man belaying wearing belay glasses

Today you’re going to learn all things belay glasses.

Sport and trad climbers know all-too-well the strain a long day at the crag can have on their necks. The resulting soreness from looking high up at one’s partner while they chuff on their project for a couple hours is never pleasant. 

It is, quite literally, a pain in the neck. Belayers also risk developing more serious spinal issues over time, like lumbar facet joint disorders. Yikes!

Thankfully, there is a brilliant and simple solution to relieve some of the bummer from belaying, small enough to fit in the smallest pouch of a crag pack…

On at least one visit to any climbing area, you may notice a belayer facing the rock, wearing some rather futuristic looking spectacles. Their suave belay style and refusal to crane their neck up to make sure the climber is safe may come off as a bit unsettling upon first encounter. 

That is, until you discover the belayer is wearing belay glasses.

Belay Glasses are special glasses that rock climbers use, while belaying, to eliminate the need to crane their neck upwards to watch their partner as they climb a route.

In this article we will cover:

Belay Glasses Buying Guide

There are many different belay glasses on the market that cater to different needs. When finally committing to buying your first pair, make sure to review all the specifications (and even try them out!) to make sure they’re the right fit for you. 

The following is a list of some of the best pairs on the market:

Y&Y Plasfun Belay Glasses

plasfun belay glasses orange
Source: yyvertical

The Plasfuns are just as lightweight and use the same prisms as the Y&Y Classics, but provide a comfortable plastic alternative. 

These glasses are great for people who prefer the sturdier feel of a normal pair of glasses/sunglasses, as the frame has an adherent coating and is a bit less flexible than the metal version. 

However, the frame is still thin so as to not impede peripheral vision. Although the Plasfuns do not have an adjustable nose pad, its nose pad does have a large contact surface area to add for greater stability.

These glasses also come with Y&Y’s zippered anti-shock case with carabiner, lanyard, and microfiber cloth.

Key Features:

  • Thin and lightweight plastic frame
  • Cheaper than Y&Y Classics
  • Adherent coating
  • High-quality prisms
  • Large nose pad
  • Stackable

Y&Y Classic Belay Glasses

y&y classics belay glasses green

The frame is made of a light and flexible metal, but has hinges like normal glasses and are also sturdy where necessary. In particular, the glasses have an adjustable silicon pad that forms to the bridge of your nose and great enough surface area so as to not rest too heavy on one spot. 

Their high transparency BK7 prisms make for clear and high-quality vision. They can also be stacked on top of prescription or sun-protective glasses.

When you purchase the Y&Y Classics, you also get a zippered anti-shock case with a sewed-in carabiner, as well as a lanyard and microfiber cloth, and replacement nose pads.

 Key Features:

  • Lightweight and super flexible metal frame
  • Adjustable nose pad
  • High-quality prisms
  • Stackable

Belay Specs

belay glasses and case
Source: Belay Specs

With their minimalist metal design, Belay Specs are the lightest belay glasses out there. Unlike Y&Y’s offerings, Belay Specs have no hinges; instead, the temples of the glasses reach directly out from the prisms like ultra-bendy arms. They also lack a significant nose pad. 

These glasses come with a color-customizable “keeper cord” (small lanyard) and hard plastic case that snaps open and shut. The case also has a protruding loop for personal carabiner attachments.

Key Features:

  • Extremely lightweight metal frame
  • Flexible
  • Custom-color lanyard and hard plastic case
  • Affordable

Belaggles Belay Glasses

belay glasses black

These glasses are often chosen for their extra wide-view and high quality lenses. Their frame comes in seven different colors and is quite durable – made of stiff nylon – though resultantly much heavier than other belay glasses. 

They are also unique looking due to some clever features that prolong their lifespan. 

More specifically, the lenses are curved on the ends to reduce vulnerability to chipping. The frame also protrudes forward beyond the lenses and nose bridge to prevent damage to the prisms if the glasses are dropped. 

Belaggles glasses also have eyelet holes at the end of the temples so that you can attach your own unique lanyard.

When you purchase Belaggles Belay Glasses, you also receive a zippered case, cleaning cloth, and lanyard.

Key Features:

  • Extremely durable
  • Wide-view lenses
  • Heavy
  • Unique features to protect lifespan
  • Eyelet holes for personal lanyard attachment
  • One of the more expensive belay glasses

BG Climbing Belay Glasses

belay glasses sitting on top of case

BG uses the same high-quality BK7 prisms that Y&Y do, and charge a fraction of the cost. 

According to BG’s specs, these glasses still had their prisms in place after fifty falls from nearly six feet off the ground. The frame is made of lightweight polycarbonate (plastic), although it only comes in the color black. 

When you purchase BG Belay Glasses, you also receive a lanyard, zipper case, and microfiber cloth.

Key Features:

  • Lightweight plastic
  • High-quality prisms
  • Durable against falls
  • Single color
  • One of the cheapest

JNW Direct Belay Glasses

belay glasses with accessories

Simple, cheap, stackable belay glasses made of thick plastic. A bit on the heavier side. There seems to be occasional reports of issues with the hinges breaking. 

If you can take good care of these and are only looking to give an occasional gym belay, they might last long enough to be worth the low cost. 

JNW Belay Glasses also include a lanyard/”neck strap”, zipper case, and microfiber cloth.

 Key Features:

  • Very low-cost
  • Heavy
  • Stackable
  • Plastic frame
  • High-quality prisms
  • Single-color

Belay Optics Fully Adjustable Clip-On Glasses

 

A great option for those who already wear prescription glasses (or love to rock sunglasses at the crag) as they clip directly to the bridge of your personal pair. 

Belay Optics Clip-On Glasses also allow you to adjust the distance between lenses so that they can align perfectly to your eyes. The prisms in the glasses are  protected by tall plastic edges, so you don’t have to worry as much about scratching them. Comes with a protective case and carabiner.

Key Features:

  • Clip directly to personal glasses
  • Adjustable
  • Protective features ensure lifetime of prisms

 

Epic Peak Lightweight Pro Belaying Glasses

epic peak belay glasses

These are one of those items you find on Amazon for a great, cheap price, but instantly feel worried about buying. 

There is very little information provided by the seller about what materials they are made of, however, they do have high-quality prisms. They also come with a zipper case and lanyard, which is a plus. 

Perhaps you may still be willing to take a gamble on these glasses after reading all the mixed customer reviews, and hopefully, find them worth it.

 Key Features:

  • Affordable
  • High-quality prisms

Metolius UpShot Belay Glasses

sleek belay glasses

The UpShots have a unique sporty look and a lightweight, stiff plastic frame. 

They are advised for stacked use with personal glasses, as they have low-profile nose pads and the prisms provide a view at a higher-than-normal angle up on the wall. If you don’t like clip-on glasses but still need to stack on top of your own, then these are for you. 

Hard zippered case, lanyard, and lens cloth are included with purchase. 

Key Features:

  • Sporty styled frame
  • Low-profile nose pads
  • Mostly used for stacking

Crush Climbing Crush Vision Belay Glasses

belay glasses with extra accessories

These have a similar design to the Belaggles, but are made of lightweight metal instead of heavy plastic. The prisms are 100% glass and scratch-resistant, and protected by metal edging. 

Crush Climbing also offers a lifetime satisfaction guarantee, which inspires confidence in the quality of the product. 

Hard zippered case with carabiner, lanyard, and lens cloth are included with purchase.

 Key Features:

  • Lightweight metal frame
  • High-quality, scratch-resistant prisms
  • Lifetime satisfaction guarantee

Rockulus Belay Glasses

belay glasses in case

Nearly identical in style and quality with the BG Climbing Belay Glasses, Rockulus glasses have a stiff, hinged plastic frame that only comes in the color black. 

Another cheap, stackable option that can either be great or fall apart easily. 

Hard zippered case and cleaning cloth included with purchase.

Key Features:

  • Lightweight, hinged plastic frame
  • Single color
  • Stackable
  • Cheap

Fantasia Titanium Alloy Belay Glasses

super thin belay glasses

The Fantasias are extremely lightweight because of their flexible titanium frame. They greatly resemble Belay Specs, except for their hinges and more comfortable-looking silicon nose bed. 

They also come with a hard zippered case, lanyard, and extra nose pad.

Key Features:

  • Ultra lightweight
  • Hinged titanium frame
  • Silicone nose bed                                                          

 Le Pirate Model III Belay Glasses

red belay glasses

A durable and brightly colored option for plastic, hinged belay glasses. Their high-quality prisms are encased in protective plastic siding, minimizing risk of chips and scratches. 

They also have a high-vertical viewing angle, great for belaying climbers on steeply overhanging rock climbs. 

Hard zippered case, lanyard, and cleaning cloth included with purchase.

Key Features:

  • Durable plastic
  • Protective plastic siding around prisms
  • High-vertical viewing angle

Things to Consider When Buying Belay Glasses

Durability

If you are only planning on using your belay glasses in the gym, then durability is not of the greatest concern. Unless, of course, you tend to leave your things where they might get stepped on. 

On the other hand, outdoor gear takes quite the beating. 

It is exposed to the elements, to your smelly trunk, a dusting by an unsecured chalk bag, and sometimes even a bumpy ride down the side of a hill or cliff. If you plan on taking your belay glasses to the crag, it might be a good idea to get a more durable pair. 

When looking to purchase belay glasses, be sure to keep in mind a couple of things:

  •  What the frame is made of
    • Belay glasses frames come in two types: plastic and metal. Metal is far more durable than plastic, and generally weighs less. However, metal frames can feel less securely fitting and uncomfortable to some.
  • If the glasses have hinges
    • Hinges, although they make for a more normal and squared fit, provide a vulnerable breaking point
  • How secure the protective case is
    • You can always find your own protective case. But if you plan on relying upon the case that comes with your belay glasses, make sure it is well constructed, padded, and will not open on its own.

Portability

Climbers already have so much gear to carry on the way to the gym or crag. Finding a pair of glasses that collapse to a small size and have a simple, packable case will reduce clutter and weight.

Cases that have carabiners secured to them are a plus, as they can be clipped to a harness or the outside of a pack.

Also, be sure the glasses have a lanyard that is already attached or can be easily connected. Lanyards allow you to wear the glasses around your neck and so avoid having to frequently return them to their case. 

Fit and Comfort

man in climbing gym with belay glasses on

Fit and comfort are extremely important factors in buying belay glasses, especially if you belay frequently or for long periods of time.

If you must wear your own prescription glasses, be sure to find a pair of belay glasses that are stackable. This means that they can be worn in addition to your own glasses. Most pairs are stackable, although some fit better than others or have prism angles that are specifically tailored for being stacked and thus resting lower on your nose (like the Metolius Upshots*). 

Or, look into clip-on belay glasses. These can be directly attached to your own glasses.  If you like to wear sunglasses when climbing outdoors, this function may also be important to you. Belay Optics’  Clip-On Glasses are a great choice for this feature. 

It is a good idea to try on stiff frame and flexible frame glasses, to decide which of the two feels best, while also most secure. Metallic frames are often most flexible, but can feel slippery; whereas plastic frames can have adherent coatings on them.

Price

When buying gear, the most important factor of all is to know thyself.

Do you tend to have bad luck, and lose/break things a lot? Or are you rather meticulous about staying organized and keeping your things safe? 

It’s okay to be either way. But knowing which category you fall into can help your wallet and reduce stress.

Belay glasses are rather small, and much like a belay device, can be easily lost track of at the base of a climb. They can also be dropped and cracked, or crushed under the weight of you using your crag pack as a convenient seat. 

Finding a self-suitable balance of affordability (with risk of having to purchase another pair in mind) and quality is essential when investing in climbing gear.

The price of belay glasses can range anywhere from $20 to $100 USD. The most popular brands tend to hover in the $50 to $70 USD range. If you’re worried you’ll lose the glasses, err on the cheaper side. 

Usability

Belay glasses are supposed to make belaying easier and more comfortable. These factors are what make them worth buying and using. 

Therefore, you should be able to see through them well, belay properly, and wear them for a while without feeling like you’ve swapped neck pain for a headache.

Make sure to buy glasses that have high quality prisms. This means that the image reflected in your eyes of your climbing partner will be clear, like watching a movie shot with a really nice camera. 

Low quality prisms can cause blurry vision, and even dizziness and headaches if you are prone to motion sickness.

It is also important that you are able to shift between looking at your climbing partner and looking in your peripheral (at your belay device, rope slack, and any potential risks on the ground). 

Although thick frames are more comfortable, be wary: they have a greater potential to block peripheral vision.  

How Belay Glasses Work

light bouncing through a prism

Belay glasses are worn like normal glasses with the wires (or temples) resting on the ears and the bridge settled on the nose. 

What separates them from regular glasses, however, is the shape and function of their lenses.

The “lenses” of belay glasses function as prisms, bending the light from up above the belayer so that it is reflected, or redirected, into their eyes. In this way, it feels similar to looking through a periscope in a submarine; you are able to see in a totally different direction despite facing your eyes and neck forward. 

Watching your climber through belay glasses is as enjoyable as watching a movie, yet without delaying your response time when the climber falls.

How to Use Belay Glasses…Correctly! 

Most glasses have a lanyard so you can drape them around your neck. If not, prop them up on your head as you set up to belay someone.

Do not immediately put the glasses on when your partner starts climbing. This is for two reasons:

1) When you look through belay glasses, you will see what is above you. When your climber first starts, however, they will be in front of you – in your regular line of sight. You will likely not see your climber through the glasses until they have reached their first or second bolt (or piece of traditional gear).

2) It is important to spot your climber until they are clipped into their first piece of protection. You can not adequately spot your climber if you are looking through the glasses at the blank rock above them!

Once your climber has successfully clipped into their first piece of protection, use your hand that is not on the brake rope to adjust the belay glasses onto your face. Then, appreciate the wonders of belaying without having to crane your neck!

Do not be afraid to look into your peripheral vision outside the boundaries of the lenses to check how much slack you’re giving out, and if there are any potential hazards on the ground nearby.

Why Belay Glasses Make You a Better Belayer

cute dog wearing belay glasses sitting with rock climber

We all want to be the best climbing partner – to hold our buddies up on their long and tenuous project burns, and to be attentive so we avoid short-roping or giving an improper catch. 

But looking upwards for more than five minutes can wear anyone’s comfort and patience thin.

Especially on a steeply overhanging route, like La Sensación del Bloque (9a) in Chile’s Valle de los Condores.

We all know how it goes…

Your jaw and neck start to ache, and potentially even your lower back. So, you start periodically having to look down and away from your climber, that way you can take a break and lower your chin to your chest.

In these moments, you are at a greater risk of missing an important visual cue from your climber to adjust slack or tighten your grip on the break rope. This can result in short-roping your climber when they need the critical slack to make a crux-y clip, or not giving your climber a soft and secure enough catch.

When you are unaware that your climber is about to fall, you also may not prepare your body position. 

If their fall force is great enough, you can sometimes be sucked up towards the wall at such a speed that can cause serious injury, or even worse – release of the brake hand to instinctively brace yourself, which can result in decking the climber.

Wearing belay glasses eliminates the risk of such belay-blunders by preventing their causes.

Belay glasses allow you to watch your climber without craning your neck, and so without any of the ensuing aches and pains. 

No aches and pains means no reason to look down, or be distracted from your job of keeping the climber safe. Your full attention to belaying also helps improve the climber’s odds of sending the route, as they do not have to face an additional crux of being short-roped, or feel nervous about their safety if they fall while making a committing move.  

Having the right rope is important for making belaying easier and safer, too. If your rope is too thick and does not feed through your belay device well, you may end up needing to look under the rim of your glasses more than you should. To avoid this, check out our guide on all things climbing ropes

So Then, Which Should I Buy?

Like all gear, belay glasses are personal. Which pair you choose will ultimately depend on your own unique preferences (the feel of plastic vs. metal, weight, whether you wear prescription glasses, etc.). That being said, here are a few of our top picks based on detailed analysis of the glasses’ quality and specifications: 

Best All-Around Pair: Y&Y Plasfun

Best Lightweight Pair: Fantasia Titanium Alloy Belay Glasses

Least Sketchy Super-Affordable Pair: BG Climbing Belay Glasses for Rock Climbing

Perfect to Wear with Prescription Glasses: Belay Optics Fully Adjustable Clip-On Glasses

Get ready to enjoy belaying without any neck pain!

Now you have the info, and it’s up to you to buy your perfect belay glasses!

Did you find this guide useful?

If so, share it with your friends, or drop a comment below and let us know!

Climb on.

Further reading see: “A Ridiculous Good Guide to Absolutely Everything You Need to Know About Climbing Ropes” and “Ultimate Hand Care For Climbers Guide – Never Get a Flapper Again“. 

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Published by Melissa Kochanowsky

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