Ten Things You Should Never Leave Home Without: #3: Glasses (as in Sunglasses)

My Favorite Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

My Favorite Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

What is it: Protection from the sun (especially) and elements (generally) for your eyes.  My eyes are particularly light sensitive and I wear sunglasses even on overcast days.   To be practical, the frames and lenses should be large enough to cover and protect your eyes from direct sunlight, wind and debris.  Most if not all sunglasses these days provide for total UV protection.

I recommend plastic or other non-metal frames.  Metal frames may be stylish, but they are not practical.  Metal conducts and retains heat (and therefore cold as well), so in hot weather and in direct sun they can heat up such that it is uncomfortable to wear them, and in cold weather, they can similarly become so frigid as to make them unbearable and can make your head ache.

Metal frames also have the tendency to bend out of shape and once bent, thereafter look awkward on ones face.  If you sit on your metal framed sunglasses, you will spend (or should I say waste) hours trying to bend them back into shape, but they will never look right again.  If you sit on your plastic framed sunglasses, they will either break – forcing you to move on to your next pair without delay – or they will survive and still look great on you.

LL Bean Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

2008 LL Bean Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

Personally, I prefer a nice large tortoise-shell frame.   At the beginning of each spring, I’ll buy at least three or four pair – a couple of nice ones and a couple of cheaper ones from a drug store – to last the year.  I’ll keep one in my car (as a backup); one in my bag.  My favorites come from LL Bean.  They are not available right now online so I can’t provide a posting but they should be easy enough to find once spring rolls around and they carry more stock of summer items.  [What am I, nuts – I was wrong – here is the link]

Another kind to consider carrying is glasses with clear lenses.  I carry a pair in my backpack, which is often, though not always with me, admittedly.  They serve the same purpose as sunglasses – they provide 100% UV protection and they shield my eyes from wind and debris, but are more practical to wear on overcast days than sunglasses – in particular during the snow.

Snow is a great example of typical non-toxic airborne debris that is desirable to keep out of your eyes.  Wind-driven snow will drift around, upwards and into your face and eyes – during a significant snowfall, it can be quite difficult to see of the wind is blowing at all from all the snow flying in your eyes.  But a decent pair of glasses with clear lenses will help resolve this problem.  In fact, I am going out right now, in the snow, and will be wearing them.  Very practical.

Lowe's Clear Polarized Lenses

Lowe's Clear Polarized Lenses

I got mine from Lowe’s.  These are professional safety glasses with impact-resistant frames and polycarbonate lenses intended for use in construction site environments to protect the eye from sawdust, wood chips and other pieces of airborne or flying debris.

Cycling and other sport sunglasses often come with interchangeable lenses – including a yellow one for high-contrast and a clear one for low-light use.  These are often also impact resistant and are a great solution if you find ones that you would wear as an everyday pair of sunglasses as they offer full UV-protection and are unusually well-vented to prevent them from fogging up.  (This is admittedly a problem with my favorite LL Bean glasses – though they get the design a little better each year).  Most, however, look like you need to be on a bike or otherwise running to be wearing them.

For those who already wear corrective lenses, photochromatic lenses would be a great choice – the new ones go totally clear in low light conditions – and for those who wear contacts, having a pair of corrective glasses with you is always essential as a backup.

There are some great articles about eyeglasses and sunglasses on the All About Vision web site.

LL Bean and Fossil Glass Cases

LL Bean and Fossil Glass Cases

Having a good glass case to carry with you (or to keep in your briefcase, attaché or backpack) will help protect your glasses when you are not wearing them.  LL Bean sells great cases for only $9.50.   But each pair you buy from them also comes with a case.  These are sturdy and mostly uncrushable, and can also serve a variety of purposes.  I’ve also picked up a few cases from Fossil.  Their outlet stores are a great source for inexpensive but stylish and practical sunglasses, as well as these cases.  The Fossil sport case is $10, not quite as big as the LL Bean case, and does not come with a cleaning cloth, so I think the LL Bean case is the first and best choice here.

Utility on a Daily Basis: Sunglasses serve an important purpose in protecting your eyes from harmful UVB radiation.  And as with your skin, UVB radiation is not absorbed by cloud cover, so you should be protecting your eyes even on a cloudy day.  On sunny days, having sunglasses helps us to see better, cuts down on glare and blinding reflections, especially around water, snow or reflective glass on buildings in urban environments.  When driving, they are almost essential.  For those living in higher altitudes, where UV radiation is stronger, wearing sunglasses on a daily basis should already be habitual.

And keep in mind that conditions change.  Even if it is dark and cloudy and raining when you leave the house in the morning, by the afternoon, it may be sunny and bright, so bring along your sunglasses even on rainy days.

Wearing Clear Lenses during Snow - Park Slope Brooklyn 02-03-09

Wearing Clear Lenses during Snow - Park Slope Brooklyn 02-03-09

In snowy conditions, I have found that glasses with clear lenses have great utility in helping you to see.  Personally, I am not willing to go so far as to advocate that everyone carry both a pair of sunglasses and a pair of glasses with clear lenses them whenever they leave the house, as this list is supposed to be both practical and achievable, but if it works for you to do so, you will be better prepared.  And on snowy days like today, glasses with clear lenses can keep the snow out of your eyes while providing them with 100% UVB protection.

Most of us carry a (non-empty) bag of some sort with us in any event – whether a backpack, attache, purse or briefcase, which is a good spot for your glass case and perhaps extra pair of glasses with clear lenses.  But you’ve always got one spot for your glasses with you at all times – and that’s on your face.

For those who wear corrective glasses, you are already protected, but consider always carrying a backup with you as if your only pair of glasses is lost or damaged, you may find yourself disadvantaged and unable to see.

Personal Report – Is Mark Living Prepared? Absolutely!  Even before committing to Living Prepared™, I rarely if ever went out without a pair of sunglasses.  And now, it has become so habitual that I usually forget I’ve got my glasses perched on the top of the brim of my even-present baseball hat.  This has become almost a fashion statement of mine (not high fashion, mind you, but just a look).

Glasses perched on hat

Glasses on Hat

I’ll often go out without both sunglasses and clear-lensed glasses, but I usually have my sunglasses with me – even at night! – sometimes in a case or solo where the lenses can be scratched easily – in my coat pocket (or on top of my hat!).

You may think this is why I go through 3-4 pairs per year!  But actually, I usually lose a pair or two by leaving them somewhere – or someone sits on them, drops something on them, or otherwise breaks them.  I got into the habit of only buying really cheap ($10 or less) sunglasses from discount stores because I thought that the more I paid for a pair of sunglasses, the sooner I would lose them.  But you do somewhat get what you pay for, and paying $40-50 for a decently put-together pair of sunglasses will serve you well as long as you take care of them as they take care of you.

Peeling tortoiseshell after 10 months of daily wear

Peeling tortoiseshell after 10 months of daily wear

Upon reflection, I now believe that the less I pay for my sunglasses, the more I abuse them, because they are not as valuable and I (at least subconsciously) consider them disposable, and these are the pairs that do not last the year (or even usually the summer).  As it is not always practical to carry a glass case with you, I’d rather have to replace my sunglasses after 3 months due to scratched lenses than to not have them with me when I need them.  So if I know that the glasses are likely to get abused, then I’ll take a cheaper pair with me.

I can attest that my regular pair of LL Bean tortoise shells – the ones where the tortoise shell is now peeling off of them – have been worn almost daily for about 10 months now – and are now (because I’ve had them so long) regularly abused by being put into coat pockets without a case, thrown on the mantle at night, and even put into a backpack or bag on occasion without a case (oh my!) – and the lenses are still in good shape.    I’m probably going to soon retire them from daily use for purely aesthetic reasons though I’ll hang onto them for a backup pair.

Admittedly  during the warm weather months, if I go out at night, I usually do not bring my sunglasses with me – as I rarely if ever (make that never) plan to be out all night anymore – what with two young kids at home – those days are behind me.  I’ll have to report in a couple of months – once it gets warmer here – what practical solutions I find for this.

Criticality after a disaster: After a disaster, you are most likely going to find yourself spending a lot of time outside.  This may be because your house/home is unsafe to enter or unavailable to you altogether due to earthquake, storm or other damage.  You may have to relocate or evacuate.  You may have to drive or ride to safety to another city or locale.  You may go out at night – and something happens – and you can’t get back home, so what you have with you is critical to your preparedness.  I want you to have sunglasses with you to protect your eyes.

Lots of natural and man-made disasters generate large amounts of particulates in the air that is best kept out of your eyes.  Building collapses; earthquakes; industrial accidents; explosions; fires; wildfires; volcanic eruptions; hazardous materials spills; radiological events; tornados; or other air contaminating event – all have the foreseeable potential to release airborne debris into the air.

Izmit Turkey 1999 - Sunglasses Perched on Head

Izmit Turkey 1999 - Sunglasses Perched on Head

Standard sunglasses or clear-lensed sports glasses are no substitute for professional eye protection – safety glasses and goggles – that may be required or recommended in the presence of smoke, ash, noxious fumes or these other hazards.  These have a higher standard of impact resistance than regular eyeglasses and sunglasses and will keep out completely many hazards.  But over-the-counter sunglasses are better than having nothing.

For my personal emergency kit that I use in my work responding to disasters, I carry such equipment, and I think it is also good to have in the home as part of your emergency stores – along with items such as half-face respirators and protective gloves.  I’ll discuss this in future postings on household emergency stores and supplies.  You don’t need to carry this equipment with you whenever you leave home.  I think that if the threat is that real, it would be time to move somewhere less prone to disasters.

In addition, like an empty bag, an empty glass case can be put to a variety of practical purposes in terms of storing, separating and carrying small items following a disaster.   I’m always glad to have a few of these with me when I pack my emergency kit.

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The Living Prepared Scorecard:  Glasses (as in sunglasses)

  • Easily Carried: YES
  • Not too heavy: YES
  • Practical Purpose on a Daily basis: YES
  • Critical Purpose when Disaster Strikes: YES

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So, wear sunglasses. If you do, you will be Living Prepared™.

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