The persistent soreness that starts at the back of your skull after a long day of belaying. The eventual pain that spreads to your upper back even though you tried massaging it away. Straining your eyes at your partner, hoping they’d hurry up so you can take a break.
You love climbing and belaying for your climbing partner. But you hate the pain that comes after it. We get it; we’ve experienced it.
Looking up (literally!) at your partner all the time has severe consequences on your neck. It’s only natural – your neck isn’t supposed to be kept at such an unnatural angle for an extended period of time. If you’re not careful, neck pain might become the bane of your existence as it will lead to belayer’s neck – a chronic condition that many belayers actively avoid.
Belayer’s neck is a term used to describe the pain on your neck and upper back. Although it’s not an official diagnosis, many belayers are painfully familiar with its symptoms, especially after many years of belaying.
Neck strain and upper back pain is the most common symptom of belayer’s neck since you keep your neck twisted for a long time when belaying. If you’re not a frequent climber, it’s a one-off situation that takes a couple of days tops to recover from. However, if you’re a frequent belayer, it’ll lead to other conditions as your strain doesn’t recover completely.
Another symptom of belayer’s neck is facet joint pain. Your facet joints are the joints that form your neck and back that form your vertebrae. Typically, there’ll be space between your facet joints to allow and guide movements. But after watching your climbing partner’s back for hours, these joints get jammed together and would get inflamed over time. Translation: prolong neck and back pain.
You may also experience nerve entrapment with belayer’s neck. When your muscles and joints get inflamed, they obstruct your nervous pathway. To clear the path, your nerves send pain signals to your brain. If left untreated, you might find pain to be your new best friend.
Many belayers mistake belayer’s neck for being part and parcel of belaying and climbing. Big mistake. You don’t have to deal with belayer’s neck with sheer determination. It can be easily avoided with the right preventive measures – belay glasses.
What Are Belay Glasses?
Belay glasses are fitted with triangular prismatic lenses that capture and reflect light to form an image in the glasses. It allows you to still keep an eye on what’s going on above you while keeping your head straight. Some belay glasses even have an adjustable prism, allowing you to change the angle of the view, all while keeping your head and neck completely straight. With belay glasses, neck pain will be a thing of the past.
Admittedly, belay glasses look dorky, which is not an aesthetic that climbers usually go for. But ask anyone: the lack of neck pain you experience with belay glasses makes it a great addition to your climbing gear.
Why Should You Get Belay Glasses?
Belay glasses make belaying a rewarding, pain-free activity. They’re great for climbers who belay often since you don’t have to keep your head tilted. Not only are they a great preventive effort against belayer’s neck, but they can also make climbing a lot safer.
Watching someone climb for hours on end doesn’t do favors for your neck. Getting belayer’s neck after an otherwise fun day at the crag isn’t ideal. We’ve established that, and you don’t have to deal with that.
Belay glasses allow you to look up without actually looking up, so you can still keep an eye on your climbing partner without having to deal with the painful aftermath. With belay glasses, belaying for someone else will be a breeze, not a torturous affair.
Belay glasses also make for a safer belay. It’s very easy to lose focus when you’re in pain. You might think that looking away for a second won’t make much of a difference, but one second is all it takes. Shifting to a more comfortable neck position might result in nasty scrapes and broken bones for your partner.
Climbing in the real world requires a lot of attention. You need to be able to react immediately if something goes wrong. Belay glasses help you keep focus by keeping you comfortable. Watching your climbing partner’s back won’t be a big deal if your neck isn’t giving out every couple of minutes.
Not only that, but some belay glasses also have a slight magnifying effect. This comes in handy when you need to pay attention to small details on the rocks. With the help of your trusty belay glasses, you might be able to catch potential dangers before they happen and warn your partner!
Things To Consider When Buying Belay Glasses
Belay glasses look like a complicated contraption, but they are quite straightforward. Although they all fulfill the same function, the slightest difference in materials or design can make or break your experience with belay glasses.
Belay glasses shouldn’t distort vision in theory, but sometimes the designs of the glasses that were meant to de-dorkify the glasses actually make them worse.
Designs with large frames tend to have a nauseating effect for people prone to motion sickness. Although belay glasses shouldn’t distort vision in theory, large frames create a ‘tunnel vision’ effect that makes it difficult to use your peripheral vision. Because of this, it’s very unpleasant to look through the glasses.
When it comes to design, go with the classic with a twist. The CU Belay Glasses’ sleek and minimalistic design makes it less embarrassing to wear while not limiting your field of vision.
Like all your climbing gear, you want to make sure that your belay specs can keep up with wear and tear.
Unfortunately, belay glasses can fall apart pretty easily if they are not good quality. The lenses on most belay glasses are stuck on to the frame by adhesive, so they won’t last you long. Too much adhesive, and they might bleed onto your lenses, which causes lens distortion.
There’s also the question of frame material. Typically, belay glasses will come with either a metal frame or a plastic frame. Metal frames are more durable and sturdy, but they can be a bit heavy. Plastic frames, on the other hand, don’t last as long, but they are lighter and cheaper.
When it comes to lens quality, glass lenses are far superior compared to plastic lenses. This is because glasses lenses are more resistant towards scratches, so you’ll be able to get more out of your belay glasses than plastic ones.
For a pair of sturdy belay glasses that won’t break the bank, try UCraft Titanium Alloy Belay Glasses. These puppies are sleek, reasonably durable, and lightweight – perfect for someone who’s looking for value without compromising on quality.
You may also want to consider getting a durable case for your belay glasses. Using a hard case can protect them from the rough environment they’ll usually be used in, prevent a break right before you need to use them, and help your glasses last longer.
Belay glasses work the same, but they sure aren’t priced the same! The price gap between low and high-end belay glasses is surprisingly large. You can find something for as cheap as $10 or for upwards of $100.
It all boils down to value when we’re talking about price. If you’re a frequent belayer who climbs often, it’s worth investing in a good, slightly more expensive pair of specs like the Y&Y Classics Belay Glasses. They’re great overall – excellent field of view, sleek design, durable frame, and adjustable design – but the value shines through since you don’t have to replace them often.
If your belay glasses will only see the light of your climbing gym, a cheaper pair will get the job done. Y&Y Plasfun Basic is the one to get since they’re a steal for about $15 to $20. For such a modest price tag, these pack a punch with a great design that doesn’t block your peripheral vision, lightweight plastic, and high-quality lenses.
Types Of Belay Glasses
Classic Belay Glasses
In essence, belay glasses are non-prescription eyeglasses fitted with special lenses for a unique purpose. The main thing for classic belay glasses is a sleek, comfortable, and functional design that looks less goofy but still does what they are supposed to without causing you pain.
As a bare minimum, classic belay glasses that offer flexibility in the frame are excellent since they can be customized to your head size. Not only that, but the accessories like neck-straps and specs case that come with the glasses can also greatly improve your user experience.
Clip-on Belay Glasses
Clip-on belay glasses are an innovative twist on standard belay glasses that makes the lives of bespectacled climbers infinitely easier.
They feature a clip that you can pretty much put on any frame. Hate having contact lenses in your eyes while you climb? Don’t want to look stupid by putting another pair of belay glasses over your regular glasses? Clip these babies on your prescription glasses.
It’s not only made for climbers with glasses either. You can make full use of clip-on belay glasses as well if you have perfect vision. You can also clip these babies on your sunglasses if you want to keep the sun out of your eyes.
Besides that, good clip-on belay glasses also have an easily accessible on/off feature. By rotating the lenses, you can use it as belay glasses or have normal vision without having to take it off.
We’d recommend Y&Y Clip Up Belay Glasses. It’s a one-of-a-kind clip-on belay glasses that have a no-frills lightweight design. Asides from not having to worry about it weighing down your prescription eyeglasses, you can also easily switch between belay and normal mode with one hand.
Getting Used To Belay Glasses
Since our eyes are not built to see through prism lenses, it can take a while for you to get used to it.
Some people experience dizziness when they start using belay glasses because of this. The length of this discomfort depends on you, though. Do you get motion sickness easily? Do you get a headache if you see through different lenses? These are all things you should take note of before trying on belay glasses.
That being said, people typically get over this discomfort in a matter of minutes. Compared to straining your neck for hours, the initial discomfort when you put on belay glasses for the first time is quite minimal.
There are a couple of things you can do to help you get used to the discomfort.
Simulate a belay situation without having someone to watch
The stakes instantly become higher when you’re watching someone, so it’s a bad idea to wear belay glasses for the first time on an actual climb. Since you’re not used to it yet, you might misjudge certain situations and fudge up the climb.
Instead, simulate a belay situation in the comforts of your own home or your favorite climbing gym. Get used to seeing with the belay glasses so you’d know the difference between true vision and glasses’ perspective. Only when you’re confident about how you see through them should you test it out.
Wear the glasses with a neck strap
Although most people get used to belay glasses pretty quickly, people who are more sensitive to perception distortion might have more trouble coping.
To deal with this, try using the glasses with a neck strap. The neck strap comes in handy when you need to put it on or take off quickly. This will ensure your comfort without compromising your partner’s safety.
Bottom Line: Are Belay Glasses Worth It?
The dreaded belayer’s neck doesn’t stop after you stop belaying. It’s a pain in the neck that seeps into your daily life. It lowers your quality of life and could potentially prevent you from doing the sport that you love.
Because of this, belay glasses are definitely worth it. Not only do they save you from a world of pain, but they also make climbing a much safer activity.
As for the best belay glasses?
We liked Y&Y as a company as it’s easy to see their dedication and understanding of belaying through the design and construction of their products. Y&Y Classic Belay Glasses are an absolute must-have when it comes to belay glasses as it’s excellent all-around for both new and expert climbers.