What Is The Best Lens Material For Fishing Sunglasses?

The vast majority of all fishing quality fishing sunglasses are made out of two material types. These are Polycarbonate and Glass. A new material, Nylon is also making a name for itself.

When buying fishing sunglasses, the best Lens material to look for is Polycarbonate, Glass, or Nylon.

First I will list the key differences, and later I will discuss them in more detail.


  • Lightweight
  • Example lens weight: 5g
  • Very impact resistant
  • Excellent protection against UV
  • Good Clarity and low distortion
  • Easier to scratch


  • Extremely scratch resistant
  • Example lens weight: 10g
  • Less impact resistant
  • Excellent protection against UV
  • Excellent clarity and very low distortions
  • About twice the weight of polycarbonate


  • 20% lighter than Polycarbonate.
  • Example lens weight: 4g
  • Good impact-resistant
  • Excellent protection against UV
  • Very good clarity and low distortion



Polycarbonate is the most commonly used material in decent and good quality sunglasses. If durability is not an issue, it might just be the best and safest lens material for fishing glasses.

I say safest because no other lens material is as impact resistant as Polycarbonate. It will not shatter if you are hit in the eye by a lure or wayward fly. Polycarbonate is what safety glasses are made out of.

Polycarbonate also absorbs close to 100% of dangerous UV Rays. Unlike some cheaper plastics, it does not rely on coatings to make that claim.

Another key advantage of Polycarbonate is its weight. At approximately 5g per lens (about 1/6th of an ounce), they feel very lightweight on the face. I know in the difference in weight between glass and polycarbonate does not feel like much in the hand, it can make a noticeable difference when worn all day.

Now, I will discuss the downsides to polycarbonate. The first, and most noticeable is that it is not very scratch resistant. It can easily get scratched by sand, and substances of similar hardness.

The other downside is that Polycarbonate lenses are not quite as clear or distortion free as the other top materials.

Now, for my vision. I can not notice the lack of clarity or distorted vision during normal use. I can only tell that there is a difference when switching between a quality glass lens to a polycarbonate lens and back.

When compared head to head. It is noticeable when fishing on the river I doubt it is.

The best quality polycarbonate lens for fishing I know is in the Oakley Split Shot, While good budget options are made by Suncloud.

Are glass lenses worth the premium?

I like glass lenses, they have a feel of quality and if you are rough on your sunglasses, Glass holds up so much better than Polycarbonate.

I frequently throw my glasses onto the dashboard, clean them on my shirt or hide them in my pockets. After a year of use, my polycarbonate glasses are a mess of scratches, while my glass lenses are like new.

For anyone who is rough on their gear, the differences in scratch resistance is noticeable.

Glass is also extremely optically correct. There is no other material with lower distortion or better clarity. From a clarity perspective To my eyes, it seems like looking through glass is comparable to not wearing glasses at all.

I now need to cover the downsides to glass, and there are several.

The most noticeable downside to glass lenses is price. A quality glass lens can easily be two or three times the price of Polycarbonate.

But a bigger concern to fishermen should be impact resistant. We all know that glass can shatter, and while the lenses in glasses are treated to reduce the chance of it happening it remains a real risk. If hit in the lens, with enough velocity the glass could splinter causing eye damage. It does not happen often, but it can happen. theoretically, a casted fly does travel with enough velocity to break a glass lens.

My favorite glass lens glasses are the Smiths Guide Choice, while a surprisingly nice budget glass lens glasses are made by B.N.US

Nylon lens sunglasses – the newcomer.

Nylon is a very new lens technology, and its use is not widespread, but it does have some very nice characteristics which make it a worthwhile alternative to glass and polycarbonate.

If I had to describe Nylon is that it occupied the middle ground between glass and polycarbonate.

Nylon has better clarity, and less distortions than Polycarbonate, but is not quite as good as glass.

The biggest advantage of nylon, and the main reason why I think some people might go for it is weight. It is 20% lighter than an equivalent polycarbonate lens. What does that extra lightness means, Well it has allowed manufacturers to make stylish looking glasses that actually float.

Floating sunglasses are a big advantage when fishing on the water.

With regards to scratch resistance, Nylon is still a plastic lens. It is still going to scratch significantly easier than glass.

If you are interested in some sunglasses that float, I suggest checking out the Rheos Nautical.

Sunglasses Lens Materials to avoid (triacetate (TAC), cr39)

Most sunglasses that retail for under $60 are made out of cheap plastic materials, the most commonly used ones are triacetate (TAC) and cr39

These lenses, while okay for casual use do have quite a few downsides and are certainly a downgrade compared with the more premium materials.

The biggest downside is that the material only absorbs about 40% of harmful UV Rays, so the designers have to rely upon additional filters to bring the lens up to their rated amount. Such films, are easily damaged and can lose their effectiveness over time.

Clarity and distortion is actually quite good. Cr39 is actually commonly used in clear reading glasses thanks to its optical quality, but it is rarely used in sunglasses.

Plastic is plastic, and just like Polycarbonate and Nylon they scratch easily, but unlike polycarbonate and nylon, these cheap plastic lenses are nowhere near as impact resistant. They can shatter at a similar impact force as glass.

There is also no weight savings to be had over Polycarbonate or Nylon. These lenses tend to be a touch heavier.

The only advantage, these materials have over the three more premium materials is price. They are very cheap to produce.

A couple of examples of triacetate sunglasses are the ones by Kastking, and the Strike King brand stocked by Walmart


The best lens material for fishing sunglasses is Polycarbonate for impact resistance

or glass for durability and optical clarity. Nylon is also an interesting option for its extremely lightweight and optical performance.

For more information on buying the perfect pair of fishing sunglasses check my guide here.

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