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I was going through the REI website for some of the products and I stumbled upon this one here.

It's called Y & Y VERTICAL Classic Belay Glasses

The product punchline says:

Stop wrenching your neck to keep an eye on your climber. The Y & Y Vertical Classic Belay Glasses feature metal frames and high-quality prisms that allow you to look straight ahead while belaying.

Have anybody used this one? What purpose does this product serve? How is this supposed to work?

I agree that I can read the user manual and get on with it, but I'd prefer get a word from someone with a hands-on experience with it.

  • 3
    Belay glasses have been on my wish list for YEARS, but when they first came out they were $120.00 a pair... They save your neck from having to be cranked up and watching your leader. – ShemSeger May 14 '18 at 14:44
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    There are cheaper ones for under $20 now. – Qudit May 14 '18 at 21:47
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    They allow you to look straight ahead while belaying. It says so right there. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 15 '18 at 11:26
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    I guess I'm saying the question could do with a description of what it's seeking, that goes beyond what was already stated. Is there something you didn't understand about the existing definition? Or did you want it expanded? Did you want use cases more thoroughly described? Just a critique on the question. As currently written, IMO it almost answers itself. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 15 '18 at 12:17
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    @AnoE: While I appreciate your feedback, I may want to take some time to think over this, because as of now there are 3 great (& upvoted) answers, and another one by relatively newer user which could turn into another great answer with some more data (if he/she adds to it). And, rewording the question now would be fine, but only if it doesn't change the context such that even a smaller (or larger) part of an existing answer becomes inapplicable. If I am being unclear (and confused when I asked the question), it be very unfair and hate to do that after so much appreciation from community :-) – WedaPashi May 15 '18 at 14:24
30

Like it says in the other comment, these glasses are to be used when belaying so that you don't have to tilt your head up. The lenses are made of a prism-shaped glass that bends the light in such a way that you see what is happening up while looking straight in front of you. They help to avoid neck pain, and they also make it easier to always keep an eye on the climber.

So in theory the glasses are a great idea for people who climb often, or have to belay for a long time, or have problems with their neck. I see a lot of old folks wearing them, so might be especially appealing for older people. I believe the main reason those glasses are not that popular is that they used to be really expensive. I remember them costing around 200 euros a few years ago.

I have also tried belay glasses myself. And while most of my friends who have tried them really liked them, I couldn't stay for longer than a couple of minutes while wearing those glasses myself. Of course, it might be a matter of getting used to the feeling, but I was getting dizzy, and decided it was better for the climber if I took those glasses off.

So my verdict would be that in theory the belay glasses sound like a great idea, and most people seem to like them well enough, but you should try them out yourself before deciding to buy. Even trying them out in the shop could be informative enough.

  • 2
    I've noticed a bit of the same dizzy effect, but for me it goes away after a minute or two, once my eyes/brain have adjusted to viewing through the glasses. I mainly only noticed it on the first time in a day that I used them; subsequent uses, I noticed that I was able to adjust quicker and didn't really have any problems. I'd agree that they aren't necessarily for everyone, though. – fyrepenguin May 14 '18 at 20:52
  • Huh... prism lenses.. As a newbie climber I guess I just assumed they were mirrors. Now that I think about it, this makes far more sense. Learn something new every day. – Broots Waymb May 15 '18 at 13:59
  • This dizziness comes from the way your head movements affect your field of view when you wear belay glasses. We have not evolved to look through those prisms, so it will take a minimum amount of time to map the muscle activation to the field of view those glasses provide. Once you have accustomed to this new way to orient your vision, any previous dizziness tend to disappear. – icosamuel May 15 '18 at 15:13
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    Maybe birders could benefit from such glasses, to avoid warbler neck... – Drew May 16 '18 at 22:45
  • "Older people"? I started to get migraine, triggered by muscles and/or joints in my neck when I was 19. And I love my belay glasses, they protect me from headache AND I stay focused on the climber 100% of the time. ....well, in a way: 19 is older... – Ole Bjørsvik Sep 20 '18 at 15:48
19

Belay glasses are (in Europe) so common that they are basically now part of the standard gym/crag equipment, just like an autolocking belay device. In some places, it can be rare to see someone without a pair on.

The primary benefit is comfort for the belayer: you have a much more relaxed neck position. This isn't an "old person" thing, it's just more comfortable to be looking straight ahead than craning your neck up.

The secondary benefit is safety: a belayer who can comfortably watch their climber is more likely to watch them during the entire climb without looking away to relax their neck. This means the belayer can give a much better belay: they can see the climber ready to clip, about to fall, etc. This means fewer short clips or hard catches.

Note, I'm discussing mostly lead climbing, where it's important to watch the climber closely. For top-roping, the benefit is slightly lower since you can get away with "feel".

One tip: I usually keep the belay glasses around my neck (or lower on my nose) for the first few clips, where I can see the climber directly. I then put the glasses on quickly around the third clip.

  • 1
    Not looking up is not in itself less safe ("Sensorhand"). – imsodin May 14 '18 at 11:22
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    I don't know what "sensorhand" is, but if you give me the choice between a belayer who is looking at me when I climb and one who isn't, I personally have a pretty clear preference. – Felix May 14 '18 at 11:26
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    I agree with imsodin. When rock climbing there are often situations where you are out of sight of the belayer and those situations are not necessarily less safe. – Michael May 14 '18 at 15:00
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    @imsodin for top roping sure, but for lead roping the belay needs to pay attention to additional things you can't sense through the feeling on the rope. – whatsisname May 14 '18 at 15:01
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    Where in Europe are belay glasses common!?!? – d-b May 15 '18 at 21:26
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Well, there is not much more to it than what you citation already says: It deflects your field of vision upwards, i.e. you can keep your head level, look into the glasses and you will see upwards. I could only use them twice, and I stopped pretty quickly, because the weird field of vision confused me. However there's tons of people using it and those that lent it to me, said that some discomfort in the beginning is normal and you will adjust quickly.

As to the purpose: Staring up at the climber a long time will provoke a stiff/painful neck, which is prevented by not having to tilt your head to look up.
As to how it works: It's a glass prism constructed such, that light entering at ~60deg up (perpendicular to the surface) is reflected first at the bottom, then again at the entry surface (total reflection) and finally leaves the glass towards your eyes (see the Wikipedia article).

  • 2
    The prism is used as a reflector, not a refractor, so the chromatic effects are nearly zero. – Carl Witthoft May 14 '18 at 15:44
  • @CarlWitthoft Thanks for the pointer, haven't actually looked into it - the principle is amazingly simple and constructed such, that light enters/leaves the prism almost vertically, thus refraction effects are indeed almost zero. – imsodin May 14 '18 at 15:58
6

In addition to the other excellent answers, it's worth noting that many belay glasses have a slight (~1.25x) magnification effect, which sometimes makes it easier to work out small details on the rock when giving beta.

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    They're also fantastic for accidentally looking at the sun. – Adonalsium May 15 '18 at 13:10

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