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Trail Designs Ultralight Glasses

rated 4.0 of 5 stars
photo: Trail Designs Ultralight Glasses eyewear

These extremely lightweight "nose specs" are great to keep in a pocket for use checking maps or other small writing for those "experienced" backpackers that are having a little trouble focusing on the small stuff. Generally work well and come in three strengths, but aren't that comfortable for longer wear like reading at night.


  • Very lightweight
  • Durability — shatterproof
  • Price
  • Don't fog up on steamy days


  • Uncomfortable over time
  • Not as full range of vision as regular glasses
  • Scratch resistance undetermined

A couple of years ago, I hit that age when my perfectly functional eyes decided they were getting tired. It started with me using the zoom keys a lot on my laptop at work and then holding menus and other literature at arms length to read. Ah well, time passes for everyone! 

I got reading glasses and carried them on a couple of trips but hadn't settled into a really good way to keep them handy and protected at the same time. So while ordering my Sidewinder Ti Tri from Trail Designs a couple of years ago (see that review of my favorite piece of gear), I decided to try their Ultralight Glasses as well. 


I bought three pairs (one pair is $8.95 while three are $14.95) — mild (1.5 magnification), medium (2.0), and strong (2.5). They came with individual plastic cases for protection and one felt case.
I tested out these "pince-nez" glasses on four different trips, in a range of temperatures from low teens to mid 80s.  They worked well for quick stops along the trail to check maps, take notes, etc. They quickly pinch on the end of your nose and hold there just fine (for me) with no slippage. I didn't experience any real discomfort while stopping for short reads. Trail Designs has made the bridge so it adapts to different nose widths.

Magnification is reasonable — obviously depending on the strength of the lens you choose. Here are a couple of photos that do my best to show the magnification of the 2.0 (medium) strength lens.
The photo above was taken through the 2.0 lens and the photo below was not. While the range of the photo is different, they were taken from the same height above the map. I don't know if you can see a difference in text but the lenses do work.
The Ultralight Glasses fit well on my nose, but I am sure that is something that will vary based on the size and shape of your schnoz. They didn't really slip until I wore them for extended periods in the evening, and even then it was minor. While I look like a college professor with my reading glasses in my wife's opinion, she has not said the same for when I wear these glasses...of course the goofy expression doesn't help!

After wearing them for more than 10 minutes or so at night, they felt a little uncomfortable but not painful. So I now carry these on every trip for quick stops, but pack my reading glasses deeper in the pack for reading at night. I even keep a pair in my wallet for those nights when we are at a restaurant and I forgot to bring my regular glasses!

Unlike my reading glasses, the Ultralight Glasses don't seem to fog up during steamy humid days—it is probably due to the distance they are from my eyes and ventilation around them. On the other hand, that distance makes your reading "view" narrower than a pair of regular reading glasses. They are much smaller than standard reading glasses, but that's how they are so light.

The weight was just as advertised — 3 grams for the lenses and 5 with the case.  Under 1/8 ounce for both.


Durability seems good. The plastic is shatterproof and I haven't noticed any scratches yet. The bridge has not stretched and they fit the same as they did on day 1.

These probably won't help those of you wearing prescription lenses, but for those that just need a little help with small text they may just "fit" perfectly!

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $15.95

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glasses soft case hard case
Price MSRP: $8.95
Reviewers Paid: $15.95
Weight 3 g 2 g 11 g
Diopter choice of 1.5x, 2x, or 2.5x
Product Details from Trail Designs »

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