Gear Review:
Rudy Project Zyon Sunglasses

Rudy Project Zyons — so cool

One of the most essential pieces of gear that any traveler must carry with them is a decent pair of sunglasses. Having the right pair provides you with much more than simply an elevated “cool” factor — good sunglasses protect your eyes from sun, wind, sand and dust while you explore beaches, mountain tops, glaciers, jungles, and more. The right pair should be comfortable, lightweight and durable. They should be as functional on a mountain bike as they are on a beach. It’s a lot to ask from a single pair.

To spend or not to spend?

When it comes to traveling with sunglasses, there are two schools of thought. The first argues that you should by el-cheapo sunglasses because they are easy to replace when damaged or lost. Going mountain biking? Just buy a new pair. Hitting the cafés in Paris? No problem. With cheap, knock-off sunglasses available in every tourist city in the world, there’s no reason you couldn’t simply have multiple pairs for multiple situations. And so what if you break a pair? There’ll be a replacement just around the corner.

The second school of thought is this: spend a little more and get the right pair. Just one. Not only is this less wasteful, it means you won’t have multiple pairs of crappy knock-offs cluttering up your minimalist pack. Furthermore, there’s something to be said about quality — a good pair of sunglasses feels better on your face, will have clearer lenses with less cloudiness and distortion, and might even make you a happier person. The difficulty here is that it can be difficult to find a single pair that lives up to the demands outlined above.

Rudy Project Zyons

It was with these thoughts that I set out to get the “right” pair of lenses for our adventures. After much searching, I found the Rudy Project Zyons. Success! Now they may not have the name-brand instant-chic of Ray Bans or the like, but I’ve always preferred sunglasses that err on the side of sportiness anyways. These Rudy Project sunglasses are built with function and comfort in mind. The arms and nose piece are flexible and adjustable, and the fit that you get is fantastic. Combine this with lightweight construction, and the result is a pair of sunglasses that stays on your face, comfortably. You can also tell by holding them that the construction is meant to last. All good things.

Perhaps the best part of the glasses, however, are the lenses. Rudy Project Zyons have interchangeable lenses, which lets you customize the glasses even further. There are a range of lenses to choose from, for a range of prices. The lenses I chose are scratch-resistant, unbreakable, and photo-sensitive. What do these things that mean? Well, the lenses themselves are actually flexible — you can take one out of the frame and bend it in half with your fingers. This means there’s no chance of the lenses shattering on your eyes, even if you meet the pavement face first. The photosensitivity of the lenses allows them to adjust to the conditions around you, darkening when the sun is out, and lightening when clouds roll in. The effect is so subtle when you wear them that you don’t even notice this happening. All you do notice is that it always seems to be just about the right brightness for you. It’s like magic.

Now I know that no gear review is properly complete unless both sides of the story are told. What are the cons of these Zyon sunglasses, you ask? The only one worth mentioning is the price. Like any other pair of high-end sunglasses, these don’t come cheap. With the same lenses as I chose, you should expect to pay somewhere north of $170 canadian. I would also recommend that anyone looking to use these sunglasses in really bright conditions (sailing, beach volleyball, skiing) should consider buying darker lenses. At their darkest, the photosensitive ones I got were not quite enough to handle truly blinding conditions. I hesitate to mention that as a con, since it’s simply a matter of getting a second set of lenses — if you can afford them.

In terms of quality, I have nothing but praise for the Zyons. They fit well, resist scratches, and the lenses are clear and distortion-free. Highly recommended gear for those subscribing to the second school of thought.

The ironic afterword

As luck would have it, after six months of enjoying my Rudy Projects on the road, I recently lost them in Indonesia while volunteering there. I was devastated. Unfortunately, although I am a firm believer that quality sunglasses are the better choice, the reality of budget travel means that I will have to replace my beloved Zyons with some el-cheapo pair from the market around the corner. It pains me to become an example of the strongest argument against buying quality sunglasses, but I stand by my convictions regardless. Quality sunglasses are worth the investment. Just don’t lose them like me — it’s not an investment that you’ll be eager to make often.


    Oh, oh Mark. You are starting to show your age


  1. Dallas Husar

  2. And here I thought you were going to talk about haircuts, given the picture…. Just kidding!
    After 11 years I still stand by Oakleys, my friend. I’m onto my fourth pair but I still love them. (Lost one, one stolen, and the third is my back up pair after 8 years of being on job sites, etc) Plus I thought you were a Smith guy?

  3. Bruce the Moose

  4. Couldn’t agree more on the need for shades. All those lines around my eyes – are not the result of stress or age. They came when I went through North Africa without sunglasses. Not cool.

    El-cheapos? I dare say you’ve upgraded to an authentically stylish pair of George Armanis.

  5. Mother Goose

  6. Do I dare contradict Bruce the Moose, sure do. Lots of those lines are worrying about you folks – just kidding, wish we could do the same. The lines are called sailing in the sun trophies. Birthday boy – want us to send over a new pair of glasses with Sarah and Mike, we can get you a good pair at Costco???? xxxxxooo

    Those wrinkles make you look distinguished.

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