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Are you planning a long-distance hike and confused about taking either your glasses or contacts? I was also; however, through trial and error I finally figured out the best mix for me. Here I will share what I like and dislike about each option, what makes more sense, and show you what ultimately won out.

Should I wear my glasses on the trail?

Glasses are convenient and easy to put on; but, that is about where the positives stop for me when utilizing them for hiking. I love glasses … please do not misunderstand my love of them by my lack of positives here. Originally, I even earned my trail name, “Prada,” because every time I hiked I used to wear trendy, purple Prada glasses. Unfortunately, while making a great fashion statement, I find them unusually cumbersome and annoying on the trail. The lenses are constantly fogging up from my sweat, streaked with dirt, or sliding down the sweaty bridge of my nose. I also have a difficult time keeping up with them once in my tent for the night. There never seems to be a good spot to place them either for easy retrieval should there arise the need to investigate a freaky noise or bump in the night.

Glasses Pros:

*Ease of on and off

*Only one item to bring along

*Can sometimes protect the eyes from injury from low hanging tree branches or briars

Glasses Cons:

*Glasses fog up in damp, humid conditions or inclement weather

*Difficult to keep clean with little access to running water

*Constantly moving and sliding around from sweaty skin

*Easy to lose, or accidently sit on, while not wearing them

*Broken glasses are worthless, and when every ounce counts, I am definitely not carrying a spare

Are contacts any better than glasses on the trail? 
For me, hundreds of trail miles have solidly proven that contacts are indeed a better option. I used to wear the traditional lenses that needed to come out each night before bed. These lenses were an immediate improvement over my glasses on the trail, but I found it extremely difficult to put them back in each morning in a less than sterile wilderness environment. The scenario, while better, still lacked the perfection I desired.

My optometrist, Dr. John Derickson of Derickson Vision Consultants in Jacksonville, Fl, recommended I try extended wear contacts and was excited for me to try them. 

”New technology in oxygen permeable lenses has brought great convenience to contact wearers with active lifestyles and reassurance to their eye doctors when prescribing them for continuous wear.” Dr. Derickson shared with me. 

When I told him I had been leaving my glasses at home these days Dr. Derickson cautioned, “Contact wearers with significant prescription powers should always pack their glasses. You never know when you may lose a lens or get something in your eye that makes it unsafe to wear the contacts. From the wildlife experiences that I’ve had, I wouldn’t want to be caught on a mountain unable to see clearly!” 

Ok, so we might need to bring back-ups, but basically, these are lenses that can be worn continuously for up to 30 days by allowing more air to get through to your eyes. After using them for several months, I am now in love with these lenses; however, if you have sensitive eyes like I do, it may take some time to get used to them. I would recommend getting your prescription at least a few weeks before your trip. I had to work up to wearing mine for about a month before I could really wear them for days on end without them bugging me.

Extended Wear Contacts Pros:

*Extended wear lenses allow up to 30 days constant wear

*Better range of vision, no blind spots from glasses frames

*Not affected by weather changes

*Easy to nap in, no issues with dry eye afterwards

*No need to take out daily, less risk of eye infection from dirty trail fingers

*Can see immediately upon waking, even in the middle of the night

*Fewer back-up supplies to bring

Extended Wear Contacts Cons:

*Possible long break-in period to get used to them

The Final Verdict: What wins out?

Contacts win by a large margin in my opinion. While I am still not wearing my extended wear lenses for more than a week or so straight at a time, the convenience on the trail has thrilled me far beyond my initial expectations. These lenses are now an essential part of my hiking gear as important to me as food and shelter. Deep in the wilderness, it sure gives me an added sense of freedom and security to now have one less thing to worry about. I will never go back to my glasses for the trail, instead saving them for fashion statements back home, where air conditioned comfort make them much easier to show in a positive light.

This article was provided by Carla ‘Prada’ Akers, who runs an awesome online hiking mag of her own that you can check out right here. You can also contact her at

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