The backpacking tent cottage industry is alive and well, and California-based Tarptent is one of the best. Their leading two-person model is the Double Rainbow, which hits a competitive balance of usability, weight, and weather protection. We put it to the test through a full season of bikepacking and backcountry exploring in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, and found it to be an impressive ultralight option. Below we break down the Double Rainbow’s interior space, weight and packed size, weather protection, ventilation, durability, and more. To see how the Double Rainbow stacks up, see our article on the best backpacking tents.
Hybrid Single-Wall Design
The Tarptent Double Rainbow is not a double-wall tent with a rainfly, like the Big Agnes Copper Spur, nor is it a traditional single-wall tent like the Black Diamond First Light. Rather, this shelter combines the two designs, merging a mesh tent body with a rainfly in one single piece. With this hybrid construction, the Double Rainbow can be as light and easy to set up as a single-wall tent, but offer the airflow and bug and weather protection of a double-wall structure. It’s a concept you’ll see on high-end options like the Zpacks Duplex, but the Tarptent comes in at a budget-friendly $289.
For being a minimalist two-person tent, the Double Rainbow is reasonably spacious. Its symmetrical floor and two-door layout comfortably shelter two people and their gear, and easily accommodates a 6-foot stature in length. The ceiling height is more than ample, and the upper strut that runs width-wise across the middle expands the headroom to the sides. Both people can easily sit up without crouching. But we do wish the tent was slightly wider—even sleeping head-to-toe, our sleeping bags pushed against the outer walls and picked up condensation.
The Double Rainbow offers minimal options for storage, but we made it work. There are two small interior pockets perfect for a headlamp, glasses, or cell phone. Additionally, tabs sewn near the apex can be utilized to hang a gear hammock. And the two generously-sized vestibules provide great real estate for packs, footwear, and wet gear.
Weighing 2 pounds 10 ounces, the Double Rainbow is extremely light for its size and features. It undercuts popular competitors like the MSR Hubba Hubba NX (3 pounds 7 ounces) and Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 (2 pounds 12 ounces). The few tents that weigh less than the Double Rainbow—like the Nemo Hornet and the Big Agnes Tiger Wall—are made with significantly less durable fabric. One downside is that the Double Rainbow does not come seam sealed (you can have Tarptent do the service for $35 or purchase a kit to do it yourself for $8), so your total weight will go up a little as a result.
In terms of packed size, the Double Rainbow is a standout. The thin materials, hybrid single-wall build, and simplistic pole design keep things extremely compact. Tents with hubbed poles or a freestanding design like the Big Agnes Copper Spur take up noticeably more space in your pack. To make it even easier to compress, you can remove the upper strut and store it separately. But we found that keeping it in its sleeve did little to compromise packability. As a prototype, Tarptent sent us a pole bag which also fits the stakes. This bag has sewn-in gear loops, which added protection to the pole when stowed outside of the shelter stuff sack. It also proved to be versatile stowing the pole during bikepacking trips.
Despite its minimalist and mesh-heavy build, the Double Rainbow has proven to be a stalwart in the wind. First off, we were impressed with its stability in strong gusts despite having a single-pole structure (the main pole runs lengthwise down the middle of the tent). Its dome-like shape helped it hunker down nicely and avoid the wind-catching personality of similar designs. Additionally, you can raise the ground tarp into the bathtub floor that clips under the fly, creating a barrier against the wind. If you’re meticulous enough in your setup, you can tension the fly so that it sits just above the ground, mitigating the possibility for wind to sweep underneath.
That said, with the right gust, dust can blow up and over this rim, filling the tent.
Another issue to note: the plastic guyline tensioners on the Double Rainbow are prone to slipping. When this happens, the tension of the tent loosens and its weather protection is compromised. As a quick but not necessarily ideal fix, extend the guylines all the way until the knot hits the tightener and then stake them out tight. The cylindrical stakes provided by Tarptent are not our favorite, and in certain types of ground can be easily unearthed. We recommend purchasing Y-stakes from a company like MSR to anchor your Double Rainbow.
While the Double Rainbow doesn’t offer the same level of protection as a heavier double-wall tent, it is designed with inclement weather in mind. We’ve found the 30D, silicone-coated fabric (silnylon) is an effective barrier from precipitation, and more durable than tents of similar weight. For added protection, the corners of the integrated ground cloth can be clipped to attachment points inside the walls. This creates a 3- to 4-inch bathtub floor that guards against running water and provides a barrier against rain beading down the fly and into the tent. But be careful—you must make sure that the fly is guyed out so that it is lower than the top of the bathtub rim, otherwise risk a pool of water in your tent. And a final note on rain protection: as mentioned above, the Double Rainbow does not come seam sealed. But Tarptent offers an $8 kit to do it yourself or you can have them perform the service for $35.
As is the case with virtually all single-wall shelters, the Double Rainbow is prone to condensation accumulation. That said, Tarptent has designed the shelter with a few especially helpful features that, when put to use, keep most overnight moisture buildup at bay. To start, the bathtub floor can be flattened, allowing for more airflow along the base of the tent. Further, the vents on the upper part of each vestibule door can be propped open for optimal ventilation. Or, you can take ventilation seriously and set up the vestibule flaps as a “covered porch,” a configuration that even protects in a light rain. But when we had to batten down the hatches in heavy rain and humid conditions, we experienced more condensation buildup along the end walls compared with our double-wall tents
We have found the Double Rainbow to be relatively durable for an ultralight model. With 30D silnylon along the floor and fly, it is made of beefier fabric than other tents of its weight (the Big Agnes Copper Spur has a 20D nylon floor, for example). But like all shelters in this class, the Double Rainbow is not meant to be abused through rough handling. Care should be taken when inserting and removing the center arch pole into its sleeve—especially when sliding the pole towards the strut, where the pole could catch and tear a hole in the fabric. The zippers on both the vestibule and interior mesh are holding up well, and all of the stitching remains intact after weeks of continuous use. Overall, Tarptent offers an extremely high level of craftsmanship
Set up and Take Down
With a single pole, six stakes, and an already integrated fly, the basic setup for the Double Rainbow is simple and can easily be done by one person. Just slide the arch pole through the yellow pole sleeve and secure it into the attachments on each side. Then, stake out each corner and both vestibules. Clip the bathtub floor to the interior or exterior tabs based upon conditions and…voilà! Your tent has been set. We’ve talked to some people who set up their Double Rainbow in less than two minutes—and takedown is just as simple. One thing we really appreciate about this tent—and other single-wall structures—is the ability to set it up in the pouring rain while keeping the inside dry.
We think it’s important to note, however, that the Double Rainbow requires attention to detail for all of its features to be fully utilized. Simply put, this tent is not foolproof. The fly must be carefully staked down lower than the bathtub floor. The bathtub floor must be converted depending on whether you need rain protection or airflow. The vestibules should be propped open to mitigate condensation buildup during the night. If you enjoy geeking out on your gear and utilizing all of its features, the Double Rainbow can be tweaked to near-perfection. But if you just want to be able to set up a waterproof, low-condensation tent without much thought, we recommend shopping around first.
If the terrain is not conducive to stakes, you can use trekking poles laid on the ground at the head and foot of the Double Rainbow to create a freestanding structure. Guylines can then be used to tension the tent. It’s important to note that the Double Rainbow does not come with extra guylines, so you’ll have to purchase your own. Additionally, Tarptent includes helpful videos on their website that go through the nuances of the Double Rainbow and how to properly set it up.
What We Like
- Weighing just 2 pounds 10 ounces, few tents measure up with the Double Rainbow in terms of interior space, durability, weight, and packability.
- Highly versatile, this tent can provide protection from wind and rain with multiple options for increasing air flow.
- Functional double doors and vestibules.
- Even including the extra cost of seam sealing, the tent is a fantastic value.
What We Don’t
- Shoulder and foot room is at capacity with two people inside.
- Single-wall panels are prone to collecting moisture.
- Attention to detail is imperative to setting up this tent well.
|Tarptent Double Rainbow||$289||2 lbs. 10 oz.||30D||30.5 sq. ft.||43 in||2||1P, 2P|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||$450||2 lbs. 12 oz.||20D||29 sq. ft.||42 in.||2||1P, 2P, 3P, 4P|
|Nemo Hornet 2P||$370||2 lbs. 0 oz.||15D||28 sq. ft.||40 in.||2||1P, 2P|
|Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2||$400||2 lbs. 3 oz.||15D||28 sq. ft.||39 in.||2||2P, 3P|
|Zpacks Duplex Flex||$724||1 lb. 15.2 oz.||1.0 sqyd||28 sq. ft.||48 in.||2||1P, 2P, 3P|
The Tarptent Double Rainbow is ideal for the thru-hiker, bikepacker, or backpacker who needs the comforts of a tent but doesn’t want to carry its weight. It offers far more protection from the elements than a tarp or bivy, but the Double Rainbow has its limitations. Stacked up to a popular double-wall design like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, the Tarptent is a similar weight but isn’t as convenient to set up (the Copper Spur has a fully freestanding pole structure). Additionally, the Copper Spur gets the edge in ventilation with liberal amounts of mesh that encourages airflow between the rainfly and tent body (for more information, see our in-depth Copper Spur review). But where the Tarptent is the clear winner is value—even factoring in $35 for seam sealing, it undercuts the Big Agnes but over $100.
Two additional thru-hiker-friendly competitors are the Nemo Hornet and Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. The Nemo and Big Agnes hover right around 2 pounds in weight, and also have the advantage in preventing condensation with their mesh-heavy builds. But the Double Rainbow is more spacious inside and its simplistic pole structure makes it more packable. Further, its 30D fabrics are noticeably more durable than what you get from Nemo and Big Agnes. In the end, it’s a tough call between the three—they all rank closely on our backpacking tent round-up. But the Double Rainbow’s roomier interior at a minimal weight penalty is what gives it the edge for us.
A final option to consider is Zpacks’ wild Duplex Flex shelter. This freestanding, two-person tent has its fair share of loyalists, and for good reason. It’s super light at under 2 pounds, surprisingly durable with its tough Dyneema construction, and offers good all-around weather protection. The Duplex and Double Rainbow both follow a similar hybrid single-wall design, which comes with some sacrifices in ventilation. The upside is they’re both easy to pitch in the rain with the rainfly already connected to the mesh side walls. Both are solid designs overall, but at $724, the Duplex Flex is well over double the cost of the Tarptent (for more, see our in-depth Duplex review). Whether or not the Duplex’s weight advantages are worth that extra investment comes down to priorities, but both tents stand as excellent examples of the innovation found in today’s cottage industry.