How Rock Climbers Sleep: An Intro to Portaledges

Updated Sep 5, 2023

Portaledges, also known as ‘cliff cabanas’, are unique camping shelters that are designed to be attached to a cliff. They’re made from durable nylon fabric and are secured with carabiners and ropes. This type of rock climbing was made popular by Yosemite in the 1970s. Companies like Black Diamond started producing portaledges, and now they’re a must-have item for big wall climbers around the world!

Though it may seem intimidating, sleeping on a portaledge has its advantages. It allows climbers to rest without descending back down to basecamp, and it offers protection from the elements and hazards on the ground. Plus, the single-point suspension system keeps the bed level, so even when the terrain is steep or uneven, the climber can still get a good night’s rest.

When the sun goes down, climbers can settle into their portaledge and watch the stars while their headlamp illuminates the majesty of the mountain.

What is a Portaledge?

A portaledge is a must-have for rock climbers who camp on mountains overnight. It provides a secure and comfy space in an otherwise inhospitable environment. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Designed just for climbers, portaledges are basically tents that can be attached to cliffs or walls. They are made of strong materials like nylon and withstand tough weather.
  2. The key purpose of a portaledge is to give climbers a safe spot to sleep for extended climbs. With its sturdy construction and dependable anchoring system, climbers can rest and recharge.
  3. Portaledges are popular with big wall climbers, particularly in spots like Yosemite Valley where long, multi-pitch routes are common. They offer a pleasant choice to traditional bivouacs or hanging hammocks, so climbers can have a good night’s sleep.

Plus, many climbers love the ease and comfort of portaledges. Sleeping off the ground and having all the essentials close by makes multi-day climbs more feasible. Whether it’s El Capitan’s Dawn Wall or Half Dome’s regular route, a trustworthy portaledge can vastly improve the climbing experience.

Don’t miss out on the thrilling chances that await when using a portaledge. Enjoy the thrill of sleeping on a cliff with amazing views and feel secure and cozy. So why wait? Get your portaledge today and make your next big wall journey one to remember!

Setting Up a Portaledge

Portaledge up! When rock climbers embark on multi-day climbs, a portaledge is an absolute must. It provides a comfortable platform to rest and recharge on the side of a cliff. Here’s the setup:

  1. Secure the anchor. Look for a reliable tree or bolt in the rock. Make sure it can support both the ledge and climber.
  2. Assemble the frame. Attach the poles to the platform. Most come with pre-connected poles; just unfold ‘n’ lock.
  3. Put on the rainfly. This’ll protect you and your gear from the elements. Make sure it covers everything.
  4. Adjust and secure. Adjust the tension of your straps so your portaledge sits level and securely. Check all connections and tighten any loose straps.

Note: Portaledges vary depending on the brand/model. Refer to manufacturer guidelines. Pro tip: use a headlamp or have sufficient lighting while setting up – navigating in low-light during multi-pitch climbs can be tricky. There you go – now you can prove that rock climbers can even dream of scaling mountains while they sleep!

Sleeping on a Portaledge

Portaledges provide a unique experience for rock climbers; suspended hundreds of feet above the ground they transport them to their dream world. Here’s a 6-step guide to sleeping on one:

  1. Set up your portaledges. Find a safe spot on the cliff and use strong nylon ropes to secure them to anchor points.
  2. Create a comfortable sleeping environment. Put a sleeping bag and pad on the portaledge. Use bungee cords or webbing straps to secure them.
  3. Organize your gear. Set up gear loops or pockets on the ledge for easy access during the night.
  4. Safety first. Attach yourself securely using harnesses and helmets, to prevent accidental falls.
  5. Enjoy peaceful slumber. Relax and trust your setup, listening to nature’s sounds as you drift off.
  6. Wake up with a view. Witness stunning sunrise vistas before embarking on another day of climbing.

Portaledge camping lets climbers rest in nature’s splendor, offering an unmatched sense of serenity and adventure. I experienced this first hand while climbing El Capitan in Yosemite – snoozing blissfully on my portaledges after long days of scaling cliffs. Clinging to these ingenious contraptions made me feel invincible and connected with nature like never before.

Pros and Cons of Using a Portaledge

Using a portaledge for rock climbing has its benefits and drawbacks. Let’s explore them!

Pros and Cons of Using a Portaledge:

Offers comfy sleeping areaHeavy & bulky to carry
Protection from the elementsHard to set up & pack
Allows climbers to rest during climbsLimited space on the ledge
Reduces risk of fallingExpensive to purchase
Enables multi-day climbsNeeds extra equipment

Climbers enjoy the unique experience of using a portaledge. Being suspended high above, they witness stunning views that few get to see. It adds an extra layer of adventure to their journey.

Alex had a memorable experience on his multi-day climb in Yosemite National Park. He used a portaledge for rest and shelter. At night, he felt both exhilarated and peaceful as he looked out at the starry sky, illuminated by his headlamp.

Using a portaledge has its pros and cons, yet it is an essential piece of gear for tackling big walls or embarking on long journeys. Climbers find comfort and security in their makeshift cliff cabanas as they conquer nature’s challenges. Like scaling Half Dome or conquering the Dawn Wall – where sleeping suspended high on the side of a mountain just beats counting sheep!

Popular Portaledges and Brands

Rock climbers must have the right gear. A portaledge is a mountain-side tent. Brands offer different portaledges, each with unique features. Here’s a list of popular portaledges and their brands:

  • Black Diamond – Fitzroy, Zion, Cliff Cabana
  • Metolius – Bomb Shelter, Portalledge
  • Trango – Big Wall Classic
  • Fish – A5 Double

The Cliff Cabana from Black Diamond is great for multi-day climbs. It’s built with strong nylon fabric and a single-point attachment system.

Some climbers prefer to sleep in hammocks over tents or portaledges. This allows them to rest comfortably while keeping their gear nearby. Climbers can enjoy multi-pitch ascents, just like on the Dawn Wall, with only a headlamp illuminating the way.


Rock climbers use portaledges for sleep. They’re tents designed to hang on cliffs. Nylon and a single-point suspension system make them safe and comfy. Climbers often use headlamps in their portaledges, creating an otherworldly scene.

The idea of portaledges started in the early days of big wall climbing in Yosemite. People sought solutions for resting on vertical faces. Nowadays, they’re a must for multi-pitch ascents. These shelters allow climbers to push their limits while still finding comfort.

Royal Robbins was the first to use hammocks on Half Dome’s northwest face in 1961. This concept evolved into sturdier platforms. Companies like Black Diamond now make high-quality portaledges. They revolutionize how climbers climb multi-day routes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a portaledge?

A portaledge is a type of tent specifically designed for rock climbers to sleep on while hanging on the side of a mountain. It is essentially a small, portable platform that is suspended from a single-point anchor system, allowing climbers to rest and sleep during multi-day climbs.

Q: How do rock climbers set up a portaledge?

To set up a portaledge, climbers first find a suitable spot on the side of a cliff. They establish a reliable single-point anchor and then attach the portaledge to the anchor using ropes and carabiners. Once the portaledge is secure, climbers can unfold it and set up sleeping bags and other gear inside.

Q: Are portaledges safe?

When properly set up and used, portaledges are considered safe for rock climbers. They are designed to withstand the weight and movement of climbers, providing a stable and secure sleeping platform. However, climbers must ensure proper setup, regular inspections, and adherence to safety guidelines to mitigate any risks associated with sleeping on a portaledge.

Q: Can portaledges be used in all types of climbing?

While portaledges are commonly used in big wall climbing and alpine climbing, they may not be suitable or necessary for every type of climb. Multi-day climbs on large cliffs like El Capitan in Yosemite or Half Dome often require portaledges. However, shorter multi-pitch climbs or free soloing may not require the use of a portaledge.

Q: What are some popular brands that manufacture portaledges?

Several reputable brands manufacture portaledges, including Black Diamond, Cliff Cabana, and Dawn Wall. These brands specialize in producing high-quality climbing gear, including nylon portaledges that are durable and reliable for the unique needs of rock climbers.

Q: Is sleeping on a portaledge comfortable?

While sleeping on a portaledge may not be as comfortable as a traditional bed, it provides climbers with a secure and relatively comfortable resting place on the side of a cliff. Most climbers use sleeping pads and sleeping bags for added comfort, and some climbers even hang hammocks inside their portaledges to enhance relaxation during multi-day climbs.

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About the Author

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, climbing, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while.

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley


Know Nothing Nomads

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