Sierra Designs--another of the California group of Pioneers (page 2 of 6)

Tents, Teepees, A-Frames and Geodesics




This author was always in love with this particular tent within the Sierra Designs tent line. He never owned one himself, but coveted the one his brother owned, and frequently took it on trips, such as a well-remembered one into the heart of the Grand Tetons. He especially remembers a camp on a high bench at the very head of Cascade Canyon, with the "Grand" itself leaping into the sky across the canyon, as beautifully framed by the wide door of the SD 3-Man tent each morning...To me, the 3-Man represented an imaginative fusion of the Native American Teepee with modern nylon and aluminum. It also represented a bold move away from the A-frame tent designs of the era..... In conversation with George Marks, it was not surprising that the 3-Man is a tent that Mr. Marks has thought of maybe bringing back in some form.

Sierra Designs Glacier Tent, another perennial favorite, a sturdy 2-person, high-altitude, four-season tent with all the frills. I receive pictures of treasured old Glacier tents with some regularity, such as this one from correspondent Brend P. in the Midwest.

Sierra Designs Geodesic tents, and tents using "Swift Clips"

During the late 70s and into the 80s, Sierra Designs left behind it's A-frame tents, following the industry's evolution in tent designs (as I have described elsewhere on this site, especially in my pages about the rise of the geodesic tent in the mid to late 70s). As described on that page, Bob Gillis of the Bay Area was an important figure, at various times showing his designs and working with North Face, Sierra Designs, and, later, Bob Swanson's Walrus tents. Probably more so than his geodesic designs per se, Gillis' designs for clips for attaching the tent body to the frame were a prime contribution to the evolution of modern lightweight tents. Click here for my page about the terrific Sierra Designs geodesic named the Tiros. Finally, here is a picture from Gillis' website, where he traces the evolution of his many designs. The picture dates from a period when, in his words, he was in a partnership with Bob Swanson; Gillis is on the left:


HISTORY OF GEAR BOOK SERIES--- as of 2017, there are now six books available, in both harcover, softcover and PDF versions -- Frostline Kits of Colorado; GERRY, To Live in the Mountains; Holubar Mountaineering, Ltd.; MSR, Defying Tradition; and Stephenson's Warmlite: Still Controversial After All These Years...... Get started by visiting my FROSTLINE PAGE .

Please Note: All Material above, and in all my "History of Gear" webpages, is copyrighted, and no usage of my material is permitted unless explicit permission is granted by me, Bruce B. Johnson, owner of Some of the material above is derived from interviews and correspondence with both George Marks and Bob Swanson, the co-founders of Sierra Designs. Readers: if you were involved with one of the old-line, vintage gear companies and have a story to tell in these pages, please contact me soon at


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On to Sierra Designs pages three through six

Main Page: Essays and pictures about the Pioneers of the Outdoor Gear Revolution, 1935-The Present, 50+ pages, five history of gear books published, and ever-growing!

Frostline Kits, Holubar's competitor in the kit market. The Founder of Frostline was an early employee/collaborator of Gerry Cunningham in Boulder!


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Page last revised 06/02/2023