Performance eyewear 101 – The Star Online

May 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

California-based Cocoons eyewear is designed to fit over prescription glasses.California-based Cocoons eyewear is designed to fit over prescription glasses.

Are sunglasses essential for outdoor adventures? How do you choose an appropriate eyewear for the outdoors? Here are some tips.

I DO different outdoor activities like hiking, climbing, sea kayaking and mountain biking. Can you recommend a suitable eyewear (brand, model and price) if I’m willing to splurge on only one pair of glasses? – Adrenaline Junkie, Klang Valley

GOOD visibility and healthy eyes are instrumental for a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. And yet when it comes to gear essentials, eyewear is almost an afterthought for most folks.

Damaging UV (ultraviolet) rays, flying debris and blinding wind are just some common hazards we encounter outdoors. UV rays, for example, can damage your eyes by contributing to cataracts, macular degeneration or permanent retinal impairment.

French eyewear company Julbo has been making performance eyewear since 1888. This is the Julbo Trek model, suitable for hiking and mountain climbing.French eyewear company Julbo has been making performance eyewear since 1888. This is the Julbo Trek model, suitable for hiking and mountain climbing.

For decades, specialised performance sunglasses have been developed to provide the best vision possible under extreme conditions. Eyewear manufacturers are churning out lightweight, flexible and durable sunglasses with no-slip components to cater to the outdoor market. Hence the choices are mind-boggling.

So how does one choose a good performance eyewear? For starters, the eyewear has to offer 100% UV protection, which will safeguard your eyes against both UVA and UVB rays. Bear in mind that UV rays can penetrate clouds.

Things to consider

1. Type of outdoor activities: Polarised lenses are a must for those who indulge in sports like lake boating and road cycling. Filters in polarised lenses reduce intense glare and thereby eye strain. Cyclists will appreciate glasses that come with a lens-switch system. You can swap your grey lenses (for general riding) with brown lenses for high-glare conditions or clear lenses when you don’t need sun protection but wish to keep out the wind, dirt and debris from your eyes.

Wrap-around sunglasses work well for hikers or trail runners as they protect your eyes from errant tree branches, wind and glare. Also, they don’t slide off easily.

2. Type of lenses: material, colour and coatings.

3. Frame material, hinges, shape.

Performance eyewear is crucial for a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience.Performance eyewear is crucial for a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience.

Choosing your lens

Lens material: Glass offers the best optical clarity and is scratch-resistant but it’s heavy and shatters on impact. Polycarbonate is lightweight, shatterproof/has good impact-resistance and is scratch-resistant, not to mention affordable – a great choice for outdoor use.

NXT polyurethane has superior impact-resistance, excellent optical clarity, is flexible and lightweight. But it’s expensive!

Coatings: The more coatings your sunglasses have, the more expensive it is. For example, hydrophobic coating repels water, an anti-scratch coating improves durability and an anti-fog coating is great for humid conditions or high-energy activities (when you sweat buckets).

Colour/tints: All lenses are tinted to reduce glare and enhance terrain definition. But your choice of tint colour affects how much visible light reaches your eyes and how well you see colours and contrasts.

For instance, brown/grey/green lenses are colour-neutral, meaning they cut out the glare and reduce eyestrain in moderate-to-bright conditions without distorting colours. Yellow lens enhance depth perception and contrasts in tricky, flat-light conditions. Rose/vermilion lenses are easiest on your eyes over a long period of time, enhance low-light visibility and the visibility of objects against a green background, like forested areas.

Some lenses come with mirrored/flash coating, a reflective film applied to the outside surface of the lens to reflect light, thus reducing glare.

If you would rather have a one-for-all pair of glasses, opt for interchangeable lenses. The lens can be easily removed and swapped for a different-coloured lens to adapt to changing light conditions or activity.

Polarised lens: When light reflects off flat surfaces like water, pavement, glass or snow, it is reflected perpendicularly to that surface, resulting in an intense glare. Polarised lenses’ filters block these horizontal light waves and reduce the blinding glare. These lenses are great for water sports, road cycling and driving.

Photochromic lens gets darker or lighter in accordance with light intensity. Some photochromic lenses react to changes in temperature as well as lighting variations.

Frame material

Nylon and composite materials are lightweight, flexible, durable and inexpensive. Metal frames, whilst sleek, stylish and easily adjustable to your face, are more expensive and unsuitable for high-impact sports.

Most high-performance eyewear comes with added features like adjustable nose pads and temple tips, front and side venting, articulated hinges, frames with foam inserts that absorb sweat and hydrophobic coating that repels water. Some sunglasses come with prescriptions lens option. Eyewear brands like Cocoons are designed to fit over your prescription glasses.

A good performance eyewear can range from RM200 to RM980, depending on the brand, model and features. Of course, you get what you pay for. To get the best fitting and advice, shop at retailers who specialise in performance eyewear or outdoor gear.

All-purpose eyewear

In Adrenaline Junkie’s case, the Wiley-X SG1 model would be the best choice, according to Yap Chee Song, the co-founder of Klang Valley-based Optik Peakvision, which specialises in eyewear for athletes and adventurers.

“Our best-selling model, the SG1 (RM680-RM780) is sporty-looking, tough, lightweight and has a flexible fit. Its ultra-foam seal pads keep out the wind, sand and falling particles,” says Yap. “It is also possible to fit prescription lenses on the SG1.”

It comes with top-down ventilation (keeps your eyes cool and fog-free), interchangeable lenses and straps, and light-adjusting lens option.

“For kayaking purposes, we would recommend a hydrophobic coating to repel water droplets on the lenses.”

(US-based WileyX was founded 25 years ago to provide the ultimate, shatterproof eye gear for The US Military Special Forces and Law Enforcement agencies.)

You can find performance eyewear brands like Julbo, Amphibia, WileyX, Respec, UVEX, SWANS, Briko, Rudy Project and Limar at Optik Peakvision @ Urban Adventure, MidValley Megamall (optikpeak / 03-2287 6078); Lafuma ( / 03-2287 1118); Corezone ( / 03-7873 5560).

Have a question about outdoor gear? Drop us an e-mail and our gear expert panel will try to answer your queries. E-mail at, subject: Gear Query.

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