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Kaenon Clarke Review

Exceptional lenses in impressively comfortable frames that manage to be extremely functional while still looking casual
Kaenon Clarke
Photo: Kaenon
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $209 List | $104.50 at Amazon
Pros:  Great clarity, excellent contrast, minimal color distortion, very comfortable, look good on pretty much everyone
Cons:  Peripheral coverage not ideal, can still bounce a little
Manufacturer:   Kaenon
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 27, 2021
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88
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 14
  • Lens Quality - 30% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Frame Quality - 20% 9
  • Style and Versatility - 15% 9
  • Coverage - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Kaenon Clarke are a quality pair of shades that bring top-notch eye protection to a frame that works for a wide variety of faces and activities. This winning combination of features easily makes the Clarke our Editors' Choice and a go-to pair for our team of testers. Their polycarbonate lenses are lightweight and provide excellent protection and impeccable clarity. A lightly textured frame helps them stay comfortable all day long whether you're trail running, paddling, or just grabbing coffee. With a timeless shape, these sunnies provide reasonable coverage without being over-the-top sporty, helping them cross seamlessly between activities in the sun.

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Kaenon Clarke
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Kaenon Clarke
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $104.50 at Amazon$137.57 at Amazon$78.95 at Backcountry
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$36.88 at Amazon
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$250.00 at REI
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Pros Great clarity, excellent contrast, minimal color distortion, very comfortable, look good on pretty much everyoneGreat color retention, superb coverage, quality construction, fits many face sizes, great case and cleaning clothLightweight, comfortable, stable, good on many faces, nice caseLightweight, comfortable, secure, good balance, versatile, look goodSecure fit, good coverage, true to color, neat case
Cons Peripheral coverage not ideal, can still bounce a littleHeavy, large lens "look", weird inside reflective patchNot overly stylish, run small, temple grips could be cleaner cutHinges loosen, brown lenses are yellowyTouch face a lot, heavy, less stylish
Bottom Line Exceptional lenses in impressively comfortable frames that manage to be extremely functional while still looking casualTop-notch coverage and superb color retention make these large-fit shades well-equipped to protect your eyes from water-reflected lightThese sunnies are light and comfortable for your face and eyes and a bit easier on your walletA solidly versatile pair of comfortable shades that are easy to wear and a great priceTop-tier wraparound shades with superb coverage and excellent contrast, meant to stay in place no matter how you play
Rating Categories Kaenon Clarke Costa Del Mar Rincon Native Eyewear Wells Suncloud Rambler Maui Jim Spartan Reef
Lens Quality (30%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
Comfort (25%)
9.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
Frame Quality (20%)
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Style And Versatility (15%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
Coverage (10%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Specs Kaenon Clarke Costa Del Mar Rincon Native Eyewear Wells Suncloud Rambler Maui Jim Spartan Reef
Lens Tested Ultra Brown 12 Grey 580P Crystal Grey Brown HCL Bronze
Ideal Lens Light Conditions Bright light Bright Light Medium to bright light Medium to bright light Bright Light
Polarized Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fit Medium-Full XL/Wide Large Medium Large/Wide
Weight (grams) 29g 33g 26g 25g 44g
UV Protection 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Visible Light Transmission (VLT) 12% 12% 12% 15% 12%
VLT Protection Index Cat 3 Cat 3 Cat 3 Cat 3 Cat 3
HEV/Blue Light Protection (claim) None 100% HEV blockage 90% None "HEV reduction"
Infrared Protection (claim) None None 40% None None
Neutral/Contrast Increased contrast Neutral Neutral Increased contrast Increased contrast
Lens Material Plastic - "SR-91" polycarbonate Polycarbonate Plastic polycarbonate Plastic polycarbonate SuperThin glass
Impact Resistance Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Protective Coatings Anti-reflective back, hydroleophobic, anti-scratch C-WALL (anti-scratch, hydroleophobic) Anti-scratch, hydroleophobic Anti-reflective Anti-reflective, anti-scratch, hydroleophobic
Can take prescription lens? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Hinge type Standard/barrel Spring Standard/barrel Standard/barrel Spring
Case Included Semi-rigid zippered case, microfiber bag Semi-rigid zippered case, microfiber bag, microfiber cleaning cloth Semi-rigid zippered case, microfiber bag Microfiber bag Rigid triangular collapsible case, microfiber cleaning cloth

Our Analysis and Test Results

We've tested two versions of the Clarke: first with Grey 12 Pacific Blue Mirror lenses, then most recently with Ultra Brown 12 lenses. They're a medium-full fit, come with a zippered semi-rigid shell case and a soft bag/cleaning cloth, and are available with prescription lenses.

Performance Comparison


We love the Kaenon Clarke, from the trails to the streets.
We love the Kaenon Clarke, from the trails to the streets.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Lens Quality


Over the years, we've tested two different versions of the Clarke with two different lenses. Both are made of high-quality polycarbonate that provides exceptional clarity. The latest color we tested, the Ultra Brown 12, we like even more than the Grey 12 Pacific Blue Mirror. As a brown lens, they add increased contrast to your perception of the world. Unlike some brown lenses that can distort colors to look a little unreal, these maintain very true-to-life colors. They're very comfortable to wear in just about any lighting situation, and their blend of coatings on top of impact-resistant lenses makes them able to withstand an impressive amount of abuse — including throwing them into the gravel and dropping them into the lake.

Ultra Brown 12 Lenses
  • Polarized
  • 100% UV Protection
  • 12% Visible Light Transmission (Category 3)
  • 0% HEV/Blue Light Blockage, 0% Infrared Blockage
  • Color: Brown, Material: SR-91 Polycarbonate
  • Impact Resistant, Anti-reflective Back, Anti-Scratch, Hydroleophobic

Many sunglasses have issues with reflections on the insides of the lenses, making it easy to see your face staring back at you. The Clarke impresses us as the least reflective of any of the dozens of sunglasses we've tested over the years. They also have a hydrophobic coating to help repel water and bodily oils and are pretty easy to clean off with a microfiber cloth.


We really like these lenses for both on-water activities and everyday usage. Really, the only place they lose out when it comes to lens quality is that they lack some of the protections other lenses offer, like HEV or blue-light blockage and infrared blockage. While this makes nearly no difference to what you see (HEV and infrared are both outside the visible spectrum), both these wavelengths of light have been implicated in some causes of eye fatigue. So while we wish these already impressive lenses had a bit more protection from potentially harmful wavelengths, for the visible spectrum, we're very comfortable and happy with the protection and quality they provide.

The Kaenon Clarke have superb lens quality, offering excellent...
The Kaenon Clarke have superb lens quality, offering excellent protection in a lightweight, polycarbonate lens.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Comfort


Weighing 29 grams, the Clarke are pretty light — much lighter than most glass options and on par with other polycarbonate models. They're well balanced, helping them to stay put on your face comfortably. In addition to embedded Veriflex nose pads with just the right amount of grip without feeling "sticky", the frames also have the perfect level of matte finish to help grab your face without being too abrasive. The bows — like the rest of the frame — are slightly flexible, helping them to maintain a comfortable, secure grip above your ears without squeezing hard enough to give you a headache after a few hours.


Unlike many other sunnies, these don't have spring hinges. Instead, Kaenon went ahead and put standard fixed 5-barrel metal hinges on semi-flexible frames. This actually makes them equally as flexible as most options with spring hinges on rigid frames, and we think that taking the flex pressure off the hinges and distributing it around the rest of the frames is a great solution for a pretty comfy pair of shades. Depending on how close you like to wear your sunnies to your face, you may find these touch your eyebrows or your cheeks. And if you're a runner, you might find these bounce just a tad for the first few steps — until you identify the placement and amount of sweat to hold them while you pound out the miles.

Slightly flexible frames and near-perfect rubber nose pads keep the...
Slightly flexible frames and near-perfect rubber nose pads keep the Clarkes comfortable.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Frame Quality


Made of TR-90 Grilamid co-injected nylon, the Clarke frames pull together lightweight durability and flexible functionality. We love that these frames flex without feeling like they're about to break, which also gives us a lot more confidence in their longevity and ability to withstand all the abuse of years of wear.


We did manage to pick up a couple of superficial scratches on the frames after flinging them wildly when trying to extract a large beetle from a bike helmet. The beetle was more jarred than the Clarkes though, and after a quick t-shirt polish, the scratches are hardly noticeable unless you know where to look. All in all, these frames do a great job matching the protection and quality of the lenses.

The embedded Veriflex rubber nose pads are some of the best we've...
The embedded Veriflex rubber nose pads are some of the best we've ever tested - just enough to do the job without ever feeling "sticky".
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Style and Versatility


When you need performance, style often gets tossed by the wayside — not so with the Clarke. Our crowd of testers and judgment passers enjoyed wearing these shades in most situations and think they're pretty stylish. They're great for getting out there and doing awesome on-water activities or going for a quick run without looking out of place stopping by the grocery store on the way home. Even through a sizeable array of face shapes and sizes, the Clarke's do a great job.


With that being said, they are still a bit sporty compared to non-performance shades, but that comes with the territory. While we think they bring a classic look that's fairly timeless, we also admit they're probably not the optimal choice for wearing with a cocktail dress or tuxedo. But for everyday looks and a style that won't be "out" next year, these are a solid pick.

Even testers who didn't think they'd like the look of the Clarke's...
Even testers who didn't think they'd like the look of the Clarke's ended up liking them.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Coverage


A base curve of 6 means the Clarke are mostly flat but with a faint curve to better contour to the face. This does help a bit with their coverage, but there are gaps. The sides, in particular, are like most non-wrap sunglasses, with plenty of space for sidelight to enter. Also, depending on how close to or far from your face you wear them, they may let light in over the top, which we think is far more annoying than sidelight. These issues tend to be exacerbated on faces with less protruding eyebrows and some smaller faces.


And yet, these weren't dealbreaker issues for most of our testers and most activities. Unless you have overly sensitive eyes, we think they probably won't be dealbreakers for you either. Other than that, the lenses are a good size to provide decent coverage to most wearers, and we think that the protection you get from the Clarke is totally adequate for most activities.

The Clarke's don't have the wraparound coverage that some others...
The Clarke's don't have the wraparound coverage that some others boast.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Case Quality


The Clarke sunglasses come with a semi-rigid zippered case and a soft cleaning cloth bag. Though we aren't the biggest fans of how stiff the bag is for cleaning the lenses, it certainly does the trick. The zippered case that comes standard with any pair of Kaenon's is one of our favorites we tested. It's large enough to easily fit the shades without worrying you'll scratch them on the zipper, and the zipper works easily and consistently, unlike many others we tested. It also has a small loop on the back, making it simple to attach a small carabiner.

This handy loop on the Kaenon zippered case makes it easy to clip it...
This handy loop on the Kaenon zippered case makes it easy to clip it to the outside of your bag.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


Considering how well these sunnies performed in our testing and how much we love them for a huge range of activities, we're impressed that they're not more expensive. Though they're not cheap, they're far from the most expensive pair we tested, and, we think, offer an incredible performance that is worth their price.

From running trails to running errands, the Clarkes are ready to...
From running trails to running errands, the Clarkes are ready to keep you protected every step of the way.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


Te Kaenon Clarke is not only a standout performer when it comes to the protection and quality they offer, but also a great all-around option that works exceedingly well across activities and sports. They were a favorite to wear for both comfort and style for our testing team.

The Clarke's held up well to our rigorous testing.
The Clarke's held up well to our rigorous testing.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg