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Tarptent Double Rainbow Review

Top Pick Award
Price:   $289 List
Pros:  Incredibly comfortable for its weight, 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
Bottom line:  A great choice for all your backpacking trips for two.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Tarptent

Our Verdict

Receiving much fanfare and praise in the last few years, we have definitely seen the Double Rainbow and its Tarptent sisters on the trails a lot more lately. This spring was a chance to get out once again and re-evaluate the Double Rainbow head-to-head with its backpacking tent competitors. It is a good 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 many at once — but we didn't have to wait for our order any longer than from a big retailer this year.

Room for one?
Tarptent offers a single-occupancy version of this tent as the Tarptent Rainbow. For $260 (compared to the Double's $289), the Rainbow shaves a few ounces off without compromising livability. If you're looking to travel solo but are intrigued by the award-winning Double Rainbow, the single Rainbow could be the perfect fit.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Backpacking Tents of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jessica Haist and Jess McGlothlin

Last Updated:
Saturday
May 20, 2017

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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



Comfort


We were pleasantly surprised how comfortable this tent is for its weight - it earned a 7 out of 10 for comfort. It has the highest space-to-weight ratio of all the tents in this review, although the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 is nipping at its heels. We like its non-tapered rectangular floor plan and double door/vestibule construction.


At 2 lbs 15 ozs  the Double Rainbow wins our Top Pick award for its low price tag and livability. Its light weight earned it one of the only 9 out of 10s in the weight metric.
At 2 lbs 15 ozs, the Double Rainbow wins our Top Pick award for its low price tag and livability. Its light weight earned it one of the only 9 out of 10s in the weight metric.

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 slightly more interior volume and floor area than the in the Copper Spur HV UL 2 or the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO. 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 Tarptent Double Rainbow has two mesh pockets that hang from the wall.
The Tarptent Double Rainbow has two mesh pockets that hang from the wall.

Ease of Set-Up


We brought the directions along to make sure we set up the Double Rainbow correctly the first time.
We brought the directions along to make sure we set up the Double Rainbow correctly the first time.

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 six stakes and no extra guy line to reinforce it in strong winds. The Copper Spur has a similar pole configuration and is slightly easier to set up than the Double Rainbow. The easiest tent to set up we tested is the REI Half Dome 2 Plus.

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. We like the Hilleberg Anjan GT's ability to "fastpitch" its fly without a separate footprint.

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.
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.

Weather Resistance


The Double Rainbow is less weather resistant then we initially thought. We pitched the Double Rainbow alongside a variety of other tents including the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT and the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 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.
We would recommend reinforcing your stakes with a large rock or making sure they're really in firm ground when pitching.

Be sure to reinforce your stakes with a large rock. 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.

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.
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.

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 splashback 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 by 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.

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.
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 rainbow's mesh unzipped there would be less condensation.

Durability


The Tarptent Double Rainbow ranked in the middle of the pack for durability. While we felt the heavy-duty 1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silnylon holds it own, we were not fans of the waterproofing. The Hilleberg Anjan GT 2 Person and the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO took home the highest marks for overall durability — these are the two tents we'd look at if we didn't want to go shopping again for several years.


The Double Rainbow's materials are very strong and flapped the least of any tent we tested  but make sure its staked out well in soft ground!
The Double Rainbow's materials are very strong and flapped the least of any tent we tested, but make sure its staked out well in soft ground!

Weight and Packed Size


The Double Rainbow weighs in at 2 pounds, 15 ounces, and is one of the lightest tents in our review, alongside the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV. The other top two lightest backpacking tents we tested are the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO and the NEMO Dagger 2, followed by the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.


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 REI Half Dome 2 Plus  HIlleberg Anjan  Big Agnes Copper Spur  NEMO Dagger  Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight  and Tarptent Double Rainbow - the award winning line-up.
The REI Half Dome 2 Plus, HIlleberg Anjan, Big Agnes Copper Spur, NEMO Dagger, Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, and Tarptent Double Rainbow - the award winning line-up.

The Double Rainbow and Big Agnes Fly Creek have the smallest packed size.


The packed size of the Double Rainbow. It was the lightest and most compact in the entire fleet.
The packed size of the Double Rainbow. It was the lightest and most compact in the entire fleet.

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.

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.
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.

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.

If you're looking for tents you won't have to "dress up", we enjoyed the thoughtful details on the REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO.

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

The Double Rainbow has a great balance of weight savings and livable space. We reached for it on fast and light couples trips.
The Double Rainbow has a great balance of weight savings and livable space. We reached for it on fast and light couples trips.

Value


The Double Rainbow is a great value! Retailing for only $289, it 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 Best Buy winners, the luxurious and spacious REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the uniquely-featured Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2.

The MiniMo is a great choice for fast and light off trail backpacking.
The MiniMo is a great choice for fast and light off trail backpacking.

Conclusion


This shelter is a solid, comfortable, and lightweight option - for a great price. We were disappointed in its performance in high winds and rain 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.

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.
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.

We like taking the MiniMo on fast and light backpacking trips  especially when using the stove for more than one person. Seen here with the Tarptent Double Rainbow.
We like taking the MiniMo on fast and light backpacking trips, especially when using the stove for more than one person. Seen here with the Tarptent Double Rainbow.
Jessica Haist and Jess McGlothlin

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 27, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (2.5)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 33%  (1)
3 star: 33%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 33%  (1)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Oct 27, 2017 - 03:52am
It's not weather proof at all. It rains inside even with the condensation liner. The pole breaks in less than 15 days camping. I trashed it in Tibet to the Yak boy. The good thing is it really light and compact. But, DOESN'T work after setting up when rains. Now it cannot be set up with a broken pole. I guess they made toooooo much compromise on the materials. I made a terrible mistake in year 2014 after reading the review from Outdoorgearlab.com. The good thing is the review is still on and updated. I hope no one will make the same mistake I made three years ago. Because of the rain fly material or condensation, whatever, It's very wet on sleeping bag. And it sets worse with a broken pole.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 2, 2017 - 04:08pm
bikermanlax · Road Biker · Wisconsin
Just wanted to comment on set-up. I just used this tent for the first time on a five day backpack trip. I had no problems at all with set-up.
I tried it once before leaving.

Slip the central pole in place and stake the four corners, then stake out the flaps however you want them. Very simple. The stakes that came with the tent I did not use, opting for some red MSR stakes instead. Readjusting after setup was easy as well.

At one campsite, we had a number of other reviewed tents, the Zpack, REI Quarter dome and the Alps. We all started setting up about the same time and I was the first done by a good measure, with the Zpack being the most time consuming.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Sep 1, 2017 - 07:44pm
 
Gordon · Backpacker
Imagine, having to read the instructions before setting it up for the first time! What an unreasonable constraint on ease of set-up.

I'm not going to rate the Double Rainbow because not too long after getting it I switched to hammock hanging. But I've kept it just in case I ever need a tent again. (And, I did recently use it one night in Wyoming, chasing the eclipse.) It's a very easy set-up, but you do have to ask yourself, "Now, why are there mitten hooks in each corner of the floor?"

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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