REPOST - OWNER REVIEW - Bibler Bombshelter
Also reposted to the Test folder. I addressed each of your
Variation from listed dimensions. The difference in vesti length was
likely due to rounding and angle of pitch when I measured. I didn't
think it was noteworthy.
Capacity. Yes, four ultralight Thermarests fit exactly, from one wall
to the next, and if four campers used mummy bags and didn't move at
all when asleep there would only be minor inconveniences until one had
to use the loo. I tested the tent once (strictly for science) with two
couples, each in a "coupled" double bag, and yes we fit but it wasn't
comfortable and just seemed overcrowded. I don't doubt it can be done;
Bibler wouldn't adtertise it as a four-man tent if it hadn't been done
under very tough conditions. But four's too cramped for me.
Formatting the table. I don't undertand what you want me to do -
center the text in the two right colums?
OWNER REVIEW BIBLER BOMBSHELTER
September 25, 2005
Product: Bibler Bombshelter mountaineering tent
Manufacturer: Bibler Tents (Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. acquired
Bibler subsequently to my purchase.)
Year of manufacture: 1990
Year of Purchase: 1990
URL www.bdel.com (Bibler tents are still accessible directly at
Item Weight listed* Weight - measured
All-in (Tent, poles, stakes, stuff sacks, guy lines) 9 lb 12 oz*
(4.4 kg) 9 lb 6 oz (4.25 kg)
Tent and large stuff sack** not listed 6 lb 4 oz (2.84 kg)
Poles, stakes, and small stuffsack** not listed 3 lb 2 oz
Ground cloth 12 oz (335 g) 10 oz (280 g)
Pocket Pal (see review) 2 oz (57 g) 2 oz (57 g)
*These are weights listed in September 2005 on the Black Diamond
website. Listed weight includes seam sealer, syringe, instructions,
and packing. Tent and poles are listed at 8 lb 13 oz (4 kg). I
bought the tent in 1990 and it is likely that listed weight has
changed slightly since then. See review, last section.
**The best way to divide the tent between two backpackers is to have
one take the tent body and groundsheet and the other take the poles
Dimension Listed Measured
Tent body length 90 in (2.3 m) 89 in (2.3 m)
Tent body width 80 in (2.0 m) 80 in (2.0 m)
Tent body height (at peak) 44 in (1.12 m) 45 in (1.14 m)
Front vestibule (trapezoidal) length (tent door to vesti door) 35 in
(90 cm) 33 in (85 cm)
Rear vestibule (triangular) length (tent door to vesti door) 21 in
(54 cm) 20 in (52 cm)
Packed size not listed With poles, stakes, groundsheet and
small repair kit: 10 x 21 x 6 in (25 x 53 x 15 cm)Tent, groundsheet,
and repair kit: 10 x 21 x 4 in (25 x 53 x 10 cm)Poles and stakes
only**: 20 x 5 x 3 in (51 x 13 x 8 cm)
Floor area: Tent 50 sq ft (4.6 m2); total vestibule space (two
vestibules) 20 sq ft (1.9 m2)
MSRP: Tent $799; ground cloth $49.95. (All dollar figures are U.S.
dollars.) These are 2005 prices. When I bought the tent in 1990,
list price for the tent was $995.
Color: Yellow. Once available in Bibler's signature green, but Black
Diamond's website now lists only yellow. It can today be purchased
with regular or fire retardant fabric.
Includes: Five shock-corded Easton aluminum poles, twelve stakes,
separate stuff sacks for tent and poles, extra guy lines, and a
syringe and tube of seam sealer.
The Bombshelter is a two-door, dome style, single wall, four-season
tent designed and marketed for extreme conditions. (When I bought
mine, Bibler's advertising blurb began "Denali? Been There. Everest?
Done that.") The tent body is ToddTex, a proprietary waterproof and
breathable PTFE fabric named after tent icon and company founder Todd
Bibler. The floor is black heavy-duty laminated polyurethane that has
one seam and extends two inches (5 cm) up the walls. There's a door
at each end (front door is slightly larger), each with two separately
double-zippered panels: no-see-um netting on the outside and fabric on
the inside. Separate hook-and-loop tie-offs at the side of each tent
door may be used to keep an opened door out of harm's way.
There are four staking loops along each sidewall. The optional ground
cloth has loops of nylon twine that are threaded through the corner
staking loops. Each sidewall has a three-point guy line (two points
attached to tent wall) that can be staked out for added stability.
Loops of reflective material on each corner of the tent body can also
be used for guy lines and BD supplies guy rope for this purpose.
Two attached vestibules are made of grey treated polyurethane (lighter
weight than the floor). The front vestibule is hooped with a pole and
has two stakeout points; the triangular rear vestibule has no pole and
a single stakeout point. The fabric overlaps at the top of each
vestibule, creating a small vent at the top, with the front vent
reinforced with a thin wire hoop. Each vestibule has a fabric door
with double zippers.
The vestibules give the tent something of a tunnel or bunker look
(maybe that's how the tent got its name) when viewed from outside, but
with a 45 in (1.14 m) ceiling and high sidewall angles even a tall
adult like me can sit up naturally inside.
SETUP and TAKEDOWN
It took me several trial runs at home and some frustrating experience
on the trail to get the hang of pitching the Bombshelter, but once
learned it's not difficult and can be completed quickly by two
All Bibler tents use interior poles and, since the Bombshelter's
vestibules are attached (not standard on all Bibler tents), it must be
set up from the inside. In wet conditions two (or one, just takes
longer) can pitch the tent with each sitting inside but keeping feet
with snowy boots in a vestibule. There are no pole sleeves; the
proper track for the poles is shown by "twist ties," nine flexible
plastic fasteners on the tent walls and ceiling that when cinched hold
the poles in place.
After assembling all five poles, with the four long four poles (all
the same length) inserted through a tent door, we set two into
grommets in the tent's corners so that the poles extend from corner to
corner diagonally, crisscrossing at the top of the canopy. The third
pole ends fit into small sleeves on the sidewalls, at the base of the
tent one-third of the way from the rear door, and the arched pole is
canted forward. The fourth pole fits into small sleeves one-third of
the way from the front door and is similarly canted back. The third
and fourth poles thus have an inverted U-shape, with the peak of the
arch secured by a twist tie just above the top of a tent door.
The poles fit very tightly and require some manipulation (particularly
of the third and fourth poles) in order to get them seated properly.
Fifteen years of bending the poles has made an exact fit difficult but
the tent is stable if we can cinch the ties at each of the seven
points where poles intersect.
After setting up and staking the tent and rear vestibule, I set the
fifth pole (shorter than the others) to complete the front vestibule
by placing the ends in grommets on each side near the tent door
(another tight fit), canting it forward, and securing it with Velcro
ties on the vestibule ceiling, just above the vestibule door. I then
stake out the front vestibule and the guy lines.
Striking and storing the tent are most efficiently accomplished by
proceeding in the following order. With the tent doors zipped open, I
first remove the poles, then the stakes. If it's windy, I leave one
corner stake on the windward side. I then fold the vestibules over
the tent body, making a large rectangle. This I fold in half
longitudinally twice, leaving a rectangle approximately 90 by 20
inches (2.3 m x 50 cm), with the underside of the tent floor on the
outside. I carefully roll this up from front to back, compressing the
folds with my knees as I do so. If tent and groundsheet are folded in
this manner both fit easily into the main stuff sack with room to add
the separate stuff sack with stakes and poles, and a small repair
kit. Random stuffing and all won't fit.
Field Conditions. The Bombshelter is my winter tent. I have used it
occasionally in other seasons, when I need shelter for three (more on
this below), when weight isn't a special concern (the occasional canoe
or stock-supported trip), or when I expect heavy weather. Short of
climbing conditions, this tent has been through it all. Normal winter
nights in the Rockies mean temperatures down to 0 F (-18 C) or lower,
and I have used this tent several times at -25 F (-32 C). It kept our
group dry in an eighteen-hour winter blizzard in the Sangre de Cristos
Mountains, Colorado, and has stood up to ferocious winds in all
seasons. The worst beating the tent took came in summer from repeated
thunderstorms in Alaska Basin, Wyoming. This area is relatively
exposed and the Big Rock immediately to the east, popularly known as
the Grand Teton, wouldn't let the storm pass through. For two days we
were bombarded with heavy rain and at one point with marble-sized
hailstones. The taut pitch and fabric strength of the Bombshelter
handled all this and the attendant windborne debris without a
Features. For organized storage there's a small net pocket in each
corner, just above the floor section, ideal for small items like a
flashlight or sunglasses. I often supplement this with a "Pocket
Pal," a six-pocketed mesh panel ($19.95 from BD) that extends along
one wall and ties onto the tent poles. BD also sells ($15.95) a
small "attic" that can be attached to the poles for additional storage
at the top of the tent. The interior poles make it easy to hang a
lantern or tie a clothesline inside the tent.
Capacity. Three adult backpackers with winter kit is a crowded but
workable fit, at least in an emergency, as I discovered early in the
tent's career on the Sangre de Christos trip when two fellow
travelers' tent collapsed under the weight of snow and one had to
share shelter with us. I never plan to use the Bombshelter for more
than two in winter though. The tent is spacious for two; packs can be
stored in the smaller rear vestibule and the front vestibule used for
smaller items and cooking. With packs outside in summer and fall this
tent accommodates three adults comfortably.
All of this is somewhat amusing since BD sells the Bombshelter as a
four-person tent. I tried it once (in summer, with three adults and a
twelve-year old boy) with no large pieces of gear in the tent, and all
participants still complained of overcrowding. Do the arithmetic:
twenty inches' (51 cm) width per person makes for tight quarters.
This tent was designed for serious mountaineering. All I can say is
that four adult climbers who live in the Bombshelter, with all their
equipment, will give new meaning to the expression "cheek by jowl."
However, if used for four the tent is lightweight by any standard.
Speaking of weight, when I bought this tent its single-wall
construction placed it near the lightweight end of the spectrum for
all three-person tents and particularly for those suitable for four-
season use. For summer backpacking there are today significantly
lighter weight options, including full (i.e, sewn-in floor) tents,
from reputable manufacturers, though the Bombshelter still holds its
own in the four-season category.
I've never liked cooking inside a tent, but have used the
Bombshelter's front vestibule for that purpose.
Protection. Though seam-taped at the factory, Bibler recommends seam
sealing and provides a syringe and tube of sealer with the tent.
ToddTex has made me a lifetime single-wall proponent. At very low
temperatures (well below 0 F, -18 C) it can lose some of its ability
to breathe and the poles will then accumulate minor amounts of frost,
but the only water on the tent body is what occupants have brought in
on their clothes or gear. With the single wall, wet things that are
brought in dry faster. Snug and dry in all weather, immovable, and
with no rainfly flapping in the wind much quieter than a double-wall
tent. Ventilation is not a problem in summer because I can leave the
vestibule doors open without fear of rain into the tent even with only
the screened doors closed.
Durability and Maintenance. The Bombshelter is as tough a backpacking
tent as I have ever owned or used. I've never had to treat the tent
fabric, and the only patching I've done over fifteen years is to
repair the consequences of my own carelessness with sharp objects. I
re-sealed the seams a few years ago strictly as preventive
maintenance. After extended use I wash the tent with mild soapy water
and dry it outdoors or treat it with an anti-mildew product such as
What I like
Bombproof (It really is a bombshelter.)
Single wall (Saves weight, easier and faster to pitch, quieter in the
wind, dries quickly in the sun.)
No condensation on inside tent walls
Built in vestibules (Clip-on vestibules on other Bibler tents are
difficult (when wearing gloves, impossible) to attach (see my review
of the Ahwahnee) and I consider a vestibule a necessity on a winter
Design (There's no wasted space inside. Snow slides right off the
Customer service (BD employees are friendly and helpful over the
phone, with all products the company sells.)
Bibler/BD's claim of four-person capacity.
Vestibule pole is fastened with Velcro instead of twist ties (Much
more difficult to manage when wearing mittens, and not as reliable.)
Vestibule doors have no tie-offs.
Large footprint for a two-person tent.
Today's Bombshelter looks much the same as the one I bought fifteen
years ago. That doesn't mean the tent hasn't been improved. BD is
constantly tweaking the tiniest details to improve its tents and bivy
shelters. Once upon a time the tent poles were held in place by
strips of material tied together with Velcro. BD replaced that with
the twist ties, which are both easier to fasten and more reliable.
Today's hook-and-loop fasteners for the doors are adjustable, using a
movable toggle (similar to those used on a jacket or backpack). If a
bright idea or new technology improves a tent, after proper testing it
becomes standard equipment. If Bibler got it right the first time
(e.g., ToddTex fabric, tent design), BD doesn't mess with success.
This philosophy and truly exceptional workmanship make any Bibler tent
The Bombshelter is a terrific all-season expedition and base camp
Male, 59 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.91 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Email address: rlyon AT gibsondunn DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA
I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the
Rockies since I moved to Texas in 1986. I do a weeklong trip every
summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine
terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13,000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base
camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my
share of forced marches too. Regardless of type of trip, I'll tote a
few extra pounds to have the camp conveniences I've come to expect.