Assorted "vertical camping" tips


Mark Hudon Is a Yosemite free climbing and big wall veteran. His systems are thoughtful, dialed, and generously explained both on his website and various online forums. The following collection of tips were mostly taken from a post on his website. You can read the entire thing at Here, I'm posting the ones that seem especially brilliant, but I encourage you to go to his site and read the whole article.

See related post - Portaledge set up - Top Tips

Each climber has their own separate haul bag. Mark likes 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. (Here's another post about had to choose a haulbag.)

You want to minimize rummaging around in the bag during the day when you’re 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 like a Fish Gear Beef Bag that hangs outside of the haul bag on gear tether cord.

Mark has a comprehensive clothing list, see his website for details. All fleece and synthetic; no down, no cotton. He keeps it all in two separate size large Metolius Big Wall Stuff sacks. These bags are stout, have a nice clip in points, are fairly inexpensive, and best of all made in Oregon USA.

Mark cleverly organizes his 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. (Any small item will migrate to the bottom of the bag unless it’s clipped to something or in a stuff sack.)

Personal care bag: Mostly small stuff to deal with the constant dings and cuts that are going to 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 really help heal your hands overnight.

Technology bag: Smart phone, maybe an iPod with a speaker, maybe a Kindle reader, all fully charged up, fully charged large size spare battery and charging cable, headlamp with spare battery, camera, 2 way radio.

Once your ledge is set up, bring all of your stuff sacks out of the haul bag and clip them to your ledge. You want everything close at hand and avoid burrowing in the bag more than necessary. You will need a lot of spare carabiners for this, so be sure and bring some. If you're feeling frugal, you might want to get some inexpensive keychain carabiners from eBay. They're not rated for climbing, but can certainly hold a stuff sack.

Everything needs a clip in point. If it doesn't have one, you're going to lose it. Plan this on the ground, and bring extra small diameter cord to improvise as needed. Bank line, a sort of heavy duty black twine rated to over 300 pounds, is an excellent choice for adding tie in loops.

Consider using a Metolius PAS or old school sewn daisy chain with pockets to help organize your belay. Having a confusing anchor cluster is stressful, because you are never quite sure what you can safely unclip. By using a dedicated sewn daisy chain(s) to clip things like rope bags, water bottles, etc, you can have a much cleaner and more manageable belay.

Once your ledge is set up, it's best to use a separate length of cord to tie your harness to the anchor, rather than the climbing rope itself. Just get about a 20 foot length of 8 mm cord that's only used to tie you to some solid point on the anchor once everything is set up. (You certainly don't need to use all 20 feet, but if you're at a larger ledge, you want to be able to freely move around.)

You generate a surprising amount of garbage on a big wall climb. You need a plan to deal with it. Having some sort of extra stout bag or stuff sack will be needed. It's easy to overlook this, ask me how I know.

Definitely do NOT bring a down sleeping bag, regardless of how sunny at the weather forecast might be.

Having a thin fleece sleeping bag liner gives warmth and feels great against your dirty skin, and having a bivy sack offers further moisture protection for your bag and makes it warmer.

If you’re warm and dry in your portaledge, do everything you possibly can to stay that way. Anything that gets wet on a big wall is probably going to stay that way for a while. That means not going outside into the rain to fix another pitch unless you absolutely have to.

Many modern ledges have flies with some rigging to keep them away from your face. If yours does not, bringing a tent pole that you can rig inside the fly can help push it away from you so you have a bit more room.

Speaking of staying dry in your ledge, bring a sponge to mop up spills, drips or condensation inside your tent fly.


Metolius Big Wall Stuff Sacks, perfect for organizing your vertical camping.