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Kaenon Clarke Review

A high-quality blend of functionality, versatility, and style.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $180 List | $144.99 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Great clarity, excellent contrast with little color distortion, flexing frames, works for most faces
Cons:  Peripheral coverage not ideal, cleaner bag a little stiff, may be sporty-looking
Manufacturer:   Kaenon
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 11, 2019
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83
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 12
  • Lens Quality - 30% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Frame Quality - 20% 9
  • Style and Versatility - 15% 7
  • Coverage - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Kaenon Clarks are a quality pair of shades that bring top-notch eye protection to a pair of frames that works for a wide variety of faces and activities. This winning combination of features easily makes the Clarks 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. Flexible frames with Variflex nose pads help them stay comfortable all day long no matter what you're doing. With a timeless shape, the Clarks provide reasonable coverage without being over-the-top sporty, helping them cross seamlessly between activities in the sun.


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This Product
Kaenon Clarke
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $144.99 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$198.48 at Amazon
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$249.99 at Backcountry
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$245.00 at Backcountry$89.50 at Amazon
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Pros Great clarity, excellent contrast with little color distortion, flexing frames, works for most facesExcellent protection, great clarity, extremely comfortable, good for active endeavors, good for many facesExcellent eye protection and coverage, durable design, great contrast with minimal color distortion, superb caseGreat lens clarity, universally flattering style, surprisingly comfortable, durable build, good eye protectionGood contrast, superb clarity, excellent protective coatings, stay in place, lightweight, all-day comfort
Cons Peripheral coverage not ideal, cleaner bag a little stiff, may be sporty-lookingDeveloped a slight lens defect, fit is less secure, coverage could be betterHeavy, large overall size and fit, expensiveNot polarized, heavy, large, case not overly protective, expensiveNot very stylish, lighter tint suffers in bright light, copper lens distorts colors, too small, expensive
Bottom Line A high-quality blend of functionality, versatility, and style.Great protection and amazing comfort, but not completely perfect.A high-performing pair of shades with great coverage and exceptional lens quality, though a bit heavy.These shades are protective, clear, and very cool.These incredibly lightweight glasses have high quality lens and perform well, especially for water-related sports.
Rating Categories Kaenon Clarke Costa Del Mar Spearo Maui Jim Kahi Vuarnet District Medium Round Costa Hinano
Lens Quality (30%)
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9
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8
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9
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7
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9
Comfort (25%)
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8
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9
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7
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8
Frame Quality (20%)
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7
Style And Versatility (15%)
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9
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3
Coverage (10%)
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5
Specs Kaenon Clarke Costa Del Mar Spearo Maui Jim Kahi Vuarnet District... Costa Hinano
Lens Tested Grey 12 Pacific Blue Mirror Blue Mirror HCL Bronze Brown Lynx Copper 580P
Ideal Activity water sports water sports everyday everyday everyday
Ideal Lens Light Conditions Bright light Bright light Medium to bright light Medium to bright light Low to bright light
Polarized Yes Yes Yes No, but it is available Yes
Fit Medium-Full Medium-Large Large Medium-Large Small
Weight (grams) 29g 29g 40g 37g 25g
UV Protection 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Visible Light Transmission (VLT) 12% 10% 15% 9% 12%
VLT Protection Index cat 3 cat 3 cat 3 cat 3 cat 3
HEV/Blue Light Protection not specified 100% 95% 97% 100%
Infrared Protection 0% 0% "infrared effective" 93% 0%
Neutral/Contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast
Lens Material plastic - "SR-91" polycarbonate glass - 580 Polarized (polycarbonate available) glass - "SuperThin Glass" glass - mineral glass glass - 580 Polarized
Impact Resistance Yes No No Yes No
Protective Coatings Anti-reflective back, hydro-oleophobic, mirror Anti-scratch, hydro-oleaophobic, mirror Anti-reflective on front and back Anti-reflective back, silver bi-shade mirror Anti-scratch, oil repellent, water repellent, naturally scratch resistant
Can take prescription lens? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Hinge type Standard/barrel Spring/flex Spring/flex Standard/barrel Spring/flex
Case Included Rigid zippered and soft/cleaning bag Rigid zippered and soft/cleaning bag Hard rigid clam case and soft/cleaning bag Semi-rigid flex case and cleaning cloth Rigid zippered and cleaning cloth

Our Analysis and Test Results

We tested the Clarks with Grey 12 Pacific Blue Mirror Lenses designed specifically for water and paddle activities. 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're hard-pressed to find a time or place we don't like wearing the Clarks!
We're hard-pressed to find a time or place we don't like wearing the Clarks!

Lens Quality


The Grey 12 Pacific Blue Mirror lenses we tested in the Clarks are high-quality SR-91 lenses made of a proprietary blend of polycarbonate. We are impressed with how clear these lenses are to look through, considering they're up against some solid glass competitors. They also block specific wavelengths of light between red, green, and blue, providing optimal contrast for the human eye without distorting 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 very able to withstand the abuses we put them through - including throwing them into the gravel and dropping them into the lake

Grey 12 Pacific Blue Mirror Lenses
  • Polarized
  • 100% UV Protection
  • 12% Visible Light Transmission (Category 3)
  • 0% HEV/Blue Light Blockage, 0% Infrared Blockage
  • Color: Grey, Material: SR-91 Polycarbonate
  • Impact Resistant, Anti-reflective Back, Anti-Scratch, Hydro-oleophobic, Mirrored

Their Blue Mirror coating help cut out even more stray glare, making them a great choice for a sunny day deep-water fishing. They also have an anti-reflective coating on the back of the lenses, that goes a long way toward preventing you from seeing your own reflection on the backside of the glasses as you wear them. The hydro-oleophobic coating is also one of our favorites of the bunch, making wiping off dust, dirt, and smudges much easier.


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.

Kaenon delivers superb lens quality and eye protection in lightweight  polycarbonate lenses.
Kaenon delivers superb lens quality and eye protection in lightweight, polycarbonate lenses.

Comfort


Weighing 29 grams, the Clarks are pretty light - and much lighter than most glass options. They're well balanced, helping them to stay put on your face comfortably. The Variflex nose pads are embedded in the frames and add just a touch of rubberiness to hold them on without being so sticky they feel weird on your face or pick up millions of fuzzies from wiping them on your shirt. 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, the Kaenons don't have spring hinges. Instead, they went ahead and put standard, fixed barrel 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. If that's something that bothers you, these might not be the most comfortable shape for you. But if you tend to wear your glasses a touch down your nose, they're unlikely to hit anything and we think they're a pretty comfortable pair to wear even on long days in the sun.

With flexible frames and well-placed pads  the Clarks are pretty darn comfortable.
With flexible frames and well-placed pads, the Clarks are pretty darn comfortable.

Frame Quality


Made of TR-90 Grilamid co-injected nylon, the Clark 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. Kaenon backs these shades with a 30-day trial return period, a 1-year manufacturer's warranty of the total package, and a lifetime warranty on the lenses specifically. It's great to see them stand so strongly behind their product - though those warranties don't cover damage sustained from user error.


We did manage to pick up a couple of superficial scratches on the frames after flinging them wildly while trying to extract a large beetle from a bike helmet crossing a bridge in the woods. The beetle was more jarred than the Clarks 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.

Aside from a few superficial scratches we can hardly even see  the Kaenons offer a solidly durable frame.
Aside from a few superficial scratches we can hardly even see, the Kaenons offer a solidly durable frame.

Style and Versatility


If you're after the most stylish pair of shades, the Clarks probably aren't being worn down any Italian runways. However, our crowd of testers and judgment passers actually think these shades are pretty stylish for getting out there and doing awesome on-water activities and don't look out of place heading to the grocery store or wandering through downtown on a busy weekend. Even through a sizeable array of face shapes and sizes, the Clarks do a great job of working for pretty much everyone. We're impressed with how universally they're accepted and actually even enjoyed by some people who thought they wouldn't look good on their faces.


With that being said, they are a bit more sporty than some of the other options we tested. 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.

Men  women  wide faces  narrow faces  the Clarks are a good blend of traits that work pretty well an a wide variety of human variation.
Men, women, wide faces, narrow faces, the Clarks are a good blend of traits that work pretty well an a wide variety of human variation.

Coverage


A base curve of 6 means the Clarks are mostly flat but with a faint curve to better contour to your face. This does help a bit with their coverage, but there are many 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 these, they can let light in over the top, which we think is far more annoying than sidelight. These issues tend to be exacerbated on smaller faces that take up less space inside the frames.


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

Not the most side coverage  but a slight contour and larger lenses help make up for the open edges.
Not the most side coverage, but a slight contour and larger lenses help make up for the open edges.

Case Quality


The Clarks 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. And the zippered case that comes standard with any pair of Kaenons 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 said zipper works easily and consistently, unlike many other zip cases we tested.

The Clarks come with one of our favorite cases of all the ones we tested.
The Clarks come with one of our favorite cases of all the ones we tested.

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 pairs we tested, and we think, offer an incredible performance that absolutely is worth their price.

Any pair of sunglasses can look good with the perfect pose  right?
Any pair of sunglasses can look good with the perfect pose, right?

Conclusion


This pair of sunglasses 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 and is a favorite to wear for both comfort and style. It's easily our favorite pair across the board, and we think you'll like them too.

With great protection  quality construction  and a comfortable fit  the Clarks are an all-time favorite.
With great protection, quality construction, and a comfortable fit, the Clarks are an all-time favorite.


Maggie Brandenburg