Oakley Clifden sunglasses review: modern mountaineering sunglasses in a classic style

Oakley Clifden sunglasses provide classy, effective eye protection on alpine trails and in the high peaks

Oakley Clifden sunglasses
(Image: © Emily Woodhouse)

Advnture Verdict

Technical, premium-priced sunglasses, made for real adventures on alpine trails and in the high peaks, Oakley Clifden sunnies provide serious protection, great comfort levels and plenty of functionality along with a slice of style.


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    Removable side shields

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    Secure metal cord leash provided

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    Prescription options available


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    Some sunlight may sneak in at the bridge if you have a smaller face

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Oakley Clifden sunglasses: first impressions

Classic-style sunglasses, designed and made with mountaineering firmly in mind, Oakley Clifden sunnies are among the best sunglasses for high-level hiking and peak climbing


• List price: $211-$261 (US) / £214 (UK)
• Weight: 38g / 1.3oz
• Category: 3
• Frame colors: Black
• Lens colors: Prizm / Snow / Black / Iridium / Sapphire / Deep Water
• Lens options: Non-polarized / Polarized
• UV protection: 100%
VLT: 8–12%
• Extras: Hard case / microfiber pouch / universal leash
• Suitability: Hiking and mountaineering

These are the only frame style in Oakley’s range that have the removable side shields required for high-altitude protection. That said, the Prizm Deep Water lenses are a Category 3 – although other lower VLT lenses are available, including Category 4, which is more suitable for high alpine adventures (although not recommended for driving).

The frame and lenses are lightweight, with some flex in the frame itself. The side shields are easy to take on and off and the wide bridge effectively reduces light access to the eyes.

The rubber-like material of the shields and nose pads help to make a secure but comfortable fit around the face. But you can’t help but have a little giggle that they’ve called this patented material Unobtainium, a nod to the Avatar movies. 

These sunglasses are available in a range of six color and lens combinations, with lenses designed to enhance the color, contrast and detail of whatever you’re looking at. 

The hard case and woven metal cord (with closed attachment points at the end of each arm) are great touches. Plus the possibility of a prescription lens will be very welcome for many users. 

Oakley Clifden sunglasses: on the trails

Oakley Clifden sunglasses

The Oakley Clifdens have good-sized lenses for top levels of visibility (Image credit: Emily Woodhouse)

On test I found the Oakley Clifden sunnies to be a great-feeling pair of sunglasses – extremely comfortable, with good-sized lenses for top levels of visibility. 

The side shields are comprehensive and reliably protective in bright and glare-filled conditions, such as on mountainsides, but they are also removable, so you can take them out in situations where they feel like an overkill feature.

Oakley Clifden sunglasses

The side shields are flexible and detachable (Image credit: Emily Woodhouse)

The frame is flexible but strong, too, although I'm a little surprised they are quite so expensive (you certainly pay for the Oakley name as well as the excellent performance levels).

However, in a similar way to the Vuarnet ICE Round sunglasses, I do find small spots of sunlight sneaking through at the bridge, around my nose. The Oakleys are closer to a good fit for me, but while I’m working on the assumption that this gap is occurring because of my face shape – and not because the glasses have a high bridge – it’s worth bearing in mind if you too have a smaller face.

Emily Woodhouse

An adventure writer based on Dartmoor, England, Emily is an active member of Mountain Rescue and a summer Mountain Leader, but loves all things adventure – before her third birthday she had lived on three continents. Founder of Intrepid magazine, she works to help break stereotypes about women in the outdoors. Her expeditions have included walking all Dartmoor’s 119 tors in a single two-week outing, cycling to Switzerland and back, and riding the Rhine from source to sea.