Belay glasses with prescription glasses. Is it a good idea?
I’ve been wearing belay glasses and prescription glasses for about a decade, and I won’t lie: the regular ones annoy me so much sometimes I just want to throw them away and forget about them. Soon after I take them off, though, I realize I need them more than anything. It’s a love/hate relationship that won’t improve anytime soon, but since I rarely use contact lenses, I’m stuck with them.
Wearing belay glasses with prescription glasses makes things even more complicated. But fortunately, belay glasses are designed in such a way as to be as unobtrusive as possible. So yes, you can definitely wear your belay glasses with prescription glasses, but keep in mind that not all belay glasses are compatible.
I’ve touched on the subject before, and I wrote a decently-sized guide about the best belay glasses that you can get this year. If you’re in the market for a pair, maybe you should check it out.
Back to the topic at hand, however, it’s important to know which belay glasses are compatible with prescription glasses, and how would you go about installing them. If you want to take note of my personal recommendation, Belay Optics is a fine choice, as it comes with a fully-adjustable clip-on design. Alternatively, you could go for the Y&Y Vertical Clip-Up belay glasses designed specifically for spectacle wearers.
It’s important to look for clip-on products because they are the only ones that will work with regular glasses. Conventional belay glasses with no clip-on system will have no means of attaching themselves to your primary frame.
Why would you wear these glasses in the first place?
Belay glasses were created with a single purpose in mind: to reduce neck strain caused by looking upwards for prolonged periods of time. Belayers are mainly affected by this, as they need to keep their head in an uncomfortable position in order to aid the climber. Since lives are potentially at stake, belayers have a very important job to do, and many of them tend to sacrifice their posture and comfort for the greater good. I know I could put up with a little neck pain every now and then if it meant that my climbing buddy would make it safely to the top and back down again.
However, a little neck pain can turn into unbearable neck and shoulder pain after a while. And recovery is considerably more time-consuming and expensive when compared to just buying and wearing a pair of belay glasses. This relatively cheap solution is becoming more and more popular each year, and many climbers have grown accustomed to them and pack them alongside their main climbing gear.
Climbers who wear prescription glasses probably need belay glasses the most. There are some potential issues, though. Will belay glasses scratch my prescription glasses? Will they make the glasses heavier? And will they affect my vision in the long run? I plan to answer each of these questions separately but rest assured, you have nothing to worry about if you want to wear both of these glasses simultaneously.
- Belay glasses will not scratch the lens on your prescription glasses, at least not the pairs that I recommended above. Both come with uniquely-designed clip-ons that prevent this from happening. The main lens doesn’t rub against the frame of the belay glasses, and even if they touch at times because of sudden movement, the material isn’t hard enough to cause any serious damage. Generally speaking, the clip-up system is quite reliable, but always make sure to check it thoroughly before each belay/climb.
- Will belay glasses make my glasses heavier? Unfortunately, even the lightest pairs of belay glasses add some weight to your original prescription setup. That’s just the way it is: you’re adding one object on top of the other, and you’ll always feel the extra weight. The good news is that you can get used to the weight in a very short amount of time. If your prescription glasses fit nicely and don’t slip up, you have nothing to worry about. There will be some discomfort, at least at first, but keeping your head in a healthy position is much more important.
- Will wearing belay glasses affect my vision? In my experience, they have not altered my vision in any way. Your mileage may vary depending on how often you wear them. Slight discomfort is normal after taking them off, especially if you have been wearing them for a few hours. The body just needs to adjust for a bit. Damaging your vision is highly unlikely, even though some of them offer slight magnification. If you’re still unsure about this, just talk to your eye doctor about it and he’ll put your mind at ease.
How to use belay glasses with prescription ones?
Installing these special glasses is not particularly difficult, but the process needs to be done with care. In the specific case of the Y&Y Clip-Ups, it’s very easy to attach them to the other frame. Here are the steps that you need to follow:
Lock them into position.
You simply need to press the clip and place it on the upper part of your prescription glasses, as close as possible to the center. They should snap on there easily and provide a secure fit.
One common problem when looking through two different sets of lenses is that you might get some reflections. This problem can be fixed easily by adjusting the belay glasses. Just bend the metal part of the clip until your vision is crystal clear.
With the added weight, your glasses might start to slip down on your nose. This can also happen if you sweat or if your surroundings are particularly humid. You can prevent slipping by using an anti-slip ear hook. The hook secures the belay glasses on the frame of your prescriptions for extra support and comfort.
Learn how to switch positions.
The Y&Y Clip-Up offers two On and Off positions adjustable via a flip-up mechanism. You can operate this mechanism with one hand whenever you want to stop using your belay glasses without having to take them off completely.
Can I use belay glasses with contact lenses?
I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do this, provided you’re already comfortable with your lenses. If your eyes tear up too much, this might be an issue, but it shouldn’t affect the performance of your belay glasses in any way. If you think about it, contact lenses alter your vision in the same manner that prescription glasses do. They just do it without the extra bulk.
While the most common brands don’t create belay glasses specifically for contacts, you can always go for a more affordable pair, especially since you don’t need clip-ons. One thing you need to watch out for is frame durability. Belay glasses with plastic frames are cheaper, true, but they’re also flimsier and tend to break off quickly when compared to their metal-framed counterparts.
Moreover, make sure to go for a pair that offers a great peripheral vision. Budget brands tend to use lower-quality prisms that block out your peripheral to some extent. While frame quality is important, the performance of your belay glasses is considerably more so. Why do you need a good peripheral vision? It allows you to spot your climber and take note of your surroundings at the same time. Moreover, it helps with your balance and prevents you from going dizzy. Our eyes have adapted to provide a fair amount of peripheral vision at all times. Without that, it’s only natural that we’d get uncomfortable.
On another note, the good news is that most brands now offer excellent packaging, which means you’re likely to get extras such as cleaning cloths, travel cases, and neck-straps at no extra charge. These help with maintenance and reliability in the long run.
Are belay glasses a must-have piece of climbing gear? Probably not if I’m being honest, but they do help out quite a bit. If you take a look at the rest of your climbing gear, these tiny glasses are so much cheaper and take up so little space. It would be ill-advised to ignore them just because they’re not essential.
If you also wear prescription glasses, they might seem even less appealing. They’re just another pair to add on top of another, they might look silly, and your glasses will be heavier. But your neck will thank you, as will your shoulders. When it comes to looks, they might appear odd to people who don’t practice climbing, but nobody’s going to care if you’re wearing them at the climbing gym or out there on the cliffs.
As long as you go for a decent pair and not a ridiculously low-quality one, you’ll grow to love your belay glasses and really come to appreciate what they can do for your health. Climbing is a demanding activity, and belaying is too. We’re used to pushing our bodies to the limit and we strive for perfection each time we go out there. That doesn’t mean we need to damage our necks when there’s a simple solution designed to tackle this exact problem.
I’ve been wearing belay glasses by themselves, with contacts, with sunglasses, and with prescription glasses for a few years now. If you’re still unsure whether you should wear them or not, just borrow a pair from a fellow climber. If you’re at the climbing gym, you can probably rent out a pair. Try out different styles, see what works for you and what doesn’t.
In the end, I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have: belay glasses are a belayer’s best friend.