These fantastic floating sunglasses with polarised lenses are an excellent budget option for sailors, SUPers, kayakers and canoeists
Some people dismiss Decathlon kit as cheap and cheerful, but I have visited the French company’s impressive design base in the Alps, and witnessed the thorough testing process the gear is put through before it goes to market, so I beg to differ.
Over the years, I’ve also tested hundreds of pieces of Decathlon equipment, ranging from jackets, tents and trousers to boots, backpacks and boats, and I’ve almost always been bowled over by the level of performance and functionality they offer for a fraction of the price charged by other, more fashionable outdoor brands.
So, suffice to say, I have been looking forward to testing the Tribord SLG 500 M Polarised Sunglasses for ages. I was excited to see if they would prove good enough to be considered among the best sunglasses for kayakers, canoeists, boaters and boarders on the market – read on for my thoughts once I’d put them to the test on river and sea.
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Decathlon Tribord 500 Polarised Sunglasses: fit, design and materials
The frame of the Tribord 500 M Polarised Sunglasses has a wrap-around design, which very effectively keeps side glare out. The glasses are available in two sizes: Small (S) and Medium (M) – the latter will fit the majority of men’s faces (according to Decathlon, and I agree), while the Small will predominantly suit the face shape of younger people and women.
Lightweight and (importantly) buoyant, the polymer and styrene frame of the Tribord 500 M polarised sunglasses is flexible and robust – making these shades more than capable of surviving some drops and bumps while you’re out sailing or paddling – but the lenses are less likely to last as long unless you’re more careful.
The category 3 grey tinted lenses are quite dark and very protective, absorbing between 82% and 92% of visible light (the exact VLT isn’t quoted, but you shouldn’t drive in these shades in poor light). The 100% polarisation means they offer excellent definition and contrast while you’re out on the water.
The lenses do have a mirrored finish, however, and they can become scratched quite easily – especially since the glasses don’t come with a protective pouch or case. Scratches won’t necessarily negatively affect the performance or protection they offer, but it will them look rubbish.
The frames feature rubber elements on the nose and the temple, which continue to work even when wet, keeping the sunnies in place on your face in the lumpiest conditions. There are holes at the end of each arm, so you can attach a lanyard to further prevent the glasses falling into the water, but no leash is supplied.
One of the impressive things about Decathlon is that they do seem to genuinely attempt to make their products as eco-friendly as possible. There’s no recycled plastic in the Tribord 500 polarised sunglasses (hopefully we’ll see this in the future), but the thickness of the lenses has been deliberately reduced from 2mm to 1.5mm – without apparently impacting performance – which has reduced the CO2 impact of the sunglasses by 11%.
Decathlon Tribord 500 Polarised Sunglasses: performance
For much of the middle part of this summer, I’ve been out on the water wearing the Tribord 500 polarised sunglasses while variously kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and gig rowing on the open sea and along rivers.
It’s a shame they don’t come with a case or protective pouch, because the mirrored lenses are prone to scratches and paddling environments are often full of sand and other elements that will quickly cause damage.
Overall, however, I have been really impressed with their technical capability, level of unfussy functionality and on-water performance, especially for the asking price, which is half that of many other comparable kayaking sunglasses, such as the Bolle Holman or Oakley Split Shot.
The Cat-3 polarised lenses are spot on in terms of tint, and they reveal details in the water – from submerged objects to incoming waves – that really help while you’re paddling, as well as making the sky look fantastic.
The wrap-around design of the frame excludes the sort of side glare often experienced by sailors and paddlers, and the rubber mounts on the temples, combined with the soft-feel nose bridge, worked extremely well at stopping any annoying movement, even when the wave were intent on throwing me around. These grip features never felt uncomfortable on my face, either, even after several hours.
A leash cord would have been a good addition, but I do like the fact these glasses have a portal that can be used to easily attach a tailor-made or improvised lanyard. I never actually felt like the glasses were in danger of falling into the water, but in the event of that happening, the Tribord 500s float horizontally, making them easy to retrieve (for paddlers anyway).
Note to Decathlon designers for future, though: a couple of brighter frame colour options would make the glasses even more easy to locate and rescue in the event of a spill.
Decathlon home-brand products almost always offer a genuinely excellent budget alternative to some very expensive items made by trendier brands, and the Tribord 500 polarised sunglasses fall very much into this bracket. A few simple additions (like a protective pouch and lanyard) would make them even better, but with excellent cat-3 polarised lenses supplying great definition while you’re out on the water, and a robust floating frame with very effective rubber pads that keep the sunglasses firmly in place in the most challenging conditions, these are ideal shades for all sorts of watersports, from sailing to kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding.