In a previous article about sun damage at high altitudes, I touched upon the importance of wearing sunglasses when trekking in the snow. But in doing so, I realised that I had left out one group of trekkers: those who wear eyeglasses / spectacles.
In this article, I will share how people who wear contact lenses or eyeglasses can protect their eyes from UV damage on high altitude treks.
But first, let have a quick recap of why you need to wear sunglasses on a high altitude trek, especially when trekking in the snow:
The Risk: UV Damage
Our eyes are prone to sunburns as much as our skin is. The sunburn of the eye is called photokeratitis (also called snow blindness). This is a condition caused due to excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays, a component of sunlight. Too much UV exposure can damage the eye’s cornea and cause a burning, gritty sensation in the eyes and temporary blindness.
Now, snow is a very reflective surface. This means that it is very efficient at reflecting UV rays. When you trek in the snow, your eyes are constantly bombarded by these UV rays, putting you at a high risk of snow blindness.
The Solution: Wear Sunglasses
So we know that we need sunglasses when trekking in snow. People who don’t wear spectacles (or are contact lens users) can simply put on UV protect sunglasses. But what are the options available for bespectacled trekkers? Let’s have a look.
Trek Leader Himanshu Singla sporting his trekking sunglasses
How To Use Sunglasses With Spectacles?
There are a few options for people who use spectacles to protect their eyes from UV rays:
1. Sunglasses over spectacles
This is an old hack in the books of many trekkers, although it may work for some and may not for others.
Our Trek Coordinator Sreelakshmi went with this style on her Kashmir Great Lakes trek. “I carried my contact lenses with me but it was too much of a hassle to keep wearing and removing them daily. In the end, I just ended up wearing sunglasses over my spectacles. Although it was a bit tight around my ears and nose, it was not that big an issue and I was able to complete the whole trek quite comfortably”.
2. Sunglasses with power lenses
Custom made sunglasses that have polarised lenses to fit the wearer’s eye power is the most comfortable option for trekkers with spectacles. However, such custom sunglasses are quite expensive, costing anything above Rs. 1000 for just the plain lens. Then there are additional costs for lens features like scratch resistance and the frame style.
3. Clip on glasses
Clip-on glasses are glasses that you can attach on top of your your regular spectacles. They do a pretty decent job and can be attached or removed from your easily. Clip- on glasses are a much more economical alternative to custom sunglasses with power.
Clip- on glasses are available easily in most trekking stores like Decathlon.
4. Fit-over sunglasses
Fit- over sunglasses work on the same idea as clip- on glasses but instead of fixing only a set of lenses over your spectacles, fit- over sunglasses are a whole sunglasses that you wear on top of the spectacles.
They look like regular sunglasses but are built like a light-weight shell so that they can fit snugly over most styles of spectacles.
Fit-over sunglasses sit comfortably over your regular spectacles and are quite convenient to trek with. Photo by Deep Thakkar
One of our trekkers who is a regular user of these fit-over sunglasses had brought one to our Bangalore office. We tried it out ourselves and the sunglasses fit every comfortable over our spectacles. So comfortably that we didn’t really notice that we wearing another set of glasses over our spectacles.
You can find these fit- over sunglasses at Decathlon as well.
A trekker wearing fit-over sunglasses on the Dayara Bugyal trek. Notice that the sunglasses are covered on the sides as well thereby preventing any glare or UV rays from reaching the eyes. Photo by Harikrishnan
5. Photochromic lenses
Photochromatic glasses are spectacles that can transition from clear glass to anti-glare dark shades depending on the exposure to the sun. However, there are somethings that you must consider before using these glasses on a trek:
– Ensure that you get these lenses in a full frame spectacle. Frameless glasses are fragile and can easily break on a trek.
– Because photochromic lenses change colour automatically depending on light exposure, some people find it uncomfortable to use.
– These type of lenses are expensive and might not be worth spending your money on.
There are a good number of eye protection options available for bespectacled trekkers. From our experience, fit-over and clip-on sunglasses are affordable and work pretty well. However, fit-over sunglasses should be preferred in snow conditions since they can cut off the side glare which a clip-on lens will not be able to do.
What you should do now
1. If you are confused about whether to wear spectacles or contact lenses on a trek: Head over to this article which discusses the pros and cons of using either of them on a trek.
2. If you want to work with us: Head over to our careers page. We have lots of positions open. We also have lots of applications coming in. The sooner you apply, the better.
3. If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do: Then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.
4. If you want to see the 13 best treks of India: Then get our free guide here.