The Tarptent Double Rainbow is a lightweight, two-person backpacking tent that is simple, effective, and budget-friendly. My boyfriend (Mark) and I started using it on our Pacific Crest Trail hike and it certainly did not disappoint.
Specs at a Glance
- Sleeping Capacity – 2 people
- Type: Single-Wall Tent (3 Season)
- Number of Doors & Vestibules – 2
- Weight – 2 lbs. 10 ounces (includes tent body, aluminum arch pole, aluminum
cross-strut, stuff sack, 6 stakes in stake bag
- Fabric – Canopy and Floor: 30D double silicone-coated ripstop nylon
- Reflective Guyline with Dyneema core – 2.5 mm (included)
- Interior Height – 40 in / 102 cm
- Floor Width – 50 in / 127 cm
- Floor Length – 88 in / 224 cm
- Vestibule Area – 75. Sq. ft. per each one
- Packed Size – 18 in x 4.5 in / 43 cm x 11.4 cm
When I evaluate a tent, I consider these main factors:
- Weight and packed size
- Design and ease of set-up and break down
- Usable space and storage
- Durability and weather protection
- Ventilation and condensation
Everyone looks for different things when choosing a tent, and these are elements that are important to me.
Weight and Packed Size
Anything under three pounds is sweet for being a lightweight tent (not ultralight, mind you), and the Double Rainbow is sitting pretty at 2 lbs. 10 ounces. As someone who is often trying to skim weight off what I carry, I’ve been pleased with the weight of the Double Rainbow as a two-person tent. I’ve used it backpacking solo as well, to enjoy the extra room, and it’s still lighter than the REI Quarter Dome I carried on the Appalachian Trail.
The Double Rainbow is rather compact and rolls up nicely for its stuff-sack. It could be compressed more by removing the upper cross-strut, which is what we do. The pole, cross-strut, and stakes fit well in the stuff-sack, although I did have to hand-sew the sack once because the tent and parts were jammed in a little too tightly (likely our fault). To prevent this from happening again, we often kept the pole, cross-strut, and stakes separately stored in our packs; Mark would carry the tent body and I carried the pole and stakes.
Design and Ease of Set-Up/Break Down
The Double Rainbow is a unique, hybrid single wall design. What this translates to is that it’s not a double-wall tent with a separate rainfly and it’s not just a single wall – it merges a mesh tent body with a built-in rainfly exterior all in one piece. This means it offers some of the airflow, bug, and weather protection that a double-wall tent does…without being an actual double wall. Being all one unit also helps to cut down on the weight of the tent itself. Pretty cool, huh?
One of the things I like best about the Double Rainbow is how fast and easy it is to set up and break down. Honestly, if a tent takes me more than three minutes, I’m not a fan. I’m also not a fan if it’s complicated, especially if I’m dealing with a storm approaching over my head. Another great perk of having this hybrid single wall design is that the interior can stay dry if you have to set it up in the rain because the exterior of the tent functions like a rainfly.
A selling point for me is that it has a functional double door design for ease of entry and exit when you’ve got two people living inside. It’s just not fun when someone has to crawl over you in the night when needing to get out to pee.
It’s a breeze to set up: simply insert the aluminum cross-strut across the top and then take the single aluminum pole and slide it through the long sleeve to create the ‘bone’ of the tent. Then stake out the four sides and the two doors of the vestibule. Make taut with the plastic guyline tensioners, which we often needed to play around with and adjust to get right. That’s the basic setup, which takes three minutes max. It’s equally quick to break down the tent by removing the stakes, cross-strut, and the one pole, rolling it up, and you’re good to go.
The Double Rainbow can be set up as staked as I described, or function in freestanding mode; however, you need trekking poles for the freestanding option and additional guylines. It’s nice to have the option if you want it.
If there’s going to be two of you in a tent, you want it to be roomy. Heck, I know solo male and female hikers of all sizes who often opt to carry a two-person tent just to have more usable real estate.
I’m close to 5’5” and Mark is 6 ft tall and we both find the Double Rainbow works great for us in not feeling cramped or stuffed like sardines. We’re able to lay out our sleeping pads and still have room for our backpacks and gear at the bottom of the tent. This is a huge plus for me because I like to feel I can stretch my legs out if I want to, and I don’t like keeping my backpack under the vestibule when there’s not enough room.
One downside I will say is that when we’re dealing with condensation (more on that later), there isn’t much space between my sleeping bag and the sidewall when we’re both in the tent. My sleeping bag can get damp in those conditions and who likes that?
On a positive note, It has ample ceiling height so we can both sit up in the tent, which is always way better than feeling hunched over. The upper cross-strut goes width-wise across the center of the tent and opens up headroom to the sides.
There are two small interior mesh pockets that work well for your headlamp or random other bits and bobs. The two vestibules with the double door design provide a generous amount of usable space for footwear, wet items, water bottles/bladders, or pack storage if you like to have more room inside.
Durability and Weather Protection
I am cautious and caring with my gear, but I also use it, you know? I respect the gear I have and know it’s not impervious to rips and tears, yet I also want it to stand up to basic wear and usage. With that said, I’ve been very satisfied with the Double Rainbow in terms of durability for a lightweight model.
The 30D silnylon along the floor and fly is a sturdy fabric and I haven’t had any issues with the zippers on the vestibule or interior mesh. It doesn’t come with a footprint and we chose not to buy one; we didn’t even put Tyvek underneath it (Tarptent will cut a piece and sell you for $17-20). For the ground conditions we’ve camped in, the floor of the tent was super durable. However, if I’m to set out in other conditions with rougher terrain, it would be prudent to have a groundsheet to protect the tent floor.
Regarding the stakes provided – Tarptent provides six Easton Aluminum Nano stakes, which kind of look like nails. We didn’t find these very durable and quickly switched them out to MSR Groundhog stakes which we like for their quality and weight.
It’s worth saying that I know other backpackers who have used the Double Rainbow for years on end with confidence and without any problems in terms of durability. This was another reason we bought this tent because it had been highly recommended for its quality and performance.
If you do have a glitch, Tarptent does sell a Repair Kit for $8 which could be handy to have. As well, Tarptent has an affordable repair service done on a ‘non-profit’ basis as they state on their site with an estimated $30 charge for normal wear and tear repairs.
In terms of weather protection, the Double Rainbow stood up well for both wind and rain. It has endured some nights of crazy wind gusts and rainstorms and performed solidly. On an odd occasion, one of us had to get out of the tent to re-stake one of the stakes that came loose due to intense wind, but this was a rarity.
When raining heavy, a nice feature is that the floor is cut high and can be raised by clipping in at attachment points inside the walls. This forms the bathtub floor that protects against running water and creates a barrier against rain seeping down the fly and into the tent. Make sure the fly is guyed out so it’s lower than the top of the bathtub rim to avoid a swimming pool in your tent.
A really important point to add is that the Double Rainbow doesn’t come seam sealed. You can either do it yourself with an $8 kit Tarptent sells, or pay $35 for them to do it for you.
Ventilation and Condensation
One downside to any single wall shelter is that condensation is usually a bummer and ventilation can be an issue. The Double Rainbow is in this club, yet I’ve definitely been in other tents that were way worse off. There are a few reasons why the Double Rainbow does well in these areas.
- Airflow – You can unclip the bathtub floor by flattening it out to keep airflow moving.
- Double Door Design – This allows for more ventilation because of the mesh lining. The vents on the upper part of each vestibule door can be propped open as well to increase ventilation.
- Covered Porch Set Up – You can set up the vestibule flaps this way to help with airflow and use this method in light rain (when airflow and condensation can be problematic if enclosed).
- Optional Clip-In Liner – Tarptent offers an additional lightweight clip-in liner that allows for an air gap between the interior wall and roof which can either add warmth in winter or help cool things off in summer by limiting heat from direct sun. It also gives some more protection against condensation droplets and moisture.
Cost is often the big ringer for me as to whether I pull the trigger on buying a piece of gear. With the Double Rainbow’s affordable price at $299, I feel you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Sure, there are other lightweight (or lighter) tents on the market, but many of those are super expensive. Quality gear is always an investment and oftentimes it’s worth it, but if you don’t have a lot of dough to spend or you simply don’t want to, I believe the Double Rainbow is a brilliant choice.
There are optional accessories to consider in the cost (such as seam sealing, buying more guylines, a groundsheet, etc.) so make sure you choose what you need before buying everything to keep it an excellent value for a well-crafted tent.
Comparable Two-Person Tents
|Make / Model||Structural||Trail Weight|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||Freestanding||2 lbs 11 oz / 1219g|
|NEMO Dagger OSMO 2||Freestanding||3 lbs 6 oz / 1531g|
|Zpacks Duplex||Trekking Pole||1 lbs 3 oz / 539g|
|Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2||Semi-Freestanding||2 lbs 3 oz / 992g|
|Gossamer Gear "The Two"||Trekking Pole||1 lbs 7.5 oz / 667g|
|MSR Freelite 2||Semi-Freestanding||2 lbs / 907g|
|Tarptent Double Rainbow||Semi-Freestanding||2 lbs 10 oz / 1191g|
|Dan Durston X-Mid 2||Trekking Pole||2 lbs 4 oz / 1025g|
|Slingfin Portal 2||Freestanding||2 lbs 14 oz / 1305g|
|NEMO DragonFly OSMO 2||Freestanding||2 lbs 10 oz / 1191G|
I’ve been very happy with the Tarptent Double Rainbow for the time we used it on the Pacific Crest Trail and since then on other backpacking trips. In terms of the factors I deem most essential when choosing a tent, it’s a roomy, lightweight, cost-friendly tent that’s efficient to use and performs remarkably well in the backcountry. Highly Recommended!
Disclosure: The author owns this tent.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
I’ve had this tent with the optional clip-in liner for about a dozen years and haven’t found any other 2 person tent so compelling that I’d replace the Double Rainbow. It’s a well designed, cost effective, lightweight piece of gear. I’ve used the “porch” mode on sunny days and it really makes for a nice shaded area that provides lots of ventilation.
I did my own seam sealing in about an hour, utilizing mineral spirits, silicone, and a foam brush I already had in the shop.
I wasn’t impressed with the free standing mode. It seemed too flimsy and really needed staking out to make for a sturdy pitch. As far as the cross pole is concerned, I just leave it in and roll up the tent around it.
Tarptent’s customer service can’t be beat. In 2011, a friend broke one of the aluminum poles and bent another while manhandling the pitching of the tent–there was nothing wrong with the instructions, it was the application of the instructions (along with plenty of force) that broke the pole. Henry Shires sent out a replacement free of charge. He said it was more trouble to set up the payment than to just send the pole pieces. Henry has a fan for life!
Thanks for your comments, Grandpa, so support the awesomeness of the Double Rainbow! I don’t own the clip-in liner but may opt to buy one to help with condensation.
I appreciate your honesty on the condensation issue. Although I am sure it is better than other tents, it still seems like it is somewhat of a problem. I owned a single wall tent in the 90’s and every time I took it out it was problematic, with really no pitching alterations making much of a difference. It is probably somewhat affected by the climate in the NE where most of my camping takes place. The next tent was a double wall and the problem virtually went away.
Also, appreciate Grandpa’s comment on the sturdiness of the free standing ability. Although technically it could be setup that way, it does not seem to me to be ideal if you actually need it to be free standing.
I just purchased my first new tent in 20+ years a short time ago and ended up choosing the Scarp 2, for just the these two reasons. I have not had a chance to seam seal it yet, but and looking forward to getting out this spring with it to give it a test.
Thanks for the review.
Hi Tom, thank you for your feedback. I think it’s always important to be honest and transparent about what we don’t like in a product; there are pros and cons to all gear, right? I hope you like your new tent!
You spelled Slingfin incorrectly in the comparison tents.
I own and love this tent in good weather. I sealed the seams myself and have used it on many trips with rain and had no leaks. I even shared with a friend when her tent wetted through. I only have two beefs with it. #1 its a lot of material that can’t be split up. #2 its all one piece and really awkward to hang out to dry. Other than that, I love the ability to stake out the wings high and get good airflow. Also, its easy to rock out when you’re camping on granite. I leave it at home when I know for sure it will rain.
Just an update on the DR – Tarptent now offers a double wall version that should alleviate condensation concerns. DW increases the price a bit and up the weight to 44 oz. Advatage is ability to setup in the rain with a dry interior. Henry does listen to his customers!