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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Low condensation resistance, splashback can hit mesh walls in some situations, door and vestibule closures could be better
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 this tent for your backpacking season, 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.
RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking tents
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Because it is a single wall tarp tent, there is not much room for adaptability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Other Versions and Accessories
Tarptent by Henry Shires makes many different tarptent type shelters for all shapes and sizes. They are all made from quality materials, and most seem to suffer from the same drawbacks of finicky set-up and condensation as the Double Rainbow – but all have the same appeal of a simple, lightweight backpacking shelter.
For a solo outing, the Tarptent Rainbow is the single person version of this tent.
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.
For added protection under the tent, we recommend buying a sheet of Tyvek and using it as a lightweight, durable, and inexpensive ground cloth alternative. Consider upgrading the tent stakes to the Easton Nano Tent Stakes or the MSR Carbon Core Tent Stakes.
— Jessica Haist
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 22, 2015
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