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Gear Guide
12 Top Sunglasses
The do-anything dozen: sunglasses that are protective, versatile, and—yes—sexy

   1. Bollé Slipstream
   2. Rudy Project Kyodo Pyota
   3. Smith Voodoo
   4. Kaenon Kore
   5. Daggers Delirium
   6. Dragon Rake
   7. Zeal Optics Lazor
   8. Gargoyles Legends II
   9. Julbo Reflex
   10. Serengeti Argosy
   11. Oakley Polarized XX
   12. Action Optics Riptide

Every pair of sunglasses [on this page] can be counted on to block UVA and UVB radiation. Pick your shades based purely on café appeal and you’ll be fine.

But if you’re interested in the technical differences, and of course you should be, here’s what you need to know: Choose polycarbonate lenses for light weight and durability, glass lenses for optimal clarity. Consider polarized lenses if you’re on the water or anywhere that light reflected from a single plane creates glare.

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When it comes to lens color, warm tones such as brown and yellow boost contrast and depth perception; cool tints deliver truer colors. Photochromic lenses—which shift between dark and pale depending on ambient light—can be great, but they won’t change fast enough if you’re continually moving in and out of shade.

Different frames fit different heads, and some frames are grippier than others. Therefore, when shopping, do some vigorous head-bobbing—especially if the glasses are destined for singletrack or other high-vibration venues. Then spend a moment or two peering lovingly into the mirror. If you don’t like what you see, move on.

—Doug Gantenbein

All prices in U.S. dollars

1. Bollé Slipstream
Price: $90 to $100
Telephone: 800 222 6553 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.bolle.com

Why these: the glacier-worthy lenses and veranda-ready frames. Most mountaineering glasses look like castoffs from a 1959 Himalaya expedition, but Bollé has integrated the side shields gracefully with the rest of the frame. And the grippy nose and temple pads ensure the Slipstream stays in place.
Why not these: The lack of peripheral vision can be a problem on city streets.

2. Rudy Project Kyodo Pyota
Price: $129 to $145
Telephone: 888 860 7597 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.rudyproject.com

Why these: All the right superficial reasons. These are classic aviators tweaked with Italian flair. It’s not all aesthetics, though. The polycarbonate lenses—available in three shades of gray—render a true yet glare-free picture of the world.

Why not these: The frames don’t grip snugly enough for high-sweat, high-vibration sports.

3. Smith Voodoo
Price: $99
Telephone: 800 635 4401 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.smithsport.com

Why these: Excellent wind protection and a firm fit. The Voodoo delivers a tough frame and three sets of interchangeable lenses. These glasses are best suited for those with slightly smaller (but, of course, densely packed) heads.

Why not these: Light reflecting off the inside of the frames can be distracting.

4. Kaenon Kore
Price: $180
Telephone: +1 949 574 7918
Web: www.kaenon.com

Why these: Exceptional clarity. With the Kore, you choose among fixed lenses that have light-transmission levels ranging from 50 percent, for low-light conditions, to 12 percent. All the lenses are molded from a tough, polarized, resin-based material and are carried in a nylon frame that hugs the face like a second skin.

Why not these: The Kore lenses all excel; for this much cash they should be interchangeable.

5. Daggers Delirium
Price: $49 to $75
Telephone: 800 443 8620 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.daggers.com

Why these: The price; the Delirium costs half as much as similar glasses. The orange lenses sharpen contrast, while the slight gradient (they’re darker toward the top) cuts the light in the right places. The Delirium is available with gray and polarized gray lenses as well—good seagoing choices. The slim metal frame fits snugly.

Why not these: The lenses can’t be swapped.

6. Dragon Rake
Price: $85 to $110
Telephone: 800 995 0008 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.dragonoptical.com

Why these: The close-fitting, precisely vented frame. The Rake provides grippy temples and a fine view of the world through bronze-tinted lenses, along with the ability to change to yellow, clear, or gray lenses. (Three sets are included for the $110 price.) These are true any-sport, any-season glasses.

Why not these: The pop-out lenses don’t pop out so easily.

7. Zeal Optics Lazor
Price: $79 to $129
Telephone: 888 454 9325 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.zealoptics.com

Why these: Sweatproof, endo-proof retention. The Lazor, made by a company in Moab, Utah, is ideal for mountain biking because of the secure fit. Foam brow pads soak up sweat, while drainage channels let out whatever moisture makes it through. You get a single set of lenses for $79; spring for the $129 package if you want three, including a set of polarized ones.

Why not these: Off the trail, you’ll look like you’re wearing a bike helmet to the prom.

8. Gargoyles Legends II
Price: $125 to $165
Telephone: 800 426 6396 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.gargoylesinc.com

Why these: Superwide peripheral vision. Styled more like a shield (one lens) than a wrap (two), the Legends II gives the wearer a nearly 180-degree field of view. The polarized gray lenses are tough, and they create minimal distortion.

Why not these: The thin wire temples don’t grip well enough for sweaty, bumpy bike rides.

9. Julbo Reflex
Price: $89
Telephone: 802 985 5056 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.climbhigh.com

Why these: Versatility—the Reflex is right for skiing, mountain biking, and climbing. The tough nylon frames grip effectively, and the glasses come with four interchangeable lenses, including clear ones for protection in the darkest gloom.

Why not these: The bulky frames won’t suit everyone’s taste.

10. Serengeti Argosy
Price: $200
Telephone: 800 222 6553 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.serengeti-eyewear.com

Why these: Optics so sharp the world seems magnified. If the Bollé glasses are for climbing Cho Oyu, then these are for driving in the Paris-Dakar Rally. The polarized, brown-tinted lenses are made of glass, resulting in a slightly heavy pair of shades, but the frames are so comfortable you’ll hardly notice.

Why not these: The price.

11. Oakley Polarized XX
Price: $160
Telephone: 800 336 3994 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.oakley.com

Why these: Tack-sharp visibility. Normally, a polarizing layer is coated onto a lens, but the XX (say “twenty”) lens and polarizing filter are molded together in one step to enhance clarity. The straight temples clamp on tightly, as do the sticky nose pads.

Why not these: The look-at-me styling and the relatively lofty price.

12. Action Optics Riptide
Price: $130 to $145
Telephone: 800 654 6428 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.actionoptics.com

Why these: Superior optics mated to conservative frames. Among the lenses available with the Riptide is the Clearwater Copper, and fly fishers will find the name apt. The contrast-enhancing brown base tint and polarized glass cut through surface glare to reveal otherwise invisible lunker brookies.

Why not these: The frames grip the head nicely but lack nose pads, so they become slippery when wet.

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May 2002:
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