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Sometimes it can be difficult for others to understand the limits that mountaineers will climb to in order to scale that next summit. Too often, mountaineers feel they have to justify the huge investments in time and resources for a peek at the next peak that piques their interest. But when it comes to the gear that you depend on when ascending the steep face of a mountainside, it does not pay to cut corners. Mountaineering sunglasses are good for blocking out sunlight and provide a larger field of view, while protecting the eyes from dust and pebbles or UV rays. They can also have additional side shields for further protection or sweat guards to avoid sweat dripping into the eyes of the mountaineer.

Mountaineers need equipment that can handle the most demanding of conditions, and usually at a more demanding cost. You simply can’t use rope bought from the nearest hardware store to rappel up a cliff face, nor can you use your biking helmet for a climbing one. In a way, everything a mountaineer relies on specializes in the task of mountain climbing; after all, crampons don’t have many uses in the city.

In the case of sunglasses, some believe that standard sunglasses, especially the expensive versions, should stand in fairly well on assent. While understandable, there are differences between the two that helps mountaineering sunglasses rise above their cousins in terms of usefulness when reaching the top. If you’re debating whether or not a set of sunglasses designed for mountaineering is worth it, feast your eyes on these features that you’ll want to have from your next set of eyewear.

Making Light of It

Mountaineers encounter sunlight storming in from every direction, as it illuminates not only from above but also reflects off the mountainside and nearly every other surface. Climbing in a snowy location may result in potential snow blindness due to the intense glare. Therefore, mountaineering sunglasses feature lenses much darker than those of regular sunglasses to offset the additional brilliance.

The more advanced sunglasses offer Camel Lenses which change their darkness levels, so they aren’t too dark to wear on an overcast day, nor are they too light for a day in full sunlight. These are also good to have near dawn or at sunset when the sunlight changes. Darkness levels typically change within the +2 to +4 range, making the lenses perfect for most climbing conditions.

You can also have removable side shields near the stems of your sunglasses, giving you that much more protection from the sunlight. Optional sweat guards near your forehead not only block light but also prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes.

Lens with Benefits

On regular sunglasses, the lens sizes can vary enormously depending on the style they are. For mountaineers, their lenses will be much wider to give their eyes a much larger field of view and protection from dust and loose pebbles coming from the mountainside. One trait that both versions of sunglasses share is having 100% UV protection, which becomes very important when the atmosphere gets thinner at higher altitudes, letting in a higher percentage of UV rays.

The lenses in mountaineering sunglasses are usually shatter and scratchproof and otherwise are more durable than their regular sunglasses counterparts, a feature you’ll appreciate if you find yourself hugging the rock face during a typically strenuous climb.

Having a Fit

Perhaps more than the fashion-oriented nature of regular sunglasses, mountaineering sunglasses prioritize the fit of the frame, featuring flexible frames and stems designed for a more comfortable experience. Mountaineers will have other tasks at hand, and they don’t need the additional hassle of adjusting poorly fitting rigid sunglasses. Some models also have adjustable temples and nosepieces for a more personalized, comfortable fit.

As mountaineers spend a lot of time with their sights held high, the weight of their sunglasses doesn’t rest just on the bridge of their noses, but around the eyes as well, distributing the weight evenly and without digging into the skin. Climbing a mountain will probably make you ache in a few places, but your face shouldn’t be one of them.

Material Evidence

Mountaineering sunglasses also typically use lighter composite materials, not just for enhanced durability but also to reduce weight. Regular sunglasses usually avoid incorporating carbon or titanium to achieve toughness and lightness, but mountaineers value these features as they wear their eyewear throughout their climb.

And seeing as most climbers have smacked their sunglasses into rock at least once in their tenure (that they’ll admit to); it’s a good idea to have a pair that are well made and suited to the purpose of mountaineering.

Dropping the Subject

Mountaineering sunglasses have places to easily attach lanyards in case they’re ever dropped. If regular sunglasses get dropped, you just have to kneel down to collect them. However, if a mountaineer drops their sunglasses, unless it’s at camp, it’s probably not so easy to get them back again. Having that added attachment offers a bit of peace of mind.

Some frames even have a strap that fit around the back of the head, akin to swimming goggles, to prevent dropping and slipping while climbing. While this sounds extreme, losing your sunglasses is more than a minor nuisance when climbing, possibly slowing down or even ending a climb.

The Eyes Have It

So in the end, mountaineering sunglasses do offer some features that keep mountaineers on the top of their game. Nothing against regular sunglasses, mind you. They certainly have their place, but we don’t think it’s on the side of a mountain. In a sport such as mountaineering where it’s a matter of personal safety, only mountaineering sunglasses are designed to be looking out for you.

Companies such as Jublo, Adidas, and Rudy Project have put in extensive research into creating the best sunglasses for those who are determined to climb their way to the apex of their next conquest. You’ll be seeing many beautiful sights on your treks up and down the mountainside and safety, including your vision, should be your first priority. So see to it that you pack a pair of mountaineering sunglasses along with your helmet and harness. Your eyesight will thank you.