Everyone knows the importance of sun protection. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause painful sunburns, leading to uncomfortable hikes, and intense heat can lead to heatstrokes. That's why our list of essential safety tips for hikers recommended using products like sunscreen to prevent burns and long-term skin damage. However, your eyes are especially vulnerable to the sun while hiking—which is why we also suggest wearing protective eyewear.
A crucial reason for this is the sun's glare, which can obstruct your vision. After all, you can't hike safely if you can't see where you're going. So, keep reading if you want to find out why this is important and how to pick the right glasses to provide you with ample protection:
Why is it important to protect your eyes from glare?
Even if you're not looking directly at the sun, you can still experience discomfort and damage to your eyes because of the sun's glare. The intensity of overhead sunlight or rays reflected off surfaces like water or snow can obscure your vision and even burn them temporarily, causing a condition known as photokeratitis. Health experts, therefore, emphasize the importance of eye care under the sun, as photokeratitis is often characterized by severe eye pain. This has the potential to cause accidents outdoors. In extreme cases, it can actually result in blindness.
You can protect your eyes by wearing a wide-brimmed hat in hot weather, like our bucket hat. It's durable, lightweight, and can shield your eyes from the sun for hours while hiking. However, this may not protect your eyes from sunlight coming from lower angles, like reflective sun beams off the water or snow or rays during sunrise or sunset.
That makes it crucial to wear sunglasses with your hat. However, not all sunglasses are created equal. So, here are a few factors to consider to ensure they can effectively cut out glare:
How to choose the best sunglasses for glare protection
Consider its UV protection levels
Sunglasses have different protection levels. For this scenario, you'll need a pair with a label that indicates "100% protection against both UVA and UVB" or "100% protection against UV 400." These are the highest UV protection ratings offered by eyewear companies. For old pairs without labels, you can take them to your optometrist. They'll use a photometer to determine the sunglasses' UV protection level.
If you're buying a new pair, it’s worth considering models like Pela Case's Sulu sunglasses. These don't just offer complete UVA/UVB protection—their frames are also made from durable flax shive and plant-based biopolymers, perfect for eco-conscious hikers who don't like plastic sunglasses but need a sturdy pair for outdoor use.
Get prescription lenses for enhanced vision
Aside from UV protection, you should consider getting prescription lenses if you need vision correction. Getting prescription sunglasses is better than opting for clip-ons or transition lenses because they offer better protection from glare and UV rays. They're also more convenient to use compared to clip-ons that can easily get lost and transition lenses that take time to darken.
If you have specific eye conditions that need addressing for safer hikes, you can even order prescription sunglasses with specialized lenses. For example, you can get bifocals if you're farsighted and progressive lenses for astigmatism. You can get these on a number of frames, making it simpler to buy sustainable sunglasses like the recycled Arnette AN4294 TYPE Z to ensure visual clarity as well as glare and UV protection on your next hike.
Opt for polarized lenses on your sunglasses
This is arguably the most crucial factor to consider if you want to cut out glare. Polarized sunglasses have a filter that creates vertical openings for light, blocking horizontal rays that cause glare. This ultimately increases visual comfort for hours of hiking.
A great polarized pair to look at is Costa Del Mar's Santiago sunglasses. They use green-tinted lenses specifically designed to cut out glare from the sun's reflection on the water. They're also eco-friendly: over 97% of their frames are recycled from fishing nets.
Protecting your eyes from glare is a must when spending time outdoors. Make sure to look for the above factors in the sunglasses you use for maximum safety and comfort.