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Back when I was in college, I went to the beach with some friends for the weekend. When we got there, one of the first things we did was jump into the ocean and start throwing around a frisbee. After only a few minutes, I dove to catch it and a wave slapped me right in the face, knocking out one of my contacts. My other eye was stinging so badly that without thinking, I pulled out my other contact and dropped it.
Then it hit me: I didn’t have any other contacts or glasses. They were all at home, which was half a day’s drive away. I was going to have to spend the entire weekend practically blind. As you might imagine, I didn’t have near as much fun as I could have. I couldn’t play frisbee, I couldn’t see anyone’s face, and as we stood in line at Burger King, my best friend had to read the menu to me. I couldn’t even see the stars over the ocean–just a dim blur.
This got me thinking, what if a major disaster had occurred that weekend? Something that stranded us where we were, like an earthquake or tsunami? If something like that happened, I would have been pretty helpless–unable to read street signs, constantly tripping over debris, easily blindsided by muggers… Without glasses or contacts, my chances of surviving a SHTF scenario would be a lot worse.
Considering that 3 out of 4 adults need vision correction, it’s a wonder eye care isn’t a more common concern among preppers. I think it’s one of those things we tend to take for granted until we don’t have it anymore. Many people go years without having to get by without their glasses, so they forget how important they are.
So what steps can we take to make sure we’re able to see after the end of the world as we know it?
Get Some Extra Contacts
Generally, I don’t recommend contacts because they can be a huge hassle. You have to take them out from time to time and clean them, they can tear, they can lead to eye infections, they can be a problem in dusty conditions, if they dry up they can pop out, and a splash of water to the face can knock them out (like what happened to me). But if you really want to keep wearing contacts after the SHTF, here’s what you need to know.
All contact lenses are designed for either daily wear or extended wear. Daily wear contacts will remain comfortable for up to a month as long as you remove and clean them before you go to bed each night. During a major disaster where there’s no power or running water, that would be kind of a hassle.
Extended wear contacts can be worn while sleeping, but it’s not recommended that you wear them for more than 7 days. However, you can wear them for up to a month if you have no choice. And if you clean them at night, you might get up to three months of use out of them, but that’s really pushing it. Beyond that, you risk damaging your eyes, like this woman who went blind after leaving her contacts in for six months.
If you’re going to rely on contacts after the SHTF, then you’ll also need plenty of contact lens cases and bottles of saline solution. Be sure to check the expiration date on those bottles. Although saline solution should be safe to use for a while beyond that date, eventually the saline will break down or the bottle will become contaminated. If that happens and you use it, you could get a severe infection or even vision loss.
You’ll also want some hand sanitizer in case you don’t have access to soap and water. The last thing you want to do is touch your eyes and contacts with dirty fingers. But if you use hand sanitizer, make sure the alcohol has completely evaporated before you touch your contacts or your eyes.
New contact lenses that are still sealed in the box should last up to three years, which is more than long enough to get you through most disasters. However, if you’re planning for a long-term doomsday scenario, you should know that beyond three years contact lenses become more and more unsafe to wear. Your eyes will dry out faster, and infections will become much more likely. That’s why you should…
Get Some Backup Glasses
If possible, keep an extra pair at home, an extra pair in your car, and an extra pair in your bug out bag (for that last one, don’t forget to put them in a hard case). Buying that many extra glasses might sound expensive, but it’s not that bad if you order them online. For that, I highly recommend Zenni Optical.
If you go to that site and scroll down to the very bottom of the page, you can shop by category and find exactly the kind of glasses you need. Remember, utility is more important than fashion. You want sturdy frames that will hold up even if they’re bent, dropped, and put through harsh weather conditions. For that I recommend the titanium frames which are very strong yet lightweight, but there are many other types of frames to choose from. There’s even a feature where you can upload a photo and see how they would look on your face.
Once you choose a pair, it will ask you to select your lenses. If you can afford it, choose one of the upgraded lenses. These are far superior to standard lenses and will literally make the world look better. For example, Vision-Ease SunRx lenses will eliminate 99% of all reflected glare, and Transitions automatically turn into sunglasses when you step outside.
If you don’t want special lenses, then make sure your sunglasses are large enough to fit over your regular glasses, or else get some prescription sunglasses. Whichever lenses you choose, at ZenniOptical.com they all come with anti-scratch and UV coating for free.
If price isn’t a concern, then get some prescription glasses from Wiley X. They make tactical, motorcycle, racing, outdoors, and safety glasses and goggles. Everything they sell is very high-quality and can take some serious abuse, so a pair from them could be ideal after the SHTF.
Once you have your glasses, you should also get a strap that goes behind your head and holds them in place. You might not need a strap right now, but who knows what will happen to you during a widespread disaster? You should also get an eyeglass repair kit.
Don’t Think You Need Glasses?
Think again. Even if you don’t need glasses right now, you should consider the possibility that you will need them in the future. Most people over 40 need reading glasses–not just for reading books, but for reading instructions and warning labels on equipment, and for other things like sewing, fixing your gear, construction, and so forth.
You can get reading glasses at any drug store. They come in strengths ranging from +1.00 to +3.25. Here’s a guide. Just be warned that drug store glasses are pretty cheap and can break easily, but as long as you only put them on when you need them they should last a long time.
Bonus: Reading glasses can be used to start a fire (here’s how).
What About LASIK?
This is the best solution of all. The problem is it’s pretty expensive. To get it done right, you’ll need to spend at least $3000. Personally, if I had $3000 to spend I’d probably buy more food and supplies. It’s up to you, though. One thing to keep in mind is that if you’re under 40, your eyes might continue to change as you get older. That means even if you get the LASIK surgery, your vision could get blurry again after 5 or 10 years, at which point you’d need to get glasses again (or more surgery).
What If It’s Too Late?
What if the shit hits the fan today, your glasses are broken in the ensuing chaos, and you never had a chance to order backup glasses? Or what if you find yourself in a situation like the one I was in–stranded away from home without any contacts or glasses?
Fortunately, there is one trick you can use to see objects at a distance. Make a very tiny hole with your fingers, look through it, and you will be able to see small points in the distance with perfect clarity. (If you want to know how this works, watch this video.) It’s not much, but it could be useful for reading street signs or scanning the horizon. Better yet, you could make some pinhole glasses. In the video below, The Survival Doctor explains how.