Vertical Camping – Do’s and Don’ts of Extreme Camping

Camping is an activity that everyone can easily enjoy and is primarily cheap and healthy. Nevertheless, many people can be reluctant to go with camping experience due to their lack of experience with camping activity. 

Camping can be as rural and adventurous as one likes. If you are a newbie, camping is also a safe and fun way to spend a weekend in the neighboring areas and holidays abroad, near the sea or lakes, and in the hills and mountains. 

Vertical Camping vs Regular Camping

When most people think of camping, something akin to Yosemite Valley’s Upper Pines Campground probably comes to mind. There are paved roads, pull-in sites, sites with electricity, and places near a bathroom with showers, or, at the very least, a pit toilet. The sites are close together but not too close, and most sites offer enough coverage to feel like you are secluded without being alone. 

Regular camping is an outdoor activity that involves overnight stays away from home, either without shelter or using basic shelters such as a tent or a recreational vehicle. Camping became popular among elites in the early 20th century as a recreational activity. With time, it grew in popularity among other socioeconomic classes. Modern campers frequent publicly owned natural resources such as national and state parks, wilderness areas, and commercial campgrounds. 

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Vertical Camping Do’s 


Each climber has their separate haul bag

It is mostly preferred to choose the Metolius Half Dome, about 125 liters. If you are a little taller, you can get the next size up, which is only a little bit more in cost and weight. 

Organize your bag

It would be best if you minimized rummaging around in the bag during the day when you are climbing. Before you leave your bivy in the morning, pull out items you think you might need to access during the day and keep those handy. This might include snacks, water, lip balm, sunscreen, wind shell, warm hat, visor cap, and camera/phone. Keep these in a wall bucket or sturdy small big wall bag hanging outside the haul bag on a gear tether cord. 

Comprehensive clothing list 

All fleece and synthetic; no down, no cotton. This should be kept in two separate large Metolius Big Wall Stuff sacks. These bags are stout, have nice clip-in points, are reasonably inexpensive, and best of all, made in Oregon USA. 

Organize your core equipment into five different color-coded stuff sacks

Clothing (2 sacks), kitchen, food, personal care, and technology. This makes pulling out exactly what you need from the bottom of the haul bag a lot easier. 

Have a Personal care bag

Mostly small stuff to deal with the constant dings and cuts that will happen to your fingers. Athletic tape, Advil, sunscreen, hand lotion, earplugs, unscented baby wipes, and paper towels instead of toilet paper. A little bag balm underneath a Band-Aid can help heal your hands overnight. 

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Vertical Camping Dont’s

Do not Roll Off a Portaledge

Sleeping 2,000 feet up the side of a wall is one thing, but the prospect of sleeping with someone else next to you, potentially a kicker or a sleep shifter, is entirely another. That said, the safety geniuses in charge of constructing portaledges are the same ones who recommended that climbers using them still be harnessed up and attached to the wall via a primary anchor.  

Using the bathroom while vertical camping is complicated 

The most challenging thing about the vertical camping process is managing your biological processes. While it may be close to impossible to imagine being able to safely and cleanly go #1 or #2 thousands of feet in the air, it has been done, and with much success. General principles for going to the bathroom while vertical camping are the same as backpacking in high-trafficking areas.  

Perhaps the scariest thing about vertical camping is the gear

Just like with traditional rope climbing, the trust you place in your gear while vertical is extreme. When you are lying on a portaledge over 2,000 feet in the air, you are probably not going to want to have doubts about the ledge you have chosen for your multi-day climbing expedition. The gear you would bring on a single pitch climb do not differ all that much, with a few major exceptions: 

  • Portaledge 
  • Extra food/water 
  • Waste containers 
  • Toiletry items 

The portaledge should be tightly hanged so that it does not fall off

The terrifying part about vertical camping is that some deaths have been reported from this activity. So it is advised not to take your young children along for the same. 

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Should You Try It?

Vertical Camping 2

You can try it, but you will need to be a very experienced climber first. Also, you will need to buy or rent the appropriate equipment. But if you are looking for a unique and breathtaking vantage point from your tent door, you could not beat vertical camping. 

As far as safety goes, most portaledges are built with airline-grade metals and parts and are constructed to operate efficiently from their center point of tension. While safety rating on portaledges is extremely high, all climbers should remain harnessed to the primary anchor, even while resting in the portaledge. 


So, hanging suspended by a portaledge in the middle of a 3,000-foot rock-face seems like an acrophobic’s nightmare, but it is not as terrifying as it looks to be. Maybe it is for an average person, but for experienced climbers, it can be quite relaxing.  

Since the tread and grind of a multi-day climb are so exhausting, many climbers report loving the experience of vertical camping, both for the feeling of being secluded high up on a wall and for the spectacular views of the night sky and scenery in the surrounding area. Not to mention the good night’s sleep that often awaits climbers after a day spent on the wall. Mountain and cliff sides are guaranteed to have a little light pollution, meaning that if you camp on a clear night you will have an incredible panoramic view of the sparkling night sky from your bed, with no trees or tent ceilings to get in the way.  

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Donald Miller

Hi, I am Donald Miller. I love spending time outdoors backpacking and camping with my family and friends. I enjoy writing about my experiences and sharing them with others through my blog at It's great to meet you!