Are you planning a grand mountaineering adventure, and want to make sure you don’t miss out on any key gear components when packing up for your trek? Don’t embark on your outdoor adventure without a quality pair of glacier glasses!
For extensive mountaineering excursions, you’re going to need to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays with the best glacier glasses on the market.
Not sure what to look for?
You’ve come to the right place. Check out our buying guide to the best glacier glasses, plus the top 5 best glacier glasses available that you’ll want to consider snagging before heading out on your trek.
Here’s exactly what you need to know about choosing the best glacier sunglasses for you.
If you’re new to the concept of glacier glasses or have never owned a pair before, you might be thinking, why use glacier glasses? What makes them better than regular UV protectant sunglasses?
We’re glad you asked!
If you’re going to be hiking up a lofty mountain, in windy regions where you’re very exposed to the elements, or other high-exposure areas, it is critical to protect your eyes from potential damage. The higher the altitude and the thinner the area you’re hiking in gets, the stronger the UVB rays are. It’s not just your skin that has the potential to get burned—but your eyes too.
It’s pretty hard to predict the weather to precision sometimes, particularly if you’re going to be embarking on a lengthy trek. The weather forecast may predict cloudy skies, when suddenly you get to a crest in the mountain and sunlight streams down with a blinding force.
The good news is, with the best glacier sunglasses in your gear, you’ll be prepared for any sun that comes your way and protect your eyes from damage and burning.
Remember, the higher the altitude you’re hiking in the thinner the surrounded atmosphere is. So, higher altitudes mean way more UV radiation, making it paramount to have the best glacier glasses on hand at all times.
The UV rays elevate anywhere from 10 to 12% every 1,000 meters and can increase further if you’re hiking in snowy or icy regions where the light will reflect.
Whether you’re going to be hiking in an arctic region or regular, snowy area, the reflection of the sun on the snow can cause severe damage to your eyes. Known by its official name, photokeratitis, snow blindness is essentially what happens when your eyeballs are sunburnt.
Photokeratitis can blind you temporarily, occurring when the cornea becomes inflamed from too much exposure to damaging UV rays. The condition commonly happens when hiking on mountains where the snow can transmit and reflect beyond 80% of the powerful rays of the sun.
Even if you’re not dealing with snow, high altitudes where the sun is strong can have the same effect. White sand and water also reflect the sun, and can lead to similar consequences if you don’t protect your eyes properly.
A key component of picking the best glacier glasses for your outdoor adventures is understanding the difference between UV vs. VLT and what these terms mean for your purchase. UV, or Ultraviolet Radiation, is a type of light comprised of 3 parts known as UVB, UVA, and UVC light. UVC isn’t typically as much of an issue because the atmosphere helps to shield your eyes from that type of exposure.
However, UVA and UVB light can pose a real threat to your corneas. UVA and UVB levels elevate substantially as your altitude rises. The best glacier glasses are going to provide you protection against all 3 types of UV bands.
VLT is short for Visible Light Transmission and is a measuring stick for the amount of light that can escape through your lens and into your eyes. For example, some of the best glacier glasses for hiking have VLT ratings between 23 and 25%, while others are far lower at a mere 5%.
Most of the time, you’re going to be adequately protected by glacier glasses with a VLT ranging from 5 to 10%.
It’s essential to choose the right type of lens when hunting for the best glacier sunglasses for your outdoor expedition. Lenses have ratings ranging from 1 to 4, based on the level of UV protection they offer. There is also a 0 rating, but 0 rated lenses are usually clear and designed for safety rather than UV light.
A lens with a rating of 1 is going to be more for style than functionality, so this type won’t be an ideal choice for extensive mountaineering. Category 1 lenses usually allow in 45 to 80% of UV rays. A lens with a 2 rating is something you would wear out and about in your city, which transmits between 20 to 45% of UV rays.
Lenses with a rating of 3 are going to be some of the best glacier glasses to protect you in high altitudes. Category 3 lenses ward off as much as 80% of UV rays and are a solid option to protect your eyes. If you want to take things up to the next level and provide an extra barrier to shield your eyes, lenses with a rating of 4 are going to serve you really well in high altitudes.
Category 4 lenses offer the highest level of protection from UV rays with a quality, low VLT rating. As a note, you should not wear category 4 lenses when driving. Because they only transmit 3 to 8% of the sun’s rays, you’d best wear them at locations like the mountain or at the sea.
The type of coating you can expect for the best glacier glasses is really going to depend on the brand you go with, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for anti-scratch coating to extend the life of your mountaineering glasses. Anti-fog coating is another handy feature as is hydrophobic coating, which helps repel rain and dampness.
The most common materials used for the best glacier glasses are glass, polycarbonate, polyurethane, and plastic. Glass resists scratches really well, but isn’t quite as durable. Polycarbonate is super durable but is more vulnerable to scratches.
Polyurethane is the priciest material you can pick, but is resistant to breaking, scratches, and has a really long shelf life. Polyurethane lenses don’t typically require any coating either.
Plastic is definitely not as durable and won’t give you the best views, but this is one of the most affordable materials on the market. For the best glacier glasses though, it’s best to use a more durable material.
Here’s what you need to know about the top 5 best glacier glasses. Check out the pros and cons of each and keep scrolling for the final winner from the top 5.
The first best glacier glasses selection on our list is by premier manufacturer Julbo. These glasses are an ideal choice for hiking at high altitudes, with an ergonomic design to shield your eyes from the wind and other damaging elements. They offer quality coverage, so your face will stay nice and cool even when the sun is beating down.
We really liked the vented components of the Julbo Explorer 2.0 Sunglasses, featuring an adjustable grip insert for the glasses bridge. These best glacier glasses also sport an integrated Grip Tech design, so your shades won’t slip off when you’re scaling the mountain.
Something that really impressed us was that you can pick between 4 different lenses and 7 styles of frames when selecting your Julbo Explorer 2.0 Sunglasses. The 360-degree adjustment options are an added bonus too. For high altitude mountaineering, the Spectron 4 with 5% rated VLTs and a polycarbonate design are your best bet.
The Julbo Monterosa Sunglasses made it to our list of the best glacier sunglasses for their durable design and light frame. The frame of these glacier glasses is definitely smaller than our previous pick but features sufficient side shields that you can remove if you need to.
While some glacier glasses really look different than regular sunglasses, the design of the Julbo Monterosa Sunglasses looks much more like the traditional variety but with way more UV protection.
We liked the grip tech near the temples and slots where you can insert a cord to ensure the glasses don’t slip off and away during a tough hike. The fit of these glacier glasses is excellent, and they are very comfortable to wear. You can purchase these best glacier glasses with a Category 4 lens for optimal protection, but you won’t have as many color selections to pick from.
The next best glacier glasses selection on our list is the mighty Revo RE 1036 Traverse Aviator, with a solid bridge that stays in place. You won’t be able to remove the bridge, which is only really an issue if you want more breathing room in warmer weather. The good news is, you can adjust and take off the side shields as needed.
One of the features that drew us to these glacier glasses is their incredibly lightweight design with a quality grip that stays.
The Blue Water model of the Revo RE 1036 Traverse Aviator sports a polarized lens with 100% protection from UV rays and multiple layers of surface and mirror coating. We also loved that these glasses are resistant to things like oil, water, sweat, and even fingerprints! They are resistant to breakage and feature a digital polarized design too.
The Tifosi Dolomite glacier glasses feature impressive ventilation, with open sides at the rear of the arm and shielding near the frame for extra breathing room. We also liked the dual slots these best glacier glasses feature, so your lenses won’t fog up.
Designed from decentered polycarbonate, the Tifosi Dolomite 2.0 Wrap Sunglasses are pretty resistant to breaks and cracks and ensure you see the road ahead of you clearly without any warping.
While these glacier glasses aren’t polarized for extra glare protection, they do shield you 100% from damaging UV sunlight. We like that you can adjust the nosepiece on these glacier glasses as you prefer to fit the size and shape of your face. The ear pieces are also manufactured with hydrophilic rubber for extra flexibility.
The final pick for the best glacier glasses is another exceptional product by Julbo, with a unisex design that works well for both men and women with average head sizes. We liked the moderate lens depth of these best glacier glasses with a 19 mm bridge, 110 mm temple length, and Category 3 rating.
You won’t have to worry about these glacier glasses slipping off on rough trails, because the arms wrap around the lobes for a perfect fit.
We love that you can remove the shields on the Julbo Eyewear Unisex Sherpa Spectron 3 glasses if you see fit, which are made from durable, high quality leather. The frame is very light but manufactured with excellent composite components to ensure these glasses serve you well for many adventures to come.
These best glacier glasses are also much more wallet friendly than some of the other picks on our list. If you are looking for an affordable, high quality option, to offer the UV protection you need without breaking the bank, this could be for you.
In truth, we were really impressed by all the best glacier glasses on our list in terms of durability, UV protection, category levels, user-friendly design, and cool, bonus features. Still, the final winner from the bunch in our book is the Julbo Explorer 2.0 Sunglasses.
We absolutely loved the ergonomic design and quality face coverage it affords to protect your face from the wind and sun. We also really liked the integrated Grip Tech design to keep the shades from slipping off your nose. We thought it was fantastic that you can pick from 4 different lenses and 7 frame styles to suit your preference, with the powerful Spectron 4, 5% rated VLT being our favorite.
Plus, the extremely durable polycarbonate design is great. For fantastic lens ratings, plenty of model options, quality materials, and a functional design, it doesn’t get much better than the Julbo Explorer 2.0 Sunglasses.