these lenses running, biking, and hiking, and I love how they fit my (small) nose and don’t squeeze my temples. They work well underneath hats and helmets, too. Plus, the frames are constructed from bio-resin, so you can sleep easy knowing you’re sunglasses are environmentally friendly.

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Sunski Mattina
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Sunski Mattina

For women focused more on hybrid lenses with a fashionable flair, the Mattina fits the bill. While not as affordable as the Quechua, these still log in under $75 and include polarized, 100% UV lenses. They also come with Sunski’s “Forever Warranty” that covers them for life against normal use. The cat eye design is super cute and on-trend for those who want to gussy up a bit before heading outside.

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Ombraz Armless Sunglasses
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Ombraz Armless Sunglasses

I’ll admit: when these showed up at my door, I wasn’t sure what to think! Ombraz replaced the standard arms with a drawcord that wraps around the back of your head in an effort to increase durability (can’t snap off the arms!) and improve comfort (they don’t squeeze your face!) And you know what? It works. As a female, it takes some getting used to as you navigate the cord around ponytails and whatnot, but the learning curve is quick. Plus, the company plants 20 trees with your purchase and boasts a carbon negative product. Big win.

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Wiley WX Saint
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Wiley WX Saint

If you’re the type of person who frequently crashes through trees and bounces off rocks, the safety ratings on the Saints may be up your alley. Everything Wiley makes passes through ANSI safety ratings for high mass testing and the Saint sunglasses high velocity and high mass impact standards. You may end up with a busted face after your hike, but your sunglasses will still be intact.

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SPY Dirty Mo 2
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SPY Dirty Mo 2

Included in SPY’s 25th Anniversary Collection, these crossover shades combine a modern flat-front style with a wraparound look. Thanks to five-barrel hinges and a Grilamid frame, they are practically indestructible (which we learned after our toddler got ahold of them). The tapered lenses help with optics, providing a clear line of sight without any distortion or warping.

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About the author

Heather Balogh Rochfort

Heather Balogh Rochfort is an outdoor expert and full-time freelance writer and author in the outdoor industry.