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Reviews > Shelters > Tarps and Bivys > Tarptent Rainshadow 2 > Owner Review by Michael Williams

Henry Shires Tarptent - Rainshadow 2

March 22, 2010


NAME: Mike Williams
EMAIL: mlebwillATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 36
LOCATION: Milliken, Colorado, United States
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I was introduced to backpacking as a teenager through scouts in Colorado Springs, Colorado and fell in love with it. I continued to actively backpack through college and took a break to start a career and family. A few years ago we decided as a family to become very active in hiking, backpacking and camping. Currently my wife, son (8 yrs) and I hike and backpack extensively in Colorado and South Dakota as a family. We continually look for the right balance of lightweight, durable, comfortable and safe gear for our family to enhance our outdoor experiences.

Product Information

Fully Packed
Manufacturer: Tarptent by Henry Shires
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$ 265.00 - Tent only without front poles
MSRP Optional Pole: US$ 5.00 each
Listed Weight: 42 oz (1,191 g) - Not including two trekking poles or optional front poles required to pitch the tent
Measured Weight: 42.5 oz (1,205 g) - Post owner-applied seam sealing
Measured weight of optional poles (set of 2): 5 oz (142 g)
Sleeps: 3

Width: 92 / 78 in (234 / 198 cm) tapered front to back
Length: 94 in (239 cm)
Height: 48 in (122 cm)
Floor Area: 42 - 50 sq ft (3.9 - 4.6 sq m) depending on setup, see bathtub floor discussion below
Beak Area: 8.5 sq ft (0.79 sq m)
Stakes: 4 - Required
Packed Size: 20 x 4 in (51 x 10 cm)

Warranty: Tarptent provides a very comprehensive warranty; please refer to their website for further details. In addition, the company stands behind their product which is evident from the following quote from the website; "That means you can set one up, even try it out overnight, and then decide if it's something that will work for you".

Product Details and Description

From Tarptent Website
A Tarptent is a single walled tent that has been designed as an ultra-light / ultra-versatile shelter. The premise behind a Tarptent is to take the lightweight versatility of a tarp and combine that with the protection of a tent. This is typically accomplished through the fusion of a tarp with a mesh enclosure and a waterproof bathtub floor. This style of tent has become a very common "Do it Yourself" project and plans, diagrams and step by step instructions can be found across the internet, including the Tarptent website for free.

Henry Shires, the proprietor of Tarptent has been an instrumental figure in creating, developing and adding innovation to these shelters. At the time of this review the Rainshadow 2 (henceforth referred to as the Tarptent or tent) is the only 3-person tent offered in Henry's catalog of 11 models. Tarptents have a very innovate design that includes a catenary ridgeline (inverted arch) that aids in the structure, stability and water shedding properties of the tent. In addition to the catenary curve, another distinctive quality to the Tarptent is the inclusion of the beak which can best be described as a 3/4 vestibule.

Set-up w/ optional poles
The tent requires 4 tent stakes for set-up and is not a freestanding shelter. The back of the tent includes a rear pole that is threaded though a sleeve and creates an arch and the primary structure for that end of the tent. This arch is secured with 1 tent stake that is connected by a tri-pullout guy-line. When setting up the tent, this end should be facing the wind, not only for ventilation but also for stabilization purposes. Once the rear of the tent is secure, the front can be erected with the use of 2 trekking poles, or the optional 48" (122 cm) pole set. The poles are placed into grommets that connect to a strut support bar that helps form the catenary ridgelines. (The user has the option to use one or two poles for the set-up and the included instructions identify how to facilitate that). The strut support bar is tensioned by a single guy-line and tent stake.

Each front corner of the tent is tensioned with a dual guy-line that is secured with a single tent stake. Each corner has 2 corner pullouts where the guy-line is attached to the tent body and these pullouts can be used to adjust the tension of the tent. Once the front of the tent is secure and adequate tautness is achieved, the front (main) guy-line that is secured to the strut support also provides the support for the beak. The beak consists of two wings of the canopy that join with hook-and-loop fastening strips along the guy-line. Additionally there is a shock cord fastener that is attached to the guy-line and can be used to adjust the tension of the beak.

The canopy portion of the Tarptent is constructed from silicone-impregnated rip-stop nylon that is grey, fairly thin and feels a little slippery. It is important to note that the tarp material is not factory seam-sealed and the seams are not taped; this requires the owner to seam seal the tent for greater water protection. The Tarptent comes with instructions to seam-seal the ridgelines and they are easy to follow and easy to apply. The main body of the silicone-impregnated nylon sits 4-6 in (10-15 cm) above the ground and this is designed to facilitate ventilation.

Great Ventilation
The sides, rear and front entrance of the Tarptent have a mesh no-see-um bug netting that is sewn into the silicone nylon. This bug netting is a very fine, almost delicate material that is in place to aid in ventilation as well as keeping critters out of the tent. The netting runs the length of the tent and virtually creates ventilation panels along the tents sides. The back of the tent has a half-moon shaped arch, due to the 1 required tent pole and that window is filled with the netting as well. The rather large entrance is fully enclosed with the netting and includes a two-way zipper that provides full access into the tent. The netting continues to the ground and is sewn into the bathtub floor of the tent.

The bathtub floor is also made out of silicone-impregnated rip-stop nylon that is black in color. This floor can be set-up in two variations to facilitate the user's needs. It can either be secured with clips at the front corner of the tent in a manner to add structure to the sides of the floor and create a 3 in (7 cm) wall that encompasses the tent. These walls are in place to prevent water or snow from entering the tent from the ventilation panels, rear window or front entrance. If the water protection is not needed, the walls can be unclipped and the floor will actually expand allowing the user to configure the tent for a slightly large usable area.

The interior of the tent includes 2 small stash pockets at the front of the tent which are located at either side. Just below these gear pockets are the bathtub floor clips that can also be used to fine tune the tension of the tent during setup. Additionally the interior of the tent includes tie-off material to secure the entrance netting when not in use.

Field Conditions

I have used this tent on 4 overnight trips that included 9 nights of field use. On these trips the Tarptent provided shelter for my family of 2 adults, 1 child and a very large dog. The tent was used in the mountains of Northern Colorado at elevations from 10,000 ft (3,000 m) to 13,000 ft (4,000 m) during the months of May through September. During that time we experienced severe rain and wind, however we did not encounter any snow. The tent was setup up in sub-alpine environments and we frequently had good soil to secure the tent stakes; however, there were some occasions where rock slabs interfered and we needed to select a different site.


We had a great view of Longs Peak from this spot
I purchased this tent due to the large area-to-weight ratio it offered; basically a 3 person tent that was 42 oz (1,191 g). While I was skeptical of the functionality of the tent since I historically used a sturdier 2 wall structure, the weight benefit and ease of set-up encouraged me to give the tent a shot. I was also convinced after multiple conversations with Henry Shires through email regarding his product; he offered very good and prompt customer service and it was a pleasure interfacing with him. But after I got the tent and set it up in the back yard my wife was very hesitant to use it, she thought it didn't give her the comfort or security the other tents we have used did.

However, once we got the tent set up in the field and settled in for our first night, all of our skepticism vanished. The tent was easy to pack, it is small and weighs just over the equivalent of 1 L of water not to mention that set-up took less than 4 minutes our 1st time out. In addition to all of those benefits, this was our first 3 person tent that actually fit our family of 3 with room for the dog (with boots in the beak and packs were outside of the tent).

During our usage, we did end up spending quite a bit of time inside the tent due to rain. We found that the front of the tent had adequate headroom for 2 adults to sit comfortably with the little guy and dog further back which allowed us to play games, cards or simply watch the rain. We experienced very heavy rain and had absolutely no problem with the water resistance of the canopy or the design of the bathtub floor.

During our use of the tent I have never had an issue with condensation and I attribute that the arid climate of Colorado as well as the excellent ventilation features of the tent. The tent is highly ventilated and if it is set-up correctly, it is very pleasurable to be inside the tent even on a hot day; as long as there is a slight breeze. Ventilation has never been an issue, however there was one occasion where there was not a breeze at all; we simply opened the beak up and got a full view of a cloudless night. On another occasion we needed to hunker down, add 2 additional guy-lines on the sides due to very high wind. The tent held firm, it rattled a bit, but it was sturdy and we had no doubt that the structure of the tent was solid.

I instantly fell in love with this tent and I have become a huge Tarptent advocate. I enjoy other backpackers stopping by and asking; "what tent is that"? Those conversations always end with a "wow that's cool".

Things I Like...

  • The area to weight ratio is amazing

  • The sturdiness of the tent

  • The ease of set-up

  • Excellent quality and craftsmanship

  • Multiple set-up options (1 or 2 pole, bathtub floor up or down)

  • Ventilation, Ventilation, Ventilation (it is good)

  • Henry Shires's dedication to his products

Things I Would Change...

  • I wish the tent came factory seam-sealed

  • The zippers are very small; the addition of pull tabs would be a nice feature

  • The single pole configure makes it hard to enter (I'm a big guy)

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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