Polarized or photochromic sunglasses?

-- Last Updated: Nov-18-11 11:12 PM EST --

I'm trying to decide on a pair of prescription sunglasses that I would use for both kayaking and cycling.

Transitions Drivewear has the change-ability that I like for changing light conditions. Say, early/late paddling in low light vs. mid-day sun. Or cycling going between bright and shaded areas. However, it's not polarized. It can come with anti-glare coatings.

Polarized glasses won't change with the light, but they do clearly eliminate an extra amount of glare, whether from water or from road reflection. Fine for bright light, but can be dangerous in low light conditions, and I do both cycle and paddle in those many mornings.

(FWIW, I used to use flip up sports sunglasses, but those keep breaking down.)

It seems that it might be possible to get both in one lens, but it's frightfully expensive.

Anybody experienced enough with both polarized and photochromatic lenses to tell me which works better for kayaking?


Are Transitions lenses sensitive
enough so that they’ll darken when worn under a hat brim, or when your head is tipped down while riding a bicycle?

I’ve always liked polarized lenses for canoeing and kayaking. But they vary in quality. Some that have well-designed frames have poor polarizing coatings, with a milky cast.

I used to like Zebco polarized fishing glasses, where a sub-frame allows one to tip up the lenses if it’s necessary to have more light input, as when a mass of clouds pass over. But their coating was not the best.

Now that I’m old and wear prescription glasses, I just get good, light, clip-on polarised lenses, the kind where the lenses will tip up.

photocromatic and clouds
I have photocromatic lenses for my regular glasses. They get dark even when it is cloudy or foggy out, which is a time when you wouldn’t want them dark. They don’t get dark when you are in a car or other area behind certain types of glass - when you might want them dark.

I like polerized …
… , especially on the water , but then again don’t have need of any prescrip. glasses .

g2d’s idea about flip ups makes good sense to me for prescip. wearers .

I Use Both
My prescription glasses are bronze Transitions, which don’t eliminate the glare of the sun, so I wear bronze Polarize fisherman’s sunglasses over them, which do block out the glare. I prefer bronze tint because they enable me to see beneath the water’s surface better than the other popular tint’s, and also do a better job of blocking out the cataract causing blue light, the other tint’s let in.

I use polarized perscription sun glasses
and non polarized non transition regular glasses. I’ve tried various transition lenses but I never liked them because they would get too dark in low light and sometimes would not get dark enough in bright sun - ie. while driving behind a windshield. I’ll admit it is an expensive proposition buying two sets of glasses every time my prescription changes. But, its the only way I have found that really works.

avoid as many of the coatings
As possible. Imo, they are only good for scratching. I vote polarized.

Ryan L.

I have used my polorized glasses cycling and paddling. Be aware that you may be unable to read or see your screens on LCD displays such as cameras, gps, phone, radio and cyclometer.


UV rays
Whichever way you go, make sure the lens has a UV coating. The rays cause eye damage and can bring on cataracts, especially with people who spend a lot of time outside. Clouds don’t block UV rays.

Polarized, but you can have both
I’ve had polarized, photochromatics and polarized photochromatics over the past 20 years.

I like polarized for outdoor activities, particularly boating. I have my prescription polarized glasses made with a small bifocal lens so I can read maps and my GPS.

Photochromatics are more of a gimmick to me. Plus, as stated by others, they sometimes won’t darken when you want them to, as when driving, and vice versa.

Just changed, now buying more.
With my previous prescription I had polarized sunglasses. This time I opted for Transitions brand lenses, now I am shopping for some durable, dark, polarized kayaking sunglasses. IMO the polarized lenses win on the water hands down.

Next time it’s back to clear glasses and real (polarized) sunglasses.

Proper glasses style essential
Whatever type of sunglasses you ulimately choose, be sure to get frames/glasses that provide side shadowing, ie: protection against light coming in from the sides where the glasses arms are. This is normally achieved by a “wrap around” style or very thick/wide arms. The reason you need this is because with good sunglasses your pupils will dilate, and then scattered uv light from the sides can readily enter your eyes. As an additional feature, very good glasses have an antireflection coating on the inside lens surface to help prevent this.

On the matter of glasses choice, I’d take the polarizers due to the glare reduction which is substantial when on the water.

"pulpils will dilate"
Excellent point as my eyes would fry every time I went to the beach wearing my cool dark shades as a teenager. My eyes became super sensitive that I’d squint all the time I didn’t wear sunglasses. Stopped wearing sunglasses and my squinting stopped as the pupils narrowed in the sun. Those were the days of non UV coatings. Today, some eye doctors have machines that can detect cataracts early in their development. So yes, protect your side vision, and if you wear contacts, make sure they block out UV light too.

I vote for the photochromic lenses if you want them for cycling and paddling. I also cycle as well as kayak and have some sunglasses with Transition lenses and polarized. My transition lenses are fantastic for cycling since I bike commute and spend a lot of time riding in the dark; they work equally well in shady, sunny and overcast conditions. I have used my Transition glasses many times paddling in varying light conditions, such as late afternoon, and their ability to adjust is helpful. Their only downside is that they suck for driving because they won’t darken inside a car.

Polarized lenses are much better for driving and will reduce glare on water, which is more important for fishing than kayaking, IMHO. However, polarized lenses make it difficult or impossible to read LCD readouts on cycle computers, GPS units, etc.

Ideally, it’s good to have two sets of sunglasses with both types of lenses.

I wear prescription glasses and have clear glasses (bifocal) and for anything outdoors polarized prescription glasses with titanium frames.

That’s where I think I’ll end up.
While all the advice has been helpful, yours is most directly answering my questions and my needs.

Cycling needs changing; dawn/dusk needs changing in either sport; mid-day doesn’t require my seeing below the water (fishing), so just being dark enough and cutting glare is good for my needs. I realize polarized lenses are somewhat better at the latter, but only in certain directions and that’s clearly NOT all the time.


I use amber polarized perscription glasses with a strap when canoeing. Polarized definatly allow you to see under the water better,as my paddling partner can attest. He was unconvinced until, when following me and I made a quick swere to miss an underwater stump-which he didn’t follow- he hit it and dumped! I don’t use polarized for driving a car(I use seringetti drivers) or really any other activity. Polarized glasses really don’t work well for non-water activities. Get non-polarized for those.


polarized fit overs
My prescription is so strong that I can’t get dark prescription sunglasses, only a lightish grey. Sunglasses have always been a problem for me until I found these new “fit over” styles. Now I strap my regular glasses to my head and wear a pair of the fitovers on top. Sure they look fugly but they really do protect your eyes from all angles (good side coverage).