TARPTENT DOUBLE RAINBOW
TEST SERIES BY EDWARD RIPLEY-DUGGAN
LONG TERM REPORT
September 4, 2007
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE INITIAL REPORT, APRIL 15 2007
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT, JUNE 28 2007
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT, SEPTEMBER 4 2007
|Catskills, New York State
|6' 1" (1.85 m)
|215 lb (97.50 kg)
I enjoy walking in all its forms, from a simple stroll in the woods to multi-day backpack excursions. Though by no means an extreme ultra-light enthusiast, from spring to fall my preference is to carry a pack weight (before food and water) of 12 lb (5.5 kg), more or less. In recent years, I've rapidly moved to a philosophy of "lighter is better," within the constraints of budget and common sense.
INITIAL REPORT, APRIL 15 2007
Product information in brief
Manufacturer: Tarptent by Henry Shires
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tarptent.com
Specified number of occupants: 2
Usage: Three and a half season tent
Listed weight: 40 oz (1135 g)
Measured weight*: 40.5 oz (1148 g)
*The measured weight above includes the Tarptent body, stuff sack, the six supplied pegs, the two poles (the main pole and the short pole used in the crown of the tent), and the silnylon stuff-sacks for poles and pegs. The optional liner is not included and the tent was not seam-sealed at this time.
Stated apex height: 43" (109 cm)
Measured apex height*: 44" (112 cm)
*N.B. This can vary slightly according to the tautness of pitch
Stated length: 98 in (249 cm) [the "product sheet" on the website states 104 in, 264 cm]
Measured length*: 88" (224 cm)
Measured maximum floor length, sides unclipped: 94" (239 cm)
Stated width: 54" (137 cm)
Measured width*: 50" (127 cm)
Measured maximum floor width, sides unclipped: 56" (142 cm)
*These measurements are with the bathtub floor clips in position. The precise dimensions are sensitive to the pitch of the tent, so these should be taken as approximate.
Stated floor area: 29-36 sq ft (2.7-3.3 sq m)
Stated beak area: 7.5 sq ft (0.7 sq m) each side
Stuffed size in supplied bag: 20" (51 cm) long, 4" (10 cm) diameter
Number of supplied pegs: 6
Minimum needed for pitched variation: 6. A few more are handy for alternate vestibule pitches.
Minimum needed for freestanding variation: 0 is feasible (in fair weather with no wind, with vestibule flaps completely rolled back exposing mesh sides); 2 are recommended by the manufacturer, for staking out the beaks; 6 permit the floor to be pegged out taut and the proper use of the vestibules if rain moves in.
Main pole: in 8 sections, shock-corded, folded length 19.5" (50 cm)
The following (color text) are the manufacturer's supplied data on the materials used, quoted from the website's FAQ.
Roofing: High tenacity 1.1-oz/yd2 ripstop nylon, impregnated with silicone. Final fabric weight is approximately 1.3 oz/yd2
Netting: No-see-um. Fabric weight is approximately 1 oz/yd2
Guylines: Non-stretch, 2 mm reflective cord with a spectra core. In a Kelty branded package, it's called "Triptease Lightline". Weight is approximately 1 oz/50 ft
Stakes: Easton aluminum. Stakes are 6 1/4" long and weigh 0.35 oz (10 g) per stake [confirmed by tester on postage scale]
Poles: Easton aluminum 7075-T9 .344"/8.74 mm diameter tubing. Weight is approximately 0.5 oz/ft
Flooring: Sewn-in: same material as roof (but in black)
Optional clip-in liner measurements
Fabric: 1.1-ounce ripstop nylon (stated)
Stated weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Delivery and contents
Within the cardboard box received from Tarptent was the tent body, stored in its stuff-sack. I had previously received the 2006 version Tarptent for preliminary testing, so I already had the poles (one eight-section main pole and the short pole for the crown of the tent); the optional liner; six Easton stakes in their stuff-sack; the sleeves for trekking poles; and two sheets with instructions. I confirmed with Henry Shires of Tarptent that these components were identical in the 2007 version of the tent, and that I should use them with the new model. One set of instructions is given over to the installation of the liner. The other is devoted to the setup of the Double Rainbow, both as a free-standing tent using trekking poles, and as a conventionally pitched tent. These instructions may also be downloaded from the Tarptent website in PDF form. The tent matched my expectations from its website description, and I was intrigued by some features not mentioned.
As I was already familiar with the tent, erecting it was easy. With the 2006 version (which used the same instructions as are presently on the website), I had found that the level of detail in the instructions was sufficient for me to fairly quickly work out how to pitch the tent both ways, free-standing and pegged-out, though there were some minor details that could have been made a little more explicit. Overall, they were adequate. There was one minor feature in the 2007 version, not mentioned in the instructions (a grommet on a tab in the vents, explained in the text below) that left me initially perplexed.
This is a very full-featured tent, with a number of possible variations in pitch and use. Playing with it, various nuances quickly emerged (and will continue to appear, no doubt, as I test it over the coming months). That's true with most tents, and most gear, and is part of the fun.
The Tarptent warrant may be found on the F.A.Q. section of the website.
"Tarptents are fully guaranteed against fabric and workmanship failure and you may return one uninjured for a full refund if not satisfied. That means you can set one up, even try it out overnight, and then decide if it's something that will work for you. We stand behind every Tarptent and will make every effort to repair or replace products that fail due to defects in workmanship or materials. Normal wear and tear repairs will be done on a "non profit" basis and we will provide a price quote before beginning the work. In many cases, we charge only for the return shipping."
Features and design
I have been eagerly awaiting the new version of the Double Rainbow for several months, as there were some production issues that forced a delay. My initial impression is that my wait was well worthwhile! This is a graceful design, with some exceptional qualities, and I look forward to evaluating it in the months to come. The Double Rainbow is not a glorified tarp, but a true two-man, two-door tent, with many unusual and useful features, and a tested trail weight of just over 2.5 lb (1135 g). There are lighter shelters out there, of course, but even for one person (the manner in which I will primarily test the Double Rainbow) the features seem likely to far outweigh the small weight penalty.
The quality of construction appears excellent. The sewing is generally accurate and neat. I noticed a couple of projecting ends of thread, but these were not in any way loose, just not cut back sufficiently. The quality of the materials used, in so far as I am able to judge, seems very high. What's really impressive is the amount of thought that has gone into making this an innovative and attractive shelter, with many features intended to make it sturdy in winds and light snow. The amount of space within is certainly sufficient for two, although not overkill for one large person. What's more, it's almost all useful space, with not much in the way of cramped areas that can't be used because of a low ceiling, or similar limitations that crop up in many lightweight tents.
Given the floor area, it's pleasant that the space this tent takes up is really not much larger than that needed for a rather minimalist shelter that I often use in summer, one that offers very few frills (basically, a tarp with a floor and a bit of netting). Granted, the weight is half that of this shelter, but this comes at a significant cost in convenience, comfort, and functionality. The fact that the footprint of the Double Rainbow is relatively small (see the dimensions in the product information section above) is significant when I'm camping with others at small sites, designated camping areas in the Adirondacks for example, where there is no space for hulking tents.
The curve that inspired the Rainbow name is created from one single long shock-corded pole that slips through a sleeve (the yellow line in the photos) sewn into the silnylon shell of the tent. This pole is in eight sections, and must be handled with comparative care when inserting or removing it from the sleeve, as it has a tendency to catch or separate. Indeed, so far I have found this to be the single trickiest aspect to erecting and (especially) taking down the tent, but really only a modicum of attention is needed to avoid this.
Each end of the pole fits into a grommet in a nylon webbing strap situated at either end of the tent. This strap runs under the floor of the tent, from one side of the pole to the other, and so maintains the bowed tension in the pole that gives the tent its shape and strength. One of the fittings has a buckle that enables the tension of the fabric to be controlled, to allow for stretching when the nylon is wet, for example. It's very easy to loosen this slightly, which makes inserting the pole ends a breeze.
After the pole has been inserted, each of the four roof corners is staked out (or, in free-standing mode, is attached to a trekking pole). One corner is shown below.
There are several points of note in the photo above. The tension in the line is controlled by a nylon line-tensioner (the black hour-glass shape in the image), attached to the tent via a short webbing loop. To tighten, the end of the cord is pulled, and to loosen, the small tab extending from the tightener is lifted. Very simple, very elegant, and very lightweight. The peg fits through a small loop in the line. It's a rather tight fit, but since it is created with a basic knot, it may be easily retied to provide a little more room (this is Henry Shires' recommendation). The sleeve seen protruding is designed to slip over the point of a trekking pole when using the freestanding pitch option. Finally, the black cord in the image is a thin bungee loopthere's one at each corner of the tentconnecting to the corner of the floor. This slips over the head of the tent peg, and so serves to keep the tent floor taut.
There are the two large beaks that also serve as vestibules, situated on either side of the tent, one over each door. They seem to be large enough to keep open even in mildly wet weather, in part because of what the website describes as the rain curtain. This is a small awning that bridges the two flaps that comprise the beak of the tent. It attaches at one side with hook and loop fastener.
The sides of the beak zip together. One side of the beak has a silnylon flap that runs the length of the zipped beak. This folds over the zip to prevent rain penetrating. It fastens down with two long strips of hook-and-loop fastener. (See the image at the head of this report to see the two sides of the beak fully fastened together.) One of the beaks, open to show the rain curtain, is shown here
. The rain curtain described in the previous paragraph may be seen at the center.
In anything short of driving rain (in which case the opposite vestibule could likely be used) this looks very much like a perfect, protected place for cooking, with a fairly low potential for causing condensation within the tent. This is something that I will be closely investigating during this test, along with the utility of the beak system in general. Of course, whenever cooking in proximity to nylon, extreme care must (and will) be used. The tent instructions stress that the materials used in the tent are flammable. The rain curtain also appears to offer added protection when entering and exiting the tent during rain.
Side-to-side stability is created by the short pole or strut (18", 46 cm) that runs across the crown of the tent, housed in a heavy sleeve that's held in place by folds at the sleeve ends. These are retained in position by hook-and-loop fastener. This pole is made of the same stock as the main pole, and is fairly easily removed. It may be extracted by opening the folds at the sleeve ends and working it out carefully. It's a bit fiddly to do so, but if I want to store the tent in my pack in an especially compact manner, there is no reason why this shouldn't be removed.
A guy-line runs from one of the beak flaps on either side of the tent. This is key to the stability of the tent. The tautness is adjustable with a small nylon line tensioner, very effective. The result is a very crisp, taut pitch, which in turn should, I hope, make the tent stable and quiet in winds. There are webbing loops on the bow of the tent that provide locations for tying guylines if heavy winds are encountered.
One of the most remarkable features of this tent is its ability to become freestanding, using a pair of trekking poles. These should be extended to at least the 140 cm mark (55"). A sleeve is available to fit shorter poles to add length, or one can be improvised. I used a pair of Black Diamond Terra CF poles; the instructions show a Leki pole. Whatever pole is used, the points and handle need to fit into the urethane sleeve and pocket arrangement. The projecting handle of the pole fits into the pocket, the point into a narrower sleeve, see below. For this to work well, the handle should have a "chin," as many trekking poles do. A pole with a round knob would not work so well, I suspect, although an adjustable pole with a narrow ski handle works just fine (tested). The tautness in each line is controlled by the same type of nylon tensioner used in the beak.
The middle of the poles are attached to the main pole of the tent via a loop with double tabs made of hook-and-loop fastener, as shown in the image below. The arrangement is very stable (and I found it easy to use though it looks complicated), but is loose enough that the end of the tent's pole may be slid along the trekking pole to center it, if necessary.
I extended my poles to their maximum possible length, and the result was a stable, free-standing pitch. In general, if a tighter attachment at the handle is required, a turn of string or an elastic band tied around helps keep the handle in place, as I quickly found.
This freestanding pitch is easily done (indeed, it takes little effort to change from one pitch to the other), but I suspect that it is inappropriate for high winds, given what I have seen of the tent's behavior in light gusting winds. The Tarptent website also indicates as much. I will test this further as much as I dare, without risking the tent. The ability to make the tent freestanding is terrific for surfaces that don't accept pegs, such as platforms, or areas with subsurface rock. It also appears that it will be handy if I need to move the tent to a nearby location without fully taking it down.
The tent has two large mesh doors, one on either side, so that in two-man use there's no need to step over a sleeper if a nighttime exit must be made. These doors each have two two-way zips, inside and out. These move smoothly, and using the zips a door may be left with a section open, if desired. Each zip has an interior and exterior pull-tab, of course.
For ventilation, the entire circumference of the tent has a mesh panel. As noted, the doors are also mesh, and when the beaks are closed (partially blocking the doors) there is a stiffened vent at the crown of the tent. This may be seen below.
Each vent has a loop, which may be attached to a hook on the beak, to guard against blown rain in bad weather. This arrangement is not engaged in the image above, but the hook (on its webbing tab) may be seen at the left of the image. The photo also provides a view of the top pole in its tubular sleeve, as well as a portion of the sleeve (yellow arc) for the main pole. Attached to the end of the pole sleeve within the vent is a grommet on a webbing tab. I was initially puzzled by this, as I noted in the introduction. This turns out to be for the tip of a hiking pole, and is, according to the tent's designer, designed to give additional stability in high wind. I think this is an intriguing and potentially very useful feature. We should have winds aplenty in the coming months to test this.
The floor of the tent is black silnylon. As usual, this is slippery, and I may well follow the suggestion in the instructions to put some beads of silnylon on the floor to prevent my sleeping pad skidding around, a common occurrence in tents with silnylon floors. In rainy conditions, the floor of the tent may be raised, creating a "bathtub" rim around the side to prevent the entry of water, as is shown in the image below.
There is a loop and clip ring in each corner of the tent. In the middle of the door, there is a similar setup with a much longer loop. This doesn't raise the wall to the same extent as the corner shown above, but is designed (information from Henry Shires) so that a sleeper rolling against the door does not make contact with the ground through the mesh of the door, or cause the floor to flip back on itself. Visible in the image above is one (of two) interior pockets, and the mesh strip that runs around the circumference of the tent. Given this array of ventilation options, I hope for excellent ventilation and limited condensation. I will report on this.
The light within the tent is excellent, very cheerful indeed, and the neutral blue-gray color of the silnylon lends itself to a leave-no-trace aesthetic. This tent, while it may shine so far as features go, doesn't dazzle the eyes. This is an important point to me, and is indicative of the thought that has gone into the design. It's fair to say that I am impressed so far, and I very much hope that field performance bears out my current enthusiasm.
Tarptent Double Rainbow Liner
This optional feature, a long strip of breathable 1.1-ounce ripstop nylon, attaches to the ceiling of the tent via eight elastic loops. These connect with the eight clip rings with which the tent interior is outfitted (otherwise handy for drying cords, etc.). It is pearly white in color. The stated object is to reduce heat in the tent in sunny weather; increase warmth in cool weather; and to prevent the faint spray that can occur with very heavy rains from penetrating the tent. It should also serve to deflect, at least temporarily, water from any badly sealed seams. Since I will be initially testing the tent in cool, wet weather, I will be interested to examine how functional this is.
FIELD REPORT, JUNE 28 2007
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the Tarptent Double Rainbow for one three-night backpack over varied terrain in the southern Catskills; a two-night trip to Harris Lake in the Adirondacks (car-camping, as this was my base camp for a traverse of the Santanoni Range); and (at least) three overnight backpacks. Camping elevations have ranged from 1700 to over 3000 feet (518 to 915 metres). Night-time temperatures have ranged from about 40 F (4 C) to 65 F (18 C). Campsite locations have ranged from woodland duff, to packed earth, to bare rock ledge. The tent has been used totally freestanding twice, partially freestanding once, and the rest of the time it has been conventionally pitched. In it, I have experienced one night of quite high winds, and three nights of intermittent rain, sometimes fairly heavy. In short, it has received a good workout. This is in addition to the approximately two weeks of use I put on the 2006 version of the Double Rainbow; though this version is not under review here, the experience I had with that tent is highly relevant to this 2007 version.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Packing the tent
I have found that the Double Rainbow stows quite neatly. I usually use a Granite Gear Virga, a small frameless pack for lightweight/ultralight backpacking, so my use of the pack's limited space is important to both my comfort and ability to bring all necessities. Though the Double Rainbow's silnylon bag is rather long and sausage-shaped, it easily folds double to create a compact layer, usually above my sleeping bag (which sits at the base of my pack). The poles (including the short pole from the tent's crown) I store in the folds of my Therm-a-Rest Z-Rest (stored within the pack as a back panel) where they act as stiffeners, and improve weight transfer. The Virga is designed to be used lined with a sleeping pad, but thanks perhaps to the rigidity created by the poles, weight transfer with the Z-Rest is excellent despite the fact that (for the pack) my arrangement is slightly unorthodox.
Sealing the tent
Initially I used the tent without seam-sealing, so I could evaluate the areas that would need most attention. It performed adequately unsealed in intermittent heavy rain, and did not let in torrents of water, but after an hour or so a small amount of seepage was noticeable, especially from spots on the seams where elastic or hook and loop was sewn through. I'd certainly not recommend using the tent without seam-sealing except in the driest of climes, and it is not intended to be used in this manner. This test was useful, though, as it gave me a sense in advance as to which areas would need close attention.
To seam-seal, I mixed up a slurry of GE Silicone and mineral spirits (as recommended by Henry Shires in the accompanying literature) and externally coated all overhead seams, using a foam brush. I also added some bands of sealer to the floor. The weight gain as a result of sealing was approximately 1 oz (28 g). This was not a particularly arduous process, and I was able to do a fairly neat job, with a minimum of spotting and blobbing. Probably with still neater application, perhaps using a syringe, the sealing weight could be reduced, but I don't think it's excessive as it is.
I have used the tent free-standing, fully pitched, and (once) using an amalgam of both methods. So far as free-standing pitching goes, although I had had few problems using my hiking poles (usually a pair of Black Diamond Terra CF) to frame out the ends in the 2006 version of the Double Rainbow, I found that the 2007 version was (for reasons that I don't completely understand) slightly harder to set up using the same poles, using the very same pole sleeves on the tent corners. I did find that one corner tensioner had been sewn in upside-down, but this should not, I think, have had much (if any) effect. Still, there is a noticeable tendency for the pole on that end to swivel out of the pocket. With care, I have always been able to erect the tent just fine, with a good taut pitch, but it has occasionally taken a little longer than I would have liked, in part because of this issue.
As an example of this mode of use, I used the tent freestanding on a bare rock ledge (at a spectacular viewpoint on the east side of Slide Mountain in the Catskills), using tie-offs to rocks to keep the beaks open. I could have rolled the beaks back and secured them to the tent and avoided guy-outs entirely, but rain was in the forecast, and in fact the skies opened during the night. Also, because this was a very exposed situation, I used a length of black 1/8" (3.2 mm) bungee cord as a storm guy, out to each side. Bungee, when used in this manner, helps damp vibration that would otherwise cause damage or collapse of the tent, and I use it regularly for this purpose. I was glad that I did, because once the rain ended, the wind began, relentlessly, until morning. I would estimate the windspeed at about 15 m.p.h. (24 km/h), with frequent gusts of perhaps twice that. The tent withstood these conditions well, and was quite quiet, without any noticeable noise from the fabric.
Pitching the tent by staking out the corners and beaks is simplicity itself. This rarely takes me much in excess of five minutes after selecting a spot, the only complication being when I find a rock buried where a stake is to go. As a general rule, I can achieve a tauter pitch than with the freestanding method. Usually a little fine-tuning is required once the tent is up, involving relocating a stake or two.
Inserting the poles, short and long, presents no problem either. The only issue here is that a modicum of care is needed when extracting the long (main) pole, in order to prevent the pole sections from separating while still in its sleeve. To avoid this, I rest one end of the pole on the ground and carefully slide the fabric down.
Rain, wind, and condensation
I have had at least three nights with rain during this period of use, including a full-scale thundershower (which I mostly slept through). Once the tent was sealed, I have had only one minor problem with water penetrating to the tent interior, I fixed this with a reapplication of seam sealant to the spot in question, once I got home. The amount of water that got in was minimal.
As single-wall silnylon tents go, of those I have used this is the least likely to accumulate condensation. It can happen, when the tent site is unavoidably poor (next to a beaver-meadow, with a storm in the offing, was the worst). Even then, I've found that condensation's pretty nominal. In that particular instance, I did experience some spray within the tent. I believe that this was condensation being drummed off the walls by heavy rain. It wasn't enough to worry about, more of a mist than anything else. It's also possible that some water droplets were hitting hard enough to exceed the fairly low hydrostatic head of silnylon, and that some of that water was penetrating as spray.
No matter the cause, in the conditions I have experienced to date, this has quite simply not been a consequential issue. I have used the optional breathable interior lining, which would have controlled this spray, but it seems that on those occasions when I have had it along with me I have had no rain, and vice versa... Hmm, maybe I have discovered a method of weather control? When possible, I either roll the beaks back or guy them open, but even without doing so condensation has generally not proved to be a concern.
I've also had no problems with blown rain penetrating the mesh perimeter of the tent, or with water draining off the body of the tent ending up on the floor. So far, the Double Rainbow has proven weatherproof in a wide range of settings. As already noted, it handles moderate wind (coming at the wide sides of the tent, at that) quite gracefully.
One interesting design feature is that the rain curtain that can be placed (using hook and loop) between the two halves of the beak when open may also be deployed when the beaks are closed to catch any droplets that penetrate the zip and flap arrangement. I find this an ingenious touch, although I have not yet noticed any rain penetrating the zip that would require deflection in this manner. Still, it's nice to have that additional level of protection.
The Double Rainbow in use
The Double Rainbow provides an enormous amount of space for one person, with enough height that (if I don't mind brushing against the interior), I can stand (in a very stooped manner) and, for example, get my legs through a pair of pants. I have not used the tent in the field with another person, but I have experimented with gear for two. There's room enough, although it is a fairly snug fit, and use of the beaks is pretty much essential if two packs and two pairs of boots are going to be kept dry and secure. As a fairly big guy, I love this tent for a one-man shelter, and it is presently my favorite tent, period. For a through-hike or longer backpack (something in excess of a week in duration), I might go with something much lighter, but at approximately 2.5 lb (1.1 kg) it would be by no means absurd for the purpose, given the comfort it provides.
Not only the space, but also the light within the tent is attractive. The tent blends in well with its surroundings, to the point where a couple of times I have had to be quite careful about remembering the location, especially when it's pitched well away from my kitchen area. From a Leave No Trace perspective, this is good. The door and awning design is such that it's possible, on a rainy day, to lie in my sleeping bag and brew tea and eat breakfast, with the stove protected by the awning. Of course, as with any occasion when a stove is used in or around a tent, great care must be exercised.
As already noted, it's easy to erect, and the footprint is surprisingly small for such a spacious tent. It fits more or less perfectly on my Equinox extra-length poncho-tarp, which I usually use as a groundsheet.
What's not to like?
The answer is, very little. The construction of the tent is solid, and this is (in my opinion) a meticulously and ingeniously engineered shelter. The only defect that I have noted to date is the badly sewn tensioner. I could probably send the tent back to Henry Shires for this to be fixed, but it doesn't seem to affect the functioning of the tent in any major manner, and I'd rather not have the bother.
The only components about which I have any serious doubts are the sleeves for the handles and tips of trekking poles, as used for a freestanding pitch. I've already described the minor issues I have had with these and my poles. In addition, I have already had one sleeve for a pole tip tear off entirely, and I now see that the sewing of one sleeve for a pole handle starting to pull through. I have requested replacements, which are, I believe, on their way.
However, after the test is over I am likely to see what I can devise by using simple knotwork, perhaps replacing the sleeves on the corner tie-outs with rolling hitches. I may also try sewing sturdier sleeves, better suited to the handles of my poles. One other small point is that I have noted a little fraying to the edge of a tab, where one of the two eyes through which the ends of the main pole fits are situated. So far, this is not yet at the level of a problem, and I cautiously heat-whipped the edge to make sure it doesn't deteriorate further.
I have used the Double Rainbow in a wide variety of settings, from rock ledges to state campgrounds, and it performs extremely well under diverse conditions. To date, no rain that I've been in (and I have been in full-scale downpours) has caused any concern. Condensation has generally been minimal, except when the tent has been erected in areas where it is more or less inevitable. Nor has any wind I've experienced caused me any concerns regarding the stability of the structure. I have a few minor reservations about the fittings intended to make the tent freestanding, but so far none about the overall durability of the tent.
LONG-TERM REPORT, SEPTEMBER 4 2007
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the long-term test period, I used the Double Rainbow for three overnight backpacks in the Catskills, to elevations up to 3500 feet (1070 m). Night-time temperatures ranged from about 60 F (16 C), generally dropping to about 50 F (10 C) or cooler by morning, fairly typical for the summer months (at elevation) in the region. This was a very mild and mostly dry summer, and I experienced no precipitation during my use over this period. I used the tent in freestanding mode once, on a sensational exposed site on a rock shelf, on the very edge of the Catskill Escarpment. Other times, I pitched it using the attached guylines.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Double Rainbow has become my favorite tent, at least in the conditions under which it has been used in the six-month test period. As a general rule, I have had only minor issues with condensation using the Double Rainbow. This is reassuring, as condensation is always a matter of some concern for me with single-wall silnylon tents. The worst I experienced (and it wasn't by any means a significant problem) occurred during the long-term testing period. I was camped on a rock shelf at a delightful east-facing site overlooking the Hudson Valley. The night was generally clear, and the tent was pitched with one door largely open. The beaks of the tent were tied off to a peg inserted in a dirt-filled crack on one side, and a fallen tree on the other. On other occasions I have used rocks with success when pegging wasn't feasible.
In the morning both the exterior and interior of the walls of the tent were quite wet, as were the surrounding bushes. A friend who was pitched in nearby woods reported little or no condensation. In the past I have seen cloud rise from the valley and spill over the edge of the Escarpment. I'm inclined to think that something like this happened at some point during the night, affecting just the exposed area where I was camped.
Whatever the cause, my guess is that it would have happened at that location no matter what tent I was in. It wasn't seriously inconvenient (and was far more than merely offset by the remarkable morning sunrise view). The damp didn't affect my sleeping bag or other effects, or not that I noticed. I don't feel that the problem was caused by, or made worse by the tent. It was most likely the result of my choice of site, and local weather peculiarities.
My only significant concern, and it's a small one, is that the corner sleeves, designed for holding hiking poles in place when pitching the tent free-standing, did not hold up at all well (see Field Report for my initial comment on this). I asked Henry Shires for replacements a number of times, by both phone and e-mail, but nothing had arrived by the time of this report, some months after the first request. As a result, I had to use a simple replacement for the damaged sleeves, created by using some Kelty Triptease with a couple of rolling hitches tied in it (one to fit tightly around the hiking pole, another to let me tension the corner tie-outs). This worked extremely well, and was very stable. I believe it is likely to become my preferred method now that the test is over, given that the supplied sleeves appear not to be very durable.
I can't really think of any major improvements to the Double Rainbow (other than better-made hiking pole sleeves). I have found that the Tarptent Double Rainbow liner is a useful addition, and I try to remember to carry it whenever I anticipate I might run into heavy rain. Though it's not essential, it certainly does minimize the effect of any splattering of condensation. This is something that can be a minor nuisance under certain circumstances, as I noted in the Field Report. In every other regard I feel that this is an exemplary tent, and I especially enjoy the ability to be able to pitch it freestanding, which has proved very useful, and provides access to some stunning campsites that would otherwise be unworkable.
The Double Rainbow has been stable in the winds I have experienced, even when in freestanding mode. These have been occasionally quite gusty, as I've been in some rather exposed settings. The tent is extremely well vented (and can be used with the beaks rolled back to expose the two mesh sides if no rain is expected). It is quiet in wind (it pitches taut and I've noted only minimal flapping and vibration), and it is adaptable to a wide range of settings, from bare rock to deep forest. The color is such that the tent has minimal visual impact, which pleases me on "leave no trace" grounds, and it sets up and breaks down swiftly, without fuss. I enjoy the graceful lines of the Double Rainbow, and its taut pitch.
For a tent of this size it has a pretty small footprint, a major plus in locations where smooth ground may be a limited commodity. From an ultralight perspective, its weight is a little heavier than ideal (unless used as a two-person shelter, which I was not able to arrange). Still, my take is that the features of the tentin particular the free-standing ability, and the abundant space it offersoffset any weight disadvantage, at least for trips of limited duration. It packs easily, and (with the exception of the hiking pole sleeves) seems extremely durable, even when pitched on rock. I'm very impressed.
I have every intention of continuing to use this as my primary shelter, in all but the months of true winter, or when I want an ultralight pack weight or a low pack volume. I had initially wondered if the free-standing ability of the tent might be something of a gimmick, or at least not a key feature, but I've found over the course of the test that being able to pitch on rock ledges and the like has opened up a whole new set of campsites, ones with great views, which also cause minimal impact on the environment. These are often more exposed than the duff-covered sites I have normally sought out, but the tent has so far handled winds and rain without much ado.
My thanks to Henry Shires and Tarptent for allowing me to test this fine tent. This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Read more gear reviews by Edward Ripley-Duggan