Published on: 04/25/2023
Climbing often involves some amount of discomfort. Whether you’re desperately jamming your fists into splitter sandstone, cutting your fingers on microscopic crimps, or pitching out long sections of rock in the cold wind, climbers are accustomed to a bit of sacrifice in order to enjoy the vertical world. However, one of the worst forms of pain comes from bending your neck back, often for many hours a day, while belaying a lead climber. The neck pain that follows after a long day of belaying can be debilitating. Also, it’s often compounded by other forms of stress like wearing a backpack, incorrect posture, and from the climbing itself.
Luckily, you don’t need to tweak your neck in order to give good belays all day long. Belay glasses are here to the rescue. Although they haven’t fully caught on, they already have a devoted fanbase. If you are rock climbing often, chances are you could benefit from using a pair at the crag.
With a pair of belay glasses, you can look straight ahead and still keep a close eye on your climbing partner above. While they might look a bit silly and draw looks from other climbers, many people report that belay glasses quickly become one of their favorite pieces of climbing gear.
These spectacles use prisms to redirect your vision upwards. However, they still allow you to see your immediate surroundings at the crag using your peripheral vision. Whether you’re young or old, belay glasses go a long way in preventing straining of the neck and spine.
When deciding which belay glasses to include in this article, we took into account the features and designs most likely to appeal to the broadest range of climbers. Each choice offers distinct strengths, such as best value, best budget pair, etc. Most pairs we included come with some standard useful features, like a neck retainer and hard case for storage. While all pairs are quality made, some cost more money and offer certain extras that cheaper models don’t. Whether you’re looking for something sturdy and reliable to take on long trips or a cheap pair for gym use, we’ve got you covered.
Our Selection of the Best Belay Glasses for 2023
|36 g/1.3 oz
|45 g/1.6 oz
|Y&Y Clip Up
|33 g/1.2 oz
|47 g/1.6 oz
|BG Climbing Belay Glasses
|36 g/1.3 oz
1. Y&Y Classic: Best Overall
Y&Y is a brand from France specializing in highly technical belay glasses for rock climbing. They offer several different models, the Classic being our favorite. These belay goggles are made with a metal frame that makes it easy to adjust across many head sizes. The small prisms and nose piece sit down low enough that they can be worn over regular glasses or sunglasses without too much interference. Compared to other glasses marketed for belaying, the Y&Y Classic is quite complete in its feature set.
Alongside the adjustable frame, the Y&Y Classic comes with a nose pad that can also be adjusted to different widths and even be replaced if needed. In fact, these belay glasses come with extra screws and a screwdriver so you can perform worry-free maintenance at home or on the go. There are other features here that are extremely useful for belay glasses, such as a neck retainer cord and hard case for protection during transport. The Y&Y classic also comes in the most extensive set of colors that you can find in any belay glasses, with different metal anodizations available for your style preferences.
The Y&Y Classic is not the most budget-friendly pair of belay glasses out there. There are other pairs that are significantly cheaper and will still work to prevent neck pain. However, if you are looking for a single pair of glasses that will never disappoint, we think the Y&Y Classic are a good choice with great design that stands out from the rest of the pack.
2. Metolius Upshot: Most Comfortable Belay Glasses
The Upshot by Metolius is a good pair of belay glasses if you value comfort over potential longevity. This is Metolius’ second iteration of belay glasses, and they made several improvements on their previous design. The frame is made with a flexible plastic that doesn’t dig into your face as much as other metal framed designs tend to. The prism also reflects at a slightly higher angle than many competitors do, which lets you relax your neck even more while still keeping the climber in clear view.
The Upshot comes with a lanyard retainer, hard case for storage, and a microfiber cloth. There aren’t any replacement hinge screws included, so if you lose any of those you will need to go to an eyewear shop for maintenance. Metolius offers the Upshot in three different colors: blue, purple, and black.
If you are looking for a pair of belay glasses which can offer slightly more comfort than other models, the Upshot is a very good option for you. Though they aren’t the cheapest model available, it’s clear to see that Metolius put a good amount of climbing expertise into designing a quality pair of glasses that won’t let its users down. The plastic frames aren’t the most durable, but they definitely make for more comfortable wearing than metal when jammed under your helmet.
3. Y&Y Clip Up: Best For Prescription Glasses Wearers
If you wear prescription glasses whenever you are belaying then it might make more sense to get belay glasses that work in a modular fashion with your regular glasses. The Y&Y Clip Up works with an attachment clip that fits on most prescription glasses on the nose bridge. Once fitted, the Clip Up allows you to easily switch between belaying and other tasks by flipping the belay glasses up or off as you please. Unlike other models you don’t have to rely as heavily on your peripheral vision with this one. Indeed, it’s easy to change modes and see your immediate surroundings by doing a simple flip.
The Clip Up comes with a hard case and microfiber cloth. It also offers an extra silicone legs to help keep them securely attached to your glasses. Note that it’s better not to carry the Clip Up in the same case as your other glasses, as they risk scratching each others lenses.
While they aren’t difficult to install, it does take some fussing about to get them on and off your glasses. It’s something to take into consideration if you don’t want to climb with them still attached to your glasses.
For glasses wearers, the Clip Up is definitely the best and most helpful option available on today’s market. They allow you to use your prescription lenses with minimal extra bulk on your face while having the option to flip to your rock climbing belay glasses at anytime. It also makes to use the Clip Up from Y&Y if you routinely wear sunglasses at the crag. Their unique design allows you to be an even more attentive belayer without needing to adjust multiple pairs of glasses on your face.
4. Belay Specs: Most Durable Pair
The Belay Specs are some of the best and most durable rock climbing belay glasses around. They start with sourcing high quality materials from the US and make all of their glasses in Utah to ensure a product worthy of your trust. Like other metal frame glasses for rock climbing, they can be adjusted to the shape of the belayer’s face in order to attain an optimum fit. They have most of the other features that our other picks come with, like a neck strap and carrying case.
One of the things that makes these the most durable pair on our list is the fact that Belay Specs offers replacement prisms. Buying prisms will greatly extend the life of your belay glasses since they tend to be the part that gets messed up the fastest from scratches and accidental drops. Belay Specs is the only brand that offers replacement prisms on their website, and we really appreciate this both for longevity and for keeping less stuff out of the landfill. Supporting a US-based manufacturing setup is yet another bonus. Moreover, Belay Specs doesn’t export their labor and pays fair wages to all their workers.
If you are looking to buy high quality belay glasses that can potentially last for years to come, this is a excellent choice. Because of the attention paid to quality construction and the availability of spare parts, the Belay Specs are likely to outlast any other pair of glasses albeit with proper care. At the crag and in the gym, the Belay Specs are sure to give you unobstructed vision without needing to crane your neck in weird positions and risk chronic neck pain.
5. BG Climbing Belay Glasses: Best Budget Belay Glasses
The BG Climbing belay glasses are the cheapest belay glasses in our review. For those looking for belay glasses to reduce neck strain on a budget, these are definitely the best bet. Like most belay glasses they come with a carrying case, neck lanyard, and microfiber cloth. In fact we were surprised at how much you get with these BG glasses despite the lower price tag. They are undoubtedly the best belay glasses for those on a tight budget.
The frames are made of plastic, which definitely isn’t the most durable material but does have its upsides, especially when it comes to comfort and ease of use. It also has a fairly lightweight design that doesn’t feel bulky on your face. The BG glasses are a bit smaller than the other models we reviewed, so keep in mind that if you have a big head, they might not be the best fit for you. If you are looking for glasses for kids who have smaller heads and also may not be as careful with their gear, then these may be a good choice.
If money is one of the main reasons you have been hesitant to buy belay glasses in the past, do consider this option. Many climbers have found their belay glasses to be the small and unassuming piece of gear that ends up being a total game changer in the long run. These aren’t the cheapest belay glasses available, Amazon has a few other options for even less. We felt like the BG Climbing belay glasses were great value for money however, and significantly more robust than other models in the same price range.
How to Find the Perfect Belay Glasses
What are Belay Glasses?
Belay glasses help protect your neck from excessive straining and even chronic pain by allowing you to see the person you’re belaying while holding your neck at a neutral and pain-free angle. While they have been around for quite a while, many people still don’t know about these funky looking spectacles and the benefits they come with. The original belay glasses were DIY models made by creative climbers who modified prismatic reading glasses so they could be flipped to give a view of what’s above. The specialized belay glasses available today work the same way, allowing upwards visibility by using prisms that reflect light from a certain angle (usually around 70 degrees).
Belay glasses for rock climbing come in a few different styles. Cheaper models tend to use plastic frames while more expensive ones come with metal frames. Metal frames may be more rugged and crag ready, but they can also tend to irritate the skin behind your ears more with extended periods of use. Most models ride low enough on your nose that they can be used alongside eyeglasses without issue.
While belay glasses aren’t a necessary piece of safety equipment, they do make giving an attentive belay easier, especially over extended periods of time. A good belayer is integral to a safe system while climbing, and by minimizing the amount of strain put on the belayer, glasses can help improve this system as well as the overall climbing and belaying experience.
What to Look For in a Pair?
Luckily there are now a good amount of brands offering belay glasses, which means that the price has gotten cheaper in recent years. Still, if you know what you’re looking for you will have a better time finding the right fit. Finding the best belay glasses will come down to a matter of personal preference.
If you have an extra big or small head, it’s probably best to look for a pair of metal frame glasses so that you can adjust them according to your needs. Because belay glasses are such a niche product, they don’t come in different sizes and the plastic frame options tend to be a universal medium fit.
While on the one hand metal frames are more durable, they also tend to irritate your face a bit more. For this reason if you are extra sensitive to chafing then a pair of plastic framed belay glasses could be a better choice for you.
In short, belay glasses change your perspective so that it’s possible to see the climber above without looking up. The light is refracted through a prism that works at a certain angle (60-90 degrees). You can still see your immediate surrounding with peripheral vision, as the prism isn’t very big.
If you are young and you don’t already have neck pain, you might not see the benefit of belay glasses. Chances are, the longer you climb the more you will notice the discomfort that comes from staring upward for extended periods of time. The cheapest belay glasses are under 30 dollars, which isn’t a very big investment to save your neck.
Belay glasses are worn just like regular glasses, with two arms that sit on top of your ears and a bridge that sits on your nose. Wearing belay glasses take some time to get used to, the prism design makes the field of vision look a bit strange at first. Over time they become second nature.
Yes, you can use belay glasses with other types of eyewear. They sit low enough on your nose that they will not interfere with other glasses. It is also possible to use clip on belay glasses with your prescription or sunglasses.