Gear Review - Y&Y Belay Glasses

21st Oct 2014

The first time I saw a pair of belay glasses in use I was intrigued.  I had noticed a belayer staring at the wall in front of him while his climber battled a steep route.  From behind it had looked like he wasn't paying any attention but when I got alongside he was actually wearing some very strange eyewear. He smiled at my quizzical looks and chatted me through his new purchase. The glasses had 2 prisms which, as he stared right ahead, directed his line of sight upwards.  In effect they were like mini half periscopes.  
As any climber knows it can be quite a strain to bend your neck backwards to see your climber all the time and the steeper the route the more uncomfortable it gets.  Belay glasses are an intriguing solution to the problem but with one major drawback - they can be very expensive.  So expensive, in fact, that I never really felt I  could justify the cost.  Then a few months ago I was offered the chance to try some belay glasses from Y&Y.  The styling is similar to various other products on the market but they are considerably cheaper.  Y&Y make a few styles and the ones they supplied were their metal framed option at £54 including postage (they have also recently introduced an additional plastic framed model which, although I can't speak for their performance, costs only £39.90 including postage).  But the performance of belay glasses is largely down to the quality of the prisms so would cheaper mean less effective? 
The Y&Y's have a solidly built metal frame and the 2 prisms sit on metal platforms in front of the eyes.  They come with a neck keeper cord and a semi rigid case. The package even includes a mini screwdriver for adjusting the screws on the arms of the glasses.  But what of that performance? Having now used the Y&Y's on a selection of Peak bolt routes, many climbing wall visits and a sport climbing trip to Spain, I feel my experience of using them is broad enough to comment.  
Despite their strange appearance the glasses are very comfy to wear.  The case they come in can be hung from a harness by the supplied mini carabiner so they are also easy to carry. But, most importantly, they work superbly.  Your partner climbs up and you see them perfectly through the prisms.  It is that simple.  It is a strange feeling but you get used to it very quickly and it is so much easier than leaning your head back all the time.  One additional safety benefit is that you aren't tempted to move back from the crag base (at the risk of being pulled back in if they fall) in order to see your partner because you just don't need to.  I love them.  Of course they aren't an essential piece of climbing equipment (unless you suffer from neck problems) but they are a very nice addition to your equipment stores.
What don't I like?  Nothing significant really.  The only thing I might change slightly is the case.  It is well built and fits the glasses perfectly but I would have just liked it to be more rigid.  Hang it from your harness and it's fine but if it is stuffed in your rucksack carelessly you could find the glasses squished when you next pull them out.  It can be managed but it's certainly something that needs consideration.
Other than that I see no reason you would choose any other belay glasses.  The Y&Y's are a great choice and offer great value.  A very worthy consideration if you do a lot of steep sport routes or use climbing walls a lot.
Full details of Y&Y producst are available on their website here and they also have an online shop.
Posted by Paul