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You’re in the high mountains on your snowmobile, your backcountry skis, or your dog sled, and the sun is piercing down on your head. You knew it would be bright, but did you know that high altitude combined with glare from the snow is bright enough to actually damage your eyes? And the solution isn’t regular sunglasses. The solution is glacier glasses.
If you hear the words glacier sunglasses and think about the glasses your grandpa used to wear over his prescription lenses to keep the sun out, you wouldn’t be wrong. Those might not win you a trip down the red carpet, but they will keep your eyes safe. But know that glacier sunglasses now come in many forms and many protection levels. Arctic adventurers use glacier glasses, but they can also be used as climbing glasses, as part of your mountaineering gear, or as snow glasses out on the ice while ice fishing. And many people use glacier glasses when they’re out on the open water.
Best Glacier Glasses: Reviews and Recommendations
Best for Fishing: Polarized Round Steampunk Hiking and Fishing Glasses
These glasses have the classic leather sides highly sought in glacier glasses, but they also come at an affordable price. Small River
Buy these steampunk glasses for any trip you’re planning to the river where you want to be sure you can see the fish, but also keep those UVA, UVB and UVC rays out. The polarized lenses block more than 99.96 percent of glare, and are tough, lightweight and scratch resistant.
Best for Endurance Sports: Julbo Aerospeed Performance Sunglasses w/REACTIV or Spectron Lens
These glasses with light, plastic frames, anti-fog coating and a variety of lenses will keep your eyes – and you – safe out there. Julbo
Julbo is one of the leading manufacturers of glacier glasses, and they don’t disappoint with these. The photochromatic, non-polarized lenses are perfect for creating an extra-large field of vision when you need it most. They provide 100 percent protection from UVA, UVB and UVC rays. If you’ll be moving fast and need peripheral vision, these glasses are for you.
Best for Mountaineering: Julbo Explorer Mountain Sunglasses w/REACTIV or Spectron Lens
The mountaineering glasses have high mountain levels of protection to block all harmful rays and keep your eyes safe when you need it most. They have removable side shields in case you want your peripheral vision back, and front ventilation to prevent fogging. Be aware though, that these glasses fit larger faces.
These glacier glasses aren’t necessarily made for mountain tops, but they offer side protection and let you keep your prescription glasses, too. DUCO
These Duco glasses fit over men’s, women’s, and children’s eyeglasses, and have side lenses for better peripheral vision and eye protection.
These nonpolarized Ronsou glasses aren’t necessarily made for the tops of mountains, but they will protect your eyes more than your regular glasses. They have a UV protection coating and composite lenses. They’re not climbing glasses or mountaineering glasses, but the lenses will block 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.
Features To Consider When Shopping For Glacier Glasses
The options for glacier glasses are nearly endless. There are wrap around glasses, classic ones that make you look a little like an early 1900s explorer, futuristic ones that cyclists prefer, and more. All of them will likely look different from your regular sunglasses. They’re supposed to. Regular sunglasses let plenty of light in from the sides and bottoms, which means you’re not getting the protection your eyes need.
So cast aside your notions of what glacier glasses should or shouldn’t look like, and scroll through the options we found for you. We promise you’ll find a pair that fit your style but also protect your eyes from increases in harmful UV rays.
Do you need glacier glasses for fishing?
Sometimes you want that peripheral protection found in most classic mountaineering glacier glasses, but you actually want to have polarized lenses to see fish you’re targeting in the river. You don’t have to sacrifice one or the other. Find a pair of glasses that are not only polarized but keep harmful rays from hitting your eyes on the side.
Note that polarized lenses aren’t ideal for snow – we’ll explain more about that later – but it is ideal for water sports. So look for a pair of glacier glasses that will keep your eyes safe and make you an even better angler.
Do you need glacier glasses for endurance sports?
If you’ll be moving fast—on a snowmobile, say, or on skis—you need full coverage to block the sun and sun glare, and to protect your eyes from the wind. You also need to easily see what’s going on around you. When that happens, consider wide lenses that wrap around the front of your face.
Will you be mountaineering in glacier glasses?
Glacier glasses carry the word “glacier” in them for a reason. They were originally meant for traveling across snow fields and glaciers, where the sun’s harmful rays and damaging glare from the snow could literally make a person go blind. Standard sunglasses wouldn’t cut it. Many of us aren’t in those conditions—but those of us who are really do need the best layers of protection. If you climb high elevations, glacier sunglasses should be in your mountaineering gear.
Do You Wear Eyeglasses?
Yes, fit-over or wear-over sunglasses still exist. And yes, they are as handy as they look. Fortunately for you, they’re more stylish than those your grandpa wore. Prescription glasses can be costly, so going with a pair of fit-over glacier glasses will save you plenty of money.
Budget glacier glasses: What You Get for Under $14
Some glacier sunglasses are budget priced. Sure, there’s a degree of getting what you pay for, and you likely wouldn’t take an inexpensive pair up Everest with you or on a 10-day mountaineering expedition into the Alps. But there are still cheap glasses that are effective.
Q: Should glacier glasses be polarized?
True glacier glasses should not be polarized. If you’re using them for mountaineering, where you will be at high altitudes on vast snow fields under a bright sun, polarizing lenses can sometimes prevent you from seeing variations in snow under your feet. Stick to polarized lenses on water.
Q: Are they necessary?
Yes, glacier glasses are necessary if you’re in certain conditions. High altitudes and bright snow can cause permanent eye damage if your eyes aren’t properly protected. Look for glasses that filter high levels of the sun’s rays and protect not only the front of your eyes but also the sides.
Q: How do I choose glacier glasses?
Choose glacier glasses by first deciding what you need them for. Are you going to be cycling in a city? Will you be mountaineering and need to include them in your climbing gear? Will you be fishing? Do you need prescription glasses? Ask yourself those questions and then choose the best fit.
A final word on shopping for glacier glasses
You should take protecting your eyes seriously if you’ll be spending time in snow and ice, and/or high elevations. The sun’s rays can be genuinely harmful and the damage can be irreversible. Consider these not a luxury but an investment in your well-being.
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