View Full Version : Contact Lens VS Glasses

01-21-2006, 23:18
I realize for weight purposes, glasses are probably better, however, when I hike I like having sunglasses on, and to be able to wear those (squinting makes my head hurt) I'll have to wear contacts.
Contacts, on the other hand, tend to dry out due to sweat and dirt from the trail, etc.
Who here with less than 20-20 have delt with this?
Are glasses or contacts better for the trail?
(Also, my vision is pretty bad, so if I break my glasses, I'm pretty much screwed).

01-22-2006, 00:27
I wore glasses with transitions lenses so they automatically doubled as sunglasses as well. I carried a spare pair the first few hundred miles, then kept those in my bounce box. I got a strap along the way to keep them from falling off and used it during the more rock-climby sections.

One benefit glasses have is shielding your eyes a bit in high winds. The only problem I really had was when a mouse chewed one earpiece in a shelter one night.

01-22-2006, 00:36
I don't have any trouble with glasses. Solid plastic frames, built-in nosepiece, glass lenses. I never fold mine up, so I never have to re-tighten them. You can always get clip-on sunglasses, which can be pretty convenient, light, and not too expensive. Fogging and mist/ rain spray can be issues, but nothing you can't deal with while hiking. For me, those inconveniences are much less burdensome than contact cleaning and replacement.

01-22-2006, 00:43
I carry both my regular pair and prescription sunglasses. I also carry a real case. Heavy? Maybe, I could save weight, but if your as bad visioned as me, you carry it. If I break my real glasses, I am screwed. So my sunglasses are also there as a backup.
It isn't that expensive either to get a pair of sunglasses-you can do it for $50-100.

01-22-2006, 02:01
I always wear my contacts when backpacking...I spent one month long trip with glasses and vowed never again. I don't find that my contacts get very dried out and have only had a few instances of dirt getting stuck under them. Maybe you should try contacts that are more breathable if yours get dried out - I have two week ones (which I wear for about a month) that I can sleep in in a pinch.

01-22-2006, 02:57
I tried contacts (both hard and soft), and decided neither was remotely worth the trouble, excepting that soft contacts were nice to have in when I sparred in karate class (due to higher likelihood of a stray punch dinging my glasses). While hiking on the AT, where cleanliness is more difficult than normal, and medical attention in case of an opthalmic problem is much farther away than usual, I cannot imagine for one second using contact lenses.

01-22-2006, 08:37
I started with contacts but got an eye infection at Damascus, switched to glasses,but carried disposable contacts as a backup..The problem with glasses is that they fog up. The problem with contacts is keeping then clean.. If I were to do it again I would wear glasses most of the time and keep the contacts for backup.. The glasses are still in good shape after the long hike..

01-22-2006, 08:56
I started with contacts but got an eye infection at Damascus, switched to glasses,but carried disposable contacts as a backup..The problem with glasses is that they fog up. The problem with contacts is keeping then clean.. If I were to do it again I would wear glasses most of the time and keep the contacts for backup.. The glasses are still in good shape after the long hike..



Now, in the hiker-friendly wipes version:


01-22-2006, 13:44
I know this isn't an option for everyone! After 30+ years of wearing specs I sacked up and got laser surgery. I went from 20-400 to 20-15 in about 2 minutes per eye with no side effects. I can't recommend it enough. Totally changed my attitude about the rain! ;)

01-22-2006, 15:19
I used glasses. DO bring a hard case for them so you don't break them. Broke an arm off mine and tried everything from JB Weld to super glue and none of them held together more than 2 days. As was mentioned you can use clipons or transitional lenses to address the sunglass issue.

01-22-2006, 15:26
To the laser surgery. I hiked for about 2 weeks with someone who had it. The one big problem they had was in the evenings when shadows started forming it really screwed with their vision, especially in rocky and unlevel terrain.

River Runner
01-23-2006, 02:06
I haven't hiked long distance yet, but I always wear my contacts - everywhere - and have never had a problem with them. I wear gas permeable lenses, and I just make sure to wash my hands before handling the contacts.
It is a hassle putting them in, but I feel it's a lot less hassle to be careful and put them in once a day than to put up with some of the problems with glasses all day long. I just see so much better in my contacts with less distortion.
I've thought about laser surgery since it would be great to wake up able to see, but it just seems so scary to let someone near my eyes with a laser.

River Runner
01-23-2006, 02:09
Oops. Forgot to say I've used my contacts on many weekend backpacking trips.

Hikes in Rain
01-23-2006, 08:44
I use contacts, as well, and have for decades. Old half-joke I usually tell about them to demonstrate their importance: if we have a fire, I'm out the window with my pants and contacts. If pressed, forget the pants!

I'd love to try the LASIX surgery, but having had surgery on one eye already (unrelated), I'm finding it's taking a lot to screw my courage up enough to actually make the appointment.

As River Runner says, just make sure you wash your hands before handling. (Good idea even if you don't wear contacts.) Unscented alcohol based hand sanitizer helps, as well, but be SURE to rinse after use! (Talk about burning!) Also makes a good emergency firestarter.

01-23-2006, 10:37
I used contacts on my AT hike and on my PCT attempt. Only carried contacts on the AT, and that worked fine. A little hard to put the things in on cold mornings, but I learned quickly to sleep with the contact case inside my sleeping bag and that made it a lot easier.

On the PCT I had both contacts and glasses. I ended up leaving the glasses in a hotel and had to have them mailed back home. No problem really, since I hardly used them anyway. Mainly just in camp at nights right before I went to bed and didn't really need them anyway, and in towns.

I really dislike hiking in glasses, especially in hot weather because of the sweat dripping onto them, but also just normally, because of the loss of some side vision. Just easier to hike with them once they're in. Just make sure you carry enough solution, use it to wipe your hands off before you put the contacts in, and carry a small pack towel (or something similar) that is used only for cleaning your hands before putting in the contacts.

Just my $.02

Hikes in Rain
01-23-2006, 10:59
A little hard to put the things in on cold mornings, but I learned quickly to sleep with the contact case inside my sleeping bag and that made it a lot easier.

What, you don't find that early morning ice cube in the eye feeling exhilarating? Wakes you up faster than a cup of good, strong coffee!:D

01-23-2006, 11:03
I wore contacts for my thru last year, but carried glasses in the bottom of my pack as a "safety net." I know, not exactly ultralight, but safe...

In my "normal" life, I remove and clean my contacts every night. On my hike, however, I just left them in full time, and had no problems (to my surprise). When I got into town I would take them out and wear glasses to give my eyes a break. I actually had less problems on the trail with my contacts than I do at home, probably due to less handling. I never had any problems with sweat or dirt bothering me so bad that I had to remove my contacts while on the trail (and filthy).

I'd say do a "shake down" hike with contacts and see how you like it, but if you're going long-distance, then just start with contacts. If it doesn't work, you can always send them home after a resupply or two.

01-23-2006, 11:08
What, you don't find that early morning ice cube in the eye feeling exhilarating? Wakes you up faster than a cup of good, strong coffee!:D

Ain't the the truth! Wakes you up in the "just got kicked in the groin" sort of way. *shudder* :jump

01-23-2006, 11:28
I've done long distance hiking in my glasses. And I'm still using the same pair. I got a durable plastic frame that didn't have nose pads. So nothing could fall off. I used a sporty string so that if they did fall off, they wouldn't fall to the ground. I wore a bandana so there was never sweat falling onto the glasses...or into my eyes for that matter. I kept a copy of my prescription in my wallet, in the event that they did need replaced. (Got my prescription glasses at walmart, and they can get the prescription from whereever it came from originally.

There was plenty of rain to contend with, but as long as you have something to wipe off your lenses that won't scratch them, you should be good to go. My glasses doubled as sunglasses too.

I just think it was much easier to take care of glasses than to risk an eye infection. No matter how much I cleaned my hands, they were always dirty.

01-23-2006, 13:34
Tried the contact lense route for about a year and felt it was too much of a hassle. Plus, getting perfectly clean and lint free hands not always the easiet thing to do in the woods. If you carry an emergency eyeglass repair kit, make sure the screws will fit your glasses ahead of time. Yes, speaking from experience. Now when I purchase a new pair of glasses, I always ask for a couple of extra screws. For the past 2 purchases the dr. just gave me screws.

01-23-2006, 21:12
however, I just left them in full time, and had no problems (to my surprise). When I got into town I would take them out and wear glasses to give my eyes a break. .

Boomerang, What kind of contacts---extended wear?

02-02-2006, 11:06
I don't know the exact term, but they are the two-week kind of contacts. I could get ~3 weeks out of one pair.

A lot of people talk about not having clean hands on the trail, and how that's why they don't wear contacts. But that's the trick - don't take them out at night, and don't attempt to clean them while on the trail. Wait until town. I had absolutely no problems with this, even though before my hike I had never done the no-cleaning thing.

Everyone's eyes are different of course, and people react differently to contacts. I had a great experience that allowed me to use contacts with no hassle. If you prefer contacts but are unsure of whether or not they will work for you, take them and a backup pair of glasses and figure it out. If you're going long-distance, you'll figure it out and adjust accordingly. If you're going out for a week or less, the extra weight really won't matter.

02-02-2006, 11:49
I bought soft extended wear contacts just for my Thru-Hike. I basically wore them full time, changing them out about once every week when I was in town. I thought I would wear sunglasses a lot on the trail (I have light sensitive eyes) but I found myself mostly only wearing them in town, if at all (oh, and in the Whites).

For me the soft contacts was the way to go. They were great in the rain.

On one southern windy ridge I did have one blow free from my eye but I cought it, placed it in my mouth, and hiked on to a well sheltered spot. There I chose to throw that one out and open my spare pack of lenses. I then placed the One and Only Field Installed Lens in my eye using the mirror attached to my mini compass, which I carried for the mirror more than the compass.

02-02-2006, 11:52
I had to start wearing glasses when I was 13. Hated all the maintenance and cleaning. Plus, my vision didn't get better over time, like the eye doctor said, but got worse. I switched to contacts when I was 16. Contacts gave me a better vision all around (no seeing blurry at the bottom or sides of glasses) & allowed for my outdoor/athletic experiences, but they collected protein on the lenses too fast, were expensive to maintain with solutions and re-ordering contacts, etc.

I tried sleeping in them for a week, and when I went to take out the left one, it tore a hole in my left eye. I lost all vision and had major discomfort for a week, but medicated eye drops (and an expensive a$$ medical bill) fixed that. So I switched back to glasses to avoid any more occurences. I hate glasses. grrrrr

Then, 2 years ago, when I was 20, I decided I wasn't going to suffer the injustices of glasses and contacts no more! I searched my state (Indiana) and found a eye clinic that does LASIK, LASIK+ & PRASIK eye surgeries. I was nervous about the idea of someone working on my eyes, but I was given a free eye exam (more thorough than my optometrist), and a realistic quote on what would happen to my vision.

I opted for the surgery, with a new technology called LASIK WaveFront. It's LASIK that is customized to your eye(s). My vision pre-op was 20/200 in my right, and 20/400 in my left (due to contacts! grrrr).

After I had my surgery, I was able to see within the hour, better than I had seen before. That night I was seeing things so crisp and clear, it was unreal! It really changed my life, and I never would have thought how bad my vision truly was. 2 years later, and my vision is better than 20/20. Right now my vision stands at 20/18, no more glasses and contacts and eye appointments, I can see for miles and miles and miles.

This only cost me $3000.00, 2 years ago. The best damn money I have ever spent, and it will be that reason why I can enjoy the vistas, sunrises, sunsets, etc. when I do my thru this year.

02-02-2006, 13:12
I think "extended" or "overnight" wear contacts are absolutely lovely for backpacking trips. There are at least two brands in the US that are made for up to a month of continuous use (as in, you don't take them out at night). CIBA Night & Day and Bausch and Lomb PureVision are the two options I've heard of the most. Most eye doctors are reluctant to prescribe them, but I think they would understand if you explain the circumstances. I've worn both CIBA and Bausch and Lomb. The only problem I've ever had was dryness, which is easily fixed with a drop or two of saline in each eye in the morning. I always carry extra contacts with me backpacking, since I once lost both of my contacts in my tent when I tried to take them out in the dark. (Another reason to have contacts you can sleep in...) By some act of God, I found both of them in the morning, but you can understand my distress.

Hikes in Rain
02-02-2006, 13:28
All too easily! One problem with the extended wear is an annoying tendancy to develop giant macular conjunctivitis (I think that's the term), or "little bumps on the inside of your eyelids) if they're overused, or in my case, even if they're not. No more sleeping in contacts for me, ever again. However, the replacements, bifocal contacts (Bousch & Lomb PureVision), have eliminated my need for reading glasses! That's not too bad a trade.

Always carry glasses as a backup to the backup pair of contacts. Unavoidable weight.

02-02-2006, 14:44
I carry both glasses and hard contact lenses.My myopia is 20/800 so I NEED my glasses when I aint got my contacts in.I hate hiking in glasses as they fog and limit my field of view.I use a GSI HARD ANODIZED BOILER W/ LID cook set that I got from REI. One pot serves as a lid for the other pot... thus with the same amount of fuel I get enough h20 to cook my grubb in one pot while the other serves hot clean h20 to clean my contacts, sponge bath, rinse the grubb pot clean and what ever else purposes need tended.This works really well for me.

02-02-2006, 15:18
i hate hiking in glasses cause they fog up and if it's raining it's hard to keep something dry and handy to repeatedly wipe them with. on my thru i wore contacts and it was fine. took them out everyday with some care. probably kept my hands cleaner than if i hadn't worn them (which is a good thing). carried an extra pair and a few extra in my bounce box.

02-06-2006, 20:06
Another problem you can have with the extended wear contacts is corneal ulcers. I tried the Bousch and Lomb. (not hiking) Took them out once a week for cleaning. Worked great for 3-4 months. I then developed a pinprick size ulcer. VERY PAINFUL! Eye doctor said was from the contacts (not enough oxygen for cornea. If you want the convience of extended wear contacts I would still recommend glasses as a back up.

Pennsylvania Rose
02-06-2006, 21:09
I've never gotten contacts because I can't stand the idea of sticking something in my eye. When my allergies act up (hay fever from May to October, dust and mold year round) everything goes straight to my eyes so I have an aversion to anything possibly irritating them. But I HATE hiking with glasses. They fog up in the rain, I sweat more than most men and they slide down in the summer.... Sometimes I just risk the lack of depth perception and hike without them.

Maybe once I've paid off my college and mortgage and the kids' braces and college and weddings and my thru...I'll get lasik. My kid gets to have it first, though, because her vision is so bad (and she can be the guinea pig :))

02-07-2006, 17:19
I brought both contacts and glasses. Most days I wore the contacts (disposables) but some days I wore the glasses. It was nice having a backup in case either broke. I wore the disposables as weeklies, taking them out every night but changing them every week or two.I brought a tiny little trail mirror to assist in putting in the contacts.No way I'd go hiking without both.

02-08-2006, 10:36
PureVision contacts rule for any extended trip. You can leave them in for a month at a time with no ill effects and they are very affordable; about $30 for six pair . I have been doing an experiment on myself for the past eight years regarding extended contact lens use and here is what I have found:

If your eye(s) start hurting (not itching but painful) if you take your contacts out for a day and wear glasses your eyes will feel fine the next day.

Morning "eye sleep" is the biggest cause of irritation later in the day and spontaneous lens ejection. If you throughly wipe the sleep out of your eyes in the morning your contacts do tons better (I use a wet wipe cause little pieces automatically stick to it)

If you rub your eye and your contact falls out (and you don't loose it) you can put it in your mouth for lubrication/cleaning and put it back in your eye with no problems.

I wore the same pair of PureVision contacts for three months a while back on a sailing trip and it didn't seem to cause any damage. (This was an experiment on myself as a proof of concept, I can't recommend anyone do this but it worked OK)

When you notice irritated or ruptured blood vessels in your eyes it is time to wear glasses for a while.

IMHO contacts are the best for the just waking up period; especially nice when you are in a strange place. I require vision correction to see anything and that moment first thing in the morning when I can't see is terrifying. Wearing glasses means I have to hunt for them but contacts mean I can see as soon as I open my eyes.

Disclaimer: I may go blind at an early age but I will have proven that the warnings on the boxes are not marketing smack.

08-17-2006, 16:23
I would love to wear contacts that are long term for hiking, but my eyes just can't handle that. Also, I've become extremely wary of overnight wear ever since a friend of a friend permenantly lost vision in her eye from wearing contacts overnight while on a backpacking trip. I know that's not normal, but it's put fear in me about it. I prefer to use contacts for day and glasses for night.

Time To Fly 97
08-17-2006, 17:06
I used to hike with contact lenses before successful Lasik and had a good system for the contacts. I used one of those little containers (2" high with contact holder attached to the top) for storage with the fold out baskets. The one I preferred had baskets that were convex. This allowed me to put my contact lens eye-side down onto the basket. This was an advantage because I never, ever touched the eyeiside of the contact. Just piched them, put them in...pinched them, put them into the basket. I used Renu solution (all in one with no scrubbing and protein removal). I carried extra solution in a separate container (small) in my pack and sent the excess Renu up in my bump box (just replenished small container in each town).

If my contacts felt dry, this was a good indication that I was dehydrated. I would drink a lot and my eyes would re-hydrate. I cut down on wind drying my eyes out by going with Oakley sunglasses with the large "Heater" style lens with the M-frame. If my eyes got so dry that the contact shrank (this is the cause of the discomfort, or I got a little dirt in my eyes, I would take my contqcts out for a little while and put them in the Renu.

I always slept with my contact container on cold nights - probably useless paranoia...but didn't want to have them frozen in the morning.

Happy hiking!


Time To Fly 97
08-17-2006, 17:13
One more thing:

I always carried an extra pair of contacts in my med kit, just in case.


08-17-2006, 17:54
I buy a $22 package of disposables for section hikes and change them out daily--not much to speak of to pack them out in the garbage and they're fresh daily.

08-17-2006, 18:59

And that whole evening halo thing is an old problem - It's not much of an issue anymore (with the new procedures.)

Anyone squeemish - they videotaped my LASIK, and I think I still have the tape.

Come on, a bucket of popcorn, a good (but short) movie.



Hello? . . .

Frolicking Dinosaurs
08-18-2006, 06:51
I'm at an age where lasek isn't possible - I would have to have lens replacement at about $4,500 per eye. I've worn contacts for decades and wear them while hiking. I use alcohol gel on my hands before removing them at night (after I am in my sleeping bag). The case goes into a small pocket in our tent along with the male dino's glasses and a small light for midnight trips to the bushes. I am nearly legally blind without my lens so I normally put them in for the midnight trips. I've never lost one in a tent, but I have decades of experience putting them in and handling them without being able to see them. I do carry a spare pair of contacts and a very light pair of glasses (polycarbonate lens and titanium frame).

The male dino is also too old for lasek surgery and can't use contacts because of an eye injury. He hates hiking in the rain with glasses and also says they slide down / irritate his nose. We are seriously considering the lens surgery for him.

08-18-2006, 07:35
Another plug for PureVison. I've been wearing them for a year without any problems. There is a little dryness in the morning, but that is easily alleviated. I wear them a month at a time.

08-18-2006, 07:45
I got LASIK earlier this summer. It's a miracle. It has made my outdoor activities so much more enjoyable. I highly recommend it for those who can afford it.

08-18-2006, 13:35
I have 30 day night-and-days and love them. I've never done a super-long trip, but I can leave the in 24 hrs for a week at a time. It's recommended that you take them out once a week for a night, but I can usually go about 8-9 days before they get uncomfortable. I think that would be easy enough to manage over a long trip.