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Gear Guy

Q:

What Are the Best Interchangeable Lens Sunglasses?

Many sunglasses are designed for specific sports. How can I buy a pair that works in all different conditions?

ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN - SEPTEMBER 04: Competitors preparing for start in action at Adventure mountain bike cross-country marathon "Marathon Bartogay-Batan 2011" September 04, 2011 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (Maxim Petrichuk/http://www.shutt)
mountain bikers

Many sunglasses are designed for specific sports. How can I buy a pair that works in all different conditions?

A:

The lenses for sunglasses have become so high tech that certain types serve particular sports really well. But they can also be limiting. For instance, if you’re biking in low-light but want eye protection, you may opt for a lightly tinted lens. Or, you may want a photochromatic lens that adjusts to your environs. Then in the winter, when you’re snowboarding in bright sun, you may want a heavily filtered lens and polarization to cut glare. Does that mean you have to buy a new pair of shades for each season?

The good news is that sophisticated designs are now on the market to let you switch out lenses easily. These interchangeable systems hold the polycarbonate lenses firmly while you’re wearing the glasses, but allow you to change them out in a few steps. What’s more, the mechanisms don’t distort the field of vision as in previous interchangeable models. That comes in handy, depending on time of day and activity, whether you’re gearing up to go paddleboarding, cycling, or fishing. And it especially comes into service if you scratch the hell out of your existing set of lenses. (We should note that all of our picks, and most high-quality lenses now on the market, offer 100 percent UV protection for your eyes.)

The following two pairs are fresh on the market and full of all-season potential.

The Best Interchangeable Lens Sunglasses: Oakley RadarLock Path

Whether you’re cycling, running, or skiing, Oakley’s RadarLock Path has a lens for you. The pick of many London Olympians, the $220 RadarLock Path uses an ingenious mechanism to let you switch out the lenses quickly. Open a spring-loaded latch on the left hinge, swing the temple forward, and remove the lens. It has all the high-end extras typical of Oakley shades, such as interchangeable nose pads, the company’s high-definition optics, and an option for prescription lens inserts. Out of the box, it comes with two lenses, bright days and low-light conditions. The similar Pitch model, also $220, features a smaller lens but with better air flow.

The Best Interchangeable Lens Sunglasses: Switch Boreal

What if the cyborg-triathlete look of Oakley’s glasses isn’t to your taste? Then Switch’s Boreal model ($150) offers the only full-frame lenses that switch out, and are new this year. They come with two pairs of lenses—you pick either polarized or non-polarized lenses and also get a separate pair of low-light lenses. The glasses fit medium to large heads best.

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