Functional sunglasses with an eye on fashion

Today’s sunglasses excel at multi-tasking. Sports enthusiasts can find a host of sunglasses that are highly functional yet perfectly fashionable. Cyclists, runners, hikers, climbers, paragliders and anglers can all find sunglasses perfectly suited to their chosen activity but that look incredibly sharp at the same time.

To prove this theory, we sent testers out with several makes and models of sunglasses. We hiked in the Cascades, bicycled through Palouse wheat fields, flew paragliders on Whidbey Island and Tiger Mountain, climbed Mount Baker, kayaked on Hood Canal and ran along the Burke-Gilman Trail. In the end, our team of testers found a few standouts.

For high-speed, wind-in-your-face sports such as paragliding, downhill mountain biking and kiteboarding, 7EYE brand sunglasses proved popular with our team. The 7EYE Churada features removal soft foam “eye cups” around the lenses to block out wind, while allowing ventilation to prevent fogging. When you don’t need that added wind protection, those eye cups easily pop off so you have a more traditional lens design. The Churada’s shatter-resistant, photochromic polarized lens changes color density as ambient light levels change, so the lenses get darker when the sunlight brightens. The fit is snug on medium to large faces. The Churadas with photochromic lenses aren’t cheap — they sell for $250 — but they offer protection from wind, debris, impacts and glaring sun. That’s a wealth of protection for the price. More information: www.7eye.com.</em>

Realizing that quality sunglasses typically carry a hefty price, the testers focused on finding the best glasses for general-purpose use. That is, a pair of sunglasses that would function well for hikers and bikers, anglers and kayakers, runners and mall-walkers. The results: For men, especially those with larger faces, the Witness from Smith Optics was deemed the ideal all-around pair of sunglasses this summer, while women preferred the Bolt sunglasses from Native Eyewear.

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Smith’s Witness boasts a beefy frame with wide temple bars and oversized lenses for great sun protection and elimination of glare from the sides. The stylish tortoiseshell frames are durable — nearly indestructible (I accidentally stepped on them in wet grass and didn’t even leave a mark). Not everyone liked the large, rectangular lenses but those who did absolutely loved them for all uses. The Witness sells for $119. More information: www.smithoptics.com.

With perfect scores across the board — function in all sports, fashion and fit — every female tester loved the Bolt sunglasses from Native Eyewear. The tough, flexible frames and scratch-resistant lenses make the glasses durable enough for the most rigorous of activities, while the optical clarity of those polarized polycarbonate lenses means the Bolts can be worn all day with no eye strain — an important consideration for those who spend long hours in the sun. The Bolts even offer interchangeable lenses so you can tailor the lens color to light conditions. Whether used for hiking, riding, running or kayaking, the Bolts were the women’s favorite. Price: $100. More information: www.nativeeyewear.com.

— Dan A. Nelson, special to The Seattle Times

Freelancer Dan A. Nelson, of Puyallup, is a regular contributor to Backpacker magazine, and an author of outdoor guides with The Mountaineers Books. For the purpose of review, gear manufacturers lend products, which are returned after a typical use of four to six weeks. There is no payment from manufacturers and they have no control over the content of reviews. Contact Dan with gear-related questions at gearguy@adventuresnw.net.

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