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Tarptent Double Rainbow Review


Backpacking Tent

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Best Buy Award
Price:   $289 List
Pros:  Incredibly comfortable for its weight, strong in high winds, 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
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Tarptent

Overview

The Double Rainbow has seen much fanfare and praise in the last few years, and we have definitely seen it and its Tarptent sisters on the trails a lot more lately. This summer was a chance to get out once again and re-evaluate the Double Rainbow head-to-head with its backpacking tent competitors. We still like the Double Rainbow and have awarded it our Best Buy Award because it strikes a unique balance between low weight and low cost, it is the most affordable tent under 3 pounds that we have used. It is an excellent value for a durable, extremely comfortable, lightweight shelter but it is not without its flaws. We think that its set-up is more finicky than it first appears, and are disappointed with how much condensation it accumulates on the interior

If you're interested in purchasing the Double Rainbow for your backpacking season, be aware that it is not sold by major commercial or online retailers. You can order it directly from the manufacturer. Make sure you order it with plenty of lead time as it comes from a small company that can only produce so much at once but we didn't have to wait for our order any longer than from a big retailer this year.

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Jessica Haist
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
November 22, 2015
A Double Rainbow, what does it mean??? We think the Double Rainbow means an outstanding price-to-weight ratio as well as quality materials and construction. However it can be difficult to set-up and can become less weather resistant due to user error.

Performance Comparison


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The Double Rainbow wins our Best Buy Award for its low price tag, livability and light weight.

Ease of Set-up


At first glance, the Double Rainbow appears very easy to set-up just feed the one pole through the sleeve and stake out the corners and doors, right? Wrong. We highly recommend reading the instructions before setting up your Double Rainbow. You do the things we mentioned, but you also have to tweak and clip the Tarptent to make sure that it will in fact be weather resistant. We made the mistake of not clipping the corner clips to the stake cords, and not clipping up the bathtub floor on the inside, and came back to our tent with pools of water in it after a rain storm. The Double Rainbow comes with 6 stakes and no extra guy line to reinforce it in strong winds.

Livability


We were pleasantly surprised how livable this tent is for its weight. It has the highest space-to-weight ratio of all the tents in this review. We like its non-tapered rectangular floor plan and double door/vestibule construction. The 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 easily and to sit up comfortably. There is significantly more interior volume and floor area than the in the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 or the Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL2. One downside is the measly little pocket on each side of the tent it is hardly big enough to fit a pair of sunglasses.

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While backpacking in the Alpine of the Sierra Nevada we used the Jetboil MiniMo to prepare simple dinners on backpacking trips. Seen here with the Tarptent Double Rainbow tent.

Weather Resistance


The Double Rainbow is less weather resistant the we initially thought. We pitched the Double Rainbow alongside a variety of other tents including The North Face Mica FL2 and the Marmot Limelight 2 in a serious wind and rain event with winds gusting between 35-40mph. We were disappointed when we returned to find the Double Rainbow completely blown over and the other tents standing and perfectly fine. We suspect this problem has to do with the stakes. The Tarptent's cylindrical shaped stakes do not seem to have as much purchase as the chevron shaped DAC stakes that Big Agnes uses, and the fact that they were driven into softer clay/dirt means they just pulled right out when put under pressure. We would recommend reinforcing your stakes with a large rock or making sure they're really in firm ground when pitching. Other than that we do think that the Double Rainbow's silicone impregnated materials are much stronger than other tents like the lightweight Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2.

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We were disappointed to come back to find the Double Rainbow had completely blown over in a blustery storm. We suspect that part of the problem was its single unstable center pole and the shape of its round stakes in soft ground. The other tents shown held strong in the same storm.

As we mentioned in the set-up section, in order for this shelter to be weather resistant it needs to be set up perfectly and all the clips on corners and inner walls need to be done up properly. The single wall roof and mesh vents at the ends could offer better protection against serious rainstorms. The mesh ends have elastic loops that create a minimalist 3-4" bathtub floor. We found that strong rain combined with compacted soil creates spashback that can hit the mesh wall, some of which can then enter onto the floor. To a large degree, it's possible to mitigate this problem be tightening the pole adjustment strap on the windward end of the tent that lowers the fly closer to the ground. The extent that splashback occurs depends heavily on campsite selection. As always, protected sites with soft, absorbent ground are best. You need to seal the seams with SilNet Silicone Seam Sealer or something similar.

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When the corners of the bathtub floor are not attached properly rain water can get in between the fly and mesh into the tent. The Double Rainbow's set up is not foolproof.

Another major problem with this single wall construction is that it is much more prone to condensation than a double wall tent that allows air to move more freely along the fly. We were disappointed that we woke up to significant condensation or frost on cooler mornings. We discovered that if we left the mesh unzipped there would be less condensation.

Adaptability


Because it is a single wall tarp tent, there is not much room for adaptability.

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The Double Rainbow in "self supporting" mode using a trekking pole when you can not stake the corners down.

You are able to pitch the Tarptent 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. We also like the way the Double Rainbow's vestibule awnings can be configured.

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The Double Rainbow is made in one single piece that cannot adapt to environmental conditions, such as campsites that don't allow an ideal pitch.

Durability


The Tarptent Double Rainbow is right up there with the Hilleberg Anjan 2 in terms of durability. Its silicone impregnated nylon materials are very strong and durable.

Weight and Packed Size


The Double Rainbow weighs in at 2 pounds, 10 ounces and is the third lightest tent in our review. It packs down relatively small, but is harder to stuff into a pack than most tents because its body has a small cross pole that is attached, so needs to be packed strategically.

Limitations


The Double Rainbow, though awesome, suffers from a few small drawbacks. As we mentioned, 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 roll 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.

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Tarptent Double Rainbow with the ZPacks Twin Quilt sleeping bag in Olympics National Park, WA. The vestibule awnings provides excellent wildlife viewing!

Best Application


We think the Double Rainbow is a great choice for any backpacking adventure. It would be perfect for dry, warm environments where condensation isn't as much as an issue, and it would have a chance to dry out more easily.

Value


The Double Rainbow is great value! Retailing for only $289, it wins our Best Buy award for its great space-to-weight ratio and its astounding price-to-weight ratio. This is the best value lightweight backpacking tent in our review, and is the least expensive fully enclosed tent under 3 pounds that we have used. If you are looking for a value car camping or tent for short backpacking trips, check out out other Best Buy winner, the luxurious and spacious REI Half Dome 2 Plus.

Conclusion


Although this review is not quite the love-fest of the previous Double Rainbow review, we think this shelter is a solid, comfortable, and lightweight option for a great price. We were disappointed in its performance in high winds and rain (although we admit there was probably some user error here); and the amount of condensation we experience. These problems can be solved by reading the set-up instructions and making sure your tent is staked down really securely. You can abate the condensation problem by opening the mesh, if you're willing to sacrifice bug protection.

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The Tarptent Double Rainbow's mesh walls and floor are connected to the single wall rainfly. Note the two vents and the cross pole that increases interior space.

How To Get It


The Double Rainbow is not sold by major commercial or online retailers. You can order it directly from Tarptent.

Other Versions and Accessories


Tarptent Rainbow
  • Cost - $ 260
  • Single person version of this tent

4oz Breathable Nylon Liner
  • Cost - $30
  • Only 4oz weight
  • Helps control condensation
  • Adds warmth in winter, helps cool in summer.

Tyvek
  • A lightweight, durable ground cloth alternative
  • Very inexpensive
Jessica Haist

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: February 19, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
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   Feb 19, 2016 - 01:48am
markskor · Backpacker · Mammoth Lakes
Avid backpacker Sierra…average 100 "bag nights" each season.
I have carried this tent the last 5 years - Thoughts:
The previous reviews mention wind durability issues. I feel that the main problem is/was user error as learning how to stake this out takes finesse - if done correctly, tent will withstand anything short of gale-force winds.
Review states not free-standing…yes, but all tents w/ a vestibule are also not free-standing either. Usually pitched using stakes/ one long arced pole provided - the trekking pole method works, but seldom utilized as stake method so easy.
Zipper sliders tend to fail after ~250 nights - replaced 3x - (new sliders free from Tarptent - just ask) already but as just replaced tent after 5 hard years, a new zipper configuration noticed.
The only problem (not yet mentioned) is the sun-through-silnylon issue. The glare of the sun (single wall) reminds me of a heat lamp - can be impossible to stay in tent on a hot day. Field fix is to think before pitching - pitch tent in shaded area works.
Another "issue" mentioned is ease of stuffing/storage. I find that taking short, top, beak, center-pole out makes stuffing away so much easier
IMHO, best tent available for the price…light and small but spacious inside…almost palatial!

markskor - Administrator, HighSerraTopix.com

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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 How to Choose the Best Tent for Backpacking

by Jessica Haist and Max Neale


Unbiased.