Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $594 - $700 | Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros: Comfortable, stable, lots of pockets
Cons: Heavy, hard to set up
Best Uses: Overhanging big walls
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
This is a big, burly ledge with tons of features. It is very comfy and large, and has lots of cool pockets in which to stash stuff. It is a full size ledge so even tall people can relax in comfort and two people do not feel cramped. For all those features, it is very heavy and not the easiest ledge to set up. It is also expensive.
This portaledge gets five stars for comfort and features but three stars for weight and ease of setup. So overall we give it it four stars. It is an awesome ledge if you don't mind the weight and hassle of setting it up. We have not used the Metolius Bomb Shelter Double Ledge or the Fish Double Ledge so we can't compare them, but both are lighter.
We really prefer the weight and size of the Runout Customs Double Portaledge which has a similar design and weight to the old A5 double ledge. Hopefully Black Diamond will make a smaller version of Cliff Cabana without the spreader bar and pay attention to making it as light as reasonable.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This Black Diamond Cliff Cabana Double Portaledge has a ton of tricked out features. There is a big central clip-in point at the top, lots of pouches for stashing gear, daisy chains, dividers, and more. The ledge is easy to tighten so it will not sag much. The spreader bar keeps it from bowing out and it is sturdy enough for three people to hang out in without worry of crippling it. Once it is set up you are in heaven. It has a giant surface area for hanging out and sleeping in comfort. No cramped sardine feel here.
The main dislike is how heavy this is. That would be okay if Black Diamond also made a slightly lighter ledge for two people. but they don't. The fact that this is almost 20 pounds compared to an old A5 double that is 11.5 pounds makes it questionable whether you want to bring this on a lot of one and two-night routes. Normally I would recommend people taking a ledge on The Nose or Salathé during peak season so they can bivy where they want and avoid jam-ups at natural ledges. However, this ledge is too heavy for non-overhanging routes where you need to move fast and light. It's fine for really steep routes.
The other main dislike like is how much harder it is to put together than the old A5 Cliff Cabana. The tubes are not as easy to deal with and the spreader bar dangles around and gets in the way. It is quite a challenge for a single person to put it together at a hanging belay. So if you are going to be setting this up solo (which often happens if it is getting dark and your partner is taking forever on the lead), you need to practice a lot before you get to the wall. I've seen Tommy Caldwell set it up in under five minutes when he was working the first free ascent of El Capitan's Mescalito. So it is possible to get it dialed.
One minor dislike is that the bed has big holes at the corners. This means that when you have the Black Diamond Deluxe Cliff Cabana Double Fly, stuff is often falling under the bed where it is hard to get without getting out of the ledge. With the standard rainfly, if a coffee mug finds its way to the edge it will probably sail to the talus.
With any portaledge you MUST also have a rainsfly. Here Black Diamond offers two options: Black Diamond Simple Cliff Cabana Double Fly and Black Diamond Deluxe Cliff Cabana Double Fly ($450).
This is ideal for steep big walls with short approaches like the Southeast Face of El Capitan. On steep walls like that, the ledge's heaviness won't be as big a drag.
This ledge is $50 cheaper than its main competitor, the Metolius Bomb Shelter.
— Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 12, 2013
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