Read Before You Buy: Tarptent Double Rainbow Backpacking Tent Gear Review
Two summers ago, the Double Rainbow reached my hands. I had been planning on getting a lighter shelter for quite a while by then, and the choices were a bit overwhelming. I was going back and forth between various types of single and double-layered tents, trying to figure out what exact shape and size I can happily hike with.
If you are at the beginning of your backpacking shelter journey, you might be unsure what kind is good for you. I advise you to check out this article to see what options in camping shelters you have.
The weight is not everything: I wanted to make sure I was not only carrying a lightweight shelter but also, that I was comfortable inside. I hate the mere thought of any creepy-crawlies, so tarp was out of the game early on. I was considering the tiny tents, with footprint basically the size of my sleeping mat. But as much as it was tempting to have a tiny something weighing less than 0,7 kg for a shelter, I knew I liked to have all my gear (except for boots and cooking stuff) inside. I want to have room to move around, sit up, change my clothes with ease, find things quickly (by having it close by), etc. Do you want to see what gear I use? Click!
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After a lot of deliberations (and reading tons of online reviews), I decided to buy TarpTent's Double Rainbow. I went for a 2-person tent to have a lot of room inside. Not the lightest in the ultralight world but still half of my previous tent (Vango Blade 200).
I used it when I hiked in Quebec (camping on platforms, some rain), Iceland (sand and rocky terrain, winds, rain, cold temperatures), Crete (sand, rocks, gale-strength winds), Poland (winds), Norway (rocky terrain, thunderstorm, cold temperatures). When I combine all those trips together, I've been sleeping in the tent for over two months in very diverse circumstances.
Btw - my Mom, when she saw photos from my travels, said that the tents looks like a BASE jumper about to fly off or a flying squirrel. You won’t be able to unsee it now.
Tarptent Double Rainbow Review: The Specs
Here is the basic info from their website:
Weight: 42 oz / 1.2 kg
Height: 42 in / 107 cm
Floor width: 52 in / 132 cm
Floor length: 88 in / 224 cm
Stakes: 6 (included)
Packed size: 18 in x 4 in x 4 in / 46 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm
Tarptent Double Rainbow Review: Living in it
The tent feels really spacious inside. I'm a pretty average woman - 160cm tall, so I have a lot of room inside. I typically place my backpack in my feet (so I don't slide into the wall with my sleeping bag) and still have a lot of room in front of my head. I can sit up without touching the ceiling, and I can dress/undress without touching the walls.
The floor is made of a very slippery fabric, and it's advised to use silicon to make strips on it to prevent too much movement.
If the conditions are right, pitching takes me maybe 2-3 minutes. It's more if I struggle with staking it - on tough, rocky soil or if there is just a tiny spot and needs to be creative. Sometimes it takes a while if I need to go and find rocks to keep it down during strong winds. But generally - the pitching is a breeze with just one arch pole. There is really no way to get confused or mix up something. The only thing one needs to be careful about is how you insert the arch pole to not tear the fabric. When you reach the middle of the tent and the crossbar, be careful, and best adjust it, so the arch pole goes under.
The fact that the Double Rainbow is one wall tent makes pitching even easier.
There is a choice to make a "porch" on both sides of the tent with trekking poles or by tying the guylines to a tree or something similar. I really like this feature as it can be set up even when it rains, providing light and air flow.
The tent is not free standing, but if there is a need, it can be made self-standing with trekking poles. I tried it a few times when hiking in Quebec and camping on platforms. It was not easy - the poles kept falling out of the holds and were bending. But survived and I could sleep in a tent. Sometimes, when I had a chance, I used big rocks to hold the poles down.
It's worth to play around with the guy lines and various systems of tightening to see how your tent performs best.
Packing the tent down is a breeze. I still have the upper strut in and pack it together so the length of the package is about 46-48 cm, the package is pretty small I can stuff it in a side pocket of my backpacks. If you remove the crossbar, you can stuff the tent as you need. I wish the bag had some compression straps. I used an extra strap I had to make Xmas ham kind of a package, so it reins in the puffiness a bit. You can see the tent attached to the outside of my backpack on the photo below:
Tarptent Double Rainbow Review: Condensation and Ventilation
Single-walled tents are known to be at a heightened risk of condensation. I found the issue basically the same as in my previous double-wall tent with not as stellar ventilation. The tent's net is all around and provides excellent ventilation. I found the net at the front and back offer amazing ventilation, and the bathtub style floor can be hooked higher during heavy rain or when the wind is too strong. You can also buy an additional sheet to attach at the ceiling to help capture the condensation.
I always carry a small highly-absorbing sponge or towel for drying the tent, as the problem is not only condensation but also dew. After I dry most of the moisture, it dries really fast after that.
If it doesn't rain, you can roll the doors up and have a fantastic open tent with just net to protect you from any creepy crawlies. If you are unsure about leaving it open - just make the porch from the vestibule flaps, and it protects you very well from rain.
Tarptent Double Rainbow Review: Wind protection
I've had more than I would wish for opportunities to test my tent against winds. I think the strongest winds (gales, according to the weather forecast the strength was in the > 65 km/h range) I experienced when hiking and camping by the Cretan seashore. I used heavy rocks to keep it down but still wasn't sure if it survives - the wind made it bend all directions, shaking violently - but it survived without any harm.
After that, wind put the tent to test a few more times, and each time there was no issue. I just make sure I find some rocks to help with anchoring the shelter.
More of an issue when it's windy is sand that will find its way inside. Even with the floor hooked higher, with strong wind, there is no escape from dust.
Tarptent Double Rainbow Review: Rain protection
While I haven't had (thank goodness!) any experience with torrential rains, I survived many nights when it was raining, including even some thunderstorms. I was dry and happy inside it - there was nothing leaking or getting through, and the bathtub-like floor was also working fine.
When the vestibule flaps are guyed well, there is minimal risk of water getting in. You can adjust it to have as much space between earth and fabric as you want.
A word of caution: the tent does not come sealed, you need to do it yourself. When I was ordering it, I paid for the staff to seal it, as I would have no way to do it myself (and I wanted to make sure someone experienced did it).
The great thing with this shelter is, that you can have it open and cook in front of it even when it’s raining. Maybe not in heavy rains with strong winds, but when the rain is more or less vertical, there is no problem.
Tarptent Double Rainbow Review: Built Quality
I have found only one problem with the quality of the work done. On both sides of the tent, there are pockets to host the ends of the arch pole. Well, my tent came with one pocket all fine but the second unsewed on one side, so I can't use it. Most of the time it's not much of a problem - I stick the pole's end into the soil like a stake. When I was camping on a platform, it was a bit more of an issue, but I used a rock to push against it.
I also bought a set of stakes by MSR (groundhogs) as I found them sturdier and easier to use.
Other than that, the tent seems to be well done; there is no tearing, holes, nothing goes apart, etc. Moreover, I am not the most delicate when it gets to handling my gear.
When I come home after long trips, I wash the tent in my bathtub, rinse it thoroughly, dry it, and it's basically like new.
The floor fabric seems delicate, and I worry about its durability or resistance to sharp rocks or thorns. I didn't buy a separate footprint, and when I had to pitch over terrain with some barbs, I worried they would go through the floor and pierce my air mattress. I covered it with my flight-cover bag to protect it but not sure if there were no punctures on the floor. I might see next time I pitch over a muddy area...
The only thing that got a bit worn out is the big bag. I have it outside of my backpack so it probably got snugged on branches or scratched when threw the bag on rocks.
Tarptent Double Rainbow Review: Summary
What I like about the Tarptent Double Rainbow:
Its weight to size ratio - it's palatial for one hiker.
Good waterproofness and wind resistance
Ease of use, speedy pitching time
Versatility - depending on needs or conditions, can be pitched self-standing
Porch-like setup for the vestibule - fantastic for light rain, easy to cook under it.
Doors on both sides made entirely of net protect from insects and allow to admire the view
What I didn't like about the Tarptent Double Rainbow:
Not enough guylines - I needed to take my own to use for the vestibule
Stakes somewhat flimsy and delicate
Not checked properly for mistakes: I received my tent with a fault (too small to send it back, and anyway, I was going for a hiking trip almost right after I got it).
Quite slippery inside, even with a few silicon stripes
The floor seems very delicate, and one needs to take care when pitching on rocks or other sharp pieces. I will probably buy a footprint in the future for extra protection.
What other choices in shelters do you have?
If you look for other options of lightweight (max. 1,3 kg) 2 person tent, you have quite the choice. From Tarptent you have a few lighter but simpler in construction shelters, like the MoTrail, which weighs just under 1 kg and costs $259. You could also check out the newest version of the Double Rainbow - while the old one is made of 30d fabric, you have now the option to get one made of the ultra-light Dyneema.
Below you can see a few popular positions among lightweight 2-people tents.
For comparison, I remind you that Double Rainbow weighs 2.6 Ibs. (1.2 kg), provides 30.5 sq.f. of space and 42 in. of height, costing $299 (Nov. ’18).
Hilleberg Anjan 2
Weight: 4.65 Ibs.
Size: 30.01 sq.f.
Height: 39 in
Price: $ 785
Hyperlite Mountain Gear ECHO II Ultralight Shelter System
Weight: 1.81 Ibs.
Size: 24 sq.f.
Height: 41 in.
Price: $ 695
Learn more about this shelter at the manufacturer’s site - click the image on the left.