The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday 3 January 2011

Gear of the Year: 2010

Everyone seems to be reviewing their favourite kit of 2010, so I thought that I’d jump on the bandwagon, except I’m just going to say a few words about my favourite item that I used for backpacking in 2010 (and, because it was so good, I also used it throughout the rest of the year too). A bit of an odd choice, perhaps, because most people either wouldn’t have any need for this item or wouldn’t consider using it, but for me it has been transformational – even if it has added weight to my pack.

So, my favourite item that I used when backpacking in 2010 was my Air Optix Night and Day contact lenses.

Continuous wear contact lenses (that is, contact lenses designed to be worn for 30 days continuously, night and day) aren’t new to me. I started using them in 2008, and talked about them at the time (see here). I did, however, find that I had a small problem-ette every now and then with the cheaper model lenses I was using: sometimes if I spent a long time out of doors, particularly in the cold, and then went somewhere warm, they would mist up on the inside and the only way I could clear them (other than by sitting with severely blurred vision for an hour or so) would be to take them out and give them a good clean (which wasn’t always a practical option).  As I mentioned at the time, they could also get dry from time to time, so I carried drops with me to help.

At the beginning of this year I switched to the Air Optix model to see if it would solve the problem, with the intention being that I would switch back to the cheaper ones in months when a multi-day walk didn’t feature. The reality has been that the Air Optix are so incredibly comfortable, even first thing most mornings, that I decided the price premium was worthwhile.

In fact, they’re so comfortable and so reliable that on short backpacking trips I now don’t take my glasses along. To date, I’ve not had a single incident when out walking (or anytime, actually) when I’ve suffered a discomfort that has required me to take a lens out.

I still don’t actually wear them continuously. Usually I take them out every third or fourth night, purely because, even though they’re deemed safe to be worn for 30 days straight, I figure it must be better for your eyes to get some lens-free time a couple of times a week.

The magic of having clear vision at all times of day and night is fantastic, but moreover, when backpacking there’s not the faff-factor of removal/cleaning/insertion of lenses, I don’t need to worry about having squeaky clean hands when out in the wilds in order to handle my lenses, and there’s not the annoyance of rain on glasses. I can’t now imagine going backpacking without them.



  1. ... and all the better to see me, of course.

  2. I wear daily contacts and although I don't have the cleaning faff, I still have the taking in and out faff, carrying glasses/prescription sunglasses and a wad of contacts. I hadn't thought of looking at this option, but actually, perhaps I should consider it. Thanks for this really useful post!

  3. I used dailies for our LEJOG (having not heard of continuous wear at that point). My biggest problem with dailies (other than the hand hygiene) is that I find that my eyes dry out uncomfortably after so many hours wear so I have to take them out early in the evening. I don't need my glasses in the confines of the tent, which then leaves me in a blurred world when I go outside. Conversely, waking up and immediately being able to see clearly is fantastic.

    Continuous wear may not be the lightest option for an extended trip (when I will take a 100ml bottle of solution, a pot and my glasses), but I wouldn't like to go back.

    (stopping now, because I really could rave on at some length here!
    Okay - just one more thing - I went to the optician to enquire about continuous wear the week before I set off on a 2 week backpacking trip. He fitted the lenses and told me to return in 2 weeks. When I explained what I was about to go and do he had no problem extending it to three weeks - so I ended up with a free contact lens trial for the whole of our English coast to coast walk, which was an excellent trial given my reason for wanting them in the first place. Same ploy could work equally well for the TGOC.)

  4. Brilliant to read this article. I'm going to suss this out. Probably the most useful blog post I've read in a long time - thanks!