It’s an eternal debate among climbers: When it comes to comfort versus practicality, are belay glasses worth it?
What one piece of gear has everyone from free-climbers in Yosemite to competitive gym climbers talking? A pair of funky-looking spectacles.
When it comes to belay glasses, climbers’ opinions are split. Are they safer? Are they effective?
Some, like avid alpinist and AID climber Mark Thomas, bemoan the use entirely. “They mess with your peripheral vision, give you a ‘telescope’ vision problem, and are problematic if you are wearing sunglasses or prescription glasses,” he said.
But after we surveyed a number of pro climbers, we found that although they’re not for everyone, some love belay glasses.
What Are Belay Glasses?
Put simply, belay glasses allow a belayer to see the climber without craning their neck. Designed similarly to regular glasses, belay specs use a prism — where a lens would be — to refract an upright image of the climber back to the belayer. Many say this adds safety, comfort, and even a bit of coolness to each pitch.
Numerous brands offer belay glasses of all varieties — in various designs, colors, and features. When we asked a handful of climbers their opinions, four distinct categories of climbers emerged that all recommend wearing the glasses.
We call these belay glasses faithful “sendy,” “practical,” “economic,” and “fashionable” climbers. Read on to learn which climber you are and what types of glasses will work best.
The Sendy Climber
There’s a reason why professional climbers such as Beth Rodden and Pamela Shanti-Pack recommend the PitchSix EyeSend Adjustable-View Belay Glasses.
The latest creation out of Salt Lake City, this clever design is for a climber who knows how to get after it. Unique to PitchSix, the prism on these glasses can be adjusted to change the belayer’s point of view from 60 to 120 degrees without straining the neck.
Rodden, most commonly found climbing Yosemite’s difficult multipitches, believes the adjustable prism is a game-changer, especially for overhanging and steep pitches.
“Who knew such a simple addition to belay glasses could be so revolutionary?!” she said.
Shanti-Pack, known for her bold first ascents in Indian Creek, agreed: “Belaying someone for an hour-long off-width lead sucks without them.”
The EyeSend glasses cost $95, and each pair also comes with a sturdy outer case to add protection.
The Practical Climber
Adam Fleming, an AMGA SPI-certified rock climbing guide in Moab, finds that belay glasses have become an essential piece of gear for work.
While he initially thought they were “gimmicky,” Fleming now uses the best-selling Y & Y Vertical Classic Belay Glasses ($60). This mode offers flexible frames that adjust to each face. And he’s now a believer.
“They help me stay attentive to my climber, both because it doesn’t hurt to look at them and because I can’t see much else while using belay glasses,” Fleming told us.
The Economic Climber
It comes as no surprise, but Walmart has some of the cheapest belay glasses. Appropriately named (deep breath) Lazy Refractive Glasses Climbing Goggles Prism Spectacles For Climbing Hiking Tools Gifts, these have questionable plastic durability. But the $15 price point is tough to beat.
Who would want cheap-o belay glasses? Why, pro skier Ryan Faye, of course! Faye falls into the category of economic climber — one who doesn’t necessarily have the budget to splurge on a pair of high-quality belay glasses.
“I’m belay spec-curious,” Faye quipped. Based in Lake Tahoe, California, Faye commonly climbs nearby granite multipitches in the “5.fun range.” As a competitive big-mountain skier, heavy crashes have taken a toll on his body — neck included.
“My neck often hurts whilst belaying, and I think belay glasses could change that,” he told us. “But the high price is stopping me from getting a pair.”
Currently, Walmart lists these as sold out. But if you’re looking for a cheap pair of belay glasses, BG Climbing also offers $20 pairs on Amazon.
The Fashionable Climber
Belaggles Belay Goggles are for climbers looking for that extra bit of pizzazz. Constructed with a thick, durable nylon frame, these brightly colored belay glasses will turn heads at the crag.
“I love my hot-pink Belaggles,” bragged Mia Tucholke, an AMGA-certified rock and ski guide. But she told this is not just because of the color. She likes that Belaggles offer wide peripheral vision and ease of use while guiding clients rock climbing.
Find a hot-pink pair just like Tucholke’s for $50.