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  1. #1
    Registered User tsw's Avatar
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    Default Hiking wearing contact lenses

    I wear contacts. I like to wear sunglasses most of the time my eyes are light sensitive. How big a pain in the butt are they on a through hike? I got a job with benefits I was gonna get some new glasses I could possibly get the darkening ones too but I hate wearing glasses with any spots or smudges on them.

    Anyway I decided I am gonna through hike in 23 or 24.

  2. #2
    Registered User Mikerfixit's Avatar
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    I use to wear contacts but decided it would be too much of a challenge for me to keep everything as clean as it needed to be while hiking. I'd rather the dirt be on my glasses than in my eyes.
    I have the auto tinting on my glasses and wear a brimmed hat so most of the time my eyes are shaded. The hat helps keep stuff from dripping onto my face and glasses.

  3. #3
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    Not a thru hike, but on a section hike I opted for glasses. Some will use disposable contact lenses or extended wear ones. But as Mikerfixit notes, it's pretty hard to keep your hands clean enough to be handling contact lenses when backpacking, and IMO the risk of eye infection (and delayed treatment) is too great. And things will get into your eyes and under your lenses, irritating your eye at a time when your hands will be nasty with sunscreen, picaridin/deet, and other things that you don't want on your lenses. So you'll be blinking like mad and you can't do much til you pull out your soap, wash up your hands, etc. It's unfortunate for us with poor vision, but eyeglasses are just so much more fault tolerant of the conditions. Get a retaining strap for them, a brimmed hat, and consider taking an older pair that you can get tinted (or buy clip-on sunglass lenses for them).

    That said, I'll dayhike and even do a weekend with contact lenses. It's taking a bit of a chance, but my plan is that at worst I can pop them out (gas perms) and put on eyeglasses. I keep a lens case in my top pocket, and my eyeglasses are with my bag o' essentials (e.g., FAK, headlamp, etc). I try to endure the discomfort while I clean my hands before handling them. Chances are very low I'll have to do that on a dayhike or even a weekend, but on a thru hike, the cumulative probability of having to handle your contacts suddenly goes to 100%.

    Maybe if you had some nitrile gloves at the ready to put on in case of an urgent need to remove them ... you'd not have to find your soap and such. Just brainstorming.

  4. #4
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Having tried both in the past, I strongly recommend glasses over contacts. Lots of things can go wrong with contacts. The only problem I've ever had with glasses is when they fog up during heavy rain or hiking uphill in very humid conditions.

  5. #5
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    I have never had any issues with my contacts while section hiking. I wear daily contacts while hiking and bring an extra set or two, just in case. I take out my contacts out while getting ready to go to bed and switch to glasses while in the tent.
    Glasses get smudged so easily and I really don't like them when it is raining. It may just come down to what you're used to using in ever day life.

  6. #6
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    I tried unsuccessfully to start using contacts in 2016 mainly because I wanted to get rid of glasses during hikes. I wanted extended wear lenses. But I could never get used to the process of inserting and removing them, even in perfect conditions. More psychological than anything else… didn’t like touching my eyes.

    Glasses have big downsides in poor weather. When it is raining or really foggy, I go without vision correction since glasses would fog up or become wet and difficult to use. My current vision is still kind of ok enough to not immediately fall into disaster if walking or running without glasses, at least on unchallenging terrain. But my vision is getting worse over time. Laser eye surgery may be the best option but I’m hesitant to do it.

  7. #7
    Registered User Hikes in Rain's Avatar
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    I've been wearing contacts for 52 years now, and have always worn them while hiking and/or camping. I've worn hard lenses, soft lenses, overnight lenses (sadly, those didn't work for me), and most recently multifocal lenses made of plastic so slick I sometimes have trouble getting a "grip" on them to remove them. (The latter ones are amazing! Best distance vision I've ever had, my reading prescription is seamless in transitioning, and I have no sensation of them even being in my eyes. I should have been born with these!)

    The key, of course, is good and diligent hand washing. I like using a basin I made from a gallon milk jug. If I can get water right from a spring, I generally don't sanitize it and rely on the soap. If not, then treat it like I would drinking water. Wash with my usual soap, and rinse with drinking water from my bottle. I keep a little camp towel just for my eyes, not for any other purpose. To date, in that half century plus of wearing contacts, I've never had an eye infection.

    To paraphrase Robert Heinlein in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", if the house were on fire, I'd be out of the window with my pants and contacts. If hard pressed, forget the pants!

  8. #8

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    Might be a good idea to bring a spare set of eyeglasses due to unexpected breakage, etc.

    "To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from." - T.S. Eliot

  9. #9
    Registered User Tim Rich's Avatar
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    I've worn extended wear contacts for forty years, originally the permanent types that needed the enzyme tablets and such. Long ago I moved to the the disposables, and I'm tolerant of going weeks without taking them out with no issues with my eyes. I sectioned the AT with contacts the entire way, with trip lengths ranging from 50 to 170 miles. I always kept spares in my ditty bag, or in my mail drop if we mailed a resupply, but I rarely needed them. For extended wear, the most critical time is when you first wake. They may be dry, so some drops helped me. As my ophthalmologist says, I'm an outlier.

    Take Care,

    Tim

  10. #10
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    I prefer to hike in contacts as sweat fall on and smears up my glasses. I've done as much as a JMT thru hike with contacts.

  11. #11
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    i wore contacts on my four thru hikes and never, yes never, took them out. i carried solution and when things got sticky i'd squirt the solution into my eyes. all good. no issues. no worries.

    i'm sure if you google this technique it will tell you i am blind and will die tomorrow.

  12. #12

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    I've worn both contacts and glasses on long hikes such as a PCT thru-hike and section hikes of the CDT and AT. In the end, I prefer to just wear my eyeglasses which are the transition types which turn darker in the presence of sunlight. They work in most situations. But, if you are going to hike on any significant snow, they don't cut enough of the reflected light and much better sunglasses are required and thus contacts work better.

    Contacts:
    Allow wearing better sunglasses including glacier rated ones. You don't have to put them on to see, so when cowboy camping, you can just look up at the stars and enjoy them including meteor showers. No worry about rain on them (though a baseball cap under your jacket's hood usually takes care of it with eyeglasses) or having them fog up (rarely happens for me). They don't need to be cleaned regularly to see. Issues are I find they dry out if worn to bed or if hiking in hot dry conditions (PCT/CDT desert), especially with a hot breeze so you have to bring eye drops. They do need to be cleaned (if not using daily or weekly wear) to keep them comfortable. If using daily wear, you do need to find a way to clean your hands before putting on the next pair. They can get lost, if you go swimming, unless you remove them or are very careful to keep your head and especially face away from the water.

    Eyeglasses:
    If you don't need really dark or polarized sunglasses, a transition pair of eyeglasses is good enough as they darken as needed. No need to worry about touching them with dirty, possibly germ filled hands. You can rest your eyes without having to remove your contacts. If you get a bug in your eye, you don't need to be careful not to damage your contacts when removing it. It can be less hassle, as I don't need to carry spare contacts, contact case, or solution and/or eye drops; though I admit on long trips to often carrying a set of disposable contacts in case my glasses do get broken, though without any of the other items. You do need to have a way of cleaning them; whether you bring a small bottle of cleaner or just use water with a small cloth is a personal preference. They can be a pain in heavy wind blow rain, though regular rain, a cap under your rain hood works good enough. I suppose you could step on them at night when they are off, but as I leave mine in my hat at night, it's never been an issue. When hiking in wind blown snow, when conditions are dark, they protect the eyes when sunglasses would be too dark to wear.
    Last edited by Miner; 07-16-2022 at 21:42.

  13. #13

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    Glasses are just a lot less hassle.

  14. #14
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    The same here as mostothers stated, I prefer glasses.

    Had contacts for many years and due to lack of hygiene got an eye infection during a multi-month trip through the Middle East. Aside of this being no fun, it prevented me from using contacts for several years.

  15. #15

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    Yep, glasses for me as well for all the reasons above, including positive eye protection from dust, branch whip, insects, etc.

  16. #16
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    On my SOBO AT Thru I started out wearing glasses as I need them somewhat for both near and far focus. After some rainy days in the Whites I put them away. And oddly enough didn’t use them thereafter much at all. I definitely noticed my vision improve. Within a month of being back in the office I needed them again.

    You mentioned being light sensitive, so this might not apply, but I don’t think there is enough treeless space for most folk to bother with sunglasses. Definitely a HYOH thing. If you do need them, I’d bring regular sunglasses, the transitions take too long to lighten up when you drop back into the woods.

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