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Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow
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Austin Lowes
Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/01/2009 20:26:25 MDT Print View

Hello everyone,

What a great site. This is my first post.

Does anyone have experience with a Tarptent Contrail? I purchased one not long ago, but I’m having second thoughts. Though I haven’t tested the tent in the field, I’m concerned with how well it will hold up in bad weather, particularly strong winds and heavy rains. How weather resistant is this tent? Are there any pitching tricks that increases it’s performance? I understand that there were some sacrifices made in order to decrease weight. Is it natural to be uneasy when transitioning to a minimalist tent such as this one? My previous tent was a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1.

If I don’t come around I’ll consider exchanging it for a Rainbow. How do the two tents stack up? Do the Rainbow’s extra features make carrying the extra half pound worth it?

Also, if there are any other ultra lights out there throw them at me. This is a really tough decision.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/01/2009 20:46:21 MDT Print View

Some tips....
Remember to re-tighten the shelter before you go to sleep.
Add the apex guyline
Add a pole segment/stick/trekking pole at the rear
Try the "storm" set up
When possible set the tail or the front into the wind
Practice setting it up.
Have a look at some of this pics for better weather resistance.
Contrail 1
Contrail 2
Contrail 3

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/01/2009 21:07:26 MDT Print View

I wouldn't say that the Rainbow is any more weather resistant than the Contrail, given the pitch options of the Contrail (see Franco's masterworks) possibly it's the other way around. I haven't used the Rainbow but I've seen some fairly egregious weather conditions in my Contrail, including but not limited to: 40+ mph sustained winds (fun to pitch tents in), dime-sized hail, 48 hours of constant rain (ranging from drizzle to wind-driven), and a cascade of heat seeking pine cones (courtesy of Shenandoah National Park). My version is the '07, which is before Henry Shires redesigned the canopy to pitch tighter, easier.

While the Rainbow probably looks more like what you're used to in a tent considering you're coming from a BA Seedhouse, I wouldn't sweat this. Pitched correctly, the Contrail can handle any weather you're likely to be out in. The only weather conditions I would consider the Rainbow to be better suited for is a good amount of snow.

Austin Lowes
Storm Setup on 04/01/2009 21:41:10 MDT Print View

I was unaware that a third pole could be used in the back. Where would I find such a pole? Mine only came with the two in the back plus the easton pole for the front. The third picture looks very interesting. Could you elaborate on the "storm setup"?

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/01/2009 22:04:44 MDT Print View

Pole detail
For most 3 season use the standard set up is fine but if you want to push it a bit i would recommend you use a trekking pole at the front and some pole at the back. That line of tension between the front and rear is what makes it work. (same principle of an A frame tarp set-up) Mine is a section of a spare pole with the tip reversed so that the hole that holds the shock cord, when assembled as a tent pole, becomes the hole for the guyline. Having it that way it means that I can leave that tip attached to the guyline and just insert the pole section into it.
You can also use a trekking pole ( a bit further back than in my A frame set up) or just a stick.
BTW , the Rainbow without any help is more aerodynamic than the standard Contrail configuration, but you can also add two guylines to the ridge pole of the Rainbow and trekking poles to the apex cross pole. But as I said , play around with the Contrail so that you get the idea of how it works.
If you ask a busy shop, likely they will have a damaged pole that you could buy for very little.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/01/2009 22:07:49 MDT Print View

If you think you might encounter any type of snow, I would highly recommend the Rainbow with the optional 9mm pole. The Contrail will collapse in heavy wet snow - in my opinion, even with the Franco Rear Strut (trademarked).

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/01/2009 22:28:04 MDT Print View

What he said.
I really like the Rainbow but use the Contrail because it's lighter, smaller and I have trekking poles.
If and when I will do winter stuff I will use the Scarp.
Here is my Rainbow before the pole and apex guyouts were thought of .
Rainbow in the snow

Edited by Franco on 04/01/2009 22:29:45 MDT.

Andrew Lush
(lushy) - MLife

Locale: Lake Mungo, Mutawintji NPs
re: Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/01/2009 23:01:18 MDT Print View

Welcome aboard, Austin.

I can't really add much more to this thread because BPL's resident expert on all things Tarptent (Franco) has already posted.

However, what I can give you is my perspective as a very contented owner of a Contrail. I have had mine for three years and I really, really like it. It has survived storms, heavy winds, and light dustings of snow. It has never let me down. It's quick to set up, weather-proof, bug-proof, roomy enough for one and most of all very lightweight.

Once you use yours in the heat of battle a few times, I'm sure you'll be similarly impressed.

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Re: Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/02/2009 06:12:25 MDT Print View

I've used the Contrail extensively and it was almost love at first sight. I'd highly recommend it, particularly if you use treking poles. If not, the benefits are not quite as great. The speed of putting the Contrail is a great attraction to me. After using the Contrail for about 50 nights on the trail I tried a Rainbow, but could never get to the stage of appreciation that I had/have for the Contrail.

Small Rear Pole on Contrail

Edited by Quoddy on 04/02/2009 06:14:41 MDT.

Austin Lowes
Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/02/2009 08:38:08 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the replies. They've made me feel much more at ease. I've decided to keep the tent. After all, it's unfair to judge it before I even used it.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 04/02/2009 09:15:29 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 05/17/2015 21:23:05 MDT.

Austin Lowes
Tarptent on 04/02/2009 09:22:22 MDT Print View

I'm unfamiliar with what an apex line is. How would I add a longer one? I guess I just lack the vocabulary.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 04/02/2009 09:30:15 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 05/13/2015 17:46:21 MDT.

Austin Lowes
Contrail on 04/02/2009 10:13:30 MDT Print View

Okay, I understand what you're talking about now.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/02/2009 18:07:14 MDT Print View

Sorry about the jargon..
Henry Shires is the Master of the Contrail, Franco is the mistress at best.
Good tip about angling the pole, forgot about that one. On a couple of occasions I just shoved a boot under the pole , too lazy to get out.
Note that there are also tensioning lines at the front between the corners of the bathtub floor and the outer tips of the beak.
Keeping the Contrail in tension is only difficult if one wants it to be so.(insert Smiley here)
Contrail front

John Holder
(DripDry) - F
Contrail Rear Pole Length? on 04/08/2009 08:04:12 MDT Print View


Can you please share the length of the rear pole you are using? Also- it looks like you added lines from the guy out to the corner poles. What is the purpose of those?


(Actually- I think that is John's picture- sorry. Are you using those as well)?

Edited by DripDry on 04/08/2009 08:05:49 MDT.

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Re: Contrail Rear Pole Length? on 04/08/2009 09:03:16 MDT Print View

The ideal rear pole would be 19" to 20" (two section shock corded) with a flat base tip. A 20" pole would allow a slight push into the ground and work better.

The single (orange) extra line you see on the rear of my Contrail was on the earlier versions and I never removed it. It actually hindered the use of the rear pole a wee bit. All other lines, except for the lead from the rear pole are the standard setup.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Tarptent Contrail Vs. Tarptent Rainbow on 04/08/2009 20:43:59 MDT Print View

John Holder
Not to boast but mine is shorter than Quoddy's.
The one I use at the moment is 19" , that is long enough to be slightly higher than the edge of the tent and dig in a little if needed (IE in hard ground. On soft ground it stays there by itself)
Having that slight raise in the middle gives the Contrail ridge a nice catenary line, by putting that guyline and the one at the front in tension it makes that ridge very firm and (to me) the all shelter more stable)
In mild weather I often don't bother setting it up.

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: Contrail on 04/08/2009 22:55:18 MDT Print View


I think what a lot of us like about the Contrail is the varieties of ways to pitch it. So unlike the Seedhouse ( or most other tents ) where what you see is what you get, with the Contrail you have options. There are several pitches shown in this thread alone. I've logged close to 45 nights in the Contrail without any problems. Heavy rain, winds, hail all weathered with nary a hitch.

I would always consider site selection as an important part of setting up any tent. I would avoid bare ridge tops no matter how good the view, as you are a target for high winds and lightening, etc. (voice of experience:-) A more sheltered spot, if possible, is better no matter what tent. I think your going to like the Contrail.

Happy Trails,

Edited by markhurd on 04/08/2009 22:56:12 MDT.

Claudia Garren
(spirit4earth) - F

Locale: North Carolina
re: storm pitch on 07/29/2009 13:12:19 MDT Print View

It seems to me that the beak doesn't really come down far enough to prevent rain from splashing in the front netting. Can anyone give more details on a good rain pitch? I have a Squall 2.