One common problem with the snow is the glare from the sun shining back into your eyes, which can impair vision and even cause Photokeratitis (Snow Blindness) if you’re exposed to it for too long. Although there are modern snow glasses used by skiers and others who work around snow much of the year that prevent this problem, they would be rather difficult to replace in the event of an emergency. As a craftable alternative, we’re going to take a look at the technology of ancient experts of snowy living, the Inuits.
Preventing snow blindness without UV resistant lenses and advanced technology
Modern snow goggles are great, but building a pair of these yourself would be rather challenging.
The Inuit peoples of the Arctic had to live with the damaging glare from the snow on a daily basis, and they came up with a simple and effective method of protecting their sight while still being able to see and work throughout the day. Much like today they built goggles that protected their eyes, but unlike today they didn’t need specialized factories and UV resistant lenses to make them work. Their snow goggles were fashioned out of bone (since it was rather more plentiful than wood in many cases) and tied to the head with sinew, though many people who make them today for replicas or even practical use tend to use wood since it is easier to shape.
The design is simple, being a single piece of bone or wood that is shaped like glasses to fit over the eyes, though with specific curves designed to block out all light from the sides. Then, thin horizontal slits are cut along each “eye” on the glasses, as far along the surface as possible to maximize peripheral vision. The strap is designed to make the goggles fit snugly onto the face in order to keep them firmly in place and also to keep the light from filtering in from anywhere besides the slits. This design gives two primary benefits: first, it reduces the damage caused by light reflecting off of snow. Second, it actually improves vision over the long, barren distances of the cold wastes and acts as a sort of mild “zoom” feature.
How to make your own
Snow goggles can be made of simpler materials for your first few tries, since carving wood or bone can take time.
Almost any material can be used for these simple goggles. In a pinch, you can even use cardboard or bark for a temporary (and fragile) pair of goggles rather than wood or bone that take longer to carve and shape properly. I would recommend making your first test models out of cardboard or some other malleable material until you get a general shape that fits your head, then build a couple more durable pairs out of tougher stuff.
The step-by-step method for building the goggles are as follows:
- Taking your building material of choice, cut it into a rectangle that is the appropriate size for your eyes and head when bent or curved.You want to have enough room to cut a hole on either side for a string or band to hold your goggles on, so take that into account.
- Measure the distance between your eyes and cut a triangular hole where the goggles should rest on the bridge of your nose.Remember, they rest fairly high up on your nose so don’t design them to fit on the end of your nose or the hole will be too large. The measurements don’t need to be extremely precise, but the more precise you are the less light will leak in from the nose hole.Note that the eye slits here are extremely slim. Make the slits as thin as possible then slowly expand them until you can see, but not so much that it negates the glare-reduction.
- Cut a thin horizontal slit on either eye, making it as long as possible to increase your field of vision. Make it thinner than you think you will need, then put the goggles on and see how much vision that slit gives you. You can always make the cut larger, but you can’t shrink it so take it slow and increase the slit incrementally until you get it right.
- Cut a hole for your headband on either side of the goggles, then tie the string through each hole. Remember, you want this to be fairly tight (without giving you headaches) to reduce light from the sides.
- Enjoy your new goggles!
Although these are just a simple addition, snow goggles are actually invaluable additions to your retreat or bugout group during winter. Being able to preserve eyesight and see farther with this helpful eyewear could allow you to spot looters, huntable game or natural forage, and would be excellent for scouts and forward guard posts. Furthermore, they would make great barter items if you knew how to make them and could demonstrate their benefits to others.