Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gear: Credit Card Sized Backcountry Reading Glasses

Ever return from an Adirondack backcountry trip with a headache, sore eyes or a painful neck? Do you find yourself squinting while reading a map or compass? Have you ever found yourself somewhere totally different than where you thought you should be? Are you reaching, or firmly established in, middle age?

If any of these are even remotely true, then a pair of lightweight, durable and inexpensive reading glasses is in your future. Luckily, I recently discovered just the pair of backcountry reading glasses even your ophthalmologist would approve. That is, as long as he or she is an outdoor enthusiast.

Middle-aged outdoors people often find it difficult reading maps, compasses, handheld GPSs or anything else with fine print. This is no cause for panic though. The loss of close focusing ability is a natural part of aging. Now, panicking about reaching middle-age, that is perfectly understandable, and extremely warranted.

The loss of close focusing ability is called presbyopia. This condition is caused by the hardening of the lens inside the eyes, which occurs with age, and just coincidentally begins around the time most reach their mid-life crisis.

Presbyopia results in the slow degradation of the eye’s ability to focus on things close, including unfortunately, maps, compasses, GPSs, and a whole host of other contraptions backcountry explorers relay upon during their recreational pursuits in the woods. Also, it results in backcountry enthusiasts’ sore necks when they wear contraptions on short lanyards around their necks.

Presbyopia became a real problem for me when I found myself getting a sore neck at the end of every day of bushwhacking through the Adirondacks. The frequent sore necks went without explanation, until I found myself holding my GPS and compass beyond the length of their lanyards while they were still around my poor neck.

After that, I always carried a pair of folding reading glasses to deal with presbyopia. And I obtained some longer lanyards too, since I hated constantly getting the reading glasses out to figure out where the heck I was located. The glasses were still convenient for those increasingly frequent moments when it was necessary to read fine print or almost anything this side of a billboard within dim light. These folding glasses proved useful, but they were fragile, so I always took great care not to break, and thus rarely took them out while navigating. If only there was an inexpensive pair of reading glasses that I could carry in my pocket without the risk of them breaking right when I need them.

Luckily, Christmas came early this year (or was it late?), when on a recent backpacking trip down in the Adirondack’s little sister (i.e. the Catskills), I was presented with a remarkable solution to reading glasses in the backcountry. These reading glasses are smaller than a credit card, nearly indestructible (within limits) and require absolutely no folding.

Advantage Lenses, LLC manufactures the i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses perfect for use in the backcountry. They are actually less than the size of a credit card (and just a little thicker), flexible enough to fit a wide range of noses, durable, shatterproof and highly adjustable. What else could one want in a pair of backcountry reading glasses? That is, not to have the need for them, of course.

The i4uLenses reading glasses have no frame to break of bend. They are simply pressed onto the bridge of the nose about mid-way down, where they just pinch onto the nose.

Getting used to looking through the i4uLenses may take some time. Unlike regular reading glasses, the lenses are not right up near the eyes, but are down closer to the tip of the nose, like an old person’s bifocals. Wearing them may seem even more awkward to those who were born with excellent vision for most of their life – until now.

The i4uLenses make reading maps, compasses, etc. in the dim light of a headlamp in a tent or lean-to convenient and carefree. Just do not drop them onto the forest floor, or you may just find yourself sweating through minute of searching on your hands and knees to find them, especially without your glasses to assist you.

With the i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses, fragility is no longer an issue. Their plastic nature makes them nearly indestructible (but do not try too hard). Now, they can be carried easily in the front chest pocket, and whipped out in a moment’s notice to read a map, GPS device or anything else with print ill-suited for a middle-aged person.

Careful handling of the i4uLenses is necessary when the hands are covered in bug repellent residue. The lenses are plastic, and therefore repellents may damage them. Touching the lenses is a bad idea regardless, since that is the part typically looked through.

A plastic carrying case is available to protect the lenses from scratches, dirt and other assorted ill conduct.

i4uLenses credit card size emergency reading glasses are relatively inexpensive, they retail for $6.95 here.

For those suffering through the effects of presbyopia, i4uLenses are a convenient solution. These credit card size reading glasses are lightweight, about the size and width of a credit card, and are nearly indestructible, making them a perfect optical solution for backcountry enthusiasts. The only bad thing about them – you will look like an old fogie wearing them.

Photo: i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

Related Stories


Dan Crane writes regularly about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. He has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry for almost two decades. He is also life-long naturalist with a Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He is also the creator of the blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures.




Comments are closed.