Sun On The Water - Sailing Sunglasses Review
Does the ocean reflect the sky or does the sky reflect the ocean? Today, that age-old question... doesn't matter! When you are out on charter the sky, the ocean, the boat, the sail, and just about anything else on the water reflects the sun. If you are chartering near the equator, this effect is even greater. Over time the glare and reflection of the sun can be very harsh on your eyes and in some cases cause severe damage to your retinas and corneas. On our latest charter, the Charter Advisors Crew had the opportunity to test some of the best sunglass brands and styles on the market.
Each of the glasses reviewed were polarized with one noted exception below. Polarized lenses are an especially effective means of cutting down the harmful sun exposure and glare that you often face on the water. Without getting into too much science, light generally scatters as it travels, moving in all directions. However, light reflected from certain surfaces (such as water) reflects with a horizontal orientation. This sends focused rays of intense light that can cause annoying and even dangerous glares.
Polarized lenses are specifically designed to eliminate those rays, cutting through the glare and haze many boaters encounter on the water.
Our Review Criteria
Each pair of shades submitted for review was judged on a scale of 1-5 (five being the best) in three qualities: Comfort, Clarity, and Cool Factor. While we can speak broadly to comfort and clarity, our interpretation of "Cool Factor" might chart a bit windward of those who don't spend a good portion of their year sailing in Caribbean breezes... We're talking to you Tommy Bahama. "No, that shirt doesn't make you look like a tourist... You'll find the insurance convention this way, Sir."
Check out our review below and drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter where we are happy to answer questions about the sunglasses (and yachts) reviewed. If you'd like to see even more than we have here, check out additional images on our Pinterest and Instagram pages.
Maui Jim: The Emperor of Hawaii
From their inception, Maui Jim's were crafted with the water in mind. Maui Jim is a big part of the reason that the term "polarized" took hold in the American lexicon. When it comes comfort and polarized clarity Maui Jim had our number. However with their expansive product offering it's not enough to simply recommend a pair of Jims, you need the right pair!
Maui Cat III
Cool Factor: 5
This is an amazing crossover shade, equally appropriate for the boat or the beach. The lenses and wayfarer style frames of this lightweight model are saltwater safe. The matte black pair we tested was comfortable and paired well with just about everything. When it came to style these were early favorites.
Canoes: Our First Mate's First Pick!
Cool Factor: 4
A sailor's dream: light, comfortable, and perfectly clear. These glasses were our "go to" for deck work. Perhaps not as stylish as the Maui Cat IIIs, the shades are straight to the point. However the wrap style, streamline function, and barely-there comfort were precisely the reason this pair were so loved by our first mate!
Cool Factor: 3
These are the lenses for your look out. The large wrap style provides you with a completely unobstructed view of, well, everything. No they won't help you see what's directly behind you, but these are the largest lenses we reviewed. The size of the frames and lenses made them a more popular choice for the ladies aboard.
Cool Factor: 5
These frames are the bee's knees; crisp, clear, and super stylish! The lightweight, retro look made the lenses a top choice for an afternoon dingy cruise to the pub.
We do want to note that these frames were a bit smaller in proportion than many of the others we tested. If you've contracted a case of el cabeza grande, you might want to try these on before purchasing. Also these lenses are not recommended for gazing over the side of the boat, as their slick frames might send them sliding right over your ears and into the water.
Keaneon: Function First
The Keaneon brand has made a name for itself as one of the world's best sunglasses manufactures. How? By getting their products in the hands of those who need sunglasses most: athletes, outdoorsmen, and even charter yacht review publishers. Kidding aside, these guys didn't make it to the top on their tiptoes. Keanon is a rugged brand that helps athletes beat the heat and the glare.
Burnett: Black & Clear
Cool Factor: 4
From the moment we picked up these frames we could feel their durability. They fit securely. They look good. They get the job done. You can wear these frames and feel comfortable in the water or leaning over the side of the boat, and not worry about your shades sliding off. Oh yeah, and one more thing... That durability also translates into a type of badass style. Stated simply the two-toned black-on-clear frames are cool.
IVI: Takes the edge off the sun and puts it on you
When a sunglass brand touts equipping their frames with Zeiss Lenses it catches our attention. For those who might not know Zeiss is the zenith of lens manufactures in the film industry, as well as in many others. When astronauts walk on the moon, they're looking through Zeiss Glass. Enough said. IVI is certainly the newest manufacture on our review, but they got style and edge to spare. And, as you can guess their glass is pretty damn spiffy too.
Giving: Polished Black/Grey Polarized
Cool Factor: 5
These shades are the anchor of the IVI collection, boasting many of the brand's signature touches. Givings are outfitted with impressive hardware all the way around; from the Polarized Zeiss Glass, which we already mentioned, to the metal temple frames and barrel hinges. These glasses are well made and won't break easily. (Might it be that their skateboarding co-founder saw a need for durability?) It is worth noting that the metal temples, while looking cool, maybe worth considering for long term use in salt water or ocean air. The only down side is that the frames tend to fit a bit tight over the ear. This can be a bit uncomfortable over an extended period of time. The frames can be bent slightly to relieve some of this pressure.
The polarized lenses on this model are darker than any other style we tested. While this helps to contribute to the aesthetic of the glasses, it does provide a different effect than many of the other lenses. That is not to say they are worse, they are simply different. The darker lenses cuts through the light very effectively, it also seems to allow in more of a blue tint.
Living: Matte Black/Grey Lens
Cool Factor: 3
We'll be the first to admit when we asked to sample the Living frames, we were largely driven by the novelty of the flip up lens. (Yes we said flip up lens.) Well it turns out these are pretty nifty to have on deck. The lens (non polarized) is a solid sheet of lightweight glass. Meaning there is no frame to interfere with your forward vision, i.e. it's as open as the sea in front of you. When you need to get a reading on your chart plotter or head into your low light interior environment, you can flip the lens up and get to work. Unfortunately you do not get the added benefits of polarization.
Stylistically these lenses are a bit bold, but anyone who's been to the islands knows there is no shortage of personality in those parts. Overall the lightweight frames, wide width format, and sturdy barrel hinges make these as durable and comfortable as they are functional.
Blender: Gold with "O-Matter" Earpieces/Gold Iridium
Cool Factor: 5
Okaley sunglasses have been a staple aboard our charter reviews. Capt. Kev wore them almost exclusively (up until this test!). The Blender is one of his after sailing favorites. The name comes from the fact that these wire framed sunglasses use plastic like "o-matter" earpieces. The lenses are smaller, but have an exacting wrap around fit that keeps the sun out. The non-metal earpieces are flexible and infinitely comfortable. The gold iridium lenses we tested we're not polarized, but the option is there should you decide to choose these for yourself. The gold lenses did a fantastic job cutting glare and bringing out colors without making things bright. Think "HD" vision. These sunglasses are cool looking, great for "after-sports," and make everything crisp and clear.
Straight Jacket (custom): White and Red /Silver Polarized
If you want to see what Capt. Kev's custom pair look like, check out CharterAdvisors.com/instagram
Cool Factor: 4
If you look over to the helm, you'll likely see Capt. Kev in a pair of these. The dark silver polarized lenses, full coverage wrap around lenses, and the no slip hydro-filament nosepiece are ideal for a full day at the helm. Straight Jackets have a hip, edgy look that work just as good ashore as they do out on the water (especially for the under 40 crowd). They are saltwater safe, and shrugged the need for "keepers" or "Croakies" with fantastically strong and comfortable grip. Though these sunglasses have the right look for the boat and beach, they'd get left on the boat when we went ashore, in favor of the slightly less edgy but fashionable Blender. But, if you only bring one pair of sunglasses, Straight Jacket's will do nicely in all but low light conditions.
Sunglasses are generally a personal fashion statement, but out on the water they need to be just as functional as they are fashionable. Every pair we reviewed met this standard. Perhaps we could have judged these based on function alone, but if we did that, what would you wear to the yacht club or to say hi to the well tanned neighbors sunning on deck one mooring ball over?
Sailing is a sport, but it's also a lifestyle, and a way to socialize. Now you have some good options on the latest shades that won't leave you squinting onboard or looking like a weirdo when you get off the boat. So... grab your shades, and Charter Often!
By Chad Barton
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev