Get the Best Sunglass Lenses for Hiking any Terrain

Picture this: you’ve just crested the mountain, you’re turning your last corner in the forest until you reach the picturesque vista, you come through the trees to the open view, and are hit with intense sunlight that just makes you squint. Now you can’t really enjoy the view you hiked 3 miles up a mountain to see. But, you could with sunglasses.

Why do you need sunglasses when hiking?

UV Protection

Macular degeneration, cataracts, and other nasty eye diseases can be slowed down and even prevented by protecting your eyes from UV exposure. It doesn’t even matter whether you’re hiking in the full sun or cloudy conditions, harmful light is still making its way to your eyes unless you protect them with sunglasses.


The other way that sunglasses protect your eyes is physically. If you’re like me and you’ve ever hiked a trail where mountain bikes are also allowed, you should know that sunglasses are an important tool for shielding your eyes from dirt and dust that may be kicked up on the trail (or even the occasional rogue rock flying at your face).

Eye Comfort

The worst part of being outside for long periods of time, is the constant squinting when the sun and glare hits your eyes and makes your hike anything but enjoyable. Sunglasses help by tinting your view and making bright light less intense. Polarized sunglasses can also help by reducing glare and reflected light which can make any viewing experience that much more enjoyable. 

What sunglasses are best for hiking?


No one wants to be dragged down by their sunglasses. Plus, wearing heavy shades throughout the day can get uncomfortable overtime. Look for lightweight frame materials like TR90 so you can get frames that feel like nothing. 


Sometimes just lightweight frames isn’t enough when the sweat starts pumping. Looking for sunglasses that feature flexible arms, nose grips, or rubber on the temples can ensure your frames stay put on your face and you won’t need to spend your hike pushing your glasses back up on your nose. 


Just like your hiking shoes and other gear, you want to look for frames that won’t need to be replaced every other hike. Opting for high quality brands and frame materials (like TR90 again) will ensure your frames won’t warp easily and could last you down the Appalachian. For extra protection, make sure your shades come with a warranty (like Fuse’s lifetime, any-replacement warranty) so that you are protected, even if you fling your shades off the mountain. 

What sunglass lenses are best for hiking? 

The most important piece to choosing your hiking sunglasses is going to be in the lenses. This is the piece that you experience the most and can determine whether you’re still squinting behind your shades or experiencing an optimal view.

Lens Basics

Just like your frames, you’re also going to want to look for lightweight lenses. Polycarbonate is going to be the ideal lens for both weight and durability. Heavier lenses like glass can drag your sunglasses down your nose, and also don’t protect you when rocks or other debris might be kicked up towards your face. 

Next, paying attention to lighting conditions of your hike and the VLT of a lens will help you find the best lens for your view. Most sunglasses are going to be Category 3, but paying attention to how dark a lens is can help you avoid feeling like you tinted your view too much. Rule of thumb is for bright light and high elevation a lens closer to 10% VLT is perfect. For more dappled sunlight or overcast conditions looking for a lens closer to 20% or 30% will have you in the clear

You can then take your lens experience to the next level by choosing a lens tint based on the terrain you are hiking. 

Terrain 1: Bright Sun and Snow, High Elevation

Best Lens Color: Grey Polarized

For adventures in open areas and snowy conditions, grey lenses are the ultimate choice. Not only are grey lenses the perfect all-around lens option, but they also help cut down on harsh reflected light that can come from things like snow on the ground. They provide excellent sun protection without significantly altering colors. This allows you to see variations in terrain and identify potential hazards easily.

If you know you’re hiking open areas during bright light conditions, you can get an even more optimal view by choosing a mirrored lens on a grey base that can help darken your view a bit more and reflect back extra light for more comfortable vision.

Terrain 2: Lush Forests & Hiking Trails

Best Lens Color: G15

Forests offer a mix of bright and dappled sunlight filtering through leaves and shaded areas. The optimal lens will be not too dark and offer some enhancement properties. G15 fits this bill. The green/grey tint gives you more neutral color perception, while adding just enough green into your view to make it easier to distinguish between green foliage, shadows, and uneven terrain.

Terrain 3: Open Water

Best Lens Color: Glacier Mirror Polarized

The biggest challenge while hiking near open water is blinding glare reflecting off the surface. Polarized lenses are a game-changer, regardless of base color. They filter out horizontally polarized light waves, significantly reducing glare and allowing you to see through the water's surface. (Fishermen will know what we’re talking about here!) Our choice is a blue, glacier mirror polarized lens. The added blue mirror helps reflect back some of that bright light off the water, giving you the best visibility possible. 

Terrain 4: Arid & Rocky Deserts

Best Lens Color: Brown Polarized

Deserts pose a unique challenge – intense sunlight with minimal shade and potentially reflective sand or rock. Copper or brown lenses are ideal to combat that. They block blue light, which can contribute to haze, and enhance contrast between all the browns and reds in your view, making it easier to distinguish subtle variations in desert landscapes and navigate tricky terrain.

Color Enhancing Lenses

If you want to take your vision to the next level, look for color enhancing lenses in these options. Many brands offer color enhancing lens options, like Oakley Prizm, Spy Happy Lens, or Fuse’s AMP lenses, that take your vision to the next level. All of the same “lens rules” apply, but color enhancing technology pumps up your vision so you experience clearer vision and more enhanced color and contrast. That can improve not only your view but also your reaction time and eye comfort behind your sunglasses.

Bonus Tip! 

Consider getting sunglasses with multiple sets of lenses! It’s easy to change your lenses yourself in any frames with replacement lenses. This allows you to swap lenses based on the activity and lighting conditions, offering maximum versatility for sunglasses so your favorite pair can come with you on all your outdoor adventures.


Consult an eye doctor if you have any concerns based on your specific vision needs! But, following these tips can help you pick the perfect pair of sunglasses for any of your hiking adventures. Be sure to consider what lighting conditions and terrain you’ll be hiking in order to pick the best sunglass lenses for the most optimized hiking experience.



  • Grey polarized lenses are best for snow terrian.

  • G15 lenses are best for foresty areas.
  • Glacier lenses are best for open water.
  • Brown lenses are best for rocky terrians.

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