Is a single-wall tent a worthwhile investment?

I interested in purchasing a Bibler Fitzroy tent. Do you know anything about this tent, or have any experience with it? Is a single-wall tent breathable enough so as to alleviate condensation? Is it as easy to set up as they say? Willi Sussex, New Jersey

A: The Fitzroy ($699; is quite the tent—extremely strong and weatherproof. It's really an expedition/mountaineering tent for places where conditions are apt to be extreme and weight a key consideration. You don't specify what you'll be doing with the tent, but I wouldn't regard the Fitzroy as a backpacking tent. Not at that price, certainly.


I'm ambivalent about single-wall tents; at least, single-walls such as the Fitzroy, which use a PTFE-based fabric (similar to older Gore-Tex) to create a waterproof-breathable shelter. Some of my reticence has to do with the price, which is a result of the fact that this material is very expensive. Also, such a tent has to be somewhat over-engineered to compensate for the lack of a backup system like that offered by a fly/canopy combo (that said, Bibler's creations are absolutely bomb-proof when it comes to construction). They generally work as billed, keeping condensation to a reasonable minimum. But, when it's cold, a single-wall tent will often be colder than a double-wall tent (no trapped air layer between the two walls) and hotter when the sun is out (ditto).

Setup is another issue. The poles go inside the tent, so on the Fitzroy you have to crawl inside and thread the poles across the tent and into pockets into which the pole ends slot. With practice, it's perfectly doable. But if it's windy and dark, expect some thrashing around before the tent is up.

Finally, there's weight. The Fitzroy sleeps three and weighs just over six pounds, which is not bad. But that's without a vestibule, something most people think of as a key feature for extended mountaineering use. To add the optional vestibule increases the price by $125 and adds over a pound. At that point, you might be better off with a tent such as Marmot's Thor ($449;, which sleeps two and weighs about eight pounds.

More tents reviewed in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide.

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Filed To: Tents
Lead Photo: courtesy, Marmot
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