When does one graduate from mall kiosk shades to performance sunglasses? If you’re there yet, check out this new line from Serengeti Eyewear.
When you’re a purist backpacker traveling on a shoestring, scoffing at anything requiring a sizable layout of cash is a necessary survival instinct. You laugh at the rich package tourists who spend more on a week’s hotels than you do for months of nights in guesthouses. You make fun of those “adventure travelers” outfitted in jackets that cost more than your backpack did. And why buy $100+ sunglasses when you can get a pair at the local mercado for three bucks?
When most eventually leave that phase and get a real job, however, the superior attitude fades a bit over time. Staying in a hostel doesn’t have the same appeal when you can easily afford better and you realize people treat you differently when you’re not dressed like a hobo. And wow—things really do look a lot different when you’re wearing good sunglasses!
I’ve been in both camps and still move back and forth between them as a travel writer, but I’ve definitely learned my lesson with the sunglasses as the decades have wore on. I’ve spent the past few weeks wearing one pair only—these Serengeti Cetera ones pictured at the top. Well, except for a few times I did some before and after tests with other shades to compare.
These are, hands down, the most comfortable and lightweight sunglasses I can ever remember wearing, and that’s no fluke. These special polarized PhD lenses “weigh 75% less than glass and 10% less than polycarbonate.” Yet they’re polarized too, so I could see clearly when we got a snow dumping last week and I went sledding and snowman building. I took a walk by a lake and noticed a significant reduction in glare from the water. On top of that they’re photochromic, so they get darker as conditions get brighter. Otherwise, they do what sunglasses should: cut down brightness and glare without changing the colors of what you are seeing. My eyes are protected and comfortable without seeing anything distorted.
The tech specs on these lenses fill half a page of copy, but the real differentiators are that the polarizing is built into the back layer of the lenses, not the front, so there’s no risk of degradation from abrasion or other factors. You also get “anti-scratch hard coat, seven layer backside anti-reflective coating, and oleo phobic coating technology for oil and water resistance.” And they’re shatterproof under normal conditions.
All that is well and good, but if you’re going to pay a premium like this (list prices between $150 and $200, but sometimes under $100 at retail), the glasses had better make you look great too. While I’m a big fan of more competitively-priced shades we’ve reviewed here before from the likes of Julbo and Tifosi Optics, these make you think of Milan and Paris, not Boulder and Bariloche. The home page of Serengeti’s website features a winding mountain road on which you should picture yourself in an Italian sportscar, top down, someone beautiful and stylish beside you. We can’t all travel like that, but we can feel like it with their shades on our eyes.
If you want high performance but you want to look fabulous when you make your grand entrance, check out the new Serengeti line with Polar PhD lenses.
Tim Leffel is founder of the Practical Travel Gear blog, as well as the Cheapest Destinations blog and the narrative webzine Perceptive Travel. He is the author of The World's Cheapest Destinations (now in its 4th edition), Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and A Better Life for Half the Price.
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