Are you 20, but find yourself complaining to your friend sabout your bad neck? Feel like all those little bones are all crunched up and unhappy with you after every climbing sesh? You might be suffering from belayer’s neck, a common climbing ailment.
The solution? Belay glasses.
Yes, we know: belay glasses look dorky. There’s no way around it. Belay glasses aren’t cool (no matter what the banner says). But after using them for a couple sessions, we guarantee you’ll thank us. Belay glasses save a TON of strain on your neck, which means you can climb more and go home feeling better.
Check out our review of the best belay glasses, below.
How Do Belay Glasses Work?
Wikipedia has a very helpful page on belay glasses, if you want to do a bit more reading. Basically, they use prisms to reflect light from above into the viewer’s eye.
Below is a representation of what you might see while wearing belay glasses:
The wearer can look over the top of the prisms to see their periphery, or focus on the image in the glasses. This “windowed vision” can be a little disorienting at first, but after 30 minutes or so most people adjust to using belay glasses with no further problems.
Best uses for belay glasses
Belay glasses are primarily useful for belaying in the climbing gym, and on days when you’ll be climbing a lot of single-pitch sport routes or top-roping. Belay glasses are not ideal for multi-pitch climbing.
But for regular gym climbers, belay glasses are a great investment. You will notice the relief in your neck, for sure.
Buying belay glasses
Belay Glasses can be separated into two easy categories: expensive belay glasses and cheap belay glasses.
The mechanism is the same whether the glasses cost $20 or $80 — a simple prism (or mirror), which effectively bends your field of view 90 degrees. This allows you to keep your neck straight while your eyes are effectively looking straight up at your climber.
The main difference between cheap belay glasses and expensive belay glasses is the construction of the frames, the quality of the carrying case, and any extra materials included to help you repair the belay glasses.
Cheap Belay Glasses
BG Basics Climbing Belay Glasses — $20
These are the cheapest functional belay glasses you can buy. They will do the job, but some users complain about the cheap plastic frames and the poor-quality zipper on the carrying case. If you just want to try belay glasses without commiting, these are a suitably cheap option.
Epic Peak Belay Glasses — $13
These are even cheaper than the BG Basics. However, many reviewers complain of cheap build quality and a poor field of view, due to issues with the manufacturing and prism angle. Treat these with caution.
Metolius Rock Climbing Belay Glasses — $42
Although fairly affordable, these are made by Metolius, a reputable climbing company. They are a good option at a cheaper price than some of the premium brands, without the “sketch factor” of buying something made to less-than-exacting standards
Expensive Belay Glasses
Y&Y Classic Belay Glasses — $60-$80
Y&Y Vertical are the leader in belay glasses, at least the modern incarnations. Their “classic belay glasses” are made with a sturdy metal frame that feels sturdy on your face. All of the budget belay glasses use cheap plastic frames.
These can also sit in front of eyeglasses, which, although kind of awkward, does work.
Y&Y Clip-Up Belay Glasses — $60
These are designed specifically for people who wear glasses. The clip-up belay glasses clip-on to glasses, allowing for more comfort and field of vision, compared with trying to perch two pairs of glasses on your nose.
These are a specialised option, but a good choice for those who refuse to wear contacts.
Belay glasses are a great piece of equipment for any rock climber to own. Belay glasses can help relieve sore neck muscles caused by looking upward for long periods of time while belaying climbers either outdoors or in the climbing gym.
While many cheap belay glasses can be bought online, they are made of plastic and prone to breaking. If you are planning on using your belay glasses for a long time, it may be more worthwhile to invest in a pair with metal frames and solid construction, such as the Y&Y Classic.
Whatever your choice, your neck is sure to thank you.