Thought I would chime in here...as an optometrist who loves backpacking and is also highly dependent on contact lenses, I will tell you there is no perfect universal solution. The type of prescription you have and other ocular history factors must be factored into an individual plan for you. Here are some thoughts:
- Your hands are perpetually filthy no matter what you do. Keep some hand sanitizer or wet wipes around for a quick wipe-down any time you have to handle the lenses. Still less than optimal, but better than nothing.
- Daily disposable lenses are probably the safest route to go, but they create a lot trash, are not available for all prescriptions (ie. limited options for people with astigmatism).
- Extended wear lenses such as Focus Night and Day (there are others) were approved by the FDA for overnight wear, but the literature shows that while it is true that they let more oxygen through to the eye, they do not reduce the risk of corneal ulcer. Corneal ulcers are very painful and can be sight-threatening. If you were to develop one on the trail, you would need to leave the wilderness and seek treatment asap. Some docs tell patients it's okay to sleep in these lenses, whereas others will adamantly tell you to avoid sleeping in any contact lens. It's a controversial topic, and you will find a lot of different opinions out there. (similar to the debate between people who filter/treat water in the backcountry and others who swear it's not necessary, citing years of uneventful trips...)
- Carrying backup glasses is a must!
When I did the entire JMT in 2006, I wore hard lenses and managed to clean them every few days, although I always wondered about the risks introduced by my dirty hands/fingernails. These days, I travel with daily disposable lenses for backcountry trips, even though they don't provide the same quality of vision as my hard lenses.
Bottom line, talk with your optometrist because he/she can help you understand the options available based on your prescription and ocular history. I hope this is helpful information...happy trails to you!
--- In email@example.com, Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd <rebecca@...> wrote:
> I switched to Focus Night & Day contacts a few years ago. These are
> contacts that you can wear 24/7 (including sleep) and you dispose of
> them after ~30 days. I love them for backpacking since it means I
> don't ever have to put my grimy trail hands near my eyes.
> My sight is bad enough that I always carry my glasses as backup,
> however. But I've never had a problem with these contacts.
> On Tue, Jun 2, 2009 at 11:56 AM, Derek Peters <specracer64@...> wrote:
> > I'm also a wearer of contact lenses, but when backpacking I just bring my
> > prescription glasses and sunglasses. Between wind blown dust, high altitude
> > dry air, and just the overall lack of cleanliness, it is not worth the
> > headache. Worse, a friend got an eye infection with her contacts on a long
> > trip some years ago. It's hard to keep clean. My vanity just wasn't worth
> > the trouble.
> > Derek
> > ________________________________
> > From: Kathryn <srfkat83@...>
> > To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> > Sent: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 10:59:22 AM
> > Subject: [John Muir Trail] Contact Lenses
> > Hi all!
> > I'm planning a quick southbound thru-hike in early July. I currently wear
> > soft contacts that I throw out every two weeks. In the past when I backpack
> > I bring my cleaning solution and glasses, but this is the longest hike I've
> > ever done. The thought of having to clean them nightly seems like a total
> > pain, especially when I'm going to be using a small headlamp and will pretty
> > dirty myself! And going without them is not an option, as I'd like to enjoy
> > the beautiful scenery and not just a blurred landscape.
> > All said I'm thinking of switching to daily disposables for the trip. Any
> > thoughts or advice on the matter? Thanks!
> > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]