I didn’t really think I needed belay glasses for my climbing and rappelling adventures, at least not at first. It wasn’t until one of my friends pushed me to try out a pair that I actually considered giving them a try. I wasn’t much of a belayer back then anyway, mind you, but I started to practice this activity a lot more after I bought my first pair.
What are belay glasses anyway? Well, they work in a different way when compared to regular glasses, mainly because they have prismatic lenses instead of normal ones. These prismatic lenses change the way we view the world, thus our posture, which in turn minimizes neck strain. It’s no wonder then that belay glasses are incredibly popular with climbing enthusiasts all over the world.
How do belay glasses work?
Well, the prismatic lenses fitted onto belay glasses bend the light coming in from above through a process named total internal reflection. This process channels the light into the wearer’s eyes in order to allow him or her to observe what’s happening directly above (mainly spotting the climber) while keeping the head in a comfortable position. Neck strain avoided! How great is that?
Moreover, the unique design of belay glasses and their frames offer a split field of vision. The peripheral field on the sides of the lenses allows the wearer to observe his or her surroundings, while the central field offers a vertical view of the climber above. So who was the genius that invented belay glasses in the first place? That would be a German climber named Albi Schneider, who invented them in 2007, so not that long ago.
Can I use belay glasses with prescription glasses?
Yeah, they thought about that. You can definitely wear belay glasses with your regular vision correcting glasses as long as you go for a clip-on style. There are only a few reliable brands to choose from though. I often go for Y&Y, as they are generally the best in the field right now.
I’ll go in-depth on this topic in a separate article because I think it deserves more attention.
Can I use belay glasses for reading?
Technically you can, and I’ve seen a few people doing it for kicks. I don’t think it would impact your vision if you use them for longer reading sessions, but you might feel a bit weird after you take them off. The way these glasses bend light is quite incredible, and I’m sure they can be of use in other situations except belaying. Not many come to mind apart from reading while lying completely flat on your back.
If, for some reason, you want to read like that, yeah you can definitely do it, just don’t use belay glasses per se. Buy a pair of periscope bedtime reading glasses instead.
What do people see when they wear belay glasses? Here’s a picture that shows off exactly how you would see through them.
Ever since their invention in 2007, numerous companies have jumped at the occasion to manufacture this useful piece of climbing/belaying gear. While these glasses are not necessarily important for rappellers since they mostly look down during the descent, they are useful if you plan to ascend up the rope for a long time and you don’t want to hold your neck in an uncomfortable position.
At any rate, if you’re still reading this article, you probably already know if you need belay glasses or not. You probably just haven’t figured out which pair to get, right? Let’s have a look at the best belay glasses you can get this year in order to figure out which pair is the right one for you. At the end of the article, I’ll also tell you which pair I use regularly and why.
The reason why I decided to start off with the Belaggles is that they manage to tick all the right boxes in the belay glasses segment. They’re not incredibly bulky, they’re relatively comfortable to wear, and they offer a nice field of vision both peripherally and frontally. According to the manufacturer, these belay glasses include wide view lenses with a crystal clear clarity, as well as retainer eyelets and curved lense.
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to the Belaggles is that they offer a very wide field of view, as well as exact magnification. The lack of distortion is incredibly handy when you’re out there on the rocks, at least in my humble opinion. The only downside is that the prism quality and wide-angle take a toll when it comes to the product’s weight. These are a bit heavy, yes, which might make them a bit uncomfortable if you plan to wear them on top of prescription glasses.
There are a few different colorways available, just in case you’re interested, such as pink, black, lemon yellow, and purple. In conclusion, the Bellagles belay glasses get the job done when it comes to viewing angles and focal precision, but they’re a bit on the heavy side.
2. Y&Y Belay Glasses (Classic2).
A great alternative to the Bellaggles, and widely considered the best belay glasses available on the market are the Y&Y Classic2, which add a bit of versatility into the mix. These glasses rely on a high-end BK7 prism and a very thin frame that enables two distinct fields of vision: surrounding and climber.
The great news is that the Y&Y fits over most prescription glasses. Moreover, you can even use them with sunglasses if you want. Comfort-wise, we’re looking at silicone nose pads and flexible bows made out of memory alloy. They really have thought about everything, which makes sense since belay glasses were designed for comfort in the first place.
As an added bonus, these come with a high-quality spectacles case equipped with its own carabiner. I have a similar pair myself, but I mainly use them as backup belay glasses just in case something happens to my main pair.
3. Crush Climbing Crush Vision.
Crush Climbing might not be as popular as the other brands that we’ve presented so far, but I think they deserve some recognition for putting a very fine product out there. Their glasses are as sturdy as they come, and I can’t stress enough how important durability is when it comes to climbing equipment.
Even though their frames are quite durable, Crush Climbing belay glasses are also lightweight. In turn, they’re a bit on the pricey side, as manufacturing costs tend to be higher for quality products. The crystal clear glass prisms on these glasses are resistant to scratches, but they’ll probably get a bit scratched anyway with regular use. That’s pretty much the case for all eyewear, though.
The Crush Climbing Crush Vision package includes a case, a cleaning kit, lanyard, a trainee eBook, and a Crush Climbing Sticker.
Last but not least, I just wanted to say how much I like the design of these glasses. They definitely stand out when compared to the products I mentioned above, all thanks to a modern and slightly futuristic approach to design.
General advice when looking to purchase belay glasses.
- Unless you’re on a very tight budget, do try to avoid belay glasses with plastic frames. While these are usually much cheaper when compared to metal-framed ones, the lack of durability will just hinder you in the end. You could have multiple pairs on you, true, but then you just spent more money on multiple products instead of going for a single, high-quality one.
- Belay glasses aren’t too expensive, but some of them are definitely better built than others. Depending on your level of experience as a belayer, and how often you practice this activity, you should get the pair that suits your needs best. I wouldn’t splurge on this myself if I knew I would only belay a few times a year.
- Make sure they fit right, and if you use them with prescription glasses, make sure you’re able to cope with the extra weight. Everything might seem fine at first, but the added weight might cause some serious discomfort after a few hours. I always say that you should go for a lightweight pair of belay glasses when using them with prescription glasses, and with a heavier and sturdier pair otherwise.
- Take aesthetics into consideration, but not too much. Belay glasses were not designed to make you look pretty. They are highly functional and comfort-orientated, so don’t be too put off if you just don’t like the look of them. The important thing is that they should have high-quality prisms and frames. The rest is just filling. I really need to practice what I preach more, as I spot myself analyzing the designs of belay glasses way too often. Nobody’s perfect, right?
- If you don’t want to spend money on a decent pair, you can always try to make your own belay glasses. DIY belay glasses are not incredibly difficult to put together, but you will still need a conventional pair of periscope reading glasses as a base. The end result will generally not be as good as the real thing, however. It will be cheaper, but it will show.
What is my favorite pair of the lot?
I always have two pairs on me whenever I go belaying. The first one is a pair of Belaggles and the other is a Y&Y pair that I keep as a backup. I wouldn’t say one pair is completely better than the other, but I’ve just grown accustomed to the Belaggles, and I just find them a bit more comfortable overall.
There are many different pairs of belay glasses to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. I tried my best to give you a few decent examples, each being completely viable if you’re looking to practice belaying without any neck pain. I wouldn’t say that belay glasses changed my life in a significant way, but they have made my outdoor excursions more comfortable.
They represent a simple and often underrated piece of climbing gear. Many climbers and belayers choose to skip on them because they don’t deem them necessary. At the end of the day, though, they don’t take up much space in your gear bag, and they can help you avoid the unpleasantries associated with neck strains and shoulder pain.
If you have any suggestions or any experiences that you might like to share, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the view!