Holes in the ozone got you down? After researching hundreds of sunglasses we chose 9 of the best pairs and put them through a battery of 11 tests. Over the course of more than 100 hours we wore our sunglasses everywhere: skinning up mountains, skiing back down, riding flow laps on mountain bikes, trail running, rock climbing, and more. Whether you're an uphill fiend that needs lots of ventilation for when you're working hard, a downhill fanatic that needs the wind kept out of your eyes, or are a combination of both, we can help you find some ocular outerwear that will leave your corneas unburned and your vision crystal clear.
The Best Sunglasses for Men
This spring and summer we brought 9 pairs of the best sunglasses on a multitude of adventures for your first ever sunglasses review. After taking these shades through the transition from skis and snowshoes to knobby tires and paddle boards, the Oakley Flak 2.0 XL came out on top as the best pair of lenses for all of your athletic pursuits. The Tifosi Dolomite 2.0 impressed as a much more inexpensive alternative that can still keep up wherever you go. If you're looking for something specifically for long and fast rides on the road bike, you can't beat the Oakley Jawbreaker PRIZM Road.
Best Overall Sunglasses
Oakley Flak 2.0 XL
If you're looking for a pair of shades that you can wear everyday and can handle almost any outdoor activity, look no further than the Oakley Flak 2.0 XL. The comfortable frames stay on your face, even when bouncing down bumpy singletrack. The lenses provide solid glare reduction, and are big enough to shed wind on a fast downhill, yet small enough to not look ridiculous when sipping latte on a cafe terrace. Plus the lenses are very easy to change, so you can make sure you have the perfect tint for any lighting condition.
Read review: Oakley Flak 2.0 XL
Best Bang for the Buck
Tifosi Dolomite 2.0
Tifosi has long had a reputation for making high quality glasses at low prices, and the Dolomite 2.0 is no exception. Its wrap around frame and rubberized temples are secure enough for trail running and mountain biking, and the adjustable nosepiece ensures you get a comfortable fit. It may take a second to become proficient at changing out the lenses, but when you do Tifosi provides options from clear for cloudy days when you just need to keep the wind out of your eyes to super dark for those bluebird winter days when the sun is bouncing off the snow. And it does all this for a list price of just $70, which is about half of what most high end brands charge.
Read review: Dolomite 2.0
Top Pick for Road Cycling
Oakley Jawbreaker PRIZM Road
The Oakley Jawbreaker PRIZM Road lived up to the name in our testing. Whenever we got a craving for skinny tires and lycra we found ourselves reaching for these glasses. The huge lenses provided ample wind blocking when we put the hammer down, and the straight temples played nice with our helmet straps. These glasses are definitely geared towards people who like to mash big gears on the flats (there's a reason Mark Cavendish wears them…besides the sponsorship money). That being said, they are on the heavier side of the spectrum. If you're the kind of person who salivates when the road tilts upwards, dreams about Alp d'Huez, and will spend a thousand bucks to shave a few grams off your rear derailleur, you may want to consider a lighter pair, like the Oakley Flak 2.0 above.
Read review: Oakley Jawbreaker PRIZM Road
Unlike many of the products we test here at OutdoorGearLab, sunglasses tend to be fairly homogenous products. While their aesthetics may look radically different, the underlying design of most models is very similar. Therefore our testing didn't reveal as wide of a range of performance (particularly in lens quality) as we see in an average product category. We still uncovered differences, but you'll notice that our scores in this review have much tighter ranges than most.
Analysis and Test Results
Sunglasses are an indispensable piece of equipment for outdoor athletes, and are probably one of the few pieces of gear that translate across almost all outdoor recreation disciplines. Somewhat paradoxically, these ubiquitous accessories work best when you can't tell you have them on. Accordingly, our testing focused on things like comfort, lens quality, and eye protection. Our overall scores in the table above represent a product's average performance in all of our tests. Below we focus on how each pair performed in specific testing metrics.
Sunglasses are one of those things that perform a very important function, yet can get out of hand in price when things like branding and subjective style criteria come into play. As we're a performance-oriented bunch, we focused on the functional characteristics outlined below. The resulting price range is pretty functional too. $70 will get you behind a pair of the Tifosi Dolomite 2.0. Check out where it lands on the price-performance chart below - the lower-right corner, meaning it earned a high score yet has the lowest price tag of any model we tested. Our overall favorite, the Oakley Flak 2.0 XL, is one that you'll reach for no matter what you're doing for $163. If road biking is your thing, you might be willing to step past the $200 mark for a pair of the Oakley Jawbreaker Prism Road.
If your sunglasses don't provide adequate protection from sun, wind and dirt, then they're not worth a bacterium's chance at a penicillin convention. We only selected glasses with lenses that offer 100% UV protection, so no worries on the sun front. To test general eye protection we had multiple testers, with different face sizes and shapes, try on each pair to get a sense of the kind of coverage they offered. Then we sent those same testers out into the wild to see if that coverage stayed true when bouncing around on a mountain bike or skipping over rocks during a trail run.
The Oakley Jawbreaker PRIZM Road was the leader in our eye protection testing, earning a score of 9 out of 10. These frames really blur the line between glasses and goggles, offering full wrap around protection in a huge, single lens. They shed wind like a husky in the summertime and are definitely our top choice for high speed activities like road cycling.
Two models tied for second place in our eye protection testing with a score of 8 out of 10. These models, which include the Tifosi Dolomite 2.0, and the Costa Del Mar Brines, offer plenty of protection for most pursuits. Their lenses and frames generally wrap around enough to let moderate wind flow over smoothly. However, they don't have as much face coverage as the Jawbreakers, so we did notice some buffeting around the nose when the wind really picked up, and there's a greater chance of feeling the sting of a high-velocity mosquito splatting on your cheek.
Four different models earned a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric. The Native Hardtop Ultra XPs have fairly large lenses that offer greater than average face coverage, but they don't wrap around very much, so wind and dust can get in from the side. The Costa Del Mar Cat Cay also has large lenses, and wide temples that provide some side coverage. However, most testers noticed that the frame design left small gaps above and below their eyes. The Oakley Flak 2.0 XL, despite the name, have fairly small lenses, but contour to the face so that there are no gaps in coverage. The Native Kodiak has a similar fit, with relatively small lenses but good wrap-around coverage to keep your eyes protected. It's worth noting that the protection of the models with smaller lenses is largely dependent on fit: if the glasses are too small for your face there are likely to be gaps in coverage.
At the bottom of our eye protection scoring were the Native Dash XP and the Smith Parallel Polarized, which earned scores of 5 and 4 out of 10, respectively. The Native Dash XP have fairly small lenses with little coverage, and the top of the frames were annoyingly visible for most of our testers. The Smith Parallel lenses are even smaller and left large gaps below the eyes for most of our testers. Both of these models are ok if you have a very small face, but otherwise are quite lacking.
We've all experienced that nagging pinching in the temple when wearing sunglasses that are a bit too tight, or rocked up to the bar sporting two big red patches on each side of the nose where sunglasses had been digging in all day. All of our testers with all of their variously shaped faces wear each pair for multiple days to assess their general comfort and wearability.
Most of the pairs we tested were relatively comfortable for all of our testers, thus a slew of models shared the top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric (as you can see in the chart above). These models will likely feel good on most face types, and did not produces any hotspots throughout our testing.
Just behind the top scorers were the Native Dash XP, the Costa Del Mar Brine, and the Tifosi Dolomite 2.0. Both of these models garnerd some minor complaints during our testing. The Dash XP's nosepiece could sometimes leave the dreaded red marks, something all the top scorers avoided. The temples on the Costa Del Mar Brine could get a bit itchy when wearing the glasses for a while. The Dolomite 2.0's frame seem to gather dust around the lens, so we found ourselves taking them off to clean them more often than other pairs. None of these flaws were particularly salient when wearing the glasses, but they were noticeable.
The Costa Del Mar Cat Cay scored a 6 out of 10 in our comfort testing. We liked their design, but they weigh a whopping 40 grams. That weight can get a bit annoying after a full day of wearing them, especially if you're doing something bouncey like running or mountain biking. The Oakley Jawbreaker PRIZM Road was the lowest scorer in our comfort testing, earning a 5 out of 10. They are a bit heavy and the straight temples only feel secure when tucked under a helmet strap. They feel good when tucked into a road bike position, but feel comically large and clunky otherwise.
Since all of our lenses offered 100% UV protection, the scores in this metric mainly focused on how well they reduced glare bouncing off of reflective surfaces and how protective they were against direct sunlight (think how much it hurts to scan the horizon on a bright day). We tested this by going outside on bright days and staring at lakes, rivers, and fields of white snow (this is a borderline tortuous activity that we would not recommend). While most of our glasses performed similarly, we did notice some minor differences. Note that we tested all of our glasses with their most popular, standard lenses. Most pairs can be bought with multiple lenses that may change their performance attributes.
Our favorite lenses adorn the Native Dash XP and the Costa Del Mar Brine, which earned scores of 8 out of 10. Both of these models were at the front of the field in terms of both glare reduction and direct sun protection.
After the top models there were a slew of contenders that earned a score of 7 out of 10. Generally these models were weren't as good as the top scorers in terms of glare reduction, but could match them in terms of direct sun protection. The one exception was the Native Hardtop Ultra XP, which offers great glare reduction but seemed to let in a few more direct sun rays.
The low scorer in the metric was the Smith Parallel Polarized, which picked up a 6 out of 10. It was top notch in terms of glare reduction, but it left our eyes hurting significantly more than the other models when looking up at a cliff on those bluebird, cloudless days.
The last thing you want is to invest in some nice glasses only to have the temple break off a few weeks later. We used online user reviews and our own hands on inspection to assess overall durability. We also awarded some extra points in this metric to manufacturers that offer a warranty.
The winner of our frame build testing was the Oakley Flak 2.0 XL, which picked up a score of 8 out of 10. These glasses feel sturdy and like they would bend rather than break, a feeling that is backed up by many online user reviews. The hinges are also stiffer and bulkier than most. However, a less than ideal limited two-year warranty kept if from getting a higher score.
Three separate models shared the runner up score of 7 out of 10. The Tifosi Dolomite 2.0 overall build feels solid, but the plastic hinges feel like they could wear out over time. Tifosi also offers a lifetime limited warranty. The Oakley Jawbreaker PRIZM Road feels nigh indestructible, but Oakley's relatively lame two year warranty lost it some points. The Native Kodiak has a stiff, durable feeling frame and a lifetime limited warranty. However, the hinges do feel slightly on the flimsy side, giving us some small concerns for long-term durability.
Three different models also scored a 6 out of 10 in our frame build testing. All of these models, which included the Native Hardtop Ultra XP, the Costa Del Mar Cat Cay and the Costa Del Mar Brine, have decently built frames on relatively flimsy hinges. They all also have lifetime limited warranties.
At the bottom of the scoreboard were the Smith Parallel Polarized and the Native Dash XP, which scored 5 out of 10 and 4 out of 10, respectively. The Smith Parallel Polarized feel a bit stiff and flimsy, like they would snap easily under pressure. The hinges also feel like they could wear out with normal use. The Native Dash XP is similar, but feels slightly less durable in both regards. Both these models offer limited lifetime warranties.
Having a good case to protect your nice new shades is borderline mandatory if you want them to survive more than few adventures. All of the models we tested include some sort of case. While all of these cases provide decent protection for those times when you want to stuff your glasses into your pack, some are better than others.
In essence, our case quality testing fell into three distinct camps. Models that scored a 9 out of 10 included padded, semi-rigid cases that would likely protect your glasses if they got squished by a water bottle in your pack. Models that scored 8 out of 10 had semi-rigid cases without padding. These probably wouldn't protect your glasses when being squished in the main compartment of your pack, but are durable enough to be tossed in the lid. The only model to score a 7 out of 10, the Smith Parallel Polarized, came with a cloth case/bag. It's great for wiping down the lenses and keeping dirt off, but won't protect the sunglasses if you put them in your pack.
A Note on Fogging
At the start of our testing we expected to see big differences in how much each pair of sunglasses fogged up during aerobic activities. However, we actually found that humidity was a far greater determining factor in how much lenses fogged up than the actual glasses themselves. So, unfortunately, it doesn't seem that any sunglass manufacturers have solved the ideal ventilation riddle.
Beyond being a stellar fashion statement, sunglasses are a critical piece of equipment for almost every outdoor endeavor. We hope our testing results have led you to your ideal pair that will accompany you on many adventures to come.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata