If you’re considering buying belay glasses, you’re probably familiar with one of the most common complaints among belayers – neck pain. Belay glasses allow you to see the climber without craning your neck and can make belaying more comfortable and safer.
From budget to durability to comfort, everyone will have different priorities when choosing belay glasses. Before we get into the best options on the market for various purposes, let’s go over the basics of how belay glasses work and what kind of benefits they offer.
What are belay glasses?
Belay glasses are specialized spectacles that include prisms to direct your vision upwards. The prisms bend light through a process known as total internal reflection, which allows the belayer to view the climber above them while looking straight ahead.
While belay glasses are not for everyone and take some getting used to, this piece of gear could be a wise investment if you experience neck pain while belaying.
You may feel a bit dizzy or disoriented the first time you try belay glasses. Good optic quality in the prisms will minimize this feeling, but it’s best to get used to how the glasses feel before actually belaying with them on. First, try watching someone climb a route while wearing the glasses. Doing so will allow you to acclimate to this new perspective before using them to belay your partner.
What are the benefits of using belay glasses?
Belay glasses were designed to ease tension or pain in the neck that often follows a long day at the crag. Known as “belayer’s neck,” the term refers to a range of ailments affecting the upper back and neck. These include muscle strain from overworked neck extensors, pinched or irritated nerves, irritation of the facet joints between the vertebrae, headaches, and migraines.
These issues can be painful and frustrating while you’re at the crag or gym, but they can also lead to more serious, chronic conditions as you age. Since prevention is the best defense against developing any kind of lasting problems from belaying, belay glasses are an excellent tool to protect your neck, spine, and upper back.
Belay glasses can also improve safety while climbing. By making it easier to look up for extended periods of time, the equipment allows the belayer to focus on the climber without getting distracted by pain and discomfort.
Best belay glasses
Y&Y Classic: Best Overall
Pros: adjustable, lightweight, great visibility
Cons: high price tag
These are some of the best selling belay glasses on the market. Thanks to their flexible stainless steel frame, memory alloy, and adjustable silicone nose pads, the Y&Y Classic glasses mold to the wearer’s head and offer superior comfort.
The lenses are made with high-quality BK7 prisms, which provide a clear view of the climber above. The minimalist design offers the belayer excellent peripheral vision and a good view of surroundings for better rope management and safety at the crag. Since the glasses strike a nice balance between these fields of view, many users say they feel less dizzy than they do with bulkier designs.
The Y&Y Classic belay glasses come with a variety of accessories, including a neck strap, microfiber cloth, and a hard case with a carabiner to clip it to your harness. The company also included supplies to repair the glasses and customize the feel, such as alternative and replacement nose pads, replacement screws, and a screwdriver.
Y&Y Vertical Plasfun Basic: Best Value
Pros: affordable, lightweight, good optics, durable
Cons: not adjustable
The Plasfun Basic belay glasses from Y&Y Vertical are a high-performing option at a reasonable price point, earning them the title of Best Value on our list.
These glasses use the same high transparency prisms as the Y&Y Classic and therefore offer equal optic quality to some of the company’s more expensive models. The thin plastic frame provides great visibility with minimal obstruction of peripheral vision.
Unlike the Y&Y Classic, the Plasfun Basic belay glasses are not adjustable. As a result, they may not feel comfortable for everyone or fit people with larger heads. While these can be worn with prescription glasses or sunglasses, this may become uncomfortable after all-day wear.
The glasses come with basic accessories like a case and neck strap, although customers warn that the case is not very durable.
Pitch Six EyeSend Adjustable View: Best for Steep Terrain
- Pros: unique adjustable view, comfortable
- Cons: expensive
- Cost: $95
- Weight: 50g
Whereas most belay glasses raise your field of view by 60 degrees, Pitch Six’s EyeSend can be easily adjusted to suit anything from a 60-degree slab to a 120-degree overhang. This technology performs better than competitors when belaying on steep terrain and further reduces the strain on your neck.
The view angle is easy to adjust with one hand, and the glasses offer excellent visibility across three fields of view (over, under, and through) for maximum awareness at the crag. The frames are made from a polycarbonate plastic with 25% coming from recycled materials.
In addition to the glasses, you’ll get an integrated neck strap, durable synthetic leather case, microfiber cloth, L-wrench, and a spare screw to make repairs simpler. The neck strap on the EyeSend works better with a hat or helmet than other brands, and grippy rubber inserts keep them comfortably in place behind your ears even when worn with other glasses or sunglasses.
Other than the high price, users had only positive things to say about these belay glasses.
Belaggles: Best for Durability
- Pros: durable
- Cons: bulky, heavy, expensive
- Cost: $90
- Weight: 88g
Belaggles’ unique curved lenses offer a wide field of view and excellent visibility. These glasses are designed to prevent scratches on the lenses when you set them down between climbs and are one of the most durable options out there. The rigid plastic frame makes Belaggles easier to put on one-handed than belay glasses with a flexible frame.
However, this added durability comes at a higher price tag and additional weight. These are by far the bulkiest and heaviest option on this list and it’s not possible to wear Belaggles over other glasses or sunglasses. Because they lack flexibility and adjustability, they may not fit or feel comfortable for everyone, especially those with wider heads.
Belaggles are available in four bright colors and come with a lanyard, hard case, and lens cloth.
Y&Y Vertical Clip Up: Best for People with Glasses
- Pros: easy to flip up and down, lightweight
- Cons: can’t be worn without other glasses
- Cost: $70
- Weight: 30g
As one of the only models designed specifically for people who wear glasses, Y&Y Vertical Clip Up are a perfect choice for anyone with spectacles or who never leaves home without sunglasses. The unique design includes an attachment to easily clip the belay glasses onto your own frames.
The trapezoid-shaped prisms offer a wider field of view than some of the other lenses available while still maintaining good peripheral vision. The Clip Up belay glasses also include a mechanism that allows the wearer to easily flip them up and down, making them the easiest of the bunch to take on and off. This is especially useful at the beginning of a route when you need a very clear view directly in front of you to spot the climber.
Unlike the other options on this list, the Clip Up cannot be worn without other glasses. Some users mentioned that the extra weight caused thinner or more lightweight frames to slip down their noses, but generally customers agree these are the most comfortable option to use in combination with their own glasses.
A good pair of belay glasses can make belaying your partner a much more comfortable and safer experience, and nearly everyone who invests in a pair of belay glasses says it was money well spent.
The purchase shouldn’t set you back more than $100, and there is a range of options for every budget. Even if you opt for one of the more expensive pairs on this list, it will cost significantly less than a trip to the doctor or physical therapist to deal with chronic neck pain.