July 24, 2014

Belay Specs Review

This is a piece of gear that's been seen at the crag more and more over the last few years. At first I scoffed at their goofy appearance, but when I got a chance to use them in Indian Creek last fall I was convinced. They're still goofy, but they make me a better belayer. 

For me the benefit of belay glasses is twofold. First, they drastically reduce neck strain. They make long belays pretty casual. If you or your partner has a project at the local crag, these make the belaying way more bearable. My neck still gets a little sore from time to time because my head is in the same position for much of a pitch and my neck gets tired from holding still, but this is fairly minor. This reduction in neck strain probably has all kinds of benefits for neck and shoulder mobility and longevity. Second, you spend most of the pitch looking at your climber. This leads to less short roping when they're going for a clip, and better coaching. You also get a better sense of what the route is like for your own burn.

There are a few models out there, but they all seem fairly similar and work on the same principle. Prisms in the glasses "bend" the light and let you easily see what's above you. I own "Belay Specs" and have been using them since late January. They've probably seen about 30 days of action thus far, predominantly sport climbing at The Owens River Gorge, also at Pine Creek, Clark Canyon, and The Dike Wall. Most of the time at the crag when I'm not using them one of my partners is borrowing them. At first everyone just wants to try them out, but they're soon convinced.

Belay Specs come in an orange plastic case. The color of the case makes it easy to find in my pack. There's a cord attached to the ends of the frame arms so you can wear them around your neck like a librarian. The frames are a springy steel that doesn't look particularly durable. Then again, I try to be careful about not scratching the prisms, so the glasses are always on my face, around my neck on their cord, or in the case. So, the durability of the frames is probably not a big issue. A cloth for keeping the prisms clean comes in the case.

Belay Specs work nicely with all the sunglasses I've tried. This is an important feature.
I've also tried the "Belaggles" but they were a little too tight for my head. Their case is a little more low profile, and looks like the case for a nice pair of sunglasses. The Belaggles frame is plastic and appears more robust than the Belay Specs frame, but I'm not convinced that frame durability is that important.

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