When it comes to lightening your pack weight in the transition to being a lightweight backpacker, your shelter setup is one of the places you can look to drop the most weight. Some traditional tents can weigh in at upwards of 5 or 6 pounds. This isn’t a big deal for car camping or the occasional weekend trip, but for thru-hikes and regular use, that kind of extra weight can really start to wear you down. Luckily, a large number of tent makers have taken notice of the overall trend in people willing to pay a little extra and give up a little comfort to shed weight. There are now quite a few one and two person options that weight less than three pounds.
To lighten a tent, manufacturers use lighter materials like silnylon or the more expensive cuben fiber to craft the body. They also use lighter weight poles, or in some cases, use no poles at all (your trekking poles provide the support). On one end of the lightweight tent spectrum, you have your conventional tent with a pole supported tent body and separate rain fly. On the other end of the spectrum you have a tarp shelter, that requires proper staking out, and the support of one or two trekking poles. The Tarptent Double Rainbow sits in the middle of the above listed lightweight spectrum, with a single wall construction supported by a single Easton shock cord pole.
I’ve used the Double Rainbow in all sorts of conditions, including hot and cold weather, thunderstorms, wind storms, and a two week thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. It’s safe to say I’ve put this tent through the wringer, and I’ll now put my experience with the tent into this comprehensive review.
Tent Specs and Overview:
- Sleeps: 2 (also sleeps two small dogs comfortably)
- Weight: 41 oz. / 1165g
- Width, Length, and Height: 50 in x 88 in x 43 in / 127 cm x 224 cm x 109 cm
- Floor Area: 29-36 sq ft / 2.7-3.3 sq m
- Stakes: Easton Nano Stakes 6 x 6″ stakes (replaced with MSR Groundhog Stakes)
- Packed Size: 18 x 4 in / 46 x 10 cm
- Price: $289, $25 for Carbon Pole (saves 2 oz), $30 for clip-in liner (4 oz)
The Tarptent Double Rainbow is a great tent to consider if you’re looking to make the jump to something more lightweight than you already have, or if you already have a lightweight tarp, and are looking for something with a little more space. The Double Rainbow fits two adults very comfortably, and has also accommodated my two small dogs with no problem. The weight and size of the Double Rainbow was perfect on the JMT. I barely noticed it in my pack, and the size and livability of the tent was a godsend during what seemed to be a never-ending conveyor of thunderstorms.
The Double Rainbow requires 6 stakes for a solid pitch, and is not free standing. You can use your trekking poles to make this tent free standing though. I’ll touch on this and a few other pitch configurations later in this review. This tent does not come with guylines, and as such, they are not included in the tent weight above. Adding additional stakes and guylines can add to the overall weight of the tent pretty quickly, so you’ll want to go light with these and only carry them when necessary.
This tent does not come seam sealed(taped). Tarptent can do this for you ($30), or you can buy the kit from them yourself ($6), and seam seal the tent in your backyard or local park.
Below you will find my review broken down into the following sections:
- Adjustments and Configurations
- Final Thoughts
The setup for the Double Rainbow is an absolute breeze, and can be done in a matter of minutes. Removing items from the bag, you’ll have the Easton shock-cord pole, the tent body, and your stakes. Start by selecting the right campsite, and lay out your tent where you’ll be pitching it. Threading the long single shock-cord pole through the yellow sleeve of the tent is a bit awkward at first, but quite easy once you get the hang of it. Hold the pole high and keep it at a 45 degree angle if it were the hypotenuse to you and the ground. *Be careful as you reach the midline of tent where you have the horizontal support, as the tip can get caught and punch a hole in the sleeve if you’re not paying attention. Silnylon is very durable for a lightweight fabric, but it’s still a good idea to be extra cautious.
Once you have the pole though the sleeve, you’ll need to tighten the belt adjuster to provide tension for the rainbow shape. I didn’t do this before staking on my first pitch, and the rainbow looked more like a dolphin head. This should be adjusted on both sides evenly in fair weather, or low on the windward side in windy conditions.
You’ll notice the yellow sleeve does not reach the tip of the pole, and there are a few inches of pole showing on each side. This is nice for ventilation, but not so great for dust (I’ll cover this more later). To remedy this, you can dig a hole so that the pole sits a few inches lower than the tent.
Once you have the pole through the yellow sleeve and have tightened the belt adjuster, it’s just a matter of staking out the four main corners. I like to start with two on the same side and leave a little bit of slack on the tie outs. I then stake the other side with a taught pitch, and walk back to the looser ends to tighten things up. From there, I stake out the vestibule doors, or set things up with the trekking pole porch look (I’ll describe this later). You can also use your trekking poles to employ the free standing mode by horizontaly placing them into the sleeves at each end.
*The Double Rainbow (and Tarptents in general) are hugely popular with thru-hikers, and I saw a ton on the JMT and PCT. One major fault I’ve seen (and done myself) lies with the single support pole. Stand back and make sure it’s perfectly straight before tightening things up. I saw a ton that were twisted and angled. This can lead to poles snapping.
I love my MSR groundhog stakes, but some areas can be really rocky, sandy, or have other ground conditions that aren’t agreeable to stakes. In these cases, grab a few big rocks and anchor yourself down. I do this even when it’s not really necessary, in case a storm blows in after I pitch.
Silnylon can relax a bit with time, so some evenings you may need to ratchet things down a bit after an hour or two to ensure a taut pitch.
After everything is staked out, the horizontal stabilizer can be adjusted to make things torsionally rigid and wind ready. This support is removable for packing, but I leave it on, as it rolls up very nicely.
To help with airflow and minimize condensation, there is a vent tab on each side of the tent that you can attach to a hook and allow for a breeze to keep things ventilated.
That’s pretty much it for the basic setup of the Double Rainbow. In the next section, I’ll talk a little more about the adjustments and configurations that are available.
Adjustments and Configurations:
The Double Rainbow setup allows for some customization depending on the conditions you’re camping in. This tent has two vestibules and two doors, which is great for two people. There are a few single door front entry lightweight tents on the market. I’m sure they’re fine for some people, but I can’t live like that. I need two doors when camping with two people.
The mesh zipper doors have elastic tabs so that you can tie them back, and the vestibule doors have Velcro tabs for the same purpose. You can see the mesh tabs in the picture below, and you can see the Velcro tabs in many of the pictures above.
The Double Rainbow has a bathtub floor that can be adjusted for different weather conditions. If it’s hot or you’re trying to minimize condensation, you can leave the floor unclipped to maximize airflow and ventilation. If you’re expecting rain, you can clip the tub floor up to minimize splashback.
Above, I showed pictures of the Double Rainbow in it’s standard pitch configuration. My favorite though, is the double porch mode…or in cold weather, what I like to call the double igloo.
To pitch the tent in this configuration, you’ll need 2 trekking poles, 2 stakes, and 2 guylines per door. The tent comes with loops attached which makes things really easy. Just slide them over your trekking pole tips and string out your guylines. It may take a few attempts to get things looking just right, but this is one awesome setup.
At first you may think the double porch mode is just to look really cool for pictures…and I won’t deny that! There are few practical reasons for this pitch configuration as well. I’ll list them below.
Ventilation: Condensation can be a real problem with single wall tents, especially in humid conditions next to water. The double porch pitch alleviates this issue by allowing a ton of air to flow though the body of the tent and keep condensation from building up.
I woke up more than a few times with a ton of condensation on the inside of this tent when pitched with closed doors. I did my best to wipe things down before packing it up to hit the trail, but a slight amount of moisture always remains. Configuring the tent in this set up allowed the tent to fully dry within 30 minutes of unpacking and setting up at each new site.
Space: Living out of a tent for a few weeks can be rough, there is no sugar coating that. One of the toughest aspects of tent living is feeling like there isn’t enough space to move around. It can also be really difficult to get in and out. The double porch solves this problem, by allowing easy access to the inside of the tent, as well as the vestibule space.
Rain Protection: In a heavy storm you’ll want to batten down the hatches, but for a light drizzle, it can be nice to watch the rain fall from inside. There are also times where the rain falls in hot conditions with max humidity, and to shut the tent doors is to lock yourslelf in a sauna. The double porch is perfect for these conditions as you can attach the “roof” cover to join the two door flaps and make for a fully enclosed patio. I met one guy in Tuolumne who carried two pieces of cut Tyvek with velcro to extend this all the way to the ends of the door. I’m going to do this for my tent now that I’m home from the JMT.
Relaxation: At the end of a long 20 mile day of hiking, it’s nice to sit back and relax at your campsite. Things can feel a bit cramped after a few days on the trail, so the extra space provided by the double porch set up comes in real handy when lounging around.
A Place To Dry Your Clothes: The final great thing about the double porch set up is that it acts as a clothes line. I’m not as good about washing clothes as I should be on thru-hikes, but when I do get around to washing things, it’s nice to have them dry quickly. I try to wash things early in the morning and have them attached to my pack during the day for maximum sun exposure. On days with rain and thunderstorms, this isn’t possible. Letting things air out and dry out on the multitude of lines is very helpful.
The livability of a tent is a key factor in most situations, but it becomes increasingly important on longer excursions. As you can see in the pictures below, the tent is large enough for two full size sleeping pads with extra space to store gear. There were a few nights on the JMT where it rained, and we slept with our packs inside. This worked pretty well for our packs, but puts your head/feet really close to or on the tent wall. I woke up really wet on these nights due to the condensation dripping on my head as it moved against the tent wall. That being said, I could have left my bag under the vestibule and taken my chances with the rain.
With no packs in the tent, there is tons of room. I’ve taken this tent on a few summit camping adventures with my two dogs, Isla and Lilly. As you can see in the photo below, they fit just fine.
There aren’t a lot of pockets or places to put things in the Double Rainbow, but there are two small mesh pockets on each side of the tent. This works well for a phone, wallet, or other small device.
I’ve used the Double Rainbow in rain, wind, and cold, and have found it to be a very solid 3 season tent. This tent sheds rain with no problem and is easy to configure to avoid splashback. We had a few thunderstorms on the JMT, and the vestibules and inside of the tent stayed dry each time.
A major perk of a single wall tent is that you can easily set it up in the rain without exposing the inside of the tent to any water. With a double wall, you have to pitch the mesh tent first, and then add the rain fly. This extra step can cause some problems in a downpour. It’s nice that this is not an issue on the Double Rainbow.
Bug protection for this tent is very good. I’m lucky to live in Southern California where mosquito aren’t really a big problem, but I got a huge dose of them on the John Muir Trail. The campsites of Deer Creek and Colby Meadow were both teeming with the mozzies, and this tent did a great job of keeping them out when the inside netting was fully zipped up. I’ve never had an issue with any other creep crawlies getting into the tent either, so it’s safe to say the Double Rainbow is secure on this point.
I used this tent at the summit of Mt. Baldy one night, and we had gusting winds up to 60 MPH. The tent is definitley wind worthy, and I saw no problems there. The one issue has to do with the way the bathtub floor clips in. The tub floor is designed very well for rain splashes, but not at all for dust blown wind. Dust can easily be blown up and through the tent, and it did. We woke up covered in dust, and our gear was completely covered as well. I know Tarptent makes some solid wall versions of some of their tents to prevent this from happening, and it would be nice to have this be an option for the Double Rainbow as well.
I’ve mentioned condensation quite a bit in this review, and it’s about what you would expect from a single wall tent. With a double wall tent, you can take the rainfly that’s covered in condensation and shake it out or hang dry it each day. That’s not an option for a single wall tent, so you need to be diligent about selecting the right tent site. I really don’t care about condensation too much, and would rather camp where it’s beautiful and not have my selection dictated by condensation. As such, I always have a microfiber towel ready in the morning to dry things off, and set up camp early enough in the evening each day to give time for any remaining moisture to evaporate before going to sleep.
The durability of the Double Rainbow has been very good so far. The tent body, tent pole, and floor are about as new as you could expect to see for around 20 nights of use. The stakes the tent came with weren’t very good and broke upon first use, so I replaced them with the MSR groundhogs. The tent bag is also very cheap, and has holes from only a few weeks of use. Since the tent itself is great, and it’s only the accessories that fell apart, I’m pretty happy. A new stuff sack and tent stakes were not that expensive to replace the originals. Still, it’s never good to see these things go to ribbons so early.
The Tarptent Double Rainbow is a great tent for anyone looking for a lightweight option to take with them for thru-hikes or weekend trips. It fits two people very comfortably, and handles just about any 3 season weather conditions the mountains can cook up. The only negatives I’ve found with this tent came with a windy dust storm, and with mornings full of condensation. These two issues are hardly a major problem in the grand scheme of things. The tent offers so many positives, that I give it my highest recommendation.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave me a comment and/or share your experience with the Double Rainbow!