5 Best Belay Glasses of 2018—Field Tested & Reviewed
|Belay Glasses||Score||MSRP||Frame Material||Weight|
|Top Pick: Y&Y Classic Belay Glasses||
|$79.90||Stainless Steel||36 g|
|Y&Y Plasfun Belay Glasses||
|Best Value: Y&Y Plasfun Basic Belay Glasses||
|$65.00||Stainless Steel||34 g|
|Belaggles Belay Glasses||
We took the five best belay glasses we could find out for the most patience-testing form of climbing we know — aid climbing. The results were clear: Y&Y currently offers better products than the competition. They earned both our Top Pick for the Y&Y Classic and the Best Value award for the Y&Y Plasfun Basic.
I once heard a horror story about an orthopedist in Colorado who could tell when her older patients were climbers because of a C-shaped curve in their necks. Many know the feeling — after a day of craning your neck to belay, telltale pain starts to develop at the base of the skull.
The solution is an easy one. Not everyone likes belay glasses, and they’re not appropriate for every situation. But I’m a big fan, especially for outings like a long day at the crag. They’re an easy way to take strain off your neck, which has the added benefit of keeping you attentive and comfortable while belaying.
Belay glasses aren’t worth much unless they’re comfortable, functional, and pleasant to use. What’s more, the price range on belay glasses is huge — in our review, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive products was a full $70.
Price doesn’t always correspond to quality, so it’s worth knowing which models are worth the investment. Read on for details.
Top Pick: Y&Y Classic Belay Glasses
The Y&Y Classic glasses were a top performer in all categories. They’re intuitive and easy to use, and they’re the frame that satisfied the widest range of testers.
The most striking aspect of the Classic glasses is their minimalist design. They’re the least bulky of all the glasses we tested.
Even so, the field of vision isn’t too narrow. The Classics offer a good balance between the two fields of view — the one upward through the prisms, and the one in front of you. It’s important to be able to see both, and these glasses make it easy.
Another upside of the metal frames is adjustability. The stainless steel isn’t hard to bend, so the Classics can be customized to fit those of us with crooked heads.
The nosepiece is a single molded piece of flexible plastic. This is another excellent piece of design — the arched plastic conforms to your nose, which means that a wide range of testers found it comfortable.
Finally, the Classics get points for their versatile carrying case (which also comes with the Y&Y Plasfun). This case was our favorite in the test. It’s compact, light, easy to zip, and it comes with its own carabiner for easy clipping to a harness or pack.
If you’re only putting the glasses away for a moment, the velcro closure means you can stow the glasses quickly without using the zipper. This is handy in between belays, and it’s the type of detail that separated the Y&Ys from the competition.
Full review: Y&Y Classic
Best Value: Y&Y Plasfun Basic Belay Glasses
The Y&Y Plasfun Basics offer good functionality at a drastically more approachable price point than the competition.
The Plasfun Basics share their frame and construction with the Y&Y Plasfun yet retail for much less. As per Y&Y’s website, the only differences between the two are the Basic’s simpler case and lack of extra accessories.
Luckily, that construction is good. The plastic frame is reassuringly grippy and much lighter than that of the Belaggles. The design is a little larger than the Classic, but visibility is just as good. The arms articulate at the hinges, but otherwise everything is fixed in place.
While the light plastic sat well on most tester’s faces, the lack of adjustability meant not everyone found them comfortable. In particular, testers with smaller heads found that the nosepiece didn’t sit quite as well.
On the other hand, some testers found these glasses even more comfortable than the Y&Y Classics. Your results may vary — these glasses seemed to work well for most, but they are less customizable.
The real downside to the Basics is the case. The zipper works well enough, but the clip attachment broke after about five minutes. This probably isn’t a dealbreaker — the case still functions, and it’s easy enough to replace if necessary. It’s just not as nice as the other Y&Y offering.
If the case becomes a problem, you can replace it with the Classic’s carrying case which is available separately on Amazon. And you’d still have spent less overall than if you had bought any other pair of belay glasses in our test.
The Plasfun Basic also lacks the extra screws, mini-screwdriver, and microfiber that come with other Y&Y glasses (it still includes the neck retainer). These items can be found for a few bucks elsewhere.
The Plasfun Basics are by far the cheapest glasses in our test — at around $20 retail at the time of publishing, they’re less than half the price of the next cheapest. That’s incredible value.
If you’re on any kind of budget, get these glasses (replace the case if necessary) and don’t look back.
Reviews of the 3 Other Belay Glasses We Tested
Y&Y’s third offering is just as solid as their first two; it just didn’t separate itself enough to take home a superlative.
The plastic construction is shared with the Y&Y Plasfun Basic. The plastic frame is exactly the same weight as the stainless steel, and visibility remains excellent.
Unlike the Basic, the regular Plasfun comes in a range of colors, and we enjoyed our snazzy light-blue version.
The Plasfun has the same case and accessories as the Y&Y Classic glasses. This is an excellent system — the case was our favorite one to clip to our harness, and the velcro closure allows for quick access.
Included in the package is a small sleeve with a microfiber cloth, replacement hinge screws, a neck retainer, and a small screwdriver. They’re all standard additions and nice to have around.
Retailing at $20 cheaper than the Classics, the Plasfuns are a good value. Assuming they fit well, they’re an excellent product with our favorite case. Compared to the more expensive offerings below, that’s still a bargain.
Unless you need the adjustability of the metal frames, these will function just as well as the Classics for less money. They feel and look a little less premium, but they do their job well.
The Belay Specs are a solid performer and got plenty of attention for their sleek look, but they were outclassed by the Y&Y offerings.
The frames are built from stainless steel. A single plate cradles the prisms and curves into straight, hinge-less arms. A small forked protrusion forms the nosepiece.
Like the other metal-framed glasses, the upside is adjustability. The nosepiece and arms can be bent to accomodate your face, although the arms only bend in the plane of the glasses (not up or down). The Belay Specs were reasonably comfortable but more noticeable on the face, especially on long belays.
The thin metal means that switching fields of vision is very easy. This is a plus, but it felt like the field of vision through the prisms was narrower than other glasses.
It doesn’t impede belaying, but we felt others did a slightly better job balancing size with visibility. One tester also complained of more reflections through the prisms in the Belay Specs.
Our biggest beef with the Specs is the thin hard-plastic case. The closure is deceptive — it clicks twice but only stays shut on the second. It’s incredibly frustrating to open again, requiring finger strength and a delicate angle. The case has a plastic loop but lacks any dedicated clipping mechanism, which means that you have to sacrifice a carabiner if you want to clip it to anything.
At $65 retail, the Belay Specs are significantly cheaper than the CU belay glasses they imitate, and almost $15 cheaper than the Y&Y Classics. Those are decent savings, but the flaws were too great for us to wholeheartedly recommend the Specs.
The Belaggles (pronounced BeLAYggles, as their phonetically marked logo will have you know) were every tester’s least favorite pair. They function well enough, but they were the least comfortable glasses in our test.
The frame is plastic, but it’s far heavier than the Y&Y Plasfun. Belaggles claims that this is to protect the prisms and enhance durability, but in practice it just made us dislike wearing the glasses.
They feel heavy on the head, and multiple testers complained that the frames felt tight. The nosepiece is rigid plastic but felt much less comfortable than that of the Plasfun.
The case is a basic zippered unit, with an attachment clip like the one on the case for the Plasfun Basic. This one didn’t break, but it was still a pain to take on and off a harness. On a $90 pair of belay glasses, we would appreciate a better solution. Also included are a keeper cord and a microfiber cloth.
The Belaggles were the most expensive product in our test, more than four times the price of the Plasfun Basic. For the same price, I could buy a set of quickdraws or a brand-new #4 Camalot.
The Belaggles weren’t a top performer and were generally disliked: at the price, they’re awful value. We recommend looking elsewhere.
How to Choose the Best Belay Glasses for Your Needs
Choosing belay glasses comes down to a few key preferences, but given the narrow range of options, it shouldn’t be too hard.
The fit of the glasses was the number one attribute dictating how much our testers liked them at the end of the test. If a pair fits well, they become a seamless part of the belay system. Those with smaller heads should consider avoiding the Plasfuns, but otherwise we found that all the Y&Y offerings were very comfortable.
For glasses wearers, Y&Y touts their belay glasses as “stackable” with your prescription glasses. Here’s a photo of what this looks like in action.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, Y&Y also sells Clip Up Belay Glasses which are designed to clip onto most eyeglasses and sunglasses.
Given the wide price range of glasses, it’s worth deciding how much you want to spend. If you have the cash, the Y&Y Classic glasses will likely be all you need. If you’re on a budget, it’s hard to beat the Plasfun Basics.
Case & Portability
It’s worth putting a little thought into where you’ll use these glasses. I personally like to clip the case to my harness so that I don’t have to worry about carrying my glasses when walking to the next climb. Other climbers don’t mind throwing the case in their pack every time.
If the case matters to you, the Y&Y Classic and Plasfun models had our favorite system which is available separately on Amazon should you opt for another pair. All the included cases were protective enough for general use.
How We Tested
First, we took these glasses out to the Gunks and used them for the most torturous of belays: aid climbing. We used these glasses on nearly every climb we did over a three-day trip and compared everything from viewing angle to prism clarity.
When we got back, we took all five glasses into the gym. We rounded up testers with different head sizes and differing levels of experience with belay glasses, and had everyone try out the glasses and report back.
At the end of all our testing, we scored the glasses on three categories: functionality, comfort, and features/portability.
How well can I see my climber through the glasses? How easy is it to switch between fields of vision? Do they successfully take the strain off my neck?
On a reassuring note, all glasses scored well in this category. They all do their job, and any of these products will make your spine grateful.
How pleasant are the glasses to wear? How much do I notice them on my face? How comfortable am I during long belays?
Because all products performed fairly well, comfort became a very important category. Like most questions of fit, comfort is subjective and may depend on head size and shape.
Portability & Features
How easy is it to take the belay glasses along? How easy is it to get them out and put them away? Do I have everything I need and want along with the glasses?
We would have included durability as the third category, but we haven’t had the glasses long enough to make any judgments about their long-term durability. All designs held up well to the rigors of testing, and we would trust any of them at the crag.