Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Bearable Lightness Of Shades

Are you still looking for the ultimate in post-mydriatic and dental procedure protective eyewear?

Or could you use some really light sunglasses? You can now have both.

While having an eye exam several years ago I realized that I'd found the perfect sunglasses. This was when I was redoing my whole approach to backpacking and getting wicked light.

I already had a pair of clip-on sunglasses. Those are great. They're polarized, so they cut reflections and glare, and let me see into pools of water. I like that. I always want to know what's in there, breathing water and watching me back. Can't hurt.

And the polarized lenses interact with sunlight and reflections and make the world a little sparkly and shimmery at times. I'm not sure quite how this happens but it can be fun on a boring day.

But these sunglasses aren't perfect. The little clipper thingies always end up scratching my expensive lenses where they touch. And the clip-on lenses get scratched too. It's awkward to take them off because they themselves pick up scratches even if I keep them in a soft cloth. And taking them off means that I can lose the suckers, or break them. They break. Breaking isn't good.

OK, done with that subject.

Besides the clip-ons I had a couple pair of giant goggle-like things. These are all plastic, all transparent, all tinted, and will fit over glasses. You can wear them with or without your own glasses underneath. This is good. I think some models come with polarized lenses too, which is a plus. You've probably seen geezers wearing these around. Geezers take to them the way kids go after candy.

But they're big and heavy, they can break, they get scratched, they're relatively expensive, and it isn't harder to lose them than anything else.

I wear glasses all the time. That's another reason I don't own a gun. Without the glasses I couldn't even shoot at anything that moves, because it's all a blur out there, so why bother? I can't wear contact lenses, don't want pre$cription sungla$$es, and am not likely to get my eyeballs carved by laser beams.

So I can't wear a $2 pair of dark glasses unless I want to stick them on over my real glasses and scratch the snot out of them and look enormously entertaining.

Looking goofy isn't too big a problem. I've got that pretty well nailed anyway. The real problem is finding cheap, light sun protection that works, and doesn't destroy my prescription lenses.

So back to paragraph three: While having an eye exam several years ago I realized that I'd found the perfect sunglasses. This was when I was redoing my whole approach to backpacking.

I hate these exams. They are the ones where you get the eye drops that burn like crazy, and then after a few minutes your pupils get so big that people start backing away, if not turning to run for their lives. Well that part is kind of cool, but by the time your eyes are that dilated you can't see what's going on anyway. You have to go over the surveillance tapes after the police arrive.

But it's kind fun except for the burning eyes.

Right, so there I was with these buggy eyes and then my eye doctor handed me a roll of dark plastic in a paper sleeve. Rollens. Damn. I was so much in love, like instantly. Like totally.

Rollens is a single piece of flexible plastic. It's a springy plastic sheet, fairly sturdy, but completely flexible, transparent, and tinted. It's a piece cut out in the shape of my big goggles -- at least the front part. If you unroll it and hold it flat on a table it looks like goggles without the pieces that go around the side of your head and over your ears.

It doesn't look too weird until you put it on.

Then, if you don't wear glasses it still looks pretty much OK, even sexy on some people. At least I think so.

If you do wear glasses, you put this on, and the springiness and curl of the plastic holds it in place on your head, but then you put your glasses on over it and get a second chance to scare the bejeebers out of everyone.

But for an ultralighter everything is fine. We're all about weight and utility, and Rollens is great. I've laid one of these down on a table, all rolled up, and pounded it with my fist to demonstrate how good they are. No problem. A slight crease is all, and it didn't matter.

They get scratched but who cares? They don't contact the lenses of your real glasses, and even if you just wear the Rollens without any glasses, they stay on your face because of the inherent springiness of the material.

Rollens offers 100% ultraviolet protection, the design is full-coverage (almost no light leaks in around the edges), it doesn't break, and you can't tear it, it's small, it's cheap. And of course it's light.

I can't tell you how light one of these is because the postal scale where I live doesn't even twitch when I drop one of these onto it. So that's less than a tenth of an ounce each (3 g). Rollens doesn't register. At all.

The bad part is that you can't really buy these, sort of. I bought a box of 50 at 50 cents each, shipping included, from the maker. That was a good enough deal. But they sell only in bulk. On the other hand this is roughly a lifetime supply. I hardly ever use sunglasses anyway, but it's no problem bringing one of these, and a spare too, just in case.

Highly recommended. By me.

Colors: amber, gray, and clear. Clear won't work for sunglasses (Duh!) but you still have the UV protection. The gray is a good dark shade and makes a huge difference. Don't know about amber.

I have a whole bag full of empty plastic 35mm canisters. I use one of these to carry my Rollens. The canister is a little too short but if I was fussy I could trim the Rollens down with a scissors (you can do that, no problem). I roll them up really tight and fit two into one canister. Small package. Stows easily.

If you want to try Rollens without ordering a bunch, you could check around at offices of nearby optometrists or ophthalmologists. If you already do business at one they might toss you a couple for free.

Check it out.