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The 6 Best Belay Glasses for 2020

Belay Glasses Reviewed

Belay glasses have become an indispensable addition to the crag and gym-climber’s pack. Long belay sessions on vertical or overhanging terrain can literally be a pain in the neck. Belay glasses offer some respite from this pain by redirecting the belayer’s vision. Instead of bending your neck steeply upward on overhanging routes, belay glasses offer a simple promise: look forward and see up.

What are the best belay glasses to buy in 2020?

There are lots of belay glasses to choose from on the market. Which belay glasses are the best? Should you go low cost, or high end? What is the difference between cheap $20 belay glasses you can buy from Amazon and $70 or $90 pairs from reputable brands? Read on for answers to these questions.  

Two Categories of Glasses

Belay glasses can be categorized into two broad categories: Fixed-prism glasses and adjustable-prism glasses.

Fixed-Prism Glasses - Old Way

Up until a few months ago, all of the belay glasses on the market offered the same optical system: a prism that reflects the light twice—once off the mirrored bottom of the prism and a second time off the top surface of the prism. These are fixed-prism glasses. They reflect light by a fixed 60° from horizontal, which is the slope of a low-angle slab climb.

Fixed Prism Glasses offer a fixed angle of view

Adjustable-Prism Glasses - New Way

In 2019, PitchSix, for the first time, introduced adjustable-prism glasses. The EyeSend adjustable prism offers an advantage of letting you change the angle of view from a low-angle, 60° slab to an overhanging 120° face. EyeSend accomplishes this by allowing the mirror below the prism to rotate. The advantage of the adjustable prism is a much wider field of view that you can observe without having to bend your neck.

Adjustable prism glasses offer a moveable angle of view.

2020 Belay Glasses Reviewed and Compared

For this review, we look at 7 different pairs of belay glasses, ranging from high-end offerings from Y&Y and Metolius to cheap pairs available on Amazon. There are other companies out there and we’ll add to the review from time to time. We reviewed:

  1. PitchSix EyeSend
  2. Metolius Upshot v2
  3. Y&Y Classic Metal Frames
  4. Belay Specs
  5. Belaggles
  6. Amazon China Imports

What We Compared and Why It Matters

Field of view

Avoiding neck bend is the only reason you’re buying a pair of belay glasses. Being able to see a wide field of view, meaning steep and low-angle climbs without bending your neck is therefore the most important feature on our list.

Peripheral vision

The main objective of belay glasses is to look through the prisms to watch your climber. However, it’s important to be able to see around the glasses sometimes as well. We looked at how well you can see over, under and to the side of the prisms.

Glasses Weight

Most of the glasses on the market are light enough to not make weight a decision maker, but some are just too heavy. We list the weight for each.

Prism Size

Larger prisms give you a bigger field of view. Smaller prisms are lighter. We measure the prism size for each pair. Larger prisms are easier to see more terrain, but limit peripheral vision and can become heavy.

Sturdiness

How robust are the glasses? Will they bend or snap over time? We grade the sturdiness of all pairs.

Comfort

How comfortable are they? We had several testers try them on, including both the big and tiny headed. Comfort is key.

Integrated Neck Strap

The advantage of the integrated neck strap is that is leaves the back of the temples open, making the glasses easier to take on and off, especially when wearing a hat or helmet.

Work Over Glasses

Wearing two pairs of glasses is a pain, but sunglasses or prescription glasses are sometimes necessary. We look at how well the belay glasses work over the top of another pair of glasses.

Case Design

Is the case robust? Will it clip onto your harness? Will the straps break in time? Is it easy to open and close? We answer these questions.

Cost

Less expensive is always nice! Though price isn’t everything.

Where Made

We like to see glasses that are made close to where they are sold. It’s not critical, but a nice aspect.


Glasses Rating

We rated each of the above features on with a score of 1-5:

  • 1 = Poor
  • 2 = Meh
  • 3 = Okay
  • 4 = Good
  • 5 = Excellent

We multiplied the feature score against the feature weight to come up with an overall winner. Your personal weighting may be different, so we’re presenting this information with as much transparency as possible so you can so you can make your own decision about which pair is right for you.

Feature Overview

The following chart gives a brief description of the characteristics for each pair of glasses. A more detailed description is written below.

Note - Feature importance weight of 3 says the feature is most important. 2 is middle importance. 1 is the least important.

Belay Glasses Comparison

Results

Here are the results of our review. You can see the EyeSend glasses come out of top. This isn’t surprising as they are the only glasses that offer an adjustable field of view. This adjustment lets you use the glasses on a wide range of cliffs without having to bend your neck at all. Not bending your neck is the only reason you’re buying belay glasses in the first place.

Belay glasses comparison results

Glasses Details

First Place - PitchSix EyeSend

PitchSix EysSend Glasses

Overall: EyeSend glasses are the only glasses offering an adjustable prism. This feature lets you adjust the field of view from 60° slabs to 120° overhangs with the flick of a lever, saving you from bending your neck at all. The glasses feel comfortable and well balanced. The case design hangs nicely on the harness and includes a quick-close Velcro flap and a beefy ½ webbing attachment strap that won’t wear out.

Technical: The glasses check in at 54 grams including the neck strap. The frames are made of plastic and aren’t adjustable in shape. The prisms measure 25x13mm, so in between the larger ones and smallest ones. The prisms are protected against chipping on both sides. EyeSend glasses work really well over other glasses because you can let them ride below the other glasses and use the view-adjustment lever to elevate your view angle.

Field of View: EyeSend glasses are unique in offering a 60° to 120° field of view. Peripheral vision is excellent to the sides and top. Some of the peripheral vision below the frames is blocked due to the space needed for the adjustable mirror.

Comfort: EyeSend frames aren’t adjustable, but our testers found them very comfortable and well balanced. The temples have a rubber insert to help hold them in place. They come with an integrated neck strap for easy on/off, even when wearing a helmet or hat.

Case: EyeSend glasses come with the best case on the market. It’s designed to hang easily on the harness and has both a Velcro quick-close feature as well as a secure zipper. Unlike every other case out there, this one includes a beefy ½” webbing attachment point that won’t wear out.

Feature

Score (1-5)

Comments

Field of View

5

The only adjustable-prism glasses on the market

Peripheral Vision

3

Good, except space moving mirror blocks some lower view

Glasses Weight

4

54 grams. Reasonable weight.

Prism Size

4

25x13mm. Big enough, but not oversized.

Sturdiness

4

Solid plastic frame. Prisms protected on both sides.

Comfort

5

Comfortable, secure fit.

Integrated Neck Strap

5

One of two pair offering an integrated neck strap

Work with Glasses

5

Excellent, due to adjustable prism.

Case Design

5

Quick close and secure zipper. Beefy ½” strap won’t break.

Cost

2

$95

Where Made

5

Logan, UT—built by climbers and close to climbers!

 

Second Place - Metolius Upshot v2

Metolius Upshot v2

Overall: Metolius Upshot are relatively new glasses on the market. They are built on a sturdy plastic frame and have good sized prisms. These glasses are a fixed-prism design, but have a steeper field of view because they sit really high on the nose. The case design in uninspiring and doesn’t even come with a carabiner to attach. They’re made in China.

Technical: With the neck strap, the glasses weigh 53 grams, making them middle-of-the-road weight. The frames are plastic and feel solid. The prisms measure 27x14mm, offering a bit larger field of view compared to the Y&Y glasses. The prisms have rounded edges, which is nice. They’re protected against chipping by the frame on one side but not the other.

Field of View: The Upshots are a fixed-prism glasses therefore have a standard 60° field of view. Peripheral vision is good, because the frame is designed in profile to your sight line, so even though the frame is thicker, it still doesn’t occupy too much of your peripheral view.

Comfort: The glasses aren’t adjustable, but they felt comfortable to most of our testers. The glasses are well balanced and the temples fit well over the ears. The Upshots don’t have an integrated neck strap, making them harder to take on and off as the neck strap gets caught on your ears, especially if you’re wearing a helmet or hat.

Case: The case design is uninspiring. It doesn’t have a quick closure and the webbing attachment is weak. No carabiner is provided.

Feature

Score (1-5)

Comments

Field of View

3

Fixed prism glasses. Good sized prisms. Sit high on face.

Peripheral Vision

4

Plastic frames that is mostly in profile to line of vision

Glasses Weight

4

53 grams. They don’t fell heavy on the face.

Prism Size

4

27x14mm—A good balance between weight and good view.

Sturdiness

4

Sturdy plastic frame. Prisms protected on one side only.

Comfort

5

Comfortable

Integrated Neck Strap

1

No integrated strap. Harder to put on and off.

Work with Glasses

4

Sit high on the nose, easier to use with other glasses

Case Design

2

Good case, with a weak attachment point

Cost

3

$60

Where Made

1

Made in China

 

Third Place - Y&Y Classic

Y&Y Classic

Overall: Y&Y Classics (the metal framed ones) are good glasses. They are thin, light and offer excellent peripheral vision around the glasses. They are fixed-prisms glasses and, as a result, have a limited field of view. The case is a good design, but the attachment is flimsy. The glasses are sold by Y&Y out of France, but they are made in China.

Technical: The glasses check in at 42 grams including the neck strap, the lightest we tested. The frames are made of bent steel and feel a bit flimsy. Prisms measure 23x13mm—the smallest we tested. They were a bit too small for some of our testers. They work okay when using sunglasses or prescription glasses. The prisms are not well protected from getting chipped.

Field of View: Y&Y Classics are fixed-prism glasses therefore have a standard 60° field of view. Peripheral vision is excellent because of the thin metal frame.

Comfort: The nose piece is made of rubber and can be bent slightly to fix your face. The glasses feel light and balanced, but the temples aren’t quite long enough to fit people with larger heads. Y&Y Classics don’t have an integrated neck strap. This makes them harder to take on and off as the neck strap gets caught on your ears, especially if you’re wearing a helmet or hat.

Case: The case design is decent. It hangs on the harness well and has a quick-close Velcro opening. Unfortunately, the carabiner attachment point is made from flimsy ¼” webbing which can, and does, break over time, making the case unreliable for multi-pitch routes.

Feature

Score (1-5)

Comments

Field of View

2

Fixed prism glasses. Small prism size reduces view more.

Peripheral Vision

5

Thin metal frame gives excellent vision around the glasses

Glasses Weight

5

42 grams. Lightest ones in this review

Prism Size

3

22x13mm—too small for some people’s taste

Sturdiness

3

Thin metal frame that’s a bit flimsy. Prisms not protected.

Comfort

5

Temples not quite long enough.

Integrated Neck Strap

1

No integrated strap. Harder to put on and off.

Work with Glasses

3

Sit a bit lower on nose, so harder to use with other glasses

Case Design

4

Good case, with a weak attachment point

Cost

3

$60-$70

Where Made

1

Made in China

 

Fourth Place - Belay Specs

Belay Specs

Overall: Belay Specs are decent fixed-prism glasses. They are front heavy and are wobbly on your face because the temples fit loosely. The case design is sub-par and not secure enough to carry up multi-pitch climbs, but offers good protection of the glasses in your pack.  The glasses are made in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Technical: The glasses check in at 55 grams, which is middle of the road for belay glasses. The frames are made of bent steel and can be shaped to your face. Prisms measure 27x16mm. They work okay when using sunglasses or prescription glasses, except that the loose temples almost let the glasses fall off. The prisms are not well protected from getting chipped.

Field of View: Belay specs offer a standard 60° field of view that all fixed-prism glasses have. Peripheral vision is excellent because of the thin metal frame.

Comfort: The nose piece can be shaped to fit your face. The nose piece is covered with small plastic tubing to make it more comfortable. I lost the tubes once and found the glasses quite uncomfortable without that protection. The glasses feel a bit front heavy and wobbly because the temples are really light and don’t grip tightly on your face. Belay Specs offer an integrated neck strap, which makes them easier to take on and off while wearing a helmet or hat.

Case: The temples don’t really fold; they just bend in a bit. As a result, the case is bigger than most other cases on the market. It’s made of hard plastic and isn’t as compact or carry very well on a harness. The case only snaps shut, rather than having a secure zip closure. Between the larger case size and not 100% secure opening, going up a multi-pitch route with these glasses isn’t advised.

Feature

Score (1-5)

Comments

Field of View

3

Fixed prism glasses. Average

Peripheral Vision

5

Thin metal frame is out of the way

Glasses Weight

3

55 grams. Middle of the road weight.

Prism Size

4

27x16mm and easy to see through

Sturdiness

2

Thin metal frame. Temples are loose. Prisms not protected.

Comfort

1

Front heavy--feel a bit front wobbly on your face

Integrated Neck Strap

5

One of two pair offering an integrated neck strap

Work with Glasses

3

Don’t sit quite as high on your face, so average

Case Design

1

Hard plastic case that doesn’t have secure closure

Cost

3

$65

Where Made

5

Salt Lake City, UT—by climbers and close to climbers!

 

Fifth Place - China Imports

China Import Belay Glasses

Overall: There are many different Chinese belay glasses available on Amazon and through some reputable brands. Some of these products are also sold by reputable brands. Many of them are truly terrible and not worth mentioned. One particular design is okay and sold by many companies, including Y&Y Plasfun, Cypher, BD Climbing, Epic Peak,  NiceClimbs, Ucraft, Climbing Is Us, PG Light. All of these glasses are identical in design and function. Low cost is the prime driver for these glasses—some cost as little as $15.

Technical: These China imports weigh 46 grams, almost as light as the Y&Y Original glasses. They fit reasonably well except the temples are significantly too short to go well over the ears. Prisms measure 23x13mm—the same as the Y&Y Original. That’s a bit too small for some people’s taste. The prisms are protected by the frames on one side, but not the other. For $20, maybe you don’t care.

Field of View: These glasses are all fixed-prism glasses and therefore have a standard 60° field of view. They sit lower on the nose and therefore have a pretty low angle of view. Peripheral vision is okay, but the arms are thick on the sides and reduce your sideways peripheral vision.

Comfort: The nose piece fits fine. The temples are definitely too short and therefore the glasses don’t hook behind your ears. This is exacerbated when wearing them over another pair of glasses. They don’t have an integrated neck strap, making them harder to take on and off as the neck strap gets caught on your ears, especially if you’re wearing a helmet or hat.

Case: Most of the cases are standard clamshell cases with thin webbing straps prone for breakage over time.  

Feature

Score (1-5)

Comments

Field of View

2

Fixed prism glasses. Small prisms

Peripheral Vision

3

Not too bad of peripheral vision.

Glasses Weight

4

46 grams, which is on the lighter side.

Prism Size

3

22x13mm—too small for some people’s taste.

Sturdiness

3

Reasonably sturdy frame. Prisms not protected on one side.

Comfort

2

Temples are too short to fit over ears well

Integrated Neck Strap

1

No integrated strap. Harder to put on and off.

Work with Glasses

2

Sit low on nose, and short temples even worse over glasses

Case Design

2

Mostly uninspiring cases not designed for climbing

Cost

5

$15-$49. Low cost, except for Y&Y and Cypher versions

Where Made

1

Made in China

 

Sixth Place - Belaggles

Overall: We found Belaggles really heavy and uncomfortable. They are a fixed-prism design with large prisms. The nose piece is too small and not adjustable. The case is difficult to clip to a harness. The prisms are rounded, which is nice, but otherwise not protected from being chipped.

Technical: Belaggles weigh 88 grams—the heaviest pair we tested. After wearing them for a while they become uncomfortable on the nose due to the weight. The one benefit of that weight is a really solid frame—seemingly unbreakable. The prisms measure 40x18mm, giving a really large view area, but also adding a lot of weight. The prisms have rounded corners to reduce chipping risk, but aren’t protected by the frame at all.  

Field of View: Belaggles are a fixed-prism glasses therefore have a standard 60° field of view. Peripheral vision is poor because the frames are so beefy, though it is in profile to your line of sight.

Comfort: Our testers found Belaggles heavy and uncomfortable. They don’t have an integrated neck strap, making them harder to take on and off as the neck strap gets caught on your ears, especially if you’re wearing a helmet or hat. The thick nose piece doesn’t work as well over a second pair of glasses.

Case: The case is a standard clamshell case. It doesn’t have a quick closure nor a decent clip for clipping onto your harness.

Feature

Score (1-5)

Comments

Field of View

3

Fixed prism glasses. Large prisms.

Peripheral Vision

2

Thick frames are harder to see around.

Glasses Weight

1

88 grams. Too heavy!

Prism Size

5

40x18mm—Large view area, but just too heavy.

Sturdiness

5

Super sturdy frame. Prisms not protected by frame.

Comfort

1

Nose too small. Too heavy to wear for a long time.

Integrated Neck Strap

1

No integrated strap. Harder to put on and off.

Work with Glasses

1

Nose piece too thick for second pair of glasses

Case Design

1

Basic clamshell case. No carabiner.

Cost

3

$89, but seem to be perpetually on sale for $49.

Where Made

1

Made in China