I thought I'd scout around and find the best paragliding sunglasses to recommend to you and all my other visitors. Easy. But no, it's not! Or at least, it wasn't years ago when this page was first written. Times have changed, and a little further down you will find one company that tries to cater for specific sports - including paragliding!
What I discovered was that paragliding has to be one of the most demanding environments for sunglasses! Different people have different requirements for a range of reasons.
A bit further down there's some more detailed info about all the relevant factors. Consider which of them might apply to you...
An interesting option for paraglider pilots is sunglasses designed for other outdoor sports. But it helps when you know that many other sports sunglasses can be suitable. Some of these have similar requirements for protecting your eyes and enhancing your vision outdoors.
For example, people who go fishing have to contend with glare off the water. Golfers like to clearly see the flight of a tiny white golf ball through the sky. Paraglider pilots need to keep wind and dust away from their eyeballs. Comfort when wearing a helmet is also a factor.
In recent years, more attention has been paid to designing and marketing sunglasses specifically for aviation. Even paragliding or hang gliding in particular, as you will find at this UK website.
Protection From Airflow
Some people have a problem with their eyes drying out too easily. These people need the kind of sunglasses that seal well, with specially designed foam and rubber parts built in. Otherwise, the draught around their head during flight will soon cause irritation and even focussing problems. Also, if this is you, even standing around at a windy site would be more comfortable with a set of specs that seal well.
Protection From Ultraviolet Radiation
Nearly everyone these days is aware of this problem. Thankfully, even some of the cheapest sunglasses have 100% UV protection. Bear in mind that sunlight coming in around the edge of the frame can enter your eye. Most commonly, sunglasses tend to let a bit of direct sunlight in at the sides. Over a few hours, this can add up to the point where you are affected.
I have a problem with this myself, since I am ultra-sensitive to UV and glare. If unprotected, I can feel UV boring into the back of my eyes even in overcast conditions! Remember that UV can penetrate cloud to some extent.
So total protection can only be achieved with a wrap-around style. The styles with a slab side can be OK too. As long as something is blocking the side of the eyes from direct light.
Those trendy sunnies with small glasses would make terrible paragliding sunglasses!
The main point here is that paragliding sunglasses should not be too dark.
As long as your eyes are protected from the right wavelengths at the UV end of the spectrum, the lighter the better!
The darker the lenses are, the less 'acuity' your sight has, particularly in low light. In other words, you will lose the finest details of what you are looking at.
As people get older, they can become more prone to getting headaches and other symptoms from exposure to glare. This affects somewhere around 20% of the population I read somewhere.
If there is a lot of glare in the places you normally fly, your ideal paragliding sunglasses might be the polarized type. These can make a dramatic improvement in some conditions. For example, airborne dust in the distance can become visible. However, see the next point for the disadvantages of polarized glasses!
Problems Caused By Polarized Lenses
Depending on your circumstances and equipment, there are a couple of drawbacks to using polarized lenses. Firstly, while you are flying, the darkness of your view will change a bit according to bank angle! This is because the scattered sunlight of the sky is polarized too. Not a problem when you are just walking around on the ground with your head level!
In addition to this, some instrument faces polarize light too. So well, in fact, that in some cases your instruments might be totally unreadable when looked at through polarized lenses. Make sure you test your own gear before laying out money on new paragliding sunglasses!
Fit With Helmet
Yes, some sunglasses / helmet combinations don't work! There's just not enough room for the glasses, which causes discomfort.
Restriction Of Peripheral Vision
Ideally, you should not be aware of the frame around the lenses when wearing your sunglasses. If you are, then your field of vision is being restricted. Not by much maybe, but hey, why not do everything possible to keep a good lookout while in the air.
Resistance To Breakage
How tough are they, in other words. I remember many years ago I broke a set of sunnies for the first time ever. They were Le Specs, remember them? Le Specs, Le Tough was the advertising slogan. I sat on mine, mangling the frame, although the lenses survived. They turned out to be Le Specs, Le Not So Tough, for me!
There's an interesting point to make here. The more expensive the glasses, the less likely they are to be accidently broken or lost! Seems that people are more careful with expensive sunglasses, which totally makes sense doesn't it.
One final point. You don't want paragliding sunglasses with lenses that break too easily. Worth considering if there is any chance of contacting hard objects on the ground while landing. Again, you have to consider your own situation and the type of flying you do.
Are They Cool Enough?
That's entirely up to you. It might be very important, or totally irrelevant, depending on who you are! It's unlikely that the very trendiest sunnies will be much good as paragliding sunglasses. At least the makers of the best protective sunglasses are getting better at making them less ugly!
Not a huge issue really, since decent sunglasses aren't anywhere near the cost of a canopy or even a harness. Protecting your eyes is important, and worth spending a few bucks on. The lowest prices for sunglasses can be found online.