In Depth Comparison of the Best Polarized Sunglasses

In Depth Comparison of the Best Polarized Sunglasses

So much of what we love involves being outdoors. Perhaps it’s just the lifestyle that draws us in or is it the beauty of the mountains, the trees, the water, the crisp air? A part of me wonders why this is. Maybe it’s because we feel so small and insignificant next to God’s creation. Maybe it’s because it’s not an everyday occurrence. Nonetheless, regularly experiencing the outdoors in some sort of manner is probably at the top of your lists. Now, how to smoothly transition over into how polarized sunglasses play a role in this…  well basically, there’s not a smooth way. But, our eyes are one of the most important tools we have to admire, be in awe, view, respect, appreciate [insert whatever other descriptive words here] the outdoors.

And why polarized glasses you ask? Well, polarized lenses offer the best protection while being outdoors since they work to cut glare and block intense UV. Essentially, this helps avoid unnecessary squinting and eye strain. Basically, polarized sunglasses reduce glare without impeding your vision.

Over time, sunglasses have become more than just a fashion statement. My belief seems to think we are in search of something. Something that protects our eyes a little more. Maybe something that cuts the glare down. Maybe something that scratches less or is more impact resistant. The technology in sunglasses, whether it be the lenses or frames, has come a long way over the years. Brands have taken notice that customers not only want high performance function in their sunglasses, they want to look good in them too.

 In my opinion, polarized sunglasses are one of the most important pieces of gear we should acquire, and regularly have available. Our eyes are something we use every day and we should protect and preserve them as you would your skin with sunscreen. Yes, we know that polarized sunglasses are far from cheap, but should you put a cost on protecting your eyes? (Something to think about, just like sleeping on a cheap mattress where we spend most of our lives)

 We rely on the protection from sunglasses to be dependable, last for years, and provide unobstructed clarity. However, as outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen (I’m not going to open that can of worms), we are faced with such a vast amount of options: how do we go about selecting a pair? Drive to a store and try them all on? Research online? Talk to friends? Pick the one that fits the best? Well… who knows, maybe a little of everything.

 In no way have I perfected the way to pick out a pair of shades, but over the past 15 years, I have been wearing different brands of polarized sunglasses. And by no means am I going to tell you how to pick the “best” pair of sunglasses, but the goal with this article is to share tidbits of information on top brands, so when the time comes to invest into a pair of sunglasses, you have what you need to make an informative decision based on what’s important to you.

 

Brands Listed Below: In no order

  • Costa Del Mar
  • Smith Optics
  • Maui Jim
  • Kaenon
  • Oakley
  • Native

 

Brands:

Costa Del Mar

  • 84ish Different Frames (Not all lens options are available on each style)
    • Started a Bio-Resin Raw Material Process for their Frames to help reduce their carbon footprint
    • 5 Frame Options
      • Metal Frames- Marine Grade Corrosion-Resistant, Hypoallergenic Titanium
      • Combination- Bio Based Resin and Corrosion-Resistant Metals
      • Acetates- Made from Tree Pulp, molds to face over time
      • CO-Injected Nylon Frames-TR-90
      • Rimless
    • Tri-Lateral Fusion (Uses solid color bio-resin, meaning each color is a layer, not painted)
  • 7 Different Lens Colors- All Lenses are Polarized
    • Blue Mirror (Gray Base)
    • Green Mirror (Copper Base)
    • Gray Silver Mirror
    • Copper Silver Mirror
    • Gray
    • Copper
    • Sunrise Silver Mirror
  • 2 Lens Technologies
    • 580p Plastic Lenses
      • C-Wall- Molecular Bond that Provides Scratch Resistant and Smudge-Free Barrier
      • 116 Degree Lens Angle to Help Liquids Bead off Lens
      • Lightweight and Impact Resistant
    • 580g Glass Lenses
      • Filters out Harsh Yellow Light
      • Enhance Red, Green, and Blue Colors
      • Absorbs 100% of UV
      • Provides Better Clarity than Other Materials
      • Less Scratch Prone than Plastic Lenses
    • Offers C-Mate Reader Lens in Some Frame Styles and Lens Colors
      • 1.50
      • 2.00
      • 2.50
    • Has an Rx Prescription Option
      • Have to go to Local Costa Prescription RX Dealer
      • Warranty is Different than Non-Prescription Sunglasses
    • Limited Lifetime Warranty
      • $11.95 Processing Fee if it is a Manufactures Defect
      • Not Required to have Proof of Purchase; just a general date/year
      • Start Repair Process on their Website

 

My experiences with Costa Del Mar have been very good. I was 21 when I bought my first pair: Costa Del Mar “Rincon”. This was back when they had their CR-39 lenses. Not that I needed another pair, I just couldn’t pass up the deal. I was really surprised about these; pending this was my first experience with the brand. They performed well, and even though this specific style was a little small (frame) they stood the test of time. A lot has changed for Costa in 10 years, but all for the better. Their technology surpassed many other brands, and in my opinion, their 580g mirrored lenses put them on the map. The sharp, crisp, and clear view is easy to notice while wearing them and they especially shine when you’re on the water. Of course, I didn’t stop with the Rincons, I have owned a variety of styles and lens combinations that Costa has offered over the past 8 years. Yet, my favorite Costas have always had the 580g lens. If you read online, there are quite a few people that have had their run-ins with Costa’s warranty program. I have nothing bad to say about their warranty program and I would venture to say that the 8-12 pairs I have sent in, to get repaired for manufacturing defects, have not been a problem. I’ve even sent glasses in that are discontinued and they let me pick out a new pair from their website at no cost, well like $13 for shipping. I really like Costa and they are my choice for performance glasses for use on the water. My current Costas are an older model not produced anymore. One is 580g green mirror for inshore and the other is 580g blue mirror for offshore. Beside the models I have, my only complaint I have with Costas is they tend to slide down my face when I sweat. I haven’t been able to find a frame that fits my face perfectly. Also, while doing some research, I noticed that Costa is not producing their 400g lenses at this point in time. Not that you can’t still snag a pair somewhere, if you want. They are just not producing them anymore. If you’re someone who has never heard of Costa Del Mar shades, I urge you to try a pair, even if you don’t spend a lot of time on the water.

 

Smith Optics

  • Approximately 79ish Different Styles (Not all lens options are available on each style)
    • Grilamid TR90 Plastic
    • Ultra Lightweight Premium Stainless Steel
    • Rilsan Clear Material- Over 53% Bio-Based Frame Material
  • 7 Lenses
    • ChromaPop + Polarized
      • Deliver more Clarity the Standard ChromaPop Lenses
      • 10% Lighter
    • Techlite Glass Polarized
      • Clearest Glass Lenses
      • 12x More Scratch Resistant than Polymer Lenses
    • ChromaPop Polarized
      • Cut Glare
      • Visual Comfort and Impact Protection
    • ChromaPop
    • Carbonic Elite Ballistic
      • Certified Ballistic Lenses
      • ANSI Z87.1 for Industrial Protection
      • Only Lens not 100% UV Protection
    • Carbonic Polarized
      • Cut Glare
      • ANSI Z80.3 for Impact Resistant
    • Carbonic
      • ANSI Z80.3 for Impact Resistant
    • 6 Different Lens Colors
      • Ignitor
      • Brown
      • Bronze Mirror
      • Gray Green
      • Platinum
      • Blue Mirror
    • Lens Technology
      • Polarchromic
        • Self Tint Adjusting Lenses that Adapt to Changing Light Conditions
      • TLT (Tapered Lens Technology)
        • Tapers the Lens to Straighten Out Incoming Light Rays for Accuracy and Comfort
      • Hydroleophobic
        • Water and Oil Proof Coating
          • Repels Moisture, Grease, and Grime
          • Smudges from fingerprints are easily cleaned
        • Anti-Reflective Coating
          • Coating on Back Side of Lens to Eliminate Sidelight Reflections
        • Has RX Prescription Technology
          • Prescription Sunglasses
            • Find an Authorized RX Prescription Dealer
          • Bifocals
            • 2.00
            • 2.50
          • Lifetime Warranty
            • Must be Purchased from an Authorized Dealer (Keep that Receipt)
            • Replace or Repair Product at No Charge

 

I came across Smith Optics a few years ago when looking for more of a lifestyle pair of sunglasses that could possibly carry over to the water, if need be. Unfortunately, I have a hard time keeping sunglasses with a spring hinge on my face. I absolutely hate having to push my glasses back up all day long., and sweat mixed with sunscreen doesn’t help. Smith has quite a few of these. However, they did have a pair I found with the ChromaPop polarized lenses technology without the spring hinges. As soon as I put them on, it was like wearing HD. I thought I had found the one, of course my wife is the one….. whew I dodged that bullet!! A couple weeks go by and I started to notice the lenses delaminating (Spiderwebbing). No problem! Due to the customer service and warranty Smith offers, I had another pair in a couple weeks. Sadly, it happened again. No problem, called Smith and they sent me another pair with a different lens color. No way… Again, they spiderwebbed. What the crap? I called Smith and they mentioned I was not the only one having these problems.  Maybe they fixed this problem, like Kaenon has on some of their lenses, or maybe that is why they came out with the ChromaPop+. I really wanted to like them, so I went to test out their Tech-Lite Glass Lenses, but could not find a style that would fit and stay on my face. Therefore, I was not able to put them to the test. I most definitely would consider trying them again if I can find one that fits with either the ChromaPop+ or Tech-Lite Glass. I have talked to quite a few people and this is their choice of optics on the water, and they haven’t had any delaminating issues lately.

 

Maui Jim

  • 186ish Different Styles (Not all lens options are available on each style)
  • Frame Material
    • Acetate
    • Metals
    • Plastics
    • Titanium
  • PolarizedPlus2 Lens Technology
    • Glare Elimination
      • Eliminate 99.9% of Glare
      • Hyper-Precise Polarization (Fuse Polarize Film on Lens Itself)
    • Color Enhancement
      • Enhance Red, Green, and Blue Light Waves
    • Eye Health
      • Eliminate 100% of UV Radiation
    • Lens Protection
      • Apply Proprietary CLEARSHELL to help with Scratch Resistance
    • 6 Different Lens Colors- All Lenses are Polarized
      • Blue Hawaii
      • Neutral Grey
      • HCL Bronze
      • Maui HT
      • Maui Rose
      • Maui Sunrise
    • 4 Different Lens Materials
      • Maui Evolution
        • Lightweight
        • Scratch and Shatter Resistance Polycarbonate
      • MauiBrillant
        • Most Advanced Lens
        • Almost as Clear as Glass and one-third of the weight
      • MauiPure
        • Most Popular Lens
        • Crisp as SuperThin Glass
        • Excellent on Scratch and Shatter Resistance
      • SuperThin Glass
        • Provides Best Optics
        • Heaviest of 4 Materials
      • Has RX Prescription Technology
        • 95% of Styles are Available
        • Have to go to Local Maui Jim Prescription RX Dealer
      • 2 Year Warranty
        • Does not Cover Normal Wear and Tear
        • Offer Competitive Lens Replacement Options
        • $75 to Replace Lenses
        • Will work with you even if no Proof of Purchase

 

Maui Jim is a brand I don’t have much knowledge on. I have never had a pair to put to the test and develop an opinion on. I have ordered a few pair to try on and even tried some on in stores, but just can’t quite find the perfect ones. To be completely honest, the two-year warranty kind of scares me, especially since Maui Jim’s tend to be at a little higher price point than some of the other brands on this list. Not that I am so hard on my glasses, but I use them every day and after two years is when I would start seeing problems. Next to Oakley of course, Maui Jim has the largest variety on this list. No doubt they will continue to bring new styles and technology to the table, but until then, I will stick to the other brands out there. On a good note, one of my friends that works for Costa Del Mar seems to think that Maui Jim’s glass, out of the other top brands, are the only ones that even come close to the technology in the 580g lenses.

  

Kaenon

  • 40ish Different Styles (Not all lens options are available on each style)
  • Frames
    • TR-90 Frame Material
    • Variflex Nose Pads
    • Designed in California
    • Corrosion-Resistant Hinges
  • Lens Tints (Number is Light Transmission Levels)
    • B12 Brown (Offers a Coastal Green Mirror, Coastal Green Mirror ULTRA, Gold Mirror, and Rose Gold Mirror, Brown ULTRA)
    • C12 Copper
    • C28 Copper
    • C50
    • Y35
    • G12 (Offers a Black Mirror, Pacific Blue Mirror, Pacific Blue Mirror ULTRA, Scarlet Gold Mirror, Grey ULTRA)
    • G28
  • Two Lens Technology
    • Polarized SR-91
      • Lightweight
      • Scratch and Impact Resistance
      • Reduce Glare
      • Only Lens Material that Offers 100% Broad Spectrum UV Protection
    • Polarized SR-91 ULTRA
      • Same Technology as SR-91
        • Better Clarity and Color Separation
        • More Depth and Detail
      • Has RX Prescription Technology
        • Can Order RX Prescription Polarized Sunglasses through Kaenon Website
        • Have 45 Days Warranty
      • Warranty
        • Need Proof of Purchase from Authorized Kaenon Dealer
        • One Year Warranty on Eyewear
        • Lifetime Warranty on SR-91 Lenses
          • Specifically Cracking or Splitting of the Lens at Drill Mounts
          • Delamination of the Inner Polarizing Film and Lens Material

 

I bought my first pair of Kaenon’s (Burnet) on a website called SteepandCheap back in 2012; and yep, they were on sale. Come to think of it, it’s the same place I bought my first pair of Costa Del Mar sunglasses, too. Anyways, I took a chance on these. I was looking for more of a Wayfarer type of shades but with a little more edge to them along with a little more curvature to help keep light out. At that time Kaenon still had non-polarized sunglasses (now all their glasses are polarized) and a one-year warranty on lenses and frames. Fortunately (because it was before a year) but unfortunately, my lenses started to delaminate about 10 months in. No worries, contacted Kaenon and their Customer Service was great. Sent in the glasses for I think around $10 and two weeks later I had a new pair of lenses. These glasses fit my face well, they were not hinged, so I wasn’t pushing them up all day, they wrapped around my face a little more than a pair of Ray-Bans or a pair of Costa Del Mar Cuts. Again though, about 10 months in, they started to delaminate. Sent them in and received new lenses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the customer service and new lenses are great but it all seemed like a lot of trouble to send glasses in once a year. However, the next lenses I received were different, they didn’t have “Polarized” etched into them, just “SR-91”. I thought they put the non-polarized lenses in my glasses but nope. They were, to my surprise, polarized. I kind of thought in 10 months I’ll have to send them in again, but I’m sitting here today still rocking the same glasses and same lenses 3 years later. I also liked the way they fit so much that I bought another pair in a different frame color and lens color. I have also convinced several people to try this specific style of Kaenon. They even came out with a mid and XL version of the Burnet’s recently to help fit different face sizes. Eventually, I will try them in the blue or green mirror lens that has recently came out.

 

Oakley

  • 302ish Different Men’s Products and 69 Women’s Products (Holy Cow)
    • 48 Men’s Polarized Sunglasses (Not all lens options are available on each style)
    • 20 Women’s Polarized Sunglasses (Not all lens options are available on each style)
  • Frame Material
    • C5
    • Carbon Fiber
    • O Matter
    • O Matter/Stainless
    • Titanium
  • Lens Technology
    • PRIZM
      • Provide Control of Light Transmission Resulting in Colors Precisely Tuned to Maximize Contrast and Enhance Visibility
      • Different PRIZM Lens Colors
    • HD Polarized
      • Filter out 99% reflected glare
    • Plutonite
      • Impact Resistance Beyond What’s Necessary
      • Lens filters out 100% UVA, UVB, UVC and Harmful Blue Light
    • Lens Colors Polarized
      • Gray Polarized
      • Black Iridium Polarized
      • Chrome Iridium Polarized
      • Sapphire Iridium Polarized
      • Violet Iridium Polarized
      • Ruby Iridium Polarized
      • Fire Iridium Polarized
      • 24K Iridium Polarized
      • Jade Iridium Polarized
      • Oo Red Iridium
      • Ice Iridium
    • PRIZM Polarized
      • Daily
      • Ruby
      • Black
      • Shallow Water
      • Deep Water Blue
      • Sapphire
      • Tungsten
      • 24k
    • Has RX Prescription Technology
      • Have to go to Local Oakley Prescription RX Dealer
    • Warranty
      • 2 Year Warranty with Valid Proof of Purchase
        • Delamination
        • Imperfections in Lens Coating
        • Flaking of Frame Coating
        • Defects of Hinges or Barrels
      • New Oakley MVP Plan
        • Damage glasses within a year of purchase, with receipt, get 50% off original price towards a new pair

 

Oakley shades have been around for a while, and honestly one of the most popular brands for my generation (late 80’s baby). While they are still very popular and with so many varieties to choose from it makes me wonder why most outdoor enthusiasts choose other brands over Oakley. I could sit and nit-pick about something and I probably will here in a little bit but Oakley has been in business a long time and to hold on to the market like they have, they are doing something right. It seems as if Oakley has come a long way; just a year ago, they had over 500 styles and options to choose from. I do like how they have dwindled down their choices and options online.  I’m going to say it again, but a two-year warranty just doesn’t quite get it done for me. I feel as if a company is going to stand behind their glasses, they would offer lifetime warranty. (The new Oakley MVP Plan may help out with this) I’m sure Oakley is not hurting just because I don’t buy their sunglasses, and maybe one day I might suck it up and try some of their PRIZM sunglasses and compare them to my Costas and Kaenon’s, but until then, I’m going to stick to what I’ve had success with.

 

Native Eyewear

  • 28ish Different Styles (Not all lens colors available on each style)
    • Some Styles have Interchangeable Lenses
    • Some have Exhaust Vents to Eliminate Fog and Condensation
    • 2 Styles of Nose Pads
    • Rhyno-Tuff Air Frames
    • Frames are Created from Sustainable, Agriculturally-Derived Materials
  • 1 Plastic Lens
    • N3 Polarized Lens Technology
    • Pass Z87.1 Testing but not Stamped on Frame
    • 8 Different Lens Colors (Not all are available per style)
      • Blue Reflex (Gray Base)-Polarized
      • Silver Reflex (Gray Base)-Polarized
      • Green Reflex (Brown Base) -Polarized
      • Gray-Polarized
      • Bronze Reflex (Brown Base) -Polarized
      • Brown-Polarized
      • SportFlex- Non Polarized
      • Clear Crystal Carbonate-Non Polarized
    • Lifetime Warranty
      • Warranty Fee is $30/Small Processing Fee Varies Depending on Item
      • Proof of Purchase Required for Manufacture Defects
      • Even if the Dogs Chew Them Up, They’ll Send you a New Pair

 

My experiences with Native Eyewear have been really good. Native was actually my very first pair of higher-end, polarized sunglasses; coming in at the age of 14. No, at that time the lens technology was not the same. However, I put those glasses through the works for about 7 years. They were either on my face or in the visor in the truck. I’m sure you can imagine what the Texas heat can do to items inside your truck; it melts EVERYTHING. But nothing, and I mean nothing, could damage those bad boys. What happened to them you ask… The color on one of the arms started to chip off after year number 6 and I called Native Eyewear to see what I could do. They didn’t make that style anymore, so Native let me pick out a new pair from their website at no charge to me. Now it sounds like the warranty program has changed a little but the customer service I received through Native was top notch. Over the years I have owned several other pairs of Natives and nonetheless, they were all performers. Two reasons they are not my shades of choice at this moment: 1. They don’t have a style that fits my face that I like (the Flatirons come close) and 2. I don’t think their lens technology is quite up to par with some of the other brands above. Something that is quite interesting: I have a buddy that works for Costa Del Mar and he mentioned that Native Eyewear is a sister brand for them. Just food for thought.

 

 

It has always intrigued me that people sometimes pick sunglasses because of the brand. The question is, will you give up the perfect fitting shades because they are not the most popular or because, on paper, their technology does not match up to others? I hope you found what you were searching for by reading this!

 


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