TARPTENT DOUBLE RAINBOW
BY EDWIN MORSE
April 15, 2010
ed dot morse at charter dot net
Grawn, Michigan USA
5' 8" (1.73 m)
145 lb (65.80 kg)
I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. My starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Last May I did a 2 week hike in Northern Minnesota. My starting pack weight was 35 lbs (16 kg), including 10 days of food and 2 qt (2 l) of water. I am slowly learning what lighter gear works for me.
Manufacturer: Tarptent by Henry Shires
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tarptent.com
MSRP: US$ 260 now, US$ 250 When I purchased in early1997
Listed Weight: 41 oz (1162 g)
Measured Weight:40.9 oz (1159 g)
Other details: The Double Rainbow (DR) is a single wall silnylon tent with a door and a vestibule on each side. I copied the following statement from the description of the DR on the Tarptent website: "Two and a half pounds for 2 people". In my opinion, the DR is a roomy shelter for one adult or very adequate for an adult and a child. Our middle son, 5 ft 11 in (1.85 m), and his daughter, age five at the time, crawled in soon after I got the tent. This formed my opinion that the tent is not a shelter for two adults. On the other hand, I've backpacked with a couple who are happy using a tent smaller than my Double Rainbow.
The tent is grey with a yellow stripe. It uses two poles, one runs lengthwise through the yellow sleeve, the shorter one crosswise in the top center of the tent.
It has a bathtub floor of black silnylon. I would guess the sides of the floor can extend up about six in (15 cm). This varies depending in how careful I am when I set up the tent. If I expect a hard rain I am very careful to have all sides up high. Usually I want to spread out and just make sure the sides are up off the ground a little.
The DR has a fine black netting all around the bottom and up both sides. Both vestibules have an extra flap between the sides that allows the vestibule to be tied up and open for more ventilation. The extra flap is sewn to one side and fastens with a short hook and loop strip to the other side. I learned that a hard rain can leak through the side fastened with hook and loop. I may yet replace the short piece with hook and loop the full length of the flap.
Henry Shires suggests sealing the seams before using the tent. I painted the silicone seam sealer on all seams both inside and out. The DR has not leaked for me at all.
I started using the Double Rainbow (DR) in early summer of 2007. Since then I've used it for many trips in Upper and Lower Michigan, two trips to Minnesota (one backpacking and one camping to do trail improvements) and two to Florida.
The first hike I could find pictures from showing my Tarptent Double Rainbow was a 15-day hike on Isle Royale with two friends in September 2007. Isle Royale is part of Michigan but it is closer to Canada than it is to any part of the mainland United States. It is also the least visited of our National Parks. I hiked nearly half the time alone. This first picture we were still together. During the night a moose walked within six feet of my tent.
|Isle Royale 1
The next day we separated and I hiked alone for four days. The first two days were nice and sunny.
|Isle Royale 2
The third day was nice until sundown when the rain started. It rained hard all night and a stream of water ran under one corner of the tent. I was dry inside with lots of room for my gear. This was the first time I had condensation inside the DR. I slowly learned that if I can keep both vestibules up and open there is little if any condensation. The second time I was camped with a group in Minnesota doing trail improvements. During the first night we had heavy fog. All nine tents had condensation inside.
|Isle Royale 3
The next time I found pictures of my DR was a group hike with the Grand Traverse Hiking Club in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. With the vestibule tied up and out there is some room to cook and eat and be mostly dry in a rain. I never take food inside my tent.
A friend took this picture the next day. We were set up about 300 feet (90 m) from Lake Superior.
|Ed and Double Rainbow
After a few overnights to check out equipment I did a six-day hike on the High Country Pathway in northwest lower Michigan. This first picture is about 7 AM on July 21, 2008. The sun is up but the forest is so thick I still needed my headlamp.
Two days later I set the DR up about 200 feet (60 m) from the Tomahawk Flooding. I had to wade about 60 feet (18 m) out into the lake to get mostly clear water. This was the only flat spot I could find for my tent away from both the water and the trail. I could not see the tent from the trail.
|High Country Pathway
In May of 2009 I hiked with a small group for 15 days in northern Minnesota. I used the DR the last 10 days of this hike. The next two pictures were taken while we hiked the Border Route Trail. We did have a few sunny days. We often had problems finding enough space for three tents. The women's tent is about 20 feet (6 m) to the left of my DR.
The next picture shows the beginning of one of the coldest days we had on the trail. It started raining soon after we got set up. During the night the rain froze and then changed to snow. This was only the third time I had condensation inside the tent. I wiped down the inside then needed nearly a half hour to get all the ice and snow off the outside. I had staked one vestibule down and the big log stopped most of the wind on the other side.
|Border Route Trail
I almost always do at least one overnight hike before any longer hike to check my gear and refine what I will take. This one was shortly before my hike on the High Country Pathway. I tie both vestibules up and open whenever I can to eliminate condensation.
The hike in which I took the next picture was just to check on a section of trail that needs work. I took the tarp because the people paid to guess the weather had predicted 100 percent of rain for three days. The tarp gave me a dry place to eat in the morning and to pack everything. It just rained at night and all the next day.
This last picture was taken at Alexander Springs in the Ocala National Forest (ONF) in Florida. This camping trip was as much to check on two campgrounds as to check my gear. I very seldom (almost never) camp with a vehicle nearby and I don't take my wife's sedan backpacking. I only had two nights and the camp grounds are over 30 miles (48 km) apart by trail.
Two months later we went back to Florida and I hiked about 75 miles (121 km) from the south edge of the ONF north to the north edge. I didn't get any pictures because I forgot to protect my camera during a downpour the second day. The fourth night I actually set up the DR under a shelter (with permission) using cord instead of stakes. The tent was very wet outside from 2 days and a night of rain. In the morning everything was dry.
My Experience and Practice
I've used the Tarptent Double Rainbow in a variety of environments in the Midwest and in Florida and it has never let me down. I was rather slow to learn to pitch it properly and it took some help and a few months' experience before setting the tent up become second nature. The first month of use I could never get a taut set up. I've learned that it is easy to move a stake or two and always get a taut pitch. Now I can set it up in any space big enough for the footprint and sleep well.
I carry the poles and stakes in the original sack on the outside of my pack and stuff the tent in a separate silnylon stuff sack at the top inside my pack. When I get to camp I first find the spot I want for the night. This always includes looking up for dead branches, looking around for drainage patterns and dead trees and looking down at the ground for rocks, small growth and briers. Then I get the tent out and spread it out to be sure it fits the space. I then insert the short cross pole and carefully thread the long pole through the yellow sleeve. Next I stake out the corners, pulling them out at a 45-degree angle. The last part of staking the corners is to hook the floor loops to the stakes. If I have been able to select the best (nearly perfect) site I can tie out the side of each vestibule to trees and bushes. My preference is to have both vestibules tied out and open. My second choice is to use both hiking poles to tie out one vestibule or one side of each vestibule. Even in a campground (which I try to avoid) I arrange to situate the DR so I can keep one vestibule open. Outside of a campground I only close one or both vestibules if there is a strong cold wind or rain and strong winds.
I know the option is available to set up the Tarptent Double Rainbow free standing but I don't like free standing tents and have never done so backpacking. The DR requires an extension for each of my hiking poles, which is no big deal, since they are easy to make. When I first got the tent I practiced setting it up in the back yard several times. Just to see if it would work I made pole extensions out of PVC pipe and set it up free standing just once.
While writing the above paragraph I realized that the one time the free standing option could have been helpful. I just didn't think about it so I didn't set the tent up freestanding. I set the tent up (with permission) under a shelter roof on a concrete floor while backpacking in Florida. I used mason's twine to tie out the corners and vestibules to railings and picnic tables.
I consider all backpacking gear a compromise. To me the good things about the Double Rainbow far outweigh the not so good. It is a compromise I'm happy with. There are many ways to pitch the tent and I still haven't tried all possibilities.
Overall I am very happy with my Tarptent Double Rainbow.
THINGS I LIKE
Relatively light weight
Roomy for the weight - I have room to spread out and everything is where I can reach it.
Easy to pitch
Neutral color that blends into the forest
Two doors - I can get in and out from either side
Good head room
Clips to hang a light from the top inside
Pockets on each side for small items
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
It can be very hard to find in the dark so I now leave a light turned on
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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
If I have to set up in a windy area the wind always seems to blow through the netting around the bottom
The floor can be slippery if pitched on a slope
Weighs more than I prefer
The last statement appears to be a contradiction but I think of it as a willing compromise. I would like my overall pack weight to be less and one way would be to use a lighter tent. I am just not yet willing to give up the space for the less weight.
It seems to me that many things I don't like are mostly balanced by something good. I've found ways to work around most of the negatives.
Read more reviews of Tarptent gear
Read more gear reviews by Edwin L. Morse