We researched over 80 of the most popular, high-quality sunglasses before selecting the 11 best to test side-by-side for hundreds of outdoor hours. For four months, we rocked six everyday pairs and five sport or performance pairs, pushing each to their functional limits. We did it to determine which ones offer the best lens quality, all-day comfort, and coverage. We boated, biked, drove, hiked, and lounged across two continents and six countries from dawn 'til dusk. We wore these glasses in high altitude sun, at sea level, in hot and cold climates, and on high and low UV days. We made all of our friends try them on and rate their look, comfort, and lenses. In short, we got to know these shades exceedingly well, identifying their strengths and weaknesses so we could pass our findings on to you. No matter what you desire of your sunglasses, we're here to help you find the perfect pair.
The Best Sunglasses
|Price||$249.00 at REI|
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|$249.00 at MooseJaw|
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|$245.00 at Backcountry||$203.00 at MooseJaw|
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|$181.96 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Excellent eye protection and coverage, durable design, great contrast with minimal color distortion, superb case||Excellent optics, good wind protection, 2 lenses included, easy lens changes, quality storage case||Great lens clarity, universally flattering style, surprisingly comfortable, durable build, good eye protection||Excellent optics, storage case, modern style, good eye protection||Good coverage, lens suitable for a wide range of light conditions|
|Cons||Heavy, large overall size and fit, expensive||Expensive, you have to take off arms to put them in their case||Not polarized, heavy, large, case not overly protective, expensive||Expensive, only comes with one lens||Expensive for one lens, weird case|
|Bottom Line||The Kahis are a high-performing pair of shades with great coverage and exceptional lens quality.||The Smith Attack Max checks all of our boxes and takes home our Editor's Choice Award.||These shades are protective, clear, and very cool.||The Oakley Flight jacket has a unique style, excellent optics, and good coverage.||POC's Do Half Blade boasts quality optics by Zeiss with ample coverage and wind protection for high velocity applications.|
|Rating Categories||Maui Jim Kahi||Smith Attack Max||District Medium Round||Flight Jacket||POC DO Half Blade|
|Lens Quality (25%)|
|Frame Quality (15%)|
|Style And Versatility (10%)|
|Specs||Maui Jim Kahi||Smith Attack Max||District Medium Round||Flight Jacket||POC DO Half Blade|
|Lens Tested||HCL Bronze||Chromapop Red Mirror||Brown Lynx||Prizm Road||Black 10.0|
|Ideal Activity||everyday||road cycling, mountain biking, running||everyday||road cycling, mountain biking, running||road cycling, mountain biking|
|Ideal Lens Light Conditions||Medium to bright light||Chromapop Red Mirror: Bright light Chromapop Contrast Rose: Low to Medium light||Medium to bright light||Medium to bright light||Medium to bright light|
Best Overall for Everyday
Maui Jim Kahi
The Maui Jim Kahis are a fantastic pair of sunglasses, offering good everyday protection with top-notch lenses and a durable design. The HCL Bronze polarized lenses we tested offer the enhanced contrast associated with brown lenses without significant color distortion. They provide great protection against glare, UV light, blue light, and even infrared rays. The glass lenses also provide natural scratch resistance while maintaining an impressive amount of clarity. Their durable frames have rubber nose pads and arm backs to keep these shades solidly on your face no matter how hard that boat bumps or how sweaty your face gets. These sunnies also come with one of the most protective cases in the review to protect your investment for years to come.
Though these sunglasses are heavier than others we reviewed, all but the smallest-faced testers find them comfortable to wear all day long. In addition to being heavy, the Kahis are large, with long arms, a wide frame, and large lenses. This size made many of our testers feel that these are a less stylish pair of glasses. That said, we appreciate the extra coverage, and these shades have some of the best optics of any pair we tested.
Read full review: Maui Jim Kahi
Best Performance Sunglasses
Smith Attack Max
The Smith Attack Max quickly rose to the top of our competitive field of performance sunglass models and earned our Editors' Choice Award. This frameless model has large spherical polycarbonate lenses that provide ample coverage and excellent eye protection from the sun, dust, debris, and wind. These glasses come with two lenses for different light conditions and switching between them is incredibly easy thanks to Smith's unique magnetic arm attachment system. Both of the lenses have excellent optical clarity, filter 100% of harmful UV rays, and come with Smith's signature lens technology, Chromapop, which enhances contrast and increases definition. Hydrophilic Megol rubber on both the arms and the adjustable nose pad keep these shades comfortably in place when the going gets rough. The Attack Max also comes with a zippered case to securely store the glasses and your extra lens, plus a soft microfiber storage and cleaning bag for use on the go.
While testers loved virtually everything about the Attack Max, we all agreed that it's frustrating that you can't put them in the storage case without removing their arms. They are also somewhat expensive but, considering they are our highest rated model and they come with two lenses. We feel they are well worth the asking price.
Read review: Smith Attack Max
Best Value for Everyday
Native Eyewear Highline
The Native Highlines easily took home our Best Buy award for everyday sunglasses. Not only are they the least expensive pair of everyday shades we tested, they also impress us with their solid eye protection and surprisingly low weight. Their plastic, poly-crystal carbonate, lenses offer superb protection against UV light, glare, and HEV. They also provide some of the best infrared blocking powers on the market. They are impact resistant, scratch resistant, and easy to clean. The Highline's slightly curved design and well-placed padding had our testers forgetting they were wearing them at all!
However, these lenses and frames are a bit on the small side, which affects their coverage and stability on medium to large faces. We also collected a number of scratches on the frame during our testing, but none on the lenses. The Native Highlines are versatile, high-quality shades that can go from hiking up a mountain to shopping around town. They're also a fraction of the cost of their competitors.
Read full review: Native Eyewear Highline
Best Value for Perfomance
The 100% Speedcraft is a big and boldly styled set of performance shades aimed squarely at the road cycling and mountain biking market. They boast the largest lens of all the models in our test, plus a generous wrap-around shape that provides excellent coverage and eye protection. Each pair comes with two cylindrical lenses, one mirrored and one clear, to use in varying light conditions. Optical clarity is quite good, with an expansive field of view and very minimal distortion. They have a half-frame design and all the elements of the frame feel sturdy and well-made. The frames feature grippy rubber on the nose pad and temples to keep them in place at eye-watering speeds. They also come with a nice zippered case with foam cutouts to hold the glasses, extra lenses, and a microfiber bag for cleaning and storage.
Despite having the most coverage of all the performance models we tested, the Speedcraft allows more air movement around the eyes than some of its competition. The grippy textured rubber on the nose pad and frame arms is also more abrasive, and consequently less comfortable, than some of the other contenders. Beyond that, we loved the Speedcrafts and feel they offer solid value for a quality pair of glasses that comes with two lenses.
Read review: 100% Speedcraft
Why You Should Trust Us
Over the span of four months, we wore these sunglasses incessantly. We napped on beaches and boat decks. We rode mountain bikes and water taxis. We wandered the streets, markets, jungles, beaches, deserts, and mountains of six different countries. And, because we like to be thorough, we asked dozens of our friends and family to wear them. They told us how they fit, how comfortable and stylish they are, and how much they like the lenses.
Our everyday sunglass tester, Maggie Brandenburg, spends more time outdoors than in, from leading high-alpine backpacking trips to teaching in the sunny Caribbean and kayaking on hyperreflective waters. For the past seven years, she's led global adventures for teens and adults from backpacking the Andes and Sierra Nevadas to trekking through the African Savannah. Every adventure demands a lot from her eyes. In turn, she demands a lot from her eyewear.
As an eyeglasses wearer since the age of four, Maggie is adamant about keeping her eyes protected. An avid eyewear junkie, she keeps up with the latest protective options and tries on every pair she can. Maggie spent several weeks wading through the sunglasses market to narrow down the top contenders before donning the selected models and heading outdoors. She drove across the country and back, took sunglasses to Belize and Vietnam and spent hundreds of hours comparing each pair to the others. Pacific sunsets, high altitude hiking, and 13+ hour days of driving — these glasses saw it all. Maggie has been testing and reviewing a variety of equipment for OutdoorGearLab for almost three years.
Our performance sunglass tester, Jeremy Benson, is an obsessive year-round adventure sports athlete. The author of two guidebooks published by Mountaineers Books, Mountain Bike Tahoe and Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes California, he stays busy all year in the mountains of California from his home base in Truckee, CA. Whether backcountry skiing in the winter months or training for and racing gravel and mountain bikes the rest of the year, he has developed an appreciation for quality eyewear that protects his eyes from the sun, dust, debris, and especially the wind. A former sponsored ski athlete, Benson has years of experience in product design and testing and has been working with OutdoorGearLab as freelance tester and reviewer for almost two years.
Jeremy keeps himself abreast of the latest trends in performance eyewear and selected five models to test and compare side by side for this review. Benson spent countless hours over months of wearing each pair while gravel, road, and mountain biking, trail running, cross country and backcountry skiing. He put his years of expertise to work when scrutinizing all aspects of each model's performance from lens quality to coverage and eye protection.
Analysis and Test Results
The six metrics we used to test these glasses are weighted by importance and give each pair a comparable score between 1 and 100. Read through each section below to learn how we calculated each score and which pairs scored best in each area.
The size and fit of your sunglasses make a huge difference for more than just style. Arms that are the right length will keep them attached to your face while you play. A pair that is wide enough for your head will help prevent headaches. It's important to look at frame and lens sizes before you buy a pair of glasses. Not sure what size you wear? Grab a pair of shades you already know you love and measure those!
You can buy a cheap pair of sunnies at any department store or gas station, but they're not likely to give your eyes the protection they deserve. On the other hand, more money doesn't necessarily equal more protection. We tested sunglasses that range from one to several hundred dollars and found that price doesn't necessarily correspond with performance.
Though we never consider price when we score products, we recognize that it's an important factor when making a purchase decision. Glasses with the highest value in this review offer solid performance at a below average price. Examples include the two Best Buy winners, the Native Highlines and 100% Speedcraft. The Oakley Holbrook Polarized also offers a respectable value.
One of the most important qualities of any pair of shades is how good the lenses are. Since the whole point of wearing sunnies is to protect your eyes — from UV, glare, dust, etc. — we weight lens quality scores heavily. We also recognize that not all sunglasses are made for the same purposes (i.e., light hiking vs. mountain biking) and tested them accordingly. You can see how they compare to each other in the following table.
To examine lens quality, we asked three main questions:What are they made to do?
All the glasses in the test claim to block 100% of UV rays, but they vary in how much high-energy blue (HEV) and infrared light they block. They also allow varying amounts of visible light to transmit (VLT) through the lens and into your eye. VLT is tied to protection but is also an activity based choice, particularly in the case of performance glasses. If you ride bikes in deep trees, you'll want a higher VTL (which lets more light in) than you would on a bright and reflective road driving west at sunset.
All of the everyday glasses we tested are polarized or, in the case of the Vuarnet District Medium Round, have a polarized lens option. This cuts down on the glare that reflects on flat surfaces like water and roads. MThe mirrored lens also cut down on glare. The performance glasses we tested are not polarized and only the Oakley Flight Jacket offers it as a lens option. Often, glasses made for cycling skip the polarization because it can make it difficult to read cycling computer screens. Mountain bikers and trail runners also spend time in lower or variable light conditions in the woods where there is less glare.
Different lens materials and coatings also make a big difference in how glasses perform at a specific task. Depending on what you plan you use your eyewear for, you may want lenses that repel water or oils, to stop you from having to pause and clean them constantly. If you're into high impact activities, you might easily drop your glasses on a rock or find the ground flying at your face faster than you'd imagine. If that's you, you'll be wanting impact-resistant lenses. All of the performance glasses we tested have impact resistant lenses, as do the Vuarnet, Native, and Oakley everyday options.
The everyday Editors' Choice winners, Maui Jim Kahi's HCL Bronze lenses emerged as clear top-performers here, combining a protective VLT of 15% with high polarity and impressive blue light blockage. They also have anti-reflective coatings on the front and back of each lens that cut down on stray glare. These coatings also keep your face from reflecting on the back of the lens at specific sun angles, which can make them difficult to see through. This suite of quality traits makes the Maui Jims an excellent choice for water recreation and all-around eye protection.
The Costa Hinano's Copper 580P lenses repel both water and oil while being incredibly protective from glare (100% polarized) and 100% effective at blocking blue light. These features make them an excellent choice for on-water activities as well.
The performance glasses vary less in terms of protection. They tend to block HEV light but not infrared and let between 12 and 21.7% of visible light through. Less VLT is easier on your eyes, but not ideal for low or variable light conditions. The Attack Max's 15% and Flight Jacket's 20% worked well for most applications.How are the optics?
Sunglasses should protect your eyes and cut down on eye strain while providing a crisp/clear view of the world. Some lens are best suited for cloudy days, some for sunny, and some can span both, making them a great choice for patchy Caribbean clouds, afternoon desert rainstorms, and dawn or dusk. The Maui Jim Kahis impressed us with their ability to feel comfortable at high noon on the open ocean and when driving down the highway during intermittent Texan showers. The Native Highlines also provided excellent contrast and color enhancement, particularly in variable to low lighting.
We evaluated the clarity of each model by wearing them in different lighting conditions and noting how they reacted to variable light. We noted if the lenses distorted details, and if they enhanced, preserved, or detracted from natural colors. The Native Highlines and Costa Hinanos both provide clear, detailed views through polycarbonate lenses with enhanced contrast due to their brownish-reddish coloration. The Maui Jim Kahis are even more impressive, as their SuperThin Glass lenses preserve excellent clarity and the HCL Bronze coloration enhances contrast without distorting true colors as much as other brown lenses can.
The five performance sunglasses offer good optics, but two rose to the top in terms of lens quality. The Editor's Choice Award-winning Smith Attack Max and both of its included lenses provide impressive optical clarity with zero distortion, plus their Chromapop technology helps increase contrast and definition. Likewise, the Oakley Flight Jacket and has equally impressive optics with their signature Prizm lenses that offer a crystal clear view and increase contrast in a similar way.
How well do the lenses hold up to normal use?
We wore these sunnies extensively for months to see how each pair withstood the daily durability test of constant use and abuse. We tested how easily they pick up grease and collect dust. Then we tested how easy they are to clean with a simple cloth, or a t-shirt if you're in a bind. We also considered how easily the lenses pick up microscopic scratches when you use that shirt to clean them in a pinch.
While we didn't pick up scratches, our field experiments and experiences showed that the Native Highlines and Oakley Holbrooks stayed pretty clean during regular wear and are quite easy to clean. All of the performance lenses offer a high level of impact resistance and seem very durable.
Comfort matters quite a bit for a piece of gear you're going to wear nearly every day and potentially for 12 hours at a time. Even the best lenses aren't helpful if the frames they're in are uncomfortable to wear for longer than an hour. For this reason, we assigned comfort the same weight and importance as lens quality. You can see just how comfortable these glasses are in the chart below.
This category relies a lot on the feels, and getting input from a wide variety of testers with different face shapes and sizes was very important. We considered how each pair feels across the bridge of your nose, above and behind your ears, riding on top of your head, and whether or not they tend to contact cheeks, eyebrows or eyelashes. We wore sunglasses for full days to see how comfort changed or remained consistent over time. We also considered whether each pair is prone to sliding or moving around and if they are adjustable. Another important aspect of comfort is how heavy and balanced these shades are. We weighed each pair, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Medium-weight glasses that are front-heavy are more annoying and less comfortable than a heavier pair that balances the weight between the frame and the arms.
Our everyday sunglass testers found that lightweight, well-balanced shades with pads that grip your nose or ears are the most comfortable for all-day wear. The Native Highlines and Costa Hinanos have all of these characteristics and are the most comfortable everyday shades we tested. The Maui Jim Kahi and Vuarent District Medium Round aren't far behind. The District defines the rules and gets away with it. They don't have pads, are hefty and imbalanced, but we like wearing them anyway.
These same aspects apply to the comfort of the performance models. The weight, fit, and rubber materials that keep them in place are hugely important when wearing glasses for long hours while trail running or riding a bike. The most comfortable performance sunglasses stay in place when the going gets rough and sweaty, don't make unwanted face contact, and generally just go unnoticed when in use. The Julbo Aero is one of the most comfortable models we tested due to their impressively lightweight and unique rubber on the arms and nose pad. It feels like you're wearing nothing at all. The Smith Attack Max also topped the charts for comfort, with grippy rubber on the arms, an adjustable nose pad, and a lightweight feel with no face contact.
If you want to protect your eyes outdoors, you'll want your shades to offer good coverage. You know, so they actually do protect your eyes from sun, dust, and debris. The glasses we tested offer different degrees of coverage. To compare them, we analyzed the shape and size of their frames and lenses to see if they adequately filter sun, glare, and flying dirt from any angle. We paid attention to arm width by the temple to see if it blocks light as well. We also noted which face shapes and sizes left overly large gaps for unwanted light and foreign body entrance.
Sunglasses with larger lenses and a closer overall fit — like the Maui Jim Kahis, Oakley Holbrook, and all of the performance glasses — provide excellent coverage and protection from most light angles. Curved lenses, that contour around your face, offer better coverage than flat models. Some of the everyday glasses we tested are fairly straight across, like the Vuarent District Round Medium, leaving lots of gaps. Others are more face-hugging, providing extra coverage. All of the performance models wrap around your face, which helps hold glasses in place when flying downhill on a mountain bike or running around the park playing frisbee. As for the everyday shades, the Oakley Holbrooks have a snug curvature and large lenses that offer quite a bit of coverage, no matter what face shape you have.
By the very nature of their design and intended purpose, performance shades offer the most coverage of any type of sunglass. As we mention, they have large lenses that wrap around and fit much closer to your face than other models. This helps keep the sun, dust, debris, and wind from affecting your eyes while moving at high rates of speed. The 100% Speedcraft has a massive lens, almost goggle sized, plus a wraparound shape that provides the most coverage of all the models in our test. More coverage usually equates to more eye protection. But, in this case, sheer size doesn't tell the whole story. The Smith Attack Max and the Oakley Flight Jacket have slightly less coverage than the Speedcraft, yet they protect the eyes just as well and block wind even more effectively.
Frame quality is a big part of durability. We researched and assessed each model, and put them through the wringer to find out which ones are the most likely to hold up for years of constant usage. We spent a lot of time jamming them in bags and cars and flexing frames to see how well they withstand the pressure. We noted anything that scratched or failed to perform as intended. You can see how each pair ranks in the chart below.
Since we tested these sunglasses for only four months instead of the years of use you'd like to get out of them, we also looked for anything that seemed likely to cause issues in the future. We looked at each frame's materials and construction, paying particular attention to the hinges to see if they're a standard barrel hinge (i.e., don't overextend) or a spring hinge (i.e., are made to overextend). We also carefully examined any nose pads or bow grippies and their attachment points. After beating up these glasses for months, through several countries and across the US and back, we were impressed with the ability of both the Maui Jim Kahis and Costa Hinanos to withstand a solid battering.
We also expect a lot from our performance sunglasses. Not only do we use them for extended periods in harsh environments, but we often drop them or toss them in our helmets after a long ride. We need these frames to stand up to our abuse and last for several seasons or more. The 100% Speedcraft has one of the burlier and more robust frames of the five performance glasses we tested. They feel like they can withstand repeated drops and probably even a solid crash or two. Similarly, the Oakley Flight Jacket has a lightweight frame made of the proprietary O-matter material that feels equally beefy and built to last.
Though we didn't rate each model on their return policy, we did take note of it. Some models offer return or exchange policies that allow you to test the glasses for several weeks to see if you like them. We also noted which ones have warranty policies, what those policies cover, how long they are, and what options exist for potential issues not covered under the manufacturer's warranty — i.e., is it easy to get broken shades fixed?
Style and Versatility
As much as we wish there was a magical formula for style, there isn't. There's no objective test for how you'll look in any of these glasses, but we know it matters. So we included this metric as a small percentage of each pair's overall score. Because it doesn't exist, we didn't rate these using an objective style guide. However, we did ask a whole bunch of people with different styles and face shapes to try them on and tell us what they thought. Every tester took a look in the mirror and rated how likely they would be to wear each pair based on looks alone.
We'll start with the everyday glasses. A couple were universally disliked, a few received mixed reviews, and a couple were loved for their style. The Ray-Ban Clubmasters were frequently described as classy, hip, and even too cool for me. The Vuarnet District Rounds were one of the most well-liked shades in this review, with one tester enthusiastically exclaiming, I look fantastic in these! On the other end of the spectrum, no one considered the Costa Hinanos or Native Highlines stylish.
The performance sunglasses models are quite different in terms of style. More often than not they prioritize function over fashion, and this is evident in their decidedly sporty style. There are, of course, specific looks that people want to achieve while out on the trail or on the bike. Ultimately, this is up to you, but we preferred the looks of the POC Do Half Blade and Smith Attack Max. In general, we'd be most inclined to rock our performance glasses while doing the specific activities we bought them for and switch to a more casual pair of glasses for kicking around town or hanging out on the beach.
A good case can make all the difference between your expensive pair of glasses lasting you ten days or ten years. It's not impossible to find an aftermarket case that may provide more protection for your investment. If you're spending that much on a piece of gear, it's nice if it just comes with a case that does the job.
We tested how well each model's case protects it against something as simple as a key scratch and as demanding as being crammed in an overstuffed bag being handled by an airline luggage crew. Rigid cases, like that of the Maui Jim Kahis and Smith Attack Max performed admirably at this task.
We also considered the finer details of each case, like its size and weight. And because we know you're out there having grubby, down-to-earth adventures, we also took into account what cleaning tools accompany each pair of shades. The cases included with the Costa Hinano and Native Highline provide a good blend of protection and portability, and both come with a cleaning cloth.
All of the performance glasses come with a minimum of a storage/cleaning bag, and several come with a zippered, hardshell case. Our favorites are the zippered storage cases that come with the 100% Speedcraft and the Smith Attack Max. Both of these have foam inside with cutouts to hold the glasses and their extra lenses securely in place for storage and travel.
There are seemingly endless sunglasses available today, and it can be difficult to figure out which are the right choice for you. It's always our goal to help make your decisions easier by spending hundreds of hours testing the best products on the market side-by-side. We had a ton of fun testing and modeling these sunnies for months to hunt down the best and worst attributes of each pair. We hope that our expertise and experience help you find the perfect pair of shades for your next adventure.
— Maggie Brandenburg and Jeremy Benson