Advice from the guides and our partner CAIRN on how to protect your eyes in the mountains.

Jun 20, 2024
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Sunglasses Cairn

Why do we need to protect our eyes from the sun in the mountains?

In the mountains, the layers of the atmosphere become thinner in proportion to the increase in altitude, and these layers filter the sun's rays less and less, especially UV rays (ultra-violet rays) which are particularly harmful to the body (especially the eyes, but also the skin).

It is essential to protect yourself properly against UV rays with sunglasses, a ski mask, clothing or sun cream.

Mountain guides are particularly exposed to these risks, in addition to the other risks inherent in mountain activities.

So it's only natural that mountain guides should turn to a brand like CAIRN to provide them with the best sun protection in terms of optics, as well as advice and the development of tomorrow's protection.

CAIRN is the brand that protects the eyes of our guides in Annecy who need to see clearly.

Cairn is a French brand, the fruit of a family adventure that began in 1938. Cairn has a long history of expertise in the development of protective and optical equipment.

Focused on people and listening to their needs, the brand draws its inspiration from the various sports it undertakes, from design to technical production, with the constant aim of innovation and comfort

The Cairn brand has decided to forge a partnership with the Annecy Guides Bureau, a team of experts in high mountain and outdoor sports in the Annecy region and the Northern Alps. The professionals at the Annecy Guides Bureau are involved in a wide range of mountain and outdoor activities all over the world, particularly in the high mountains, and their expertise will enable the brand and the guides to work in synergy to develop the best products, as well as to discuss the needs and expectations of the customers they take on activities, expeditions or outings.

Which sunglasses should you choose for mountaineering?

First and foremost, you need to choose the sunglasses that offer the best protection for your activity, before the look, of course... Even if style is important in the mountains!
In the high mountains, for example, it's important to protect yourself as much as possible, so guides use category 2 to 4 photochromic lenses and ultra-covering frames. In short, they're called glacier goggles, because they're particularly suited to this environment when the sun is shining brightly on the glacier, but also if bad weather reduces light intensity and temperature.
It's not unusual for the bad weather goggle to be in the bag too, with a category 2 lens for seeing through storms and fog. Even with bad weather, you need to protect your eyes, because UV rays pass through cloud layers.

What are the different categories of protection for sunglasses?

Category 1 & 2

Category 1 lenses are lightly tinted and are ideal for use in less sunny situations, such as in winter or on very grey summer days. They allow between 43% and 80% of visible light to pass through.

Category 3 lenses

Category 3 lenses provide effective protection against sunlight on sunny days. They let through between 8 and 18% of visible light. They offer optimum optical quality for comfort of vision at all times, whether for sport or city use.

Category 4 lenses
These are highly tinted lenses that allow only between 3% and 8% of visible light to penetrate. These lenses are recommended for outdoor activities exposed to strong light: skiing, mountaineering, water sports, etc. They are also designed for young children to ensure maximum protection.

To sum up, the higher the index, the greater the protection against UV rays, but this becomes more complicated in the mountains, because sometimes the weather changes and it's not always sunny with blue skies. That's where engineers have developed new lens technologies to adapt the lens to ambient light and contrasts.

What are the different technologies? 

Photochromic lenses

Photochromic lenses adapt to the intensity of the sun's rays. They go from category 1 to category 3 to give you perfect visibility when the weather changes or when you move from shade to light. Their polycarbonate structure makes them light and resistant, so they're perfect for demanding sports like skiing, cycling, trail running and more.

Polarised lenses

Polarised lenses filter rays to eliminate the sensation of glare and intensify contrasts to give you enhanced quality of vision, even in bright light. They feature a polarising filter inserted into the lens between 2 layers of acrylic, for maximum durability over time. Polarised lenses are just as well suited to sports requiring precise vision of relief, such as mountain biking or trail running, as they are to everyday use.

High contrast

High contrast lenses improve definition and natural colour recognition, while providing a high level of protection, even in bright light.

What glasses should you choose for hiking, mountain biking or outdoor sports?

In all cases, you'll need goggles with good ventilation to evacuate fog. Category 3 photochromic lenses are particularly recommended, as they offer good management of luminosity depending on the amount of sunlight.

In conclusion, whatever you do, you need to protect your eyes according to the natural environment you find yourself in. Don't forget that the mountains and the high mountains are environments where it is essential to be equipped with simple, reliable and effective equipment.
Our guides are always on hand to give you the best advice on your equipment when preparing your outing.

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