Published on: 08/29/2022
Big wall climbing is often epic and inspiring in a way few other sports can compete. Conquering world-famous monoliths like Yosemite’s El Capitan with the aid of just some rope and climbing shoes is a feat that seems outright impossible to most. And while the sheer scale of big wall climbs makes them so impressive, it also creates a serious logistical challenge.
Many big wall projects, like El Cap, take several days for most climbers to complete. Not only that, but it’s pretty common for big wall climbs to be devoid of natural ledges you could set up camp on. How, then, do climbers manage to get any sleep on these multi-day projects? The answer is by using a portaledge!
A portaledge is essentially a hanging, portable tent with a platform as its base. Most portaledges use metal frames to give them structure and fabric for their material. Climbers can haul portaledges and other important gear up the wall so they can access it when they need it. Using a portaledge, you can basically set up camp anywhere on big walls, provided an appropriate anchor point/bolt is nearby.
There is considerable variation among the different portaledge models in terms of the space, structure, and shelter they provide. For example, double ledges offer climbers more room to stretch out but are usually heavier. Lightweight ledges are less of a burden but generally less comfortable for longer projects.
That said, you might be wondering what kind of portaledge is right for you. Fear not! This article goes into depth on how to choose a portaledge and showcases five of our favorite ledges on the market right now. Whether you’re looking to embark on solo adventures or want a roomy double ledge to share with your climbing buddy, we’ve got you covered.
Our Selection of the Best Portaledges
Below, you’ll find five of our favorite portaledges on the market right now. We’ve selected a variety of different styles and models, so every climber should be able to find their perfect portaledge! Not only do we cover both single and double ledges, but we’ve chosen to feature ledges by well-respected, reputable brands exclusively. That way, you can feel comfortable investing in any of the portaledges on this list.
Our Criteria/How We’ve Compiled Our List
As a result of their size and complexity, portaledges aren’t exactly the cheapest piece of climbing gear out there. Investing in a new ledge can feel daunting, so we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure every entry on our list is one of the best portaledges out there right now. We’ve also considered the build quality of each model, as well as its practicality.
Additionally, we’ve done extensive research to guarantee that each of the ledges on this list is currently available. We’ve consulted informally with climbers to get a balanced overview of every model on this list. Finally, we’ve endeavored to choose a range of ledges that cover different budgetary constraints and feature single and double ledges. This helps us ensure that our list accurately reflects a variety of different options for portaledges on the market.
Our Selection of the Best Portaledges for Big Wall Climbing
|Portaledge||Weight||Type||Best For||Best Offer|
|G7 Pod||3.3 lbs/1.5 kg||Single||Convenience|
|Black Diamond Cliff Cabana||19.8 lbs/9 kg||Double||Space||Check Prices|
|Metolius Bomb Shelter Double||13.67 lbs/6.2 kg||Double||Durability||Check Prices|
|Runout Customs Double Portaledge||9.12 lbs/4.14 kg||Double||Lightweight|
|Black Diamond Single Portaledge||15.94 lbs/7.23 kg||Single||Comfort||Check Prices|
1. G7 Pod: The Most Practical, Convenient Ultra-Lightweight Ledge on the Market Today
While one of the less traditional ledges on this list, the G7 Pod is easily one of the most beloved ones on the market today. Unlike a regular ledge, the G7 is inflatable and uses durable, high-tenacity laminated nylon for its material.
By shunning the traditional metal frame that most ledges have in favor of its inflatable design, the G7 remains insanely lightweight. It weighs just a fraction of the other ledges on this list. Moreover, you can hang multiple G7 Pods in different configurations (like side-by-side or bunk-bed style).
If you’re looking for a ledge that makes vertical camping as simple and straightforward as possible, the G7 may be your best bet. However, it’s worth considering that the straps on the side of the G7 can’t be adjusted individually. This can be a fairly important feature when setting up a ledge in a narrower spot.
2. Black Diamond Cliff Cabana: The Best Bigger Ledge, Spacious and Sturdy, for Longer Projects
Look no further if you want a ledge that provides ample room for two people. The Cliff Cabana by Black Diamond is a very spacious double ledge that feels exceptionally stable when bolted in. Standing and sitting are easy, and you’re unlikely to feel cramped when sharing the Cliff Cabana with a partner.
We also like that the Cliff Cabana uses excellent materials and feels exceptionally sturdy and dependable. Another plus is how easy the Cliff Cabana is to adjust, even once set up. The handy storage pockets inside the Cliff Cabana make it feel very comfortable and homey.
However, some climbers are likely to find the Cliff Cabana to simply be too heavy. It’s also not the most straightforward ledge to set up. We recommend considering other models if you’re looking for a simple and light ledge.
3. The Metolius Bomb Shelter Double: The Sturdiest, Most Durable Portaledge
If durability and protection from the weather are your priorities, then you’ll likely love the Bomb Shelter Double by Metolius. This ledge has clearly been designed to maximize its lifespan and provide elite stability in all conditions. The Durathane haul sack is a great touch and protects the Bomb Shelter from excess wear and tear.
We found the Bomb Shelter to be fairly comfortable. It’s also pretty easy to set up when you’re on the wall. However, like most double ledges, it is on the heavier side. This is something to consider if you’re looking for a lighter model.
Having said that, it’s worth acknowledging that the Bomb Shelter is something of an investment. Given the build quality and durability of the Bomb Shelter, we’d argue that it’s worth the money. However, climbers looking for a more affordable option may want to consider another model.
4. The Runout Customs Double Portaledge: Our Favorite Lightweight Double Ledge
Runout Customs has long been a mainstay in the portaledge world, and for good reason. The company’s Double Portaledge is one of the lightest we’ve ever seen, and it’s also easy to set up. this is due in large part to it not having a spreader bar. In fact, with practice, one person can easily set up the Double, while most double ledges need two people to set them up.
However, taller climbers may find the Double somewhat uncomfortable because it is on the shorter side. We’d also recommend looking at another model if you’ll be going on projects longer than three days. This is due to the Double being somewhat spartan and fairly small.
It’s also important to point out that the Double does need to be custom-ordered. This is likely a deterrent for climbers looking to get a new ledge sooner rather than later.
5. The Black Diamond Single Portaledge: The Most Comfortable Ledge for Solo Projects
If you want the most comfortable single-ledge experience possible, then Black Diamond’s Single Portaledge should be on top of your list. This very well-made ledge is durable and quick to set up. The excellent build quality makes it worth the higher price point, too.
Having said that, it’s when combined with the Deluxe Single Fly that the Single Portaledge by Black Diamond really shines. It’s got windows, is well-ventilated, and offers excellent protection from all kinds of weather. We think you’d struggle to find a more comfortable single ledge on the market.
However, this ledge is definitely on the heavier side. Are you mostly looking to go on shorter solo climbs? In that case, you might find the bells and whistles of the Deluxe Single Fly to be largely redundant, too.
How to Pick the Best Portaledge for You
What Exactly is a Portaledge, Anyway?
So, we’ve covered some of our favorite portaledges for big wall climbs and what makes them so great. But, if you’re new to big wall camping and climbing, you might be wondering how a portaledge works in the first place. Can they really protect you from inclement weather? Is it even possible to get a good night’s sleep dangling from a big wall like that?
In short, a portaledge is a collapsible cot that you can fold out into a ledge. Most ledges also come with various flies (like a storm fly and rain fly), which help cover the system in the event of bad weather. Portaledges make it possible to sleep, cook, and rest on the side of big walls. In fact, many people refer to camping on big walls as ‘vertical camping’ for this reason.
If you’d like a more in-depth look at portaledges and how they work, you may want to check out our portaledge rundown.
Important Things to Look Out For
One crucial thing to look for when choosing a portaledge is how well it packs down when collapsed. Does it fit into your haul bag? Your portaledge will need to compete for space with rope bags, food, and other supplies.
You’ll likely also want to think about how much weight you’re able or willing to haul on multi-day projects. Heavier ledges are often roomier, but a lighter model might be all you can take with you, depending on what other gear you need while on the wall.
Finally, good build quality is absolutely imperative when choosing a portaledge. The ledge will support your weight while you’re resting, after all. Having a sturdy ledge frame, in particular, is vital unless your ledge is an inflatable model.
Our Top Tips for Choosing a Portaledge
Sleep is vital for proper functioning and plays a crucial role in helping your body recover when you’ve been active. While sleeping on a portaledge isn’t exactly the most natural feeling, we recommend you try various ledges and see which is most comfortable for you. Investing in a setup that can help you sleep as well as possible is worth it. The main point of portaledges is to let you rest, after all.
We also recommend you check to see if the ledge you are considering is the right size for you! Some taller climbers may find that specific models are too small to lie down comfortably or stand in them. The last thing you want when trying to sleep on the ledge is your feet dangling off the end!
Another thing to remember is the type of projects you’ll be doing. Naturally, a double ledge would be unnecessary if you mostly climb solo. If you’re embarking on epic, multi-day projects with a partner, it might be worth lugging the extra weight of a roomier double ledge. However, a smaller, lighter ledge might be sufficient if most of your multi-day climbs are overnight.
Single portaledges are great for solo projects. You may also choose to use a single portaledge when climbing with partners if you prefer more space for yourself.
We’d generally recommend that you carry a portaledge in your haul bag. Climbers use a haul bag with its line to haul gear up the wall. You can take a break between each pitch to haul the gear up to wherever you are on the wall. Using a belay system this way makes it possible to bring important gear with you on projects without needing to carry it.
A portaledge that is appropriately set up should be safe to use in the event of a storm. Many portaledges come with a storm fly which covers the entire system. A rain fly is also a standard accessory for any decent ledge, which may be sufficient in rainstorms without much wind. However, we recommend that you avoid being on big walls when a storm hits, if possible.
Yes, you can. Buying a used portaledge from a reputable brand can be a great way to save money, especially if you want a pricier model. If you’re looking to buy a used portaledge, we recommend you inspect it thoroughly. You’ll want to ensure that the frame and fabric are in good condition to support your weight.
If you’ve never used a portaledge before, you might be terrified by the prospect of sleeping on a ledge hanging from the slide of a cliff. They may look a bit precarious, but don’t be fooled! Portaledges are perfectly safe when used correctly. You should always wear your harness when on a portaledge, even inside your sleeping bag. That way, your harness will catch you in the unlikely event that you roll off the ledge in your sleep.