Gearing up to head into the mountains fills your mind and body with both excitement and a healthy dose of fear. You have your jacket keeping you warm, a map to get you to the peak, and enough supplies to keep you going for a week. However, you can never leave camp without remembering an essential part of any mountain explorers kit: your glacier glasses.
When you are getting higher and higher off the ground, you need special equipment to protect your body from the more substantial elements that are thrown at you. For glacier glasses, they are the only thing keeping the intensified UV rays from ruining your eyes and damaging your vision. Without the right pair of glacier glasses, you could return from your mountain expedition and have vision issues for the rest of your life.
Before you start running around trying to find a pair of glasses to save your eyes on the mountains, we want to give you some guidance. We understand that having a quality and effective piece of equipment is what every explorer wants in their kit.
By looking at 10 of the best glacier glasses, we will give you some insights as to why you need them, how they work, and what you should look for when buying your own pair. We’ve examined these glasses for their effectiveness, features, and price so that you have all the options you could want when taking on your next adventure.
Julbo Explorer 2.0
Julbo Vermont Classic
Tifosi Dolomite 2.0
Yodo Fit Over Glasses
To get a sense of what glacier glasses are and why they are an important part of every climber’s kit, we need to take a deeper look into what makes them unique. Unless you have done some climbing before or are aware of what it takes to take on a serious mountain expedition, it is possible you never heard of these glasses before. No matter your background, we want to give you as much help in understanding what glacier glasses offer so you can pick the best pair for your needs.
Upon first glance, a pair of glacier glasses may just look like any other pair of sports glasses that you would wear around town. Where glacier glasses stand out among the crowd is by being created for a very specific situation: mountain climbing. When you are climbing a mountain, you can imagine that the conditions experienced are unlike anything else on the planet.
From the bitter winds to the endless sea of white, the cold and weather are only some of your worries. What many people fail to prepare for is the danger that they can’t see. On a hot summer’s day, you should always put on your sunscreen and wear a pair of sunglasses to keep the harmful UV rays of the sun from damaging your skin and vision.
When you start ascending a mountain, these rays get stronger and stronger with every step. Since you are getting farther and farther away from the surface of the planet, you are losing protection from UV rays and are getting more radiation exposure as you climb higher. In fact, you can experience as much as a 10% to 12% increase in UV radiation levels every 1000 meters you climb. Considering how much you can get burnt at the beach after an hour, just imagine the power of the sun at the top of the alps!
To protect the sensitive eyes from the UV exposure, the glacier glasses were brought to life. If you look at normal sunglasses, they are able to protect your eyes from UV light if they are properly polarized. However, they are only able to effectively allow around 60% to 30% Visible Light Transmission, or VLT. This means they are letting in more than half of the visible light that passes through the glasses. This may be fine for relaxing at the beach, but this level of protection just isn’t enough for mountain tops.
Glacier glasses were designed so that only around 5% VLT would get through the glasses. This means that glacier glasses allow much less light and therefore less UV rays to enter the wearers’ eyes. When you are climbing a mountain with the sun and snow glaring at you, the right pair of glacier glasses will ensure that the only light reaching your eyes is the light you need to see where you are going.
On the topic of snow, the white surface of the snow not only looks incredibly bright when the sun shines on it, but it also reflects a majority of the light back to the wearer. With light coming from the sun and now the snow, you are getting blasted by light in every direction. To help combat this issue, the majority of glacier glasses will come with side shields to keep the sun from getting into your eyes from the areas where the glass does not meet. With all these countermeasures being implemented into your glasses, the right glacier sunglasses will keep you and your eyes happy the whole way up the mountain.
With an understanding as to why you need glacier glasses when taking on a mountain climb, its good to know what separates a great pair from one that may not even be protecting you. Thankfully for buyers, the design of glacier glasses is simple enough where you only need to be looking out for a few key elements to make sure you are getting the best protection possible.
When you are surrounded on all sides by bright, white snow, having something to help reduce the glare will allow you and your eyes to traverse the slopes easier. This is where polarization comes in to help you have a better experience when climbing. You can get normal sunglasses with polarization that makes it easier to see at the beach with less glare and better color perception, but glacier glasses take it a step further and combine polarization with the protection from harmful UV rays. Not all glacier glasses will have polarization, but it is a nice feature to have for the serious climber.
As we mentioned earlier, the primary reason you buy a pair of glacier glasses is to ensure that less light is entering your eyes than with traditional sunglasses. The more light that your glasses are able to keep out of your eyes, the safer your eyes will be from the harmful effects of intense UV rays. That VLT number we talked about earlier is something that you should always be looking for in true glacier glasses as that will determine how effective they are at doing their job.
Ideally, you want to look for a pair of glasses that are allowing less than 7% of the VLVT to pass through the glasses. Glasses that are allowing this amount of light in will ensure that your retina and cornea are not getting excessive amounts of radiation and light exposure that could cause you some serious vision issues in the future or even blindness. When you are choosing your pair of glacier glasses, try find the best pair you can that has the light protection you need when taking on the mountains.
When you see a pair of glacier glasses, you will quickly recognize that they have one feature that makes them stand out. That feature is known as the side shields. Putting aside that these shields can look a little silly when you first see them, side shields can easily become your best friend when you are looking to keep the sun out of your eyes.
Since the specialized glass that keeps the sun out is only covering your direct front, the sun can easily get in through the sides of the frames. Not only is this incredibly likely in normal situations, but the snow will directly reflect the sun and its radiation into any open space you give it. To prevent this issue, glacier glasses have specially designed side shields that prevent any light from sneaking up on you and damaging their vision. Depending on the design of glacier glasses, the material and design of the shields can differ greatly.
Last but not least, there is the material that is used to make the glasses that can have a few unique effects on your wearing experience. In many standard options, you can expect to see a design that is predominantly made up of plastics. These options are good for entry-level buyers as they are usually cheaper with less durable materials being used in construction.
For a little more premium of a finish, you can look into a number of frames that are constructed with a frame that is made out of a more durable polymer construction like nylon. These farms have a little more forgiveness with their flexibility and will feel more rigid than frames made with just a cheaper plastic design. As a bonus, most nylon glacier glasses also include rubber components that help them fit better and more securely to your head.
At the top of the durability spectrum for glacier glasses we find metal. Metal frames glasses are great for everyday usage and come especially useful in conditions like mountain climbing. The more durable material design and features of metal mean that you can buy on repair and have them as you enjoy your entire career of exploring.
To fully understand why every person taking on a mountain climb needs glacier glasses, we need to recognize how dangerous the sun can really be. When you are at sea level, you have a substantial amount of protection from the sun’s rays due to you being closer to the surface of the earth where the rays have less power. Even at low areas, the sun is still able to seem blinding and can cause irreversible damage if you are not careful.
With your eyes being so sensitive to incoming light, the UV radiation that penetrates them needs to be taken seriously. Without the right protection for your eyes, they can experience cataracts, snow blindness, burns, and permanent damage. In addition to the issues that are caused by UV rays, the VLT that you are exposed to can cause a large amount of strain on your eyes. With both of these issues being detrimental to your vision, you need to remember that the best mountaineering sunglasses could save your eyes.
|Image||Title||Construction Material||Side Shields||Polarized|
|Julbo Explorer 2.0||Nylon||Detachable||No|
|Julbo Vermont Classic||Metal||Detachable||No|
|Tifosi Dolomite 2.0||Polycarbonate||Not Detachable||No|
|Oakley Clifden||Polycarbonate||Not Detachable||Yes|
|Yodo Fit Over Glasses||Polycarbonate||Not Detachable||Yes|
For a wide range of adjustability and comfort features, the Julbo Explorer 2.0 has you covered. The large lenses on these frames allow you to take in whatever is in front of you with ease. Paired with the effective and removable side shields, these glasses help you take in the view while keeping out the sun.
To keep these glasses on you at all times, the nose area comes with a specially designed material that helps keep them on your face while reducing shock. No matter how or what you wear these glasses with, they are designed to never leave you.
A simple yet highly effective design allows the Julbo Sherpa to take the best elements of classic mountaineering design to the modern world. Their unique ear hook ensures they stay on during even the most intense conditions. A classic leather design for the side shields give you great protection with a dash of style. The classic design and snug fit makes these a great pick for first time climbers.
Pairing modern design with classic features that are tested and effective, the Revo Traverse glacier glasses are a premium option for climbers. Using its lenses as a primary selling point, the flatter profile and wide field of view allows for excellent visibility and protection. The padded nose pad and large side shields ensure that the only thing getting in your eyes is the view.
This diverse pair of frames is ready for anything from a day at the beach to a weekend climbing the mountains. It’s tasteful design and effective components mean that you will always be protected from the sun with effective side shields and carefully designed lenses. For those who like to push the limits the MonteBianco design allows you to move freely and not worry about your frames falling off.
A tired and tested design, the Vermont Classic glacier glasses are everything the mountain climber needs for any trip. Their old fashioned design may look a little outdated, but the design has stuck around for a good reason. The large and durable leather side shields will keep the sun out and your eyes rested as they work with the composite lenses to help you get to any peak with ease and comfort.
For the person who wants the flexibility to wear their glasses anywhere, the Tifosi Dolomite 2.0 glasses have you covered. Their sleek and modern design captures the essence of adventure and has all the features you would want to help make your adventures happen. A mix of comfort and protective features allow these glasses to keep you going all day long on trails.
From the stunning design to the many practical features, the Julbo Cham captures and perfects the essence of what glacier glasses should be. The classic leather side shield design ensures you have protection from all angles and pair well with the deep lenses. Trusted grip tech ensures that no matter the conditions, these frames will stay right where you need them.
Holding these frames in your hand you instantly tell that the Camino was designed for performance. A frame designed to be lightweight and ready for any trail, the sporty look and feel of these glasses are great for the go-anywhere explorer. Larger lenses pair well with sleek side shields to give you the protection you need without even a gram of unnecessary weight.
From a brand that has mastered the sport glasses, The Oakley Clifden has shown what a fresh take on glacier glasses can look like. Starting at the advanced lenses, Oakley has spared no expenses in making these polarized and UV blocking lenses some of the best on the market. For protection from all angles, the durable side shields help keep the sun out of your eyes in any direction.
For a unique offering within the glasses space, the Yodo Fit Over Glasses can help glasses wearers get the protection they need without a custom set of glacier glasses. The UV protection and large size of these glasses means that they will be able to fit over standard glasses and block out unwanted UV rays and harsh sun exposure.
One of the most commonly asked questions among hopeful mountain adventurers is often if they really need glacier glasses. While they may seem like just another thing that you have to remember to pack and pay for before a trip, glacier glasses are one of the most important things you can have with you when trying to face the challenge of scaling a mountain.
Considering just how brutal the conditions are above the clouds, you will want whatever protection you can get your hands on to keep you safe. Many people think sunglasses or ski goggles will do the trick, but they just don’t have the same abilities as dedicated glacier goggles. If you are planning to take on what is considered to be one of the most challenging experiences a person can encounter, having the right pair of glacier glasses is a must.
With many companies producing their own versions of glacier glasses, each one approaches the design and technology for their frames in a unique way. Because of this, the glacier glasses industry has been going back and forth as to whether or not they want to produce polarized lenses. For some explorers, the feature is a must, but many people don’t really see the need for the feature in their experience.
When you see a lens that claims to be polarized, that essentially means it was designed to reduce glare and excessive light from entering the lens. With traditional sunglasses and even glacier glasses, this feature is ideal when you are experiencing sunny conditions that produce a large amount of light that can get annoying. Polarized lenses are very common on average sunglasses, but the VLT combating design of glacier lenses means that they are already predisposed to be good at blocking unwanted light.
Why many people pick polarized lenses for their glacier glasses over not having polarization is because they can be better at color preservation and reducing glare. While there is not that much to see at the top of a mountain, having a color palette that looks more natural can help you better understand your surroundings. As for glare, the combination of reflective snow and lots of direct sunlight means having polarization can add a nice bit of comfort to your viewing experience.
Many people who love to go outdoors and explore have glasses, so getting equipment that suits their needs is a consideration that many companies want to keep in mind. Thankfully for those explorers who wear glasses every day, there are many options that companies have to get your prescription in a format that allows you to wear glacier glasses and see with ease.
Knowing when to take the right gear on any trip can save you precious bag space and even money. If you are thinking that a pair of glacier glasses could be for you, you probably wonder what kind of adventures you would want to take a pair of glacier glasses on. If you are just going on an average hike that doesn’t involve you needing to take much gear or brave the elements, you likely will not need a pair of glacier glasses.
In the case that you are looking to take on a more extreme peak, glacier glasses could be worth the investment. These styles of glasses are designed for high-altitude trekking on mountains covered in snow, so someone looking to explore this kind of environment should look into finding a pair that fits their needs.
The glacier glasses sector of the market is quite a niche and only has a few standout products, so picking the right ones for you is critical. From taking on a small hike to scaling the alps, having the right glasses for the job will keep your eyes safe and get you there and back without any fuss.
If you are looking for the classic glacier glasses experience with modern creature comforts, The Vermont Classic of Cham by Julbo are two pairs that will make you look great and stay protected from the harsh sun on the trail.
For a more affordable option for the new trail explorer, Julbo does it again with their Sherpa glasses that will be your best friend for a first mountain climb. No matter what kind of adventure you are looking for, we hope you find the best glacier glasses for your mountaineering needs.
Want to know how to choose a normal sunglass, read here.
Here are some more camping related reviews, you can click to read: