Tarptent Double Rainbow Review: Big tent, small packsize
The US-made Double Rainbow is Tarptent’s most popular model. Weighing in at just 1.2kg, it offers a surprising amount of living space for two riders, combined with a very minimal packsize, making it ideal for bikepackers… especially tall ones. We take a look at the newly updated 2019 model, testing it out camping in the US, the UK, and France.
The Rainbow was the first Tarptent – and single wall tent – that I owned, bought in 2009 when I was riding across the Americas and transitioning to a more minimal, bikepacking setup. It took the place of my traditional, two skin tent, with less of the compromise that I initially feared. After all, unlike barebones tarps that require a certain level of commitment, the 1kg Rainbow pitches like a tent and is fully integrated with mesh walls and a bathtub floor. Given the long journey that I was on, I loved its internal space – plenty of room to sit up straight after a long day in the saddle – and the massive front opening for morning vistas. In fact, the tent is so roomy you can even fit a cosy riding partner in there, too.
The 1.2kg Double Rainbow is basically a bigger, slightly heavier take on the same formula: it has a similar single hoop, but the whole tent is wider with two zipped porches, meaning it can sleep two people on wide pads, with no risk of bumping heads. In fact, the 2019 version I’ve been using for the last few months is even bigger than the original Double Rainbow: it boasts a 33% wider apex and it’s 5cm wider internally. Perhaps more importantly for bikepackers, it’s fully stuffable too, which means it stows neatly into the bottom of a seatpack. Like other silnylon Tarptents, it has a 5,000 mm hydrostatic head pressure rating for the fly and 3,000mm for the floor – heavier duty than many lightweight tents on the market. In line with the Bowfin I took to South America, this means it should handle repeated rainfall, regular use, and UV degradation well.
I’ve always appreciated a tent that pitches easily, with minimal faff, especially after riding all day. Once I’d got to grips with its intricacies, setting the Double Rainbow up proved to be a very quick and stress free process, taking no more than a few minutes; even my six year old son Sage had it honed in no time. There’s a useful video here that runs you through the process; fit the short cross beam first, run the full arch pole through a sleeve, pick up the slack in tension at either end of the tent, then work your way around six points to peg it down, making sure you’re pitching the corners in a rectangular shape. Note that if you’re a hiker, you can set the Double Rainbow up freestanding, using the integrated sleeve ends to cup your hiking poles and create a rigid base. There are additional guy line attachment points on the arch sleeve and perimeter hem, but unless you’re looking into the eyes of a tempestuous storm, you’re unlikely to need them for day to day use, as the Double Rainbow has proved itself to be a stout tent that doesn’t flap around in the wind.
Within, the Double Rainbow feels remarkably spacious. It’s a whole 224cm (88in) long, so given that I’m 185cm (6’1″), there’s absolutely no way my head or toes can touch either end. The same goes with sitting up in the centre of the tent; with an internal height of 107cm (42in), I don’t need to stoop. The overall width of the tent is also generous, offering ample room for two wide, luxurious pads (132cm/52in). Most of the space is usable space with little loss in the corners. From what I could tell, anyone up to around 193cm (6ft4in) should be able to sleep soundly, with toes outstretched! Alternatively, it’s wide enough that a cosy family could probably nestle in comfortably too, with two wide pads joined together.
There’s an additional advantage to this abundant living space. I’ve often found single skin tents prone to condensation, so the sheer internal size of the Double Rainbow does a good job at reducing the chances of accidentally brushing the foot of your sleeping bag against the base of the tent, or your down jacket against the sides.
As mentioned above, there are two doorways, so no need to clamber over your partner to get out in the night for a pee. Plus, you each get your own porch for stashing gear. The fly pulls back in a variety of ways – held in place with a plastic clip. My favourite? Fully open, for panoramas to either side.
As for internal trimmings, there are two small mesh side pockets, useful for stowing a phone and a headlamp. But don’t expect the kind of refinements that we’ve come to expect from larger brands like Big Agnes, with the likes of headphone ports, LED lighting, and all the rest. The Double Rainbow is simple, lean, and purposeful.
In terms of airflow, there are two vents at the top of the tent, and you can unclip the bathtub floor too to help keep things breezy. Along with the double door design, this means the Double Rainbow fares better than some. The inside of the tent is largely mesh and features clips for fitting an additional, breathable liner ($30, 110g). Although this eats into living space, it’s designed to extra warmth and protect sleepers against possible drips from condensation. It’s a nice touch, as it gives the tent a useful, modular versatility. With the liner fitted, Tarptent grant the Double Rainbow a 3+ season rating and say it’s ready for light to moderate snow loading.
As for packing it away again, the Double Rainbow comes with a large stuffsack, so it’s easy to roll up and stow, even with frigid fingers. This said, I preferred to pack the tent poles in my framebag (Tarptent offers a Pole Pouch, at $25, that you can velcro to your downtube if your framebag is too small), and the tent separately. The poles (including the top pole) fold to less than 18” (46cm). There’s a carbon pole available for the single Rainbow that folds to 16.5” (42cm), but it’s yet to be rolled out into the Double Rainbow. This ‘stuffability’ is a welcome bonus for bikepacking, as it opens up a lot of packing options.
Over the last few months, I’ve weathered my fair share of mixed European weather in the Double Rainbow. The bathtub floor is cut nice and high, and it can even be raised by clipping in at either end during higher during heavy rainfall. I’d point out that side access tents – unlike tunnel tents with extended porches – are always a little tricky to enter and exit in heavy rain. The best tactic is to half open from the bottom and dive in or out, though if you’re a hiker, you can actually use your hiking pole to extend the porch outwards, by way of unfurling an additional panel that rolls away into the door. On the subject of water, note that the tent doesn’t come seam sealed. You can ask Tarptent to do it for you ($35) or buy the $8 seam sealing kit and do it yourself. While you’re at it, it’s worth ‘painting’ some sealant strips along the inside of the bathtub floor, to help prevent your air mattresses from slipping and sliding around.
As for why the tents aren’t seam sealed in the first place, Tarptent had this to say: “Seam sealing on silnylon Tarptents is necessary because silicone coated nylon cannot be machine seam taped; in order to be seam taped, the tent would have to have a PU coating. We use fabrics with a silicone coating (instead of a PU one) because they are more durable and longer lasting. It is not usual to see a PU seam tape peeling away, whereas, a silicone seam paint lasts the entire lifetime of the tent. We do not incorporate this cost into the base costs of our tents because the process is easy; most customers prefer to save the money and do it themselves. That being said, we do have a seam sealing service in addition to our seam sealing kit.”
On a similar note, I’d advise using a footprint, like a piece of Tyvek – Tarptent will sell you a piece cut to size for $17 (193g/6.8oz), especially if you’re striking out on a long trip, or regularly pitching the Double Rainbow on desert terrain. This will help ward off general abrasion and lessen the chance of puncture wounds. Tarptent reckons you won’t need a footprint most of the time, but I’ve noticed a half dozen tiny holes in my Bowfin, so I’d recommend using one to be on the safe side.
I should also mention that the six, 15cm Easton Aluminum Nanos provided aren’t my stakes of choice as they tend to completely fail rather than just bend, even if this particular set is doing fine so far. They handle compacted earth perfectly well, but over the years, I’ve had far less luck with them when the ground is rocky. For most trips, I tend to swap them out with MSR Groundhogs.
This aside, I’ve used Tarptents enough in the past to feel confident that the Double Rainbow can handle month in, month out use, in the conditions that bikepackers are likely to experience. It’s certainly showing almost no sign of wear so far. Like all lightweight gear it pays to look after it, as in time, materials will wear and zippers will fail – so it’s nice to see Tarptent offering an affordable repair service, which costs $20 and upwards.
Lastly, there’s the price. At $299, I’d consider the US-made Double Rainbow to be good value for money, even if you need to factor in seam sealing, along with $8 for a repair kit if you need one, and a few more for additional guylines, which are always useful to have.
- Extremely spacious interior for a lightweight two person tent, with plenty of gear storage space
- Well suited to tall folk
- Stuffable, fits perfectly in the bottom of a seatpack, with small packsize
- Quick and easy to pitch
- All-in-one pitch keeps things dry when setting up camp in the rain
- Modular design – add in an extra lining for wintery temperatures, or very humid/wet environments
- Hardwearing for its weight, compared to other lightweight options
- Needs trekking poles or additional poleset to be freestanding
- Hollow aluminum stakes are prone to failing; I prefer stronger stakes for rocky conditions
- Seam sealing isn’t included; you can do it yourself for $8 or pay an additional $35 and have Tarptent do it for you
- Extra guy lines and a repair kit aren’t included either
- Limited start gazing potential in single wall tents
- Weight 1.2kg (42oz)
- Packed Size 46 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm (18 in x 4 in x 4 in)
- Floor Area 224cm by 132cm (88in x 52in)
- Price $299
- Place of Manufacture USA
- Manufacturer’s Details Tarptent
My favourite tents offer a relaxing space to decompress after a day’s ride and promise a refreshing night’s sleep, whatever the weather. The Double Rainbow undoubtedly does a great job at both: it’s a pleasure to pitch and hang out in. Like Dr Who’s remarkable Tardis, inside living space feels especially generous and the high ceiling and plentiful length caters extremely well to tall folk. It’s also relatively affordable and durable, when you take its 1.2kg weight into account. And, just as importantly, the tiny pack size is a real boon for bikepacking, as the whole tent can be easily stuffed into the bottom of a seatpack.
Yes, single wall tents have some inherent compromises. You’ll need to take care not to brush up against the tent’s sidewalls when conditions are humid, and you can’t pitch the inner tent by itself for bug-free stargazing. But in the case of the Double Rainbow, there’s enough room to largely the negate the former, and with both doors tied right back, at least you can enjoy the promise of simply glorious views come morning.
Have you used the Tarptent Rainbow or Double Rainbow? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
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