Oakley makes some excellent sunglasses, no question. I assume you mean polarized, which is great if you're going to be around snow or water, where there's a lot of glare. Otherwise, polarization is added expense you may not need. Look for high UVA and UVB protection. My personal preference is a Smith amber lens, which works well in varied light conditions, like shaded canopy as well as bright sunlight. Just try on a lot of different styles to find a comfortable fit. My advice is to get a good lanyard, too-I once lost an expensive pair of sunglasses when I took a spill crossing a creek. They were on top of my cap at the time I went under and never could find them. Of course, I still think they were the best sunglasses I ever had.
No such thing as glasses that can't be lost or broken, so consider that when budgeting. Oakleys and Revos are probably the most expensive and are both certainly nice.
Since you're anticipating varied conditions you might consider interchangeable lenses--with very dark for sunny snow travel and lighter ones for cold and fog.
Plastic or glass lenses, polarized, photochromatic, plastic/metal frames, wraparound...the choices are endless. And yes, losing them is a pain--I've done that myself, as well as broken them and had screws vanish.
As a result, I always buy them on sale so it's not as painful when they're gone.
I'm not an expert here, since I don't hike in the west and don't have the same issues with such things as sun glare off the snow fields above treeline. So, I can't recommend any brand or design features to look for.
However, the last couple of posts, alluding to lost and broken glasses, reminded me of something I read somewhere: always carry a spare pair, because of the severity of the problems that can result from losing or breaking yours. So, should you be budgeting for two pairs?
I have a pair of Ray Ban Wayfarer that I've had for 1.5 year. I got a pair of Costa Del Mars that I've had for 6 years. I love my Wayfarer for when I'm town and I have worn it in the backcountry before. (Do mountain men wear Wayfarer?!?) I've worn my Costa Del Mar from fishing trips to hiking trips, and mountain biking. And running.. It been my every day sunglasses and activities sunglasses. Never lost nor broken a high dollar sunglass in my life. I do have two other Ray Bans that I never wear. (They were a gift.)
Edit: Amber lens works very well hiking.(My Costa are amber lens.) But I can imagine if you're above the tree line in the snow you might want darker lens.
Edited by ETSU Pride (09/29/1302:52 PM)
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart
I had a pair of Ray Bans that went to pieces when I started backpacking with them. Since then I buy 20-30 dollar pairs, including a pair of glacier glasses, which are too dark for driving (warning sticker on them tells you not to use them for that). Been through quite a few that have been scratched, broken, or just lost. I don't carry a second pair backpacking but keep a spare in the glove box.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I'll chime in because I have two kids that sell sunglasses for living. One works at Sunglass Hut, the other kid works at an Oakley store. Their parent company is the worlds largest retailer of glasses, both sun and prescription, and they own Ray Bans and Oakley among other brands. Because of this I've got some great gifts of expensive sunglasses over the years.
First, most any plastic lens will filter UV light, even clear lenses. Polarized lenses reduce glare. I always wear polarized lenses that filter UV.
From the starting point you're really looking at len "optics" (clarity and distortion). Quality lenses have great optics. Ray Bans, Oakleys, and Maui Jim's all have high quality lenses, and then there's also the quality of the frames. They all offer different styles and types of frames, and all of them are high quality, but some of them are better suited for hiking and rough use.
Of those three brands, Maui Jim's are my own personal favorite. They're incredibly lightweight, very comfortable, and quite durable. The frames are very flexible and not prone to breaking. Most Oakleys are OSHA approved safety glasses, and you can easily change out the lenses in some of their styles.
That said, Ray Bans, Oakleys, and Maui Jim's are all way over priced. I would never pay what my kids sell them for and you can get good optics and frames in much less expensive glasses.
Wal-Mart is the second largest retailer of sunglasses and most of what they sell is crap. To test them hold the lenses away from your face, look through them as you move them slightly up and down while focusing on something in the distance to see the distortion in the lenses. They're awful. That distortion can actually damage your vision if you wear them a lot. To test clarity in the store you really need to hold a good pair next to any other pair. That's about impossible to do in Wal-Mart unless you bring them yourself.
Oakley's and Ray Bans are now made in China. Maui Jim's are made in Italy and Japan. I think it's safe to say that about all the sunglasses in Wal-Mart are made in China.
You can buy good Chinese sunglasses for comparably very cheap at www.AliExpress.com. You have to wait a few weeks to receive them because they are shipped via a slow boat from China. The glasses you find there can be low quality crap, or they can be pretty darn good. Generally speaking, the more you pay the better they will be.
They sell knock-offs of both Ray Ban and Oakley there pretty cheap too. Be aware that they are knock-offs and you can't legally resell them in the U.S. You can buy no-name Wayfarer knock-offs for as little as $1 a pair there, but the lenses are crap. Earlier this year I bought a pair of Oakley knock-offs for about $15 and they were pretty good. Not as good as genuine Oakleys, but much better than most Wal-Mart crap. I bought a few other pair there too. One pair was a $6 pair of metal framed polarized Aviators. Those are a pretty weak design, even the Ray Bans will get easily bent, but the cheapos I bought weren't too bad. The optics were pretty good considering the price. For comparison, I also bought a box of a dozen "Wayfarers in Fashion Colors" for $1 a pair ($12 for the box). The frames on those were pretty good, but the lenses were crap. Almost exactly what you get at Wal-Mart for $15-$20.
For those who might care, the best sunglasses for fishing are polarized and have a light tan colored polarized lens. Most fishing glasses are polarized now and most have a dark grey lens. They both let you see "Under water", any polarized lens helps with that, but the lighter tan lenses let you see much further under water because they let more of the light get to your eyes. I've tested this throughly myself with many types of lenses in many colors and shades of darkness and had many friends test it too over many years while fishing.
And I'll +1 on getting a lanyard for your glasses. I don't like hanging them around my neck at all, but it's the only way I can keep from trashing or losing them.
I generally don't wear my sunglasses when I bushwhack anymore, they get snagged up on branches if you let them hang off a lanyard. I've broken them doing that, so now I bring a soft case (a soft drawstring bag made for them) and put them in my pack. If I were traveling like you intend to, I'd bring a hard case and I'd use it.
When the pack goes on, eye pro (eye protection) goes on, day or night, heavy scrub or light knee-high grass. An eye injury of any level of severity on the trail will inevitably become infected and nasty. At least one pair of each tinted (to your preference) and clear is a must going into the woods.
If you can't afford to lose it, you'd better protect it.
If your a slave to fashion and like the pricier models a very good alternative brand is Wiley X. They have a few decent priced wrap a rounds that have interchangeable color shields They also have impact safe glasses that are good for the shooting sports. I owned a pair of PT1's for a while, until I left them at the boat ramp.
After doing a bit of reading on sunglasses and their effectiveness one of the priorities as in almost all gear is fit. You cannot prevent all UV damage if the coverage is poor. Also glare can be a problem driving with poor fitting glasses. I prefer the bug eye styles that fit the eye sockets better. By design, for me, they block out more light and less apt to allow projectiles to get between the lenses and my eyes.
As mentioned above I would sooner buy 2 pairs to one at the same money. To many lakes have swallowed my shades while paddling, not to mention the awful sound of butt crunching a favorite pair on the car seat. I too like the 20-30 dollar range. Not so hard to take when the inevitable happens.
Loc: Central Michigan
I don't have much advice on brands of glasses. I will say get yourself a good hard case to hook on your pack. That way you will know where they are if your not wearing them and they will be somewhat safe. I have an old hard case that stays on my pack loop.
I don't think brand matters as much as fit and comfort. I I have a pair of Smith's and Maui Jim's glasses both are great. I like amber lens, too. Personally, I prefer glass or glass blend lenses. They are a little heavier, but stand up to scratching better and have better optics.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
When the pack goes on, eye pro (eye protection) goes on, day or night, heavy scrub or light knee-high grass.
That's good advice. I've scratch my eyes a few times while bushwhacking and I'm pretty careful. I'm already carrying reading and sun glasses, adding a clear pair feels like too much, but I agree that protecting your eyes is important. I will stop and put on my sunglasses when I'm in heavy brush, but generally only after I've already had a close call
My first post! I too faced this question when planning a 200+ mile cycling trip living out of just our panniers. My end solution? Contractors glasses. They are super light, scratch and shatter resistant, and best of all they usually cost next to nothing. I prefer a well fitting pair of safety glasses (not like in chemistry) that cost me 10 or 15 bucks and don't break my heart if I sit them down and forget to pick them back up. In addition, the glasses I wore on that trip did a wonderful job of blocking wind from my eyes and that says a lot given the windy nature of the trail we were riding. I agree with the statement about trying to wear eye protection anytime the pack is on. I don't adhere to that philosophy religously but I nearly lost my eye walking away from the tent to take a wizz so I can see where it applies even when least expected.
I have found that I really need two pairs of glasses; one for snow and the other for regular travel. Everything I have had that work on snow screen out too much of the view in shadows to work for regular hiking, particularly off-trail. It is really hard to hop talus if all the shadow area is black. I use glacier goggles on snow, and then cheap regular sunglasses for hiking. Because I really trash my sunglasses and loose them often, I buy cheaper glasses and just replace them yearly. I once had $200 transition prescription bifocals, and lost them - spent hours looking for them but to no avail. They darkened shadows too much, so I took them off while hopping boulders and put them in my pocket. They evidently fell out - the pocket had a button but not a zipper.