I can pretty much tell if a person's been rock climbing for a long time just by looking at their neck. People who spend a lot of time belaying (looking up for a long time) develop this reverse "c" curve to their neck from craning their head all day while looking up at their climbing partner.
Over the last couple of years Belay Glasses have really become quite popular to alleviate the strain on your neck while belaying. These strain reducing glasses have gone from "What is that freak wearing?!" to "Yeah, I might get a pair of those", and some even added "... but they are expensive and I haven't felt like shelling out the cash just yet".
But now, as they have become popular, new less expensive brands with just as good of quality have popped up.
When I originally wrote this article, it wasn't too long before that there was only one pair on the market and it was quite expensive. Though light, thin, and fairly stylish (as stylish as a pair of mirrored Belay Glasses can be), these glasses distributed in the US by PowerNPlayUSA sold, and still appear to sell for $120 (plus shipping).
I actually bought a pair of these a few years before my original write of this article, justifying to myself that the $120 was cheaper than a bunch of visits to a chiropractor to get my neck fixed and so I told myself that buying a pair would be an "investment" in my physical health. These are great glasses as they are very comfortable to wear and work beautifully.
Doing a quick search on Google shows there is now more competition and the price to get a pair of these magical light-bending glasses appears to be coming down as competitors are selling them for about three-fouths the price.
And if you search a little harder, you'll find even better deals like the ones made by LePirate.
LePirate has the best price I've found for glasses specifically made for belaying.
The LePirate glasses website boasts the product is light, weighing in at only 45 grams (1.6 oz). I weighed my Belay Specs and they came in at 34 grams (1.2 oz). So they are 25% heavier, but the titanium ones are so light I can't imagine I'd notice the extra 11 grams (granted I'm a sport climber, not a trad climber, so I don't care much about weight).
LePirate also claims their belay glasses are thin and durable. From the pictures on their website, I'd agree, as it looks like the prisms are secured on all edges by the glasses frame and the frames appear to be made a soft elastic plastic (almost rubber like) as you might find in a durable iPhone case.
As far as visibility goes, the LePirate glasses look like they'd have the same field of vision of your climber as the higher priced belay glasses. They also look like they'd have pretty good peripheral vision around the glasses while they are on, such that you can see out to the sides and down below at the ground (i.e. Should your rope get tangled).
Finally, I found another blog post which may help you decide if you want to go with these glasses which reviews the LePirate's Belay Glasses against the other lower cost alternatives.
Now, beyond actual belay glasses, its always interesting to me, from a marketing perspective, that something can sell for a high price when used for one function, and that exact same thing can sell for exorbitantly less when used for another.
A couple before my original write of this post, I was searching for the least expensive USB lightening cable I could find for my new iPhone 5, when I got side-tracked and started browsing a webstore's "novelties and gadgets" section and came across a pair of $8 (including free shipping) "Creative High Definition Bed Prism Lazy Glasses". These glasses when worn, redirect your frontal vision to look towards your feet and are intended to be used for situations where you are laying flat in bed (or on the couch) and allow you to watch tv or read without bending your neck.
Being a frugal person who's always looking for creative savings, it immediately dawned on me that these glasses are pretty much exactly the same as the Belay Glasses being sold to rock climbers, they are just reversed at the piece that goes over your ear.
Since they cost only about $8 (INCLUDING FREE SHIPPING!), as an experiment, I purchased a pair to see if I could modify them, or if they could be worn upside down and used as Belay Glasses.
When I received them I discovered that they are in fact one solid piece of plastic, so the prisms can't easily be reversed. However, I tried just putting them on upside down and they actually fit quite comfortably!
I could even put them over my regular glasses.
So I took them out to a crag to give them a try. Though the earpiece is reversed (hard to see in the picture with my long hair covering the part that goes over my ear), they fit snugly to my head and worked just as well as my $120 pair!
So if you are on a tight budget (as many rock climbers tend to be), these cheap bed reading glasses glasses turned upside down may be the solution to your desire to save your own neck the next time you spend a long day at the crag. They aren't the most stylish, but they get the job done for a minimal price.
Or, if you are a little more safety conscious and want something designed specifically for the purpose of rock climbing, with better overall field of vision, and will fit more comfortably, I'd suggest spending a little extra to get the LePirate glasses.
Oh... and though my wife gets annoyed with my true laziness when I use my lazy bed glasses on the couch, they work great for their original purpose too!
This article was written quite a while ago and since its writing there are now many more vendors in the market making belay glasses. Do a quick search for Belay Glasses on Amazon and you'll see them and the prices now start around $15.