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First Look: Black Diamond Sky Lounge
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First Look: Black Diamond Sky Lounge

By Ray Weigel - Posted Jun 05, 2002
Black Diamond Sky Lounge -- thumbA portaledge is to a mountain climber kind of what a porta-potty is to a construction worker. Both give a place to rest during a tough day, both can feel like an old friend in a time of need, and both need to be constructed well enough to trust with your life. Many know what a porta-potty is, but not everyone knows about the portaledge. It's the place climbers sleep when they're halfway up a mountain -- essentially, a very strong cot with straps secured to a central carabiner.

We recently looked at Black Diamond Equipment's Sky Lounge, a single-person portaledge designed with unique hinges on the tubes that make it fast and simple to set up and break down. Let's face it, that's key when you're strapped to the side of mountain a few thousand feet above the ground. The Sky Lounge is made for one person, but is capable of holding two in a pinch (although we don't recommend it), although they'd have to be cross-legged and couldn't move much. It's not big enough for two sleeping climbers, but is plently strong to give your climbing friend a short rest. It weighs 12 pounds, 5 ounces -- not the lightest portaledge on the side of the peak, but plenty strong.

The straps, fabric, and tubes of the Sky Lounge are durable throughout, which should make it last and keep you from plummeting out of the bottom. There's no way to tighten the fabric to the tube, so inevitably it'll start to sag someday. Some portaledges come with a third support bar underneath. This would have been a nice addition to the Sky Lounge, and would make it feel a little safer.

Unfortunately, the Sky Lounge doesn't come with a rain fly (a piece of fabric that fastens to the top of the portaledge) and cannot be made into a small tent without the purchase of a $280 rain fly. The seams of the Sky Lounge fly are taped, making the cover waterproof.To open the lounge, you situate yourself above the point where you're going to clamp the Sky Lounge to the rock wall. Clamp the bag and the portaledge to the side of the mountain so you don't inadvertently knock it off. Unlock the corners and the rest folds down, snapping open. All in all, it should take experienced climbers about 20 seconds to deploy.

Getting into the Sky Lounge is the hard part. It's a little scary at first, but with a bit of practice it shouldn't be too difficult. When you sit or lie down on the Sky Lounge, it feels just like sitting or lying down on a cot -- except you're strapped to the side of a mountain. It sags a bit in the center but is pretty comfortable overall. When the wind picks up, it feels like you're sleeping on a boat with waves lapping against the side.

What's missing?

Overall, the Black Diamond Sky Lounge is a sturdy, durable portaledge, though there are some things missing: a rain tarp and central support pole. If you're not an avid climber, this product isn't for you. You can pick up a perfectly good hammock for a lot less. As far as portaledges go, it's super easy to set up -- and on the side of the mountain, you're going to be glad it is.

Company: Black Diamond Equipment
Available: Now
Cost: $425

This article was originally posted April 11, 2002.

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