"Always look on the bright side of life." -Monty Python
And what better way to literally do so than with a quality pair of sunglasses that are built for life on the water? After all, some of the most intense, bright light you'll ever encounter will be sun glare reflected off the water while sailing.
I've recently been trying out Hobie Polarized Cruz sunglasses and Gill's Sense bifocal sunglasses. The first thing you'll notice about both is that these are from companies that knows active watersports and sailing in particular, so already I'm feeling a connection. But are they worthy of respected sailing brands?
First lets start with the features. Both are a wrap style frame, meaning they're a bit curved, sleek and form-fitting for your face, as opposed to other styles that "sit" on your face/nose and don't offer much in the way peripheral protection from glare and wind. Both Hobie and Gill market these as multi-use for watersports, which I think is appropriate since the wrap style keeps them planted.
|Gill Sense Bifocal|
Both sunglasses are polarized, which is something I highly recommend for any sunglasses used while sailing. The lenses on the Gill's are of the hydrophobic variety. They do a good job of repelling water and sweat (and likely sunscreen, though I haven't tried them with sunscreen yet) and resisting water spotting. The lenses repel water as long as there's some wind or motion to keep the droplets moving, otherwise they'll still accumulate water spots if the drops are allowed to stay and dry on the lenses. The lenses on my Cruz's are copper-colored w/ sea green mirror exterior, which adds a coating to enhance color contrast and reduce glare. They provide very good crispness and natural color tones, but I went for that lens because I shamelessly like the aesthetics. If like the look of the Cruz, but want the added on-water benefit of a hydrophobic lens, check out the Cruz-R.
As I mentioned, the Gill Sense lenses are hydrophobic, but also have a "sandwich" construction featuring a polarizing light filter at the center with UV light absorbing layers laminated to both sides. Next is a shatter-resistant cushioning layer. Lastly, the very outer coating is the scratchproof, hydrophobic layer. Lots of layers, but they appear as one solid lens with no noticeable distinction between layers.
I realize beyond quality lenses, sunglasses are largely an aesthetic purchase. But if extra features are worth anything, both of these sunglasses have them. The Cruz has a Megol rubber anti-fog gasket that provides comfort and function as part of the frame. As for the Gills, they float (all Gill sunglasses float) and are offered as bifocals (+1.5 or +2.5 strength) so you can leave your reader glasses below decks for chart viewing and knot tying. My now 40 year old eyes appreciate the magnification, but the bifocal lens insert isn't blended, so I do notice the horizontal line in the lower half of my field of vision.
Both of these sunglasses are a good choice for protecting and enhancing your vision on the water. Aside from style and fit, the choice between the two for you will probably come down to whether you'll benefit from bifocals. In terms of clarity and lens crispness, I'll give a slight edge to the Cruz. The copper sea green lenses do a nice job of cutting glare but still allowing enough light to let you know it's nice sunny day on the water. The Gill's give a darker view, larger because of the grey color tone of the lenses. Another factor to consider is the Gill's flotation. If you wear the Hobie's with a retainer strap, this might not matter, but if you don't want a strap around your neck/head, floaters are a good idea on the water. Another consideration - price. The Hobie's go for about $80, while the Gill's cost a bit more at $100.
Looking for additional reviews of sunglasses suitable for sailing? Here are some previous reviews we've done:
>> Don't forget to visit SFLF's Gear Review page for more sailing gear reviews/tests. <<