Best Survival Sunglasses for Any Situation

by Tommy Grant

The difference a good pair of sunglasses can make is something you shouldn’t sleep on. Protecting your eyes is important, but being able to trust your sunglasses to give you the best sight in any situation gives a great advantage. High-quality tactical sunglasses can fit the bill for survival use, but there are a few other options as well.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best sunglasses for survival, tested them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade pick. If you need some reliable eyewear, one of our suggestions will have you covered.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


The Best Survival Sunglasses

Magpul Radius

High-Coverage, Gray Man, and Tough

Tactical ballistic sunglasses with plenty of upgrades that still allow you to blend in with the crowd.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

These glasses give you full wraparound Z87+ ballistic protection, but look just as good outside the range. They are an excellent option if you are looking for something to wear every day, and possibly even blend in using the gray man concept.

Here is everything you get with these shades:

  • Multiple lens colors, frame colors, and polarization options
  • Ballistic MIL-PRF 32432 lenses
  • Anti-reflective and scratch-resistant
  • TR90NZZ thermoplastic frame with stainless steel pins
  • 6.4 ounces

With a comfortable fit and solid ballistic quality, it’s easy to see why the Magpul Radius Sunglasses top the rest.


Budget Survival Sunglasses

Survival I-Shield

Thin Profile, Inexpensive, and Durable

Fashion goes out the window with these function-first sunglasses that focus solely on protecting your eyes.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

These sunglasses by Survival Metrics will fit anyone’s budget and will fit into any survival kit. They are thin, lightweight, and bendable to contour to anyone’s face. Don’t worry about frames getting beat up, because these don’t have any!

They use a paracord lanyard to stay on your face and have vented pads to stay comfortably close to your eyes without fogging.

Here is how this unique option measures up:

  • Carrying canister included
  • 99% UVA/UVB protection
  • 7-strand paracord lanyard
  • 10 grams

If you are looking for inexpensive shades for a true survival situation, the Survival I-Shield Sunglasses are what you’re looking for.


Upgrade Tactical Sunglasses

Gatorz Magnum Z

Lightweight, Ballistic, and High Quality

These top-tier sunglasses are trusted to perform by operators when lives depend on vision.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The tactical sunglasses brand of choice, Gatorz has been outfitting the finest fighting forces in the world for years now. The Magnum Z has been the most popular model, and it makes sense.

These things are at the top of the heap, with top-notch materials and unparalleled craftsmanship. Using machined aluminum with Cerakote ceramic coating makes them lightweight and tough as nails.

Here are the specs:

  • Four lens color options on the blackout frame
  • Ballistic MIL-PRF 32432A lenses
  • High-contrast, anti-reflective, anti-fog, and scratch-resistant
  • Cerakote aluminum frame with stainless steel rivet hinges
  • Optional Foam Insert for dust protection
  • 2.9 ounces
  • Made in the USA

With a sleek design and high-quality manufacturing, the Gatorz Magnum Z Sunglasses are the best of the best.


Everything We Recommend

Magpul Radius

Tactical ballistic sunglasses with plenty of upgrades that still allow you to blend in with the crowd.

Where to Buy

$97* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Gatorz Magnum Z

These top-tier sunglasses are trusted to perform by operators when lives depend on vision.

Where to Buy

$285* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Sunglasses We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to a few brands and types of sunglasses that we compared: Magpul, Gatorz, Wiley X, Oakley, Bollé, AO, Revision, ESS, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We considered a wide range of sunglasses. Ultimately, we leaned towards ballistic and safety-rated glasses, as their lens toughness and wrap-around protection are not easily replicated with non-tactical solutions.

We’re always looking for new and better gear, so if you have some survival sunglasses that you love, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best survival sunglasses have a few features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Comfort
  3. Durability
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find the perfect sunnies to keep your eyes protected. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the sunglasses that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like eyewear shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. There is a wide range of prices in just our picks, so there is no need to spend beyond your means.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, even when it comes to eye protection. It’s better to diversify your spending to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.

Comfort

If your sunglasses aren’t comfortable, you won’t wear them as often. The military has conducted tests on the comfort of protective gear and found that it is extremely important, or else the gear will get modified or not worn at all.

One of the reasons sunglasses help is that they can make it more comfortable to see in bright environments. This isn’t very helpful if your sunglasses are not comfortable against your temples and nose bridge.

Make sure that your sunglasses of choice are very comfortable and try them with various headwear and face coverings to check for pressure issues and fogging respectively.

Durability

As with any survival gear, you need them to last. This is where tactical sunglasses really excel, with their scratch resistance, high-end frame materials, and ballistic-level protection.

Sure, plenty of sunglasses companies offer warranties to repair/replace- but that may not be an option in a survival situation.

Size & Weight

Lightweight sunglasses are immensely helpful if you haven’t tried them. Being able to wear sunglasses without noticing them on your nose and ears lets you wear them for extremely long periods.

Survival kits are always concerned with size and weight, and this concern still applies to sunglasses although you wear them on your head. You can still find them stowed in kits when you aren’t using them, and every ounce matters in your kit.

Versatility

Versatile sunglasses are simply the best. When you go from yardwork to the shooting range and then to the ball game, being able to use the same sunglasses for all three is awesome.

The I-Shields are versatile for a separate reason- they have the paracord lanyard that always brings versatility. You could even swap out that paracord for SurvivorCord to level it up even more. You can learn more about that in our paracord review.


What Sunglasses Do the Military & Navy Seals Wear?

Members of the US Military are limited in what type of sunglasses they can wear due to uniform standards. If they are lucky, sometimes units and squads will issue sunglasses, usually sourced through GSA.

The most popular brands include Wiley X, Oakley, AO, DVX, Smith, Rothco, and Gatorz.

Both frames and lenses usually have to be dark colors and meet specific military standards if they are ballistic eyewear for the shooting range.

Outside of the range, you’ll see a wide range of brands around the base, especially when military members are in civilian dress.


Who Needs Survival Sunglasses?

Most people have a pair of sunglasses. They can make being outdoors more comfortable for anyone, and they can offer even more protection at the range or other environments. Survival sunglasses aren’t anything special- they are just the pair of sunglasses you plan on trusting in a survival situation. In most cases, tactical or safety-rated sunglasses are selected as they are some of the most durable options.

We don’t consider sunglasses essential for any person or kit, but there are certain situations and environments where they can really help you out.

We strongly suggest that you consider sunglasses for your:

Additionally, you can consider them for your:

I don’t leave home without my sunglasses and use them for everything from yard work to the shooting range.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best survival sunglasses are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

Dain, S. (2003). Sunglasses and sunglass standards. Clinical and Experimental Optometry. Volume 86. Issue 2. Pages 77 – 90. (Source)

Noyes, E., et al. (2021). The effect of face masks and sunglasses on identity and expression recognition with super-recognizers and typical observers.Royal Society Open Science. Volume 8. Issue 3. (Source)

Sliney, D. (2001). Photoprotection of the eye – UV radiation and sunglasses. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. Volume 64. Issues 2-3. Pages 166 – 175. (Source)


The Final Word

Everyone uses sunglasses regularly, so why not have a pair that can withstand whatever the world throws your way? Survival sunglasses fit the bill and keep your eyes protected in a wide range of situations or just during everyday use.

Here are a few other gear reviews and guides our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our testing found the Magpul Radius Sunglasses to be the best option given its value, comfort, durability, size/weight, and versatility.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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