Climbing with contact lenses or glasses?

In addition to being enjoyable and rewarding, rock climbing can be a very demanding activity, and requires something of a perfectionist approach. This is why climbers tend to spend a great deal of time picking out the right equipment, considering different preparations for different climbs, etc. And it is also why climbers who rely on corrected vision should give some serious thought to an age old debate: glasses vs. contacts.

Generally speaking, the differences between eyeglasses and contact lenses with regard, purely, to corrected vision, are negligible. Both can offer wearers essentially perfected version, which of course can come in handy in any sort of athletic activity, including climbing. However, looking beyond the basic ability to correct vision, there are certain advantages and disadvantages of both contact and glasses that are particularly relevant for climbers. Generally, contact lenses are seen as the more flexible and athletically convenient option – but can glasses really impair your climbing in any way? Potentially, yes. Here are four specific issues that climbers in eyeglasses may encounter.

Scuffing & Scratching

For the most part, climbers with glasses on can keep their faces off the rock face and avoid scratching their lenses. But, just as your helmet tends to take a few hits and scrapes during a climb, there is always the possibility of damaging glasses, which are generally expensive to replace. Not to mention, lens scratches will impair your vision.

Dropped Glasses

There is also always the possibility of dropping your glasses while at height on your climb. Most glasses fit fairly snugly, but whether they fall off when you turn your head, slip due to sweat, or even if you drop them while taking them off to wipe your face, there is some risk of losing them. Again, this has consequences for both your vision and your wallet.

Obstructed Vision

When relying on physical lenses such as glasses, or even prescription goggles, obstructions can occur frequently. Precipitation and sweat are common culprits, but changes in the weather and atmosphere can also cause lenses to fog up, which essentially leaves you temporarily blinded while climbing.

Difficulty With Sun

Finally, there is the fact that glasses make it more difficult to block out the sun during your climb. Many climbers like to wear, or bring along a pair of sunglasses. However, wearing sunglasses is very difficult, and often impossible, over ordinary prescription glasses, which means climbers with glasses may simply have to deal with bright sun.

For these reasons, many climbers – even those who wear eyeglasses in their ordinary day to day lives – opt for contact lenses for their climbs. For particularly adventurous climbs, or extended trips outdoors, daily disposable lenses are recommended, as they can be thrown out and replaced (eliminating the need to clean and store them, which can be difficult in the outdoors). Ultimately, however, what matters is finding the most comfortable option for your climbing experiences.