Story by Chester Marler

A favorite piece of gear?  Near the top for me is my Bibler Eldorado tent, a four-season, two-person shelter that proved its worth on my first trip with it.  We were out for a six-day ski tour with below normal temperatures and significant snowfall.  The single wall, waterproof-breathable Eldorado collected negligible interior frost, and gave us very comfortable (even cozy) evenings.  But packing up each morning was the real test.  My previous double-wall tents always collected a thick coating of frost on the inside of the fly, especially during cold evenings. These tents gained weight as the days passed, and were a hassle to pack.

Chester with his beloved Bibler at the base of Pyramid Peak last winter.

The Eldorado ended all that. And at a little over four pounds, it’s lighter than any of my previous four-season tents yet gives better storm protection.  The single-wall laminate used is called ToddTex and is Bibler’s proprietary version of Gore-Tex. It’s a bit stiff and bulky to pack, but I solved that problem with a very lightweight compressor sack. Before I found the right compressor sack, I was wondering how I would find room in my pack for everything else I needed.

The tent’s second test was a very nasty, rainy night spent on a ski tour above Stehekin. A steady, all-night rain left the inside of the tent completely dry, with no noticeable condensation.  There is one caveat here: You must be diligent about venting the tent properly in both rainy or cold conditions.  Do this by keeping the top vents and the top of the front entrance open.

Another key to enjoying a Bibler is learning how to set it up.  Unlike most tents, its two poles are internal, and getting them into their corner pockets can be frustrating.  One might be tempted to lay the tent flat on the snow, crawl inside with the poles, and wrestle with the fabric until both poles are in place.  A simpler way is to place the opened tent over your head, with the entrance surrounding your feet, and insert the poles into position.  Not only is this easy, it keeps the inside of the tent dry even if you’re pitching it in a rainstorm—a nearly impossible proposition with a tent-fly combination.

A light, four-season tent gives me the freedom to ski a longer day before setting-up camp, eliminating the energy drain needed for digging a snow shelter, or the effort needed for building a more complex camp.  This is especially true for me because my style of winter travel (traverses) is to move camp each day.

Details, Details
The Bibler Eldorado ($575) with poles weighs 4 lbs 8 oz and is 87” long, 51 inches wide, and 43 inches high. Bibler’s I-Tent ($550) uses the same design but weighs 3 ounces less because it’s downsized (82” x 48” x 42”). These tents are self supporting and have numerous loops on the outside for guy lines to stabilize the shelter in severe winds. Because of their reduced weight, small footprint, ease of set-up/take-down, and strength, they are favored tents for high camps on the world’s highest peaks. Bibler tents are now produced and distributed by Black Diamond.

Integral Designs makes single-wall tents that are very similar to the Biblers. Integral Designs tents are made of Tegraltex (another proprietary laminate similar to Gore-Tex). The MK1 Lite ($500) weighs 3 lbs, 12 oz and is sized at 82” x 46” x 42” while the MK1-XL ($550) weighs 4 lbs, 12 oz and is sized at 86” x 46” x 39”. Like the Bibler tents, these shelters are self supporting, have many options for anchoring the tent in high-wind conditions, and have been used on countless big-mountain expeditions.

This post was originally published 1/20/09.

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