Friday, June 7, 2019

Through a Lens, Clearly

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. If you're one of those people (and statistically you probably are), you need backup glasses for your bug-out bag.

For some of us, spare glasses are a matter of life or death. Without my glasses, I cannot see the words on my opthamologist's eye chart. Please note:  I did not say I couldn't read them, I said I could not see them; the eye chart is simply a greyish blur to me. My uncorrected vision is so bad that in a survival situation, I cannot discern threats past 10, maybe 12 feet.

If you're lucky, you only need glasses for up-close work. That's fine for macro-scale survival, but terrible if you're trying to perform detail-oriented tasks such as starting a fire, or determining if berries are poisonous or not, or even just reading your survival manual.

The point is, you need spare glasses for your bug-out preps. You might be able to get away with putting your old glasses into your bag when you get new ones if your prescription didn't change much and your lenses are in good condition; however, I don't have that luxury. I've been using the same frames since 2003, and the arms are corroding from where they touch the skin on my temples. Meanwhile, the lenses which I've had for 3-4 years are scratched and the anti-glare coating is flaking off. Additionally, my left eye has degraded such that I new need prisms in the lens to correct my astigmatism.

In short, not only do I need new glasses but I also need new backup glasses too. However, buying glasses without vision insurance is expensive. So how does a prepper on a thin budget (like me) make do?

Get Your Prescription in Writing
A regular eye exam is surprisingly affordable even without insurance, usually between $30 and $40. Mine was just a bit over $40 but included pupil dilation, checks for glaucoma and cataracts, and determining that I needed prisms.

Once that was done, I asked for my prescription in writing, telling the doctor that I needed it in case I had to evacuate for a hurricane and his records were lost in the disaster. My doctor had no problem with this; after all, I paid him for the results and so I was entitled to the records.

Don't Buy the Lenses and Frames at the Office
Every single ophthalmologist that I've visited has been paired with an eyeglass store of some sort. While I admit that their selections are stylish, be aware that you have other options. Other less expensive options.

It may be worth it, however, to try on various frames to see what you like and what you don't like. You also may need to have your pupil distance measured so that the lenses have the proper focal point, or perhaps your old lenses have an odd base curve. If this is the case, make note of this on your prescription.

Select your Frames Online
Now that you know what you want, go online and look for frames. Zenni Optical has been an open secret among preppers for years, with frames starting as low as $6.95 and fashionable choices going up to as much as -- brace yourselves -- $35.

Why are they so much less? Because you aren't paying for brand names. What you need to realize is that eyeglasses are treated as fashion and thus command higher prices based upon the designer. For example, frames with Ralph Lauren's Polo branding will cost more than those without his name on them.

Even if you decide to buy a set of fashionable frames, you don't need to pay the same price for your backups. Think of them as the eyeglass version of a donut spare tire.

Buy your Lenses Online
Now that you know what style frames you want, you know what shape lenses to get. This is where the bulk of your money goes when buying glasses at a store, and the same holds true here, but in much smaller amounts.

There are many online lens stores, but I like Replacement Lens Express for two reasons. First, it puts the prices on its homepage so you can see at a glance what the lenses will cost you  (a necessity if you have a high-power or complex prescription). Second (and again, right there on the front page), it says "We specialize in fitting new eyeglass lenses into your existing frames," which means you don't have to compromise the frames you want in order to get the lenses you need. The company also has a great reputation online.

Now that I have my prescription, it's time for me to go shopping for glasses: a pair for my face, a pair for my GHB, and a pair for my BOB. I may not be able to get all three right away, but in time I'll have a full set for Just In Case.

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