The Tarptent Double Rainbow is a lightweight and versatile backpacking tent that's great for one or two people. We love its adaptability for a wide variety of camping styles and weather conditions. With the parts included in the bag, it can be pitched as a semi-freestanding shelter. With the addition of trekking poles, it can be fully freestanding. This tent is not without its drawbacks. Though there are plenty of ventilation options, the fly is integrated into the tent, that is, there is no way to remove it for stargazing. The bathtub floor is also low to the ground. However, overall, we think that the Double Rainbow offers solid durability at a great value.
Tarptent Double Rainbow Review
Cons: Low condensation resistance, small doors, tricky learn setup
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This tent offers a lot of unique design features that make it well-suited for longer backpacking trips. It also comes at a great value relative to its most-similar competitors, the NEMO Hornet Elite and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. Though we found it to be more challenging to set up than advertised, it is made of quality materials and proved to be a lifesaver when setting up in the rain.
This tent scores well for weight and packed size. Though its other metrics aren't tops in the group, there are still some admirable design features that make this tent a standout in each metric.
This tent is comfortable, especially for tall, skinny sleepers. Its 88-inch length is the longest of any sub-three-pound tent. We also like that it has a rectangular, non-tapered footprint. It has a fairly uniform height from door to door, which means that two people can more or less sit up at the same time without their heads bumping up too much against the ceiling. One oddity is that even though it has the same width and peak height dimensions as the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, it doesn't quite feel that way. In addition, if you install the optional condensation-resistant liner, it removes a couple of inches of functional headroom.
We love that it comes with two side doors and two vestibules. The vestibules are each 7.5 square feet, about the same size and shape as those on the NEMO Hornet Elite. They are large enough for most backpacks and a pair of boots, though you might have a strap or belt sticking out from underneath. If you open up the fly into the rainy-day-porch mode, the vestibule space is significantly more generous. The zippers on the doors are fairly verticle and then run close to the low-profile floor, making them a little more challenging to open while lying down than other tents with a more curved zipper. It is also worth noting that the doors open in opposite directions from each other, suggesting that sleepers are meant to orient head-to-toe.
Tents this light typically try to shave ounces by minimizing the number of gear storage pockets. The Doube Rainbow is no exception. It has two of them — one by each door. They can accommodate a small notebook or a phone, but nothing much larger.
Ease of Set-Up
The Double Rainbow is a little trickier to pitch than it initially appears. Its minimalist pole structure and unusual tent body design mean that it falls just outside the typical setup spectrum. We strongly recommend taking a look at the instructions before setting it up for the first time. The default mode requires the primary pole and supporting crossbar that respectively run the length and width of the tent. A stake at each corner and one in each vestibule provide the tension required to give this tent its volume. In practice, we found that it actually requires some restaking to achieve a proper pitch.
Alternatively, you can use two trekking poles in combination with the included poles to set it up as a freestanding tent. This can be a useful design feature if you find yourself on rocky or otherwise hard-to-stake ground. The downside to this configuration is that the trekking poles need to be at least 140cm long to fit in the sleeves at the corners of the tent (many models extend only up to 130cm). If you have two sets of poles, you can use the other to set up the 'rain porch', a feature that enables you to raise up the vestibules off of the ground and make a little outside shelter.
If you have purchased the optional ceiling liner, it requires some fine motor skills to install. Though there are weather conditions that certainly warrant using it, it makes setup take that much longer, and can be challenging to clip in if your fingers are already cold.
The Double Rainbow has decent weather resistance but still has its flaws. Its silnylon fly offers very good protection from precipitation. The zippers are fully waterproof, which is a nice addition, and the fly also runs down almost all the way to the ground to limit splashback. We found that the materials of the Double Rainbow are on the whole waterproof for longer and in heavier rain than almost any other model.
However, the tent doesn't come with any additional guyline, which is unfortunate because its minimalist pole structure can struggle in heavy winds. Its cylindrical stakes also pull out more easily than hex- or chevron-shaped ones. That combined with the fact that it requires a little more care to maximize the tension of the tent in the first place and you get a shelter that is prone to some subtle but potentially important user error. It has somewhat of a bathtub floor, with sides that rise about 5 inches off of the ground, but the zippers run so close to the ground that we still found that more leaf debris slid inside of the tent than in any other model.
Its single-wall ceiling construction also comes into play here. It's awesome that you can set up the tent in the rain without getting the interior wet. However, because there is no mesh canopy overhead, Tarptent had to solve for ventilation in other ways. There are mesh panels at both ends of the floor, which means that it is really important to make sure all of the interior clips of the waterproof portion are fastened to the wall to ensure that water doesn't flow in. You also need to seal the seams ahead of time with SilNet Silicone Seam Sealer or something similar.
There is a small vent in each vestibule. Each fly zipper can also be opened from the top and propped open. However, the most effective way to increase ventilation is to open up the fly completely. If you plan to camp in cooler temperatures and that's not an option, then we recommend purchasing the interior liner as well. This lightweight piece of white ripstop nylon attaches to clips on the inside of the fly. It creates a barrier of warmer air in cold weather (and keeps sunrays from directly penetrating the tent body in warmer weather), catches condensation, and prevents you from knocking tons of water onto you and your gear if you bump your head against the fly.
Compared to its lightweight counterparts, the Double Rainbow stacks up well. Its 30D silicon-coated fabric is on par with the NEMO Dragonfly 2, and is more substantial than the delicate NEMO Hornet Elite. It's a tradeoff between fabric durability and weight, which we think Tarptent balances well. We didn't have any issues with it during testing. The only strike against this tent is that it requires seam sealing prior to using it in order to ensure that it is fully waterproof.
Weight and Packed Size
This tent is a feathery 2 pounds, 10 ounces. As one of just a few sub-three-pound 2-person tents, it is truly exceptional in this metric.
It also manages a smaller packed size than its lightweight competitors. We tend to leave the tent bag at home and found the Double Rainbow to be highly stuffable. It loses some points because, with the integrated fly, the weight can't really be split between two people (not evenly, anyway). It also can't be packed in two separate sections of a pack, say, if the fly is soaking wet.
The Double Rainbow is a solid choice for the long-distance backpacker looking to reduce weight. Its single-wall design accumulates some moisture, so we would look elsewhere if the bulk of your camping is going to be done in say, the Cascades in September. However, overall it is an adaptable tent, so it would benefit those who see themselves camping on a variety of surfaces and weather conditions. People who feel comfortable with unusual features and atypical setup will enjoy this tent more.
We think that the Double Rainbow is an excellent value. It retails for around $300, which makes it much less expensive than either the NEMO Hornet Elite or the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. There are perhaps better, even less expensive options for car campers, but if longer, lighter trips are in your future, this tent is going to offer some of the most for the least.
We really like the adaptable features of this tent. It is comfortable, durable and light. Though the tent sometimes gives the impression that it was designed with a particular feature only because it needed to solve for the shortcomings of another, we still think that if you are confident in your camping skills, then this solid value is worthy of strong consideration.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch