Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $275
Pros: Incredibly comfortable for its weight, strong in high winds, easiest tent to setup, can be pitched in freestanding mode.
Cons: Low condensation resistance, splashback can hit mesh walls in some situations, door and vestibule closures could be better.
Best Uses: Lightweight three-season trips.
The Tarptent Double Rainbow strikes an impressive balance between high performance and low price. This tent weighs 2 lb. 10 oz., is highly weather resistant, pitches super fast from the outside with a single pole, and has two door doors and two vestibules that make it comfortable for backpacking and camping. Best of all, this is the only sub three-pound tent we've tested that performs well in high winds. It's a true winner for people looking to go lightweight in exposed conditions and not sacrifice the luxury of two doors. Bonus: the Double Rainbow sells for only $275. It offers more performance than many tents that cost twice as much. All Tarptents are made in Seattle, WA and are only available directly from the manufacturer, often involving a multi-week delay in delivery. If you can get past the idea of waiting for a tent you won't be disappointed. Our top tent available from major retailers is the Hilleberg Anjan 2.
Check out our Backpacking Tent Review to see how this tent compares to the others tested.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Double Rainbow is a two door “tarptent.” A type of tent not to be confused with the company's name "Tarptent by Henry Shires." The Double Rainbow pitches from the outside and has a single-wall waterproof roof that suspends mesh netting walls and a waterproof floor. Of all 24 tents tested, this is the fastest and easiest to pitch. Just insert the single pole through the yellow sleeve and guy out the four corner points and the vestibules. Like Hilleberg tents, the Double Rainbow pitches from the outside; the inner tent stays much drier. Gone are the days of pitching an inner tent in the rain and hastily tossing the fly on top, unsuccessfully hoping that the inner tent stayed dry. It’s also possible to pitch the Double Rainbow in “self-supporting mode” by inserting two trekking poles into sleeves at either end. This feature is useful in rocky areas where it’s difficult to insert stakes or where there aren’t rocks or logs to substitute stakes. However, our testers rarely used this feature.
The Double Rainbow is remarkably livable for its weight. It has the third highest space-to-weight ratio of all tents tested, 30.5 sq. ft. of interior floor space, two 7.5 sq. ft. vestibules, and an impressive 43-inch peak height give two people enough space to enter reasonably easily and to sit up comfortably. There is significantly more interior volume and floor area than the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2, which weighs roughly the same amount. Instead of a tapered footprint, the Double Rainbow is rectangular, which leaves more space at the foot than many other light tents. The vestibules are small when compared with other two-door tents, but the total covered area is twice as much as tents that weigh a similar amount or less. There’s enough vestibule space to protect a backpack and shoes from the rain. Bonus: you can guy out one or both vestibules with trekking poles or sticks to create a "porch" with a view (see the two photos below). Two small side pockets stash nighttime essentials.
When the corners and vestibule are guyed out the Double Rainbow provides bomber protection in high winds, at least compared to the other backpacking tents tested here. Its slim design and single primary pole slice through wind very well. We pitched several of the lightest two-door tents side-by-side in a storm with 35mph-ish winds and the Double Rainbow stood strong while one of its neighbors, the MSR Carbon Reflex 2 (which also a single primary pole), broke a pole and ripped the fly. Both tents were pitched with the same stakes and guyed out in the same manner in the same soil and faced the same direction.
The Double Rainbow handles high winds very well. Others have successfully used it in 55mph-ish winds (click here to see video footage of a previous version with fewer guy points). The tent uses a silicone impregnated ripstop nylon that's stronger and more durable than the polyurethane coated fabrics found on the vast majority of other tents tested here. You need to seal the seams with McNett Sil Net or something similar. Six high quality 6" Easton Nano Nail stakes come included with the tent. These are the best stakes that come with any backpacking tent we've tested.
Weight and Packed Size
At 41.7 ounces the Double Rainbow is the lightest and most compact two-door tent we’ve tested. The simple single wall design strikes gold here because it allows you to go light and have the luxury of two doors, two vestibules and sitting space.
The Double Rainbow suffers from a few small drawbacks. Its single wall design is more prone to condensation than double wall tents and ultralight shelters. The tent is made in one single piece that cannot adapt to environmental conditions, such as campsites that don't allow an ideal pitch. The tents found in our Ultralight Tent Review are the most adaptable type of tent. In general, the Double Rainbow has a series of small features that would benefit from refinement but don’t seriously reduce its performance. For example, the zippers are small and hard to grab. We added pull cords. Velcro strips along the vestibule closure help to remove tension from the zippers, but we’ve found that clips or toggles are easier to use and are more secure. The vestibule doors rolls to the sides and are secured with two small strips of Velcro that are not as easy to use as the elasticized toggles found on many other tents. The mesh door closure would also benefit from an elasticized closure. As is the case with all ultralight two-person tents, the Double Rainbow has enough space for two 20" wide sleeping pads and a couple of inches of space on each side. Two broad shouldered strapping lads might consider a wider tent. Other tents with two doors offer slightly more interior space but they weigh 30 ounces more on average.
Hilleberg Kerlon 1200 and 1800 tents use pole sleeves that can accommodate two poles. Some users might find it useful if the Double Rainbow had the same feature. We might use it in areas with high winds and for remote basecamps where you hike in one or more days and camp in the same spot for several days. Or, similarly, the Double Rainbow could be offered with a stronger pole option (Easton makes many other excellent and very strong aluminum and carbon poles) that would allow you to carry one stronger pole. Although the Double Rainbow is already sturdy in high winds, we believe that some people would benefit from increased static strength.
On the whole, the Double Rainbow offers a stellar combination of low weight, weather resistance, and livability. A few tweaks to the smaller features would make it even better.
The Double Rainbow is well suited to anyone that wants to go lightweight without sacrificing the comfort of two doors and complete bug protection. This the closest any of the tents in our Backpacking Tent Review come to the lighter models found in our Ultralight Tent Review. Our testers much prefer the Double Rainbow to other lightweight two-door double tents like the Big Agnes Copper Spur. Among other reasons, the Double Rainbow is lighter and we felt safer in strong winds.
Price is where the Double Rainbow seals the deal. The tent only costs $275!
In comparison, the Terra Nova Solar Photon 2 costs nearly $200 more and only weighs ten ounces less.
A $30 four-ounce breathable nylon liner turns the Double Rainbow into a double wall tent. It sheds dripping condensation, adds warmth in the winter, and cools in the summer. See it here.
How To Get It
The Double Rainbow is not sold by major commercial or online retailers. You can order it from the manufacturer at www.tarptent.com/double-rainbow.html
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: June 6, 2014
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