User Review: Bibler Fitzroy
Design: free standing rectangular dome
Ease of Setup: easy after the first
Weight: 6 pounds
Price Paid: way too much
This is essentially a winter tent. When you already have a three season tent, this is the tent for that other season. Like most specialized products it performs its specialized function well. The tent has mosquito netting but my experience is that it works best in temperatures where bugs are not present. In temperatures much above freezing I would recommend a traditional three season tent. The ventilation in this tent is not appropriate for warm weather. However for snow, ice, and wind the Fitzroy approaches the ideal tent.
Absolutely no stakes are required for it to be fully erected. The tent weighs six pounds. Its single skin design sheds high winds with remarkable silence compared to double wall designs. The zippers won't freeze. There is a small back door "just in case". It is excellent for one person and reasonable for two. Its yellow color transmits a lot of light into the tent. The tent sets up from the inside and does require some practice to set up. In the following commentary I will refer to 'cool weather' which is above zero degrees Fahrenheit and 'cold weather' which is below zero Fahrenheit.
This is a different kind of tent. The poles fit inside the tent and there is no rain fly. It is easiest to set up if there is no equipment in the tent but it is possible to crawl into the tent with all your gear and then set up the tent. The poles fit into metal reinforced fabric pockets in the tent corners and two fabric pockets on the each side of the tent. Look inside the tent to locate the heavy fabric pockets before assembling for the first time. If possible assemble all four poles outside. Insure poles are all the way together, otherwise damage to the poles will result. It is possible to assemble the poles inside the tent but care is required to insure the joints are fully together. In cool weather the shock cord in the poles works as expected. In cold weather the shock cord actually expands, becomes inflexible, and inhibits the joining of poles.
The black poles are used corner to diagonal corner and are installed first. The poles should follow the seams across the top of the tent. The gold poles come next. Install the poles and move them until they line up with the black tape seams inside the tent. Fasten all the tabs. This gives the tent strength. It is easy to tell if the black poles are fully joined. It is not so evident with the gold poles and special care is required.
Next insure the pole ends are still in place. In high winds orient the tent so a corner of the back (small door end) angles into the wind, and use several tie downs to secure the tent. An ice screw tie-down is good insurance if setting up on a lake. Now go out and help your friends set up their supposedly free standing tents (the tent is free standing, it's just the fly that takes six stakes!)
Take down in cool weather is simply a matter of removing and folding the poles and stuffing the tent. In cold weather it is entirely different. The poles will not come apart because the joints have frozen together. Remove the poles and warm and separate the joints one by one with warm body parts or very carefully over a warm heat source. The fabric of the tent will be stiff from frozen moisture and difficult to fold. It will be impossible to fit into the stuff sack. It is best to bring a larger stuff sack for this situation. In cold weather I use a ground cloth to keep the tent from freezing to the ground. Better to abuse the ground cloth than the tent's floor.
In The Field
If ice forms on the outside of the tent just shake it off. Condensation is less of a problem with this tent than with most others. In cool weather condensation forms on the poles and may run down them to form a puddle of water at the pole ends. I place a little wrap of cloth at the pole ends to hold the water. Wipe off any water on the poles prior to disassembly. In cold weather a little wisk broom is handy. Little hoarfrost spikes will grow from the surface of your sleeping bag and will need sweeping away. Cooking inside the tent in windy cold weather generates lots of water vapor but it will turn to a solid, ice, in seconds. The effects of condensation are not a real problem until its time to take down the tent.
The mosquito net on my Fitzroy tent was removable and has never been used. The door zipper has not yet frozen. The little back door is handy for scooping up snow for melting.
Headroom in much of the tent is sufficient to sit up straight with a little room to spare. I have had three people inside to play cards and swap lies for hours without feeling too crowded. ( "It's been dark for three hours and it's only eight o'clock?!"). My six foot four inch frame does not brush the ends of the tent but there is not much extra length in a winter sleeping bag.
The tent fabric hushes the sound of falling snow. In a three season tent falling snow makes a delightful quiet hissing sound that is absent with the Fitzroy tent. When the wind starts to blow the tight pitch of the tent tends to understate the intensity of the weather outside. The flapping fabric you hear will be on your companion's tent, not yours.