Since the 3rd grade, I have been wearing glasses. I’ve played sports, outdoor sports, and gone rock climbing all while wearing my glasses.
Yes, you can wear glasses when rock climbing! But we need to take a few precautions first. Here’s everything I’ve learned from wearing my prescription glasses while bouldering and rock climbing.
Keep your prescription glasses attached to your head
I’ve had two instances where my glasses have fallen off my head while climbing. The first time, I was top roping in the gym and as the rope slack was taken in, it smacked my face and knocked my glasses off my face.
The second time, I was climbing a high ball bouldering problem at Carderock, Maryland. My eyeglass frame had become looser over time. The little bit of sweat on my face was all the frames needed to slide off and down to the dirt.
I’m proud to say that I was able to send both routes despite losing my glasses! Climbing without your glasses is an intense challenge but I don’t want to climb blind every time!
Here are a few ideas to help you keep your glasses on your head while climbing.
Use a neck cord
If I had Croakies or some form of a neck cord for my prescription glasses, my spectacles would have stayed on my head! No climber wants to be forced to adjust their glasses when they’re in the middle of the crux. I like using a neck cord on my glasses so that they stay taught and on my head.
I’ve been able to wear a neck cord with my climbing helmets and never experienced any discomfort. Be sure to buy a pair that will fit both your prescription glasses and sunglasses since your temple tips may vary in size.
Most opticians and outdoor stores will sell a neck cord for glasses. You can also pick up a pack off of Amazon.
Tighten your frames
If you’re noticing your frames slipping and sliding when you’re just sitting on your desk, chances are you need to tighten them. Many glasses stores will do this as a common courtesy, but if you’re in a rush you can use an eyeglass repair kit to adjust the screws near the lens.
The nose pads are also adjustable. When my glasses are getting to the end of their life span, I’ll need to push the pads together to help them stay put on my nose. Eventually the holding power is lost and I need to replace my glasses.
Bring a backup pair
If your glasses fall to the ground and are lost or get destroyed, what is your back up plan? You don’t want to be stranded at the climbing gym or unable to hike back to the car because you lost your glasses. Even wearing prescription sunglasses is better than not being able to see.
I keep other glasses in my car for emergency situations.
Keep contact lenses in your chalk bag
I keep a pair of contact lenses in the zippered compartment in my chalk bag. I don’t want to be forced to do multiple rappels or rock scrambles without being able to see. I use daily contacts for my backup pair since they are cheaper and I don’t have to feel bad about busting them open in an emergency.
If you do lose your glasses and need to swap out for your contacts, wash your hands to the best you can. Chalk, lichen, and dirt can irritate and possibly damage your eyes.
Wear prescription sunglasses
I love wearing sunglasses when I’m outside. The lens curvature is massive so I get a lot of protection around my whole eye. They are also a plastic frame so I don’t have to worry about the nose pad expanding over time. They sit as well on my face as the day as when I first tried them on.
One thing I dislike about sunglasses is that I am always worried about the sun going down. If I don’t have a pair of backup glasses with me then it’s a race against to the clock to get back to the car before the sun goes down. I have done an hour long hike back down to the car while wearing my shades and I don’t want to have to do it again.
Wear Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are an excellent option for a rock climber. You won’t have to worry about them getting scratched or knocked off of your head. I can also wear a pair of scratch resistant sunglasses to give myself eye protection if I’m nervous about damage to my eyes.
Climbing gear can pop out of the wall during a fall, it’s not a bad idea to wear some glasses to give you protection while you climb.
But I don’t love wearing contact lenses. They dry my eyes out quickly and they always shift around while I’m wearing them. If I’m out climbing or camping, I hate putting the lenses in or taking them out unless I’ve been able to thoroughly wash my hands with soap and water. That isn’t always an option when I’m in the backcountry.
Climb with two pairs of glasses
Buy a hard glasses case and keep them in your climbing pack. You can be climbing with sunglasses when it’s sunny and out and switch over to your other lenses if the sun goes down or turns into a cloudy day.
A glasses case will be able to fit in a small pouch in your backpack and won’t weigh a lot. Now you can have two pairs and still keep a pair of emergency contact lenses in your zippered chalk bag.
Over the Glasses Options
You can wear a pair of ski goggles or glacier glasses to help keep your glasses put and your vision clear. Over the glasses goggles are an option and they will also protect you from UV Rays as well. These goggles will be coated with anti-fog lenses to prevent your vision from getting blurry.
Climbers don’t normally wear ski goggles while they’re on rock face, but they are an option.
If you’re in the alpine or dealing with a lot of snow, consider using glacier glasses. These are designed for winter outdoor sports and only allow 5-7% of visible light transmission in to your eyes. Compare that to 30-60% let in by normal sunglasses. These frames use protection on the sides to give complete frame coverage. No light can sneak in from below or the side of the lenses.
Do I need belay glasses?
Belay specs are an excellent tool to help reduce neck pain from starring up. These will act like over the glasses goggles, but instead it will feel like wearing two sets of specs. There are some disadvantages though, because the belay specs will sit farther away, your total view will be reduced. I also don’t like how it feels wearing two pairs of frames at once.