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Gear Guy


What Are the Best Sunglasses?

6 top-shelf picks that all cost less than a Benjamin

(Joe Jackson)

6 top-shelf picks that all cost less than a Benjamin


It’s a conundrum many of us face. We want nice sunnies, but we tend to drop, smash, or lose them. Enter the sub-$100 pair. At this price point, you can still get a fine set of shades, but it stings a little less if they fall off your face and go floating down your favorite river, never to be seen again. Presenting our top six picks.

The Test

Over the past three weeks, my friends and I ran, rode, rafted, road-tripped, and consumed lots of beer with these glasses on our faces. I asked testers for notes and compiled my own to help you decide which pair suits you best.

Zeal Essential ($99)

(Joe Jackson)

Best For: Doing everything 

These were a unanimous favorite, thanks to the curved lens design that fit tightly to testers’ faces without looking sport-dorky. Everyone loved them for ripping singletrack or just cruising the highway. The Z-Resin frames were the second most flexible of those we tested and proved burly enough to live in one tester’s tightly packed carry-on for a long weekend. Polarized lenses were a bonus, as were the grippy rubber details at the nose, forehead, and ears that kept these frames on even when testers dripped sweat.

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Spy Optic Montana ($85)

(Joe Jackson)

Best For: Charging hard

The Montana’s Grilamid plastic frames were the most bomber and flexible of any we tested. One tester put them on a hardwood floor and stomped but couldn’t get them to crack. Testers also liked the steezy square frames that protected their faces yet looked good under a trucker hat.

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Nectar Blaze Highbro ($40)

(Joe Jackson)

Best For: The budget conscious

Giant lenses on these glasses block a lot of light but also take a particular amount of chutzpah to wear. Testers said they were perfect for drinking beer on the beach. For less than the price of a dinner out, you also get polarized lenses that are good for days on water or snow. The only gripe: The frames felt a little flimsy.

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Sunski Foxtails ($58)

(Joe Jackson)

Best For: Making a statement

Fashion-forward sunnie aficionados will appreciate this unique design for either men or women. These weren’t our go-tos for trail runs, but we loved how they felt and looked. Like the Nectar glasses, these come with polarized lenses.

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Smith Delano ($89)

(Joe Jackson)

Best For: Crossover days

Smith first released this design in 1993, and it still looks good and works well. The thin frames were easy to wear for everyday duties, but these glasses are also built for the trail, with carbonic frames that will hold up to spills, dings, and drops or even an errant tree branch.

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Electric Scrambler ($100) 

(Joe Jackson)

Best For: Muted style

The aviator-style frame stands out, but the muted color keeps them from being too loud. Grilamid construction (like the Spy glasses, above) makes them flexible and tough, while the large lenses were great for hangover-recovery days.

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Filed To: Sunglasses

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