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Some hikers find that hiking with glasses is a reality. Prescription lenses bring the world into focus.
But how can you make prescription glasses work for you, rather than create hassles on a hike?
Let me share tips and suggestions for the best prescription glasses for hikers, based on decades of wearing them on various types of trails, in all kinds of temperature and humidity conditions.
Here's what I have for you:
There is no one best all around material for eyeglass frames for hikers.
Instead, think about the type of hiking you do, and what your budget is.
Go with cheap plastic frames if you don't mind replacing them frequently.
Be sure you can reuse your lenses in the new frames.
This locks you into one particular style, so if you want a new look every so often, this won't work for you.
There are different types of plastic to choose from, so do some background research before you try them on.
Bottom line for a hiker:
Plastic gives you lightweight and strong frames, able to endure UV radiation exposure as long as possible before snapping.
Lots of metal choices for you, including titanium, stainless steel and aluminum. They give you strong, lightweight and corrosion resistant glasses.
One thing to watch for: skin sensitivity.
Titanium is reported to be hypoallergenic.
Cheaper metal alloys may contain nickel or other known allergens.
If you have a history of skin contact allergies, be sure your metal frames are coated.
Ditto for coated nose pads.
There are many types of lenses used in prescription glasses.
The lenses used to correct vision can be single vision, multifocal (bi- or tri-), or progressive (no-line bifocals).
You probably already know which you have.
And if you have bifocals or progressive lenses, you also know they can pose a challenge for depth perception while hiking.
Beyond giving you good vision, the type of lens you choose can help you cope with conditions on the trail.
These are called "transitional" because they respond to light levels by becoming darker, or fade back to transparent, throughout your hike.
I use them myself, and have noticed these things about them:
Why use them?
If you don't want to switch between prescription eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses, these do the job.
Or if you don't want to use clip on or fitted nonprescription sunglasses over your regular glasses.
Eyeglasses with good frames are a real investment in your safety as a hiker.
If you are going to wear prescription sunglasses (instead of photochromic lenses in your regular pair of glasses), be sure the lenses are polarized.
This will cut glare and can spare you headaches on sunny trails.
The tint of your sunglasses lenses is also important. Read more here.
Sure. I did it for a few decades.
But here's what you have to keep in mind if you're switching between contacts during the day and glasses for the rest of the time.
How comfortable are you switching between contacts and your glasses?
Do your eyes feel any strain after wearing contacts all day?
Are you prepared to carry polarized sunglasses to shield your eyes from glare?
Every time you put your contacts in, or take them out, your hand hygiene is important.
Have you thought about how you can get your hands clean enough to handle the contact lenses, regardless of the ambient temperature and moisture levels?
What is really easy at the bathroom sink becomes an epic task in your cold, damp tent.
Do you have a plan for what happens if you need to remove a lens during the hike?
And you will have to estimate the amount of supplies needed for good lens hygiene. Factor that into the volume of your backpack devoted to self care.
...it's raining or snowing or drizzly or foggy, because you're not going to deal with fogged up and wet lenses.
...you want a full field of vision, unencumbered by frames.
...you don't want to fight the "sweaty face-sliding frames" fight anymore.
Always bring a backup pair of prescription glasses with you, even if you doubt you will ever need to use them.
What if you lose your lenses?
Or develop an eye infection that prohibits their use?
Vision is priceless to a hiker, so guard against mishaps by having a backup plan.
If the frames break, duct tape is your friend (temporarily). Wind some around your water bottles, just in case.
Yes, you will look like a dork.
Cheer up! It's only until you can get to your optician for a new pair of eyeglass frames (sarcasm, my friend).
But what if a screw falls out?
Or a nose pad goes missing?
Both have happened to me!
Carry replacement parts for the screws and nose pads, and a tiny screwdriver to help you make these small repairs.
This compact repair kit is what I have as part of my hiking essentials.
Tip: Be sure your glasses are compatible with the parts in any kit you purchase BEFORE you take the kit into the field.
And realize how seriously tiny those screws can be.
The basic problem is fogging.
You can fog up your lenses when it's cold and/or wet on the trail and your hot breath is condensing.
Annoying, for sure.
Lenses can also fog up when you go from one temperature to another, making you temporarily blind.
What can you do about this perennial problem?
Try these tips:
I know that anything made of cloth will get dirty on the trail, so I pack several cleaning cloths for my glasses.
These microfibers ones are nice because they come in packs of 6 and are brightly colored so I can spot them inside my pack.
Stash one in a pocket, one in the upper pouch on your backpack, a few in your hygiene kit, and have some spares for later.
Bonus: They can be used to clean your screens and camera lenses, too.
Never drag a cloth across a grit smeared lens. Always rinse off your glasses first, add a drop of Dr. Bronners soap, more water, and then use a cloth.
If you are concerned about the availability of water and soap when you need it, carry some of these pre-moistened individual eyeglass wipes.
Be sure to transport out the packaging and dispose of it properly after your hike.
This also goes for using disposable contact lenses.
You need to add several pieces of gear to your hiking checklist so you can keep your crisp, clear vision regardless of trail conditions.
Here's what I use to solve problems that come up when hiking with glasses.
Why bend over and watch your glasses slide off your sweaty nose into the dirt?
Or see them disappear into a lake, over the edge of a cliff...
Tether your eyeglasses to your body.
Look for an adjustable, durable cord, something like this one, if you want to take your glasses on and off without misplacing them.
If you want to strap your glasses securely to your head, this strap is a good option.
You are going to sweat on a hike, and it's got to go somewhere.
As the sweat builds up on your face, it can saturate the nose pads attached to your glasses.
And away go those glasses, slipping down your nose.
This is not a good problem to have, as I'm sure you well know.
Use that Buff or small towel mentioned above to keep your face as dry as possible.
Also consider a wraparound style of frame for sunglasses, as these tend to stay put more often. The trade off?
They trap moisture, so in humid conditions, you'll drip more.
Also, check the condition of your pads before a long hiking trip. Replace them if they look worn out.
You don't want to be the hiker who steps on her glasses and has to be led out to the trailhead on a rope.
Maybe your eyeglasses came with a hard shell case. Great! Dig it out and throw it in your gear pile.
If not, here's a protective case for your eyeglasses when they're not on your face.
The last thing you need on a hike is a hat that makes wearing your glasses hard, if not impossible.
I find that a baseball style cap like this one works well whether I wear one pair of prescription glasses, or those glasses with sunglasses over them.
For complete sun coverage, look for a hat that doesn't flop in your face or get too snug around your ears. My sun hat preference might work for you.
If in doubt, try on lots of styles until you find the one that works best with your eyeglass frames and hair style.
When I do international trips, or long remote hiking trips, I carry my second best pair of glasses with me in addition to my primary pair.
I can hear you groaning about space, weight, or being paranoid.
Here's my logic.
A second pair always comes with me after witnessing a woman stomp accidentally on her own glasses.
On Day One of our 2 week trip.
No amount of duct tape was able to save them :/
If you've been wearing eyeglasses for awhile, you already know they can add a layer of complexity to planning a hiking trip.
If you're new to glasses, these tips will shorten your learning curve. Why suffer?
Either way, my hope is that you'll see well, and stay well, on the trail!
Hiking With Glasses