Belay glasses have been around for a while now and are mostly seen at climbing walls. For those who haven’t at least tried a pair then the idea is that you are able to keep a close eye on your climbing partner while belaying without having to bend and strain your neck. This is achieved by providing two prism lenses which reflect the straight up image, direct into your eyes. By keeping your head straight it drastically reduces neck strain and also helps you concentrate better on what your leader is actually doing.
The Y & Y belay glasses offer a well-priced option in a decent package. The initial impression when you see a pair is that it all looks a bit whacky - a sort of prototype device made from some crazy inventor - however pop the things on and, for most people, everything suddenly becomes clear, if a little disorienting.
The package supplied offers a whole range of accessories like a robust case, a neck string, a cleaning cloth, a small screw driver for adjustments and a carrying strap and minicrab for clipping to your harness. The attention to detail in these extras makes a good first impression for the product.
For a lot of people the place where you are most likely to use belay glasses is the climbing wall. Indoor walls here tend to be steep with plenty of overhangs and you also get through a lot of climbing making neck strain more of a problem than outdoors. The jury is still out as to whether you need them trad climbing. The more complex lines of trad routes coupled with double ropes and generally less steep climbing, makes the restricted view a bit of a hindrance. There are certainly trad routes where they will be as useful as steep straight up sport routes, but in general I think they have less of a place in trad climbing.
Once on you need to take a little while getting use to them. Some people have been known to get dizzy using them but that wasn’t a problem in our case. For the first few moves you can either look through them, or tip them off briefly, but after the leader passes 2 or 3 bolts, you can start using them while looking straight forward. If you have got accustomed to the orientation then the view quickly becomes clear and easy to follow. You can talk to people standing in front of you and alternate your focus between them and the prism image. Other belay glasses on the market back out everything except the upwards image which probably improves concentration but can make it difficult if you are walking around at the base of the crag.
For very steep rock, or indoor walls, the orientation problem becomes more significant and there is a switch over point on really steep routes where you put less strain on your neck by taking them off again. Taking falls on steep rock can also be a little disorienting with things not moving in the directions you are normally used to.
IMPORTANT SAFTEY NOTE: Since writing this review I have noticed an important saftey consideration when using any belay glasses, not just the Y&Y ones. If anything is dropped from above, like loose rock of bits of gear, then you have no idea where to run in order to avoid the missile. In fact it is slightly worse than that since normally you have an insitinctive protective response when you see something falling, or here a cry of "below". When wearing belay glasses it is almost as if you are staring at a screen and the same instinctive reaction doesn't kick in initially and you have to train yourself to look up past the glasses, or flick them off. This puts a significant delay in your response time which could be cruical. For that reason it is not advised that you use belay glasses when you are forced to stand directly under your leader on loose terrain. It is also why I personally would advise against buying the other type of belay glasses that black out everything except the prism view.
The build quality of the Y & Y glasses is excellent with a comfortable fit, and a soft silicon nose bridge. The neck tie enables you to flick them off when the climber is low on the route or has finished. They won’t put up with too much rough treatment obviously having thin metal arms and glass prisms but the protective case supplied with the glasses is solid and can be thrown into your rucksack and treated with the normal lack of respect that climbers show most of their gear.
The glasses come in 2 models - the Classic at £54, and the Plasfun at £39.90. They also offer a couple of colourful optional versions of the classic at £64. The can be bought from a number of UK Climbing walls and direct from yy-belayglasses.co.uk .
An excellent bit of kit which comes in a complete package and is extremely well priced. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that using Y & Y belay glasses will improve your concentration while belaying and reduce your the strain on your neck.