Boaters have a unique need when it comes to sunglasses. Buying the right pair can come down to a choice between fashion and function, but when you know what’s out there, it might be easier for you to get the best of both. Marine conditions are different than land conditions, so boaters should always be on the lookout for shades made specifically for use on the water to guarantee the best protection for their eyes and the best features for longevity.
Fortunately, the collection of sunglasses available to boaters includes everything from basic UV protective sport models to high-end designer sunglasses designed to fit perfectly with that custom mega-yacht. If you’re limited by a budget, make sure that you narrow your selection immediately so that you don’t accidentally fall in love with those high-end shades that probably cost more than your budget car.
Waterhaul Sunglasses. Photo: Waterhaul.
What to Look for in Boating Sunglasses
Because of the water’s reflection, light is much brighter on the water than it is on land, which can impair your vision and result in headaches and general fatigue. Even basic sunglasses can still require squinting and leave eyes overexposed to harmful UV rays and potential light damage. Here are the most important elements to look for.
Polarized Sunglasses for Fishing
If you can see the fish you’ll probably have an easier time catching them! This is where polarized sunglasses come in. Polarized glasses filter out certain lightwaves and cut down on the surface glare, allowing you to see through the water clearer to spot fish below the waterline.
Construction and Components
Every component on the sunglasses is important, especially over time. Metal hinges will rust when exposed to salty air and ocean water, and aluminum components will corrode. Certain plastics may also melt in the hot sun out on the water. For sportfishing you’ll definitely want to be sure to find a pair of glasses with wrap-around frames that are built to stay in place during intense physical activity.
Any sunglasses used for boating need to be made with a polarized lens or polarized coating that blocks 100% of all UVA and UVB rays. Polarization filters out the excess glare that you get from light reflecting off the water, and it ensures that things look clear and vision isn’t distorted. Many polarized lenses will also filter out yellow and blue light to reduce harshness on the eyes, as well.
There is never a more important time to have durable sunglasses than when you are boating. While style can be a factor, you definitely want to choose frames that are made of durable plastic or composite materials that are going to stand up to all of the elements. If you’re on saltwater a lot, avoid metal frames. of course, metal frames, in general, are much less durable, but for things like yachting where style trumps function, it might not be as big of an issue. Think about your boating habits and choose accordingly.
Color Tinted Sunglasses
The lens color affects the way that sunglasses work on the water because different colors and densities will absorb different levels of light. In boating, visible light transmission should be between 15 and 30 percent, and the darkest lenses should be used on the brightest days.
Here is what each lens color is designed for (hint: it’s more than fashion):
This offers a neutral color that reduces glare and has no color distortion. Stick with this color to reduce switching sunglasses between land and sea. For bright sunny days offshore where the light is very intense, grey/blue tinted lenses will help to darken the light more.
Lenses of this shade are great for high-contrast situations and everyday use. Copper or amber lenses enhance contrast and are preferred by most fishermen on cloudy days.
This color will increase visual acuity while also enhancing color and delivering a brighter field of vision for fishing, sport shooting, and extreme water sports.
These are great for snow and cutting through fog, but they are also the worst for color distortion.
Green is great for sight fishing and other focused lighting situations, but many boaters also enjoy them for daily use.
Lenses should always be coated with a scratch-resistant coating or made with a material that resists damage and scratches. Boating requires extra protection with everything, including premium scratch resistance to protect against drops, falling in the water, debris flying out of the water, and other situations that could arise.
Those who wear prescription glasses already may be able to invest in a solid pair of prescription sunglasses that are designed for boating, as well. Many optical centers and glasses retailers have a full selection of sunglasses that can be customized with the appropriate lenses, lens colors, frames, and other elements to make them ideal for boating.
The List: The Best Sunglasses for Boating
Without further ado, here is the list of the best sunglasses on the market for boaters today, including high-end and sporty styles for almost every need and desire.
This is our favorite choice for truly eco-conscious “green” sunglasses. Waterhaul was started in Newfoundland when a purpose-driven team sought a better way to deal with recycled ocean plastic and fishing nets than just disposing of the waste. In an effort to promote conservancy among boaters and water lovers around the world, Waterhaul makes a full line of 100% recycled sunglasses made from ocean plastic that is collected during waste hauls.
For the right price of just $125 US, boaters can get their hands on the Kynance or Fitzroy sunglasses from Waterhaul, which offer UVA/UVB 400 protection and polarized mineral glass lenses that feature a high scratch resistance. Each pair includes sustainable packaging and a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.
Costa del Mar
Costa offers a full variety of boating sunglasses, including the popular Fantail model, which features polycarbonate lenses that are polarized and colored to block harsh yellow light and absorb blue light energy. Their selection includes men’s and women’s frames, lenses, and complete pairs. The polarized collections start around $200, making them a fairly budget-friendly option for boating that’s still stylish. Plus, they come from a leader in marine eyewear, allowing boaters to trust they are getting quality products with durable construction.
Costa also offers select frames and styles for prescription use, available at limited retailers around the world and online.
Ray-Ban took the market in the 1980s and the Clubmaster is one of their most popular styles that is designed for boating. These glasses feature a minimalist design and offer a higher-end finish for yachting and other luxury boating, as well as general enjoyment on the water. Plus, they’re reasonably priced under $200, making them a great choice for any budget.
Already known the world over as a performance sunglass giant, Oakley’s Frogskins offer a classic design with all the features that you need for protection on the water. The glasses come with amber lenses for the optimal contrast and protection from UV rays and harsh light. Oakley also has a collection of much more unique styles and trendy designs, but those looking for a classic style can definitely count on the Frogskin model.
Another beach classic, the Wayfarer has been a leading frame for Ray-Ban for a number of years. The frames come in classic designs and the new Pop collection with bright blue and other finishes. They include polarized lenses that are available in gray or yellow, the latter of which blocks most blue light and 85% of all light to protect the eyes. The Wayfarer Pop collection is perfect for people who want to make more of a statement, and the price tag is still in the $200 range, leaving another budget-friendly option for boaters.
Pescador by Costa del Mar
We already talked about the brand in general, but the Pescador deserves a special mention. This pair of sunglasses is made from recycled fishing nets and plastic pollution, offering a larger frame and optional side shields to block out more light and make it easier to see fish, which makes them popular among anglers of all kinds. Boaters can choose from blue or a silver-copper mirror finish in the lens, as well as rubber frames in blue or gray.
This brand was founded by brothers that are also avid sailboat racers, and it now has a cult-like following among pro racers and sailors. These premium racing glasses are designed to offer the best protection and least distortion for high-speed performance without ruining the view. The lenses are fully polarized and protect from 100% of UV rays, made from SR-91, which is a proprietary composite that includes a shatterproof design and less distortion, as well as better scratch resistance than standard polycarbonate lenses.
Whether it’s the popular Alekona women’s style or any of the men’s frames designed for use on the water, Maui Jim has plenty of performance sunglasses for all types of boating uses. All of the glasses include stylish frames with the best lenses and come in a variety of sizes and styles. Maui Jim specializes in modern style and design features, with that laid-back beach vibe in every single pair.
Nautique Optix Mahogany Cruiser
These unique sunglasses offer a traditional nautical design with a classic wooden frame, which is something that boaters who love their wooden crafts will definitely appreciate. Inspired by classic wooden boats, these glasses include a protective clear coat to keep the wood safe from water damage and salt spray. At this time, these are not able to be made into prescription glasses, but they do offer a cool style for people who want something more original. Plus, they’re still right in the $200 price range, which makes them fit with most other popular styles in the category of boating sunglasses.
How to Choose The Best Boat Sunglasses
When it comes to boating sunglasses, the lenses should always be your first priority. You need to choose lenses that are designed to offer the right protection and still give you the visibility that you need. It is important to consider sizes and styles that fit your face appropriately for the best protection, as well. Whether you are shopping for yourself or the boater in your life, there are some considerations that you need to keep in mind. The lens shape will need to fit the face shape for the ideal fit, although many styles can work with a single face shape, so there are options for everyone.
In order to find the right fit and function for your boating needs, the lens style is probably going to be one of your biggest considerations. There are a number of available styles to choose from, including:
- Aviator glasses (featuring a droplet shape designed for facial contours)
- Cat-eye glasses
- Clip-on lenses for prescription lenses with a flip-up feature
- Fisherman glasses that block unnecessary lightwaves
- Wrap-around lenses and frames for extreme sports/boating
- Double-bridge glasses for added durability
How to Find Your Fit
Sunglasses need to “fit your face”, but a lot of people don’t understand what that means. When you put on the glasses, you should be able to line up your center of focus with the optical center of the lens. This can be more difficult with off-the-shelf sunglasses that aren’t custom prescribed or made-to-order. Lens size, overall width, and temple length are the measurements used to provide sunglass sizing. Consider lightweight designs to avoid causing headaches as a result of glasses that are too heavy on the nose.
Budget: Is it Relevant?
While some people will say that budget matters a lot, when it comes to these sunglasses, you can see that most of the bestselling and most well-known brands offer reasonable prices that are all in the same range. With the exception of designer brands, you don’t really see a huge variance in pricing when it comes to boating sunglasses. Keep in mind, of course, that you get what you pay for. Those $20 shades from the pharmacy might get you through the weekend, but your eyes deserve better. At the very least, buy sunglasses from a reputable brand familiar with boating.
Boating sunglasses come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. There is truly something for everyone, from basic glasses to designer frames that will blend perfectly with that superyacht. With so much selection, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a style that you like. Just remember to choose frames and lenses designed for the best protection and most durable use to get the most from your sunglasses purchase. Any of the brands and styles discussed in this guide will be sure to deliver everything that you need and more.
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