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Shires Tarptent Rainbow

in Shelters - Single Wall Tents

Average Rating
4.60 / 5 (5 reviews)

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Gerald Magnes
( gmagnes )

Upstate NY
Shires Tarptent Rainbow on 02/27/2006 13:35:25 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I recently purchased the Rainbow. Based on a couple of nights sleeping in it in my back yard, I can tell you that I'm very happy with the Rainbow.

I received my new Rainbow a little over a month ago and have only had the opportunity to set it up in the back yard for a couple of nights. A few first impressions based on this limited experience:

First, I really, really like it! I've tried out the Cloudburst and older style Squall, and although they have much to recommend them, I always felt somewhat cramped by the relatively limited situp/head room. The Rainbow solves that problem for sure. I thought a one person tent might feel too enclosed and cramped, but that is not the case at all. It feels spacious, has lots of head room, and plenty of floor space. I also really like that fact that when I'm laying down, I don't feel that the tent wall is next to my face or virtually touching my bag at the foot end. The tent length and steep walls eliminate that feeling for me. Also, as Franco's photos on this site show, there is plenty of floor space for gear to be stored inside of the tent at the ends and on the side.

One night I slept in the tent with my dog, a Sheltie. There was plenty of room for both of us. Lo temp was predicted at about 28 degrees. The couple of times I checked a themometer inside the tent it was about 31 degrees. Outside there was a fairly strong wind(approx. 10 mph) when I first went to bed but it died down during the night. There were also light snow showers that left a dusting by the am. I slept with the vestibule completely closed and the upper vent closed as much as it can be, in part to see how the ventilation/condensation would be when it's battened down. Even in this configuration there is still plenty of netting around the periphery of the tent and the whole long wall with the door is netting. When I checked during the night and when I woke up in the morning there was absolutely no condensation. The inner walls of the tent were completely dry.

I also slept in the tent a second night when the temp was about 20 degrees inside the tent with less wind and had essentially the same results--almost no condensation and very comfortable.

To provide a more complete view of its ventilation and condensation, I'd need to try it more times in varied conditions, but as a first shot, it looks quite good from that perspective. I'm sure the initially strong wind helped on the first night, but it became pretty calm as the night went on, so it was still a reasonable test, I think.

The vestibule is relatively small, and I think would provide only limited space for gear storage, but it would probably fit a pair of boots, and maybe an empty pack laid on its side. It can be split down the middle and kept half open when rain is coming from one side or the other and could probably provide a limited shelter for cooking( with care). I found it a bit tricky to line up the 3 velcro patches to get it to close without any space where the two halves meet that could allow rain to get through. In fact, during the day it did rain and a bit of water seeped into one side of the tent. I think this happened because I didn't properly close the center closure in the vestibule. Later I figured out that it 's probably best to match the velcro strips when the vestibule is not pegged down and not under tension, then peg it down afterward. Once I did close the vestibule better, there was no more evidence of water. I need some more experience with the tent in rainy conditions to be sure that the vestibule really does prevent any rain from seeping through the point where the two halves come together.

The tent set up quite easily. I tried it with hiking poles first, then with pegs. With the pegs and the Delrin line tighteners on each corner that come wth the tent, it was possible to get a very nice, tight pitch with minimal effort. Using the hiking poles, it took a second time and some more study of the photos to figure out how to do it, but once I did, I saw that the tent pitches very nicely with the poles as well. I would suspect it's not quite as wind worthy with the poles, but still would be fine in most conditions.

The sewn in floor with the bathtub/flat options seems to work easily and well.

Although it's sold as a 1+ person tarptent, there is enough extra space to get a second person into the tent if you're a couple or in a pinch.
The stitching and overall quality look excellent, as one would expect from the Shires products.

Overall I am really pleased with this tent. It set up quickly and easily. It immediately felt spacious and comfortable. The ventilation/condensation looks good. Off of my initial impressions, it looks like a real winner!

Gerry Magnes
Schenectady, NY

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Miguel Arboleda
( butuki )

Kanto Plain, Japan
Rainbow in the Japan Alps on 09/07/2006 00:13:40 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

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The tent pitched at 2,000 meters at Sugoroku in the North Japan Alps. While this campsite has plenty of space to pitch, the norm is that the majority of campsites, which are required to camp in, are crowded and barely allow more footprint space than the length of a sleeper.

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The Rainbow from the front. I used my hiking pole under the spreader pole (in this case with handle up) to further stiffen the pitch of the whole tent. Note also the orange EZC line on the left side of the tent. I attached it only on this side as a guyline into the prevailing wind. Henry Shires sewed the tie-out points onto each side of the ridge pole at my request. I found the extra security really helped in the strong winds of the alpine environment of the North Japan Alps. As for sleeping space: you can see all my gear stored at the head end of the tent.

I've had my Rainbow since March now and have used it on five trips, most notably on my last, 6-day traverse of the northern section of the North Japan Alps. This trip really put the Rainbow to the test, bringing strong winds, torrential rains, small, rocky campsites, and the first of the cold of coming autumn.

When ordering the Rainbow I asked Henry to sew some tie-out strips onto the ridgeline, in the manner of the tie-out points on the Hilleberg Akto. This Henry did cheerfully. I wanted this extra assurance because the winds in the Japan Alps are notorious for ripping tents to shreds, especially during August, when the typhoons begin forming. I also replaced the single ridgeline pole with a Scandium pole available from a retailer here that sells Arai tents. Scandium is very light, but also very strong, and the shorter sections of the pole allow for better packing. I didn't bother to seam seal the tent, going on my several years of experience with my two other TarpTents, the Squall 1 and 2, for which I never needed to do any seam sealing and never had any problems with rain leaking through. My neglect to seam seal the Rainbow was to cause a major problem during my North Alps hike.

Most of the time setting up the Rainbow was a breeze. On almost all my trips this year the weather was cooperative and I didn't have to worry about rain, so it was just sliding the pole into the sleeve, pegging the four corners of the tent out, then the front beak and back wall, and it was ready. As others have said, the Rainbow is very roomy, so much so that it seemed a little too big at times. I could comfortably put all my gear and backpack at my feet, and lie full length toward the other end of the tent, while having to one side enough space for a small person to lie beside me. The head room is fantastic whether lying down or sitting up, with very few instances of brushing up against the walls.

Because of the compact footprint of the Rainbow finding suitable camping spaces in the often crowded campsites here in Japan was easy. This was the opposite of both Squalls I have also used in these environments, which take up a lot of space and often had to be pitched in awkward configurations to accommodate the cramped quarters among the stones.

Once the tent is battened down it is very stable and during the wild storm of the third day of my North Alps trip held up very well to the wind, with minimum shaking or deflection. As Will Rietveld suggested in his review of the Rainbow the added guylines I used with the tie-outs I asked Henry to install made a huge difference in securing the lateral stability of the ridgeline pole. Without them the tent would have severely deformed in the wind. That being said the front/ back stability of the tent has a tendency to oscillate somewhat, but it isn't a big deal.

Some basic details that continue to irk me about the Rainbow in general are the flimsyness of the door, the big opening under the door that allows wind and windblown rain to enter, the use of velcro to secure the door flaps, the overly light mitten hook used to hold the door guyline in tension, and the flimsy delrin rings used to hold the corner pegs in tension. I would much have preferred the door flaps to reach the ground so that in heavy rain and wind the tent could be completely battened down to the ground, and still keep the vestibule space for wet gear. I also just cannot get used to using velcro to secure the doors. I found myself constantly readjusting the vecro to match up and, when the door guyline was pulled out a little too far, not matching at all. During the big storm on my last trip the last thing I wanted to do was fiddle with the door opening while getting drenched with rain while I sat inside the tent!

The biggest disaster was my not seam-sealing the tent before I went on my last trip. I had arrived at the camp somewhat late. Since starting the descent from the peak the valley below had been overtaken by a huge thunderstorm. By the time I arrived at the campsite rain was pouring down like a waterfall and the campsite was ankle deep in rushing water and mud. The rain was so strong that I could barely see the tent next to my site three meters away. I managed to get the tent up and get all my gear inside, only to find every seam leaking like a sieve. The area around the back window was especially bad. The spreader pole sleeve above had completely wetted out and water was running down the small cord loop attached and dripping onto the floor. I spent the next two hours trying to mop things up, but to no use. So I donned my raingear again and spent the entire night trying to make sure my sleeping bag and dry gear didn't get wet. Lesson: make sure to seam seal your shelter! When I got home I went over every seam with sealant. I even coated the entire spreader pole sleeve and the inside and outside of the ridgepole sleeve with silicon sealant to make sure no rain could get in. (Question for Henry: Why not make the spreader bar sleeve of a waterproof, and lighter, material?)

In spite of the problems this tent did what I hoped it would do: get me through the alpine regions of Japan. It is a wonderful design and remarkably strong.

What I like:

• Beautiful, windshedding design, with a great fabric cut that allows the tent to be pitched quickly and very tautly.
• Small footprint for those tiny sites on alpine slopes.
• Great ventilation, though naturally ventilation did form.
• Lots of space, all of it usable, inside, both floowise and headroom-wise.
• Has the ability to be freestanding, though I never used this feature, since I only carry one hiking pole. There were times when entire campsites that I passed were covered in talus and there were no places to sink pegs into the ground. The freestanding option of pitching the tent would have come in very handy.
• The Easton aluminum tube pegs that come with the package are simply wonderful. They are very strong and hold fantastically.
• In spite of the very heavy, storm-blown rain of my last trip and the open sides of the tent rain never got in through the perimeter.

What I dislike:
• Doors too open underneath for bad high-mountain weather. Would prefer something I could close up all the way to the ground when the weather is nasty and still have a vestibule.
• Velcro on doors, difficult to close and adjust. I would much perfer a zipper.
• Flimsy plastic parts at high-stress areas.
• The ridgepole is so long it is unwieldy. The headroom of the tent is nice, but perhaps a bit too high... a shorter pole would provide greater strength.
• WIthout the tie-out loops I had installed the lateral stability of the tent is quite weak.
• Sliding the ridgepole into its sleeve was often a chore because the head of the pole would get caught on the spreader bar pole. In the pouring rain, the wind blowing the tent this way and that, and exhausted from a particularly grueling descent, fiddling with this did NOT contribute to using nice language!
• My solution of adding a foam stiffener to the awning over the back window didn't work... the wind flattened it and let wind-driven rain blow right in. Have to figure out another way to secure the awning so it stays open.
• Not a criticism of the tent, but I'd like to see grommets added to either end of the spreader bar sleeve to accommodate hiking poles to give the tent more stability in the wind.

WIth a few changes to the design that I will make myself (perhaps adding a zipper to the door and extra flaps to the bottom of the present door flaps) this would be my three-season shelter of choice for most of my hiking if I was not going SUL. I would even trust this tent up in alpine regions, but with the provision of adding on ways to secuely batten down the tent for storms. Personally, because of the closed back wall, I would prefer this tent over the Rainbow 2 because of my contention with the present door system. A great little tent for the lightweight walker.

Edited by butuki on 09/07/2006 00:38:57 MDT.

donald buckner
( toomanyarrows )

Southeast U.S.
Light and roomy 1-2 person tent on 11/21/2008 22:36:31 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

My wife getting ready to pack upI just noticed that there were only 2 reviews of this tent. I've only used mine twice, but once by myself it was palatial, and I really enjoyed camping with my wife along and we were fine with the room we had to share. It was great having a light tent to pack in and still have room for 2 and be comfortable. Our other tent is double walled and weighs 5#. Unless it was very cold, or I was expecting rainy or snowy conditions, I would chose the Rainbow for sure. Well made, great company to deal with, as I purchased mine on ebay and had to have some repairs and modifications done to mine. Now we just need to upgrade to the double rainbow to have total luxury!

Edited by toomanyarrows on 11/21/2008 22:47:42 MST.

John Carter
( jcarter1 )

Pacific Northwest
Shires Tarptent Rainbow on 01/21/2009 02:11:39 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I've never purchased an item where my initial thoughts were so negative, but my final thoughts so positive. I have truly come 180 deg. on this tent!

Initial thoughts: too heavy for solo use, large pole that can break, complicated design with a difficult seam seal job, and photos don't look very taught. These kept me away from this tent for nearly two years. But after having tried a SMD Lunar Solo, TT Rainshadow, TT Sublite Sil, Gatewood Cape w/ Serenity NetTent, Nemo GoGo, ID Chrysalis, and Golite Hex 3, I can say the Rainbow is by far my favorite of the bunch. Not that the others aren't great shelters, but they all left something missing. Mind you, I'm 6'2" and 215 lbs, so that is a 'big' part of the problem. If I were smaller I may have preferred the Lunar Solo or Gatewood Cape.

No other tent has provided me all the features I'm looking for; the Lunar Solo has great floor space but minimal headroom and complicated setup; the Rainshadow was roomy but not as wind stable as I prefer and prevented views while lying down; the Gatewood was simply too small for me and also had a complicated setup (though I really like the concept and weight); the Sublite was excellent for tall hikers and very wind stable, but lacked decent views, no real awning, and was a little stuffy in calm, warmer weather (not a good afternoon nap shelter). Again, many of these shelters would work fine, but they all involved compromises.

So I purchased the Rainbow with a little reluctance, more than anything because there were few options left under 2 lbs. What a joy it was, then, to set it up in some high winds and come to truly appreciate what this tent is capable of. In a nutshell; this is the only sub-2 lb tent I've tried that can do all of the following well: vent well, provide great views, complete mosquito protection, excellent wind stabilty, generous head room, and fast set up. That pretty much sums up all the 3-season conditions I expect to encounter without compromises. I can just as comfortably enjoy an afternoon nap next to a mosquito-infested lake as I can enjoy a cold, breezy alpine camp with great views of the sunset. I suppose my one 'compromise,' then, is the added weight I must carry for these conveniences.

First, let me start by saying that the setup was the easiest I've ever experienced. This was a real surprise, as I was expecting the 12' pole to add significant hassle. My trick was to first stake down all four corners of the tent, using the tent floor as a guide to stake placement. This kept the tent from flapping around and made inserting the 12' pole much easier. Once it was through, I went to the other side to insert the pole into the grommet. I then came back to the original side, pushed the rest of the pole through (which erected the tent), and inserted the end into the grommet. Finally, one side stake and voila! I only had to tighten two of the guylines. No fiddling with re-staking to fix a sagging section. Since I had the awning rolled up already, I just crawled into the shelter. All this during 15-25mph sustained winds with stronger gusts.

To be fair, I did add my trekking poles to the center strut after a while. But even without the optional mid-height pole guyouts, the tent had VERY LITTLE wind deflection. Granted these were only moderate winds, but it gave me a good sense of what this tent is capable of, especially considering my experiences in the other tents in similar winds. I've been in tarptents where the fabric is flapping wildly, threatening to press against my sleeping bag and pull out a stake. Because the 12' pole keeps the tent quite taught, much less strain was placed on the stakes. The shape of the tent really deflected the wind well; there was even less flapping than in my GoLite Hex 3! Even though the Rainbow has been called drafty, I felt the nanoseeum mesh reduced the wind speed considerably; the breeze didn't have the biting cold that it did outside the tent.

With trekking poles under the center strut and mid-height guyouts, I think it would be very difficult for the 12' pole to snap under reasonable 3-season conditions; there simply wasn't any large movement the pole could make. And even if the pole snapped, the tent would stay erect; I am able to keep the tent upright with just the trekking poles and no 12' pole. Sure, the tent would distort and flap a bit, but I don't think it would result in catastrophic collapse of the tent like it would in an X-shaped pole setup. Add some duct tape and some sort of plastic tubing and I could see the pole being field-repairable enough to get by. Barring any high winds in the forecast, I would not hesitate to use this tent above treeline (again, with reasonable conditions expected).

I felt very relaxed in the tent; the 12' pole kept the fabric well away from my body, the awning comes low enough that rain would be very hard to enter, and I felt very secure from the winds; more so than in any other sub-2 lb shelter I've tried. Bet of all, I could sit on my Thermarest Pro 3 folded in thirds and inflated (to create a tall sit pad), and I still had a few inches of head clearance.

Yet because of the large mesh side panel, I was able to enjoy a peaceful view while lying down. The quick setup and nice views will come in handy for afternoon rest stops or early camps. Last summer I got stuck setting up a fiddly tent in a swarm of mosquitos. On a solo trip I got spoiled with the ability of the SMD Serenity NetTent to setup quickly and get me away from the mosquitos fast. I was not looking forward to upgrading to a more complicated setup for this reason. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Rainbow sets up as fast as the Serenity NetTent, with the added benefit that the rest of the tent was set up and ready to go as well (the NetTent still requires that you get out and set up the Gatewood Cape).

To be honest, I'm actually considering returning the Rainbow and getting the Double Rainbow, even for solo use! The main reason is the added flow-through ventilation would allow for setup in even warmer situations, such as in direct sun (with moderate temps and a breeze of course) and would increase views that much more. But since 2 lbs is on the very high end of what I consider acceptable solo shelter weight, I still have to decide if this is worth the extra 8 oz.

Edited by jcarter1 on 01/21/2009 02:13:53 MST.

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Jay Campbell
( gohawks )

SE Iowa
Mucho Mejor on 07/18/2009 15:58:15 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I was really excited to get the tarptent rainbow for father's day (a little gift to myself).

Upon opening the box I immediately glanced at the directions and set the tent up. It went up in a matter of minutes with a pretty taut pitch. I was impressed. No fussiness that I had read about.

I climbed inside and was still impressed. A lot of room all the way around. It seemed very high quality and I was convinced it would meet my needs perfectly.

I then read up on the directions for seam sealing and contacted Tarptent via email for some specifics. I wanted to do the job right the first time.

I set up the tent and set about seam sealing as prescribed by tarptent.

After completing the second round and letting the tent dry we had some rain that night.

The tent leaked inside. Water dripped from the back vent stitching and pooled on the floor of the tent.

I emailed tarptent and was given some suggestions to try which I followed exactly.

Subsequent testings with a sprinkler/hose and persistent rain showers demonstrated repeated failures of the shelter and my seam sealing to keep water from intruding into the interior of the tent. Never more than a few tablespoons, however it was never more than persistent steady rain.

After hitting the critical areas numerous times I stopped adding seam sealer as it had become an exercise in futility.

I emailed tarptent about my issues and nobody responded. I waited 48 hours and emailed again. Unfortunately nobody has yet answered those emails. Could I have called? Sure. But they have a email link on their site. I figured that was what it was for.

I realize my experience is unique. Many are more than satisfied with the Rainbow. I for one think it is a great shelter. IF, you can seam seal it correctly to prevent leakage. There are numerous seams and many are somewhat difficult to get to.

In the end don't expect to get any help directly from Tarptent if you do have a problem with the product. It is possible they will not return your email (it is entirely possible that the owner of the company may call you as well, so I've read, I just wasn't as fortunate).

I was fortunate to have purchased the tarptent new from a retailer who agreed to take the shelter back for a full refund. Not sure if this would have been the case if I had purchased directly from Tarptent after reading their policies on their site.

In the end I think the shelter itself is a 4.5/5.0 if you can achieve "waterproofness", which some obviously have. The customer service end would be a 2/5 (before I had an issue they responded to me, so that is worth something)

In the end I leaned toward keeping the tent and working with it. But the lack of customer service response on Tarptent's end was the deciding factor. Their inability to respond to my inquiries for assistance or help ultimately made my mind up for me.

As a consumer of outdoor gear this was the first substandard customer experience I have ever had out of dozens of contacts with numerous companies.

Edit. Henry went the EXTRA mile for me to make things right. Much appreciated. Thanks. Reevaluated review.

Edited by gohawks on 10/11/2009 19:23:40 MDT.

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