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Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW

This radically different Tarptent is destined for greatness, but needs a few refinements here and there.

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by Will Rietveld | 2006-07-12 03:00:00-06


In a radical departure from traditional Tarptents, Henry Shires introduced the Tarptent Rainbow in early 2006. Instead of headroom only at the entry, the Rainbow is all headroom, and it has a side entry with vestibule. At 32.6 ounces with the optional extended floor, it’s luxury for one person, or one person and a pooch, and it’s do-able for two smaller people. There’s nothing “tarp” about this “tent”! It advances the single-wall tent with features and user-friendliness rivaling a double-wall tent. Is the Rainbow the lightweight backpacker’s dream come true?

Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW - 1
The Rainbow is radically different from previous Tarptents and sets a new standard for single-wall tents.

What’s Good

  • Lightweight 1+ person shelter
  • Loads of headroom and usable space
  • Vestibule entry
  • Quick setup
  • Easy entry/exit
  • Good ventilation

What’s Not So Good

  • Very difficult to insert pole ends into grommets
  • Velcro attachment for trekking poles gets tangled
  • Needs mid height guylines for wind stability
  • Hood over high vent gets distorted


   Mfr/ Year/Model

Tarptent 2006 Rainbow (tested with optional extended floor)


1+ person single-wall tent (free standing with trekking poles at ends)


1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silnylon, grosgrain tie out loops

  Pole Material

Easton 7075 E9 aircraft grade aluminum

  Weight Full Package
(As supplied by manufacturer with all included items)

Measured weight of shelter with optional floor 32.6 oz (924 g), manufacturer’s specification 30 oz (850 g); manufacturer specified weight without floor 25 oz (709 g)

  Weight Manufacturer Minimum
(Includes minimum number of items needed to erect tent)

Measured weight of shelter with optional floor, but without stuff sacks is 31.9 oz (904 g)

  Weight Backpacking Light Minimum
(Same as Manufacturer Minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes and 0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Spectra guylines)

Measured weight 31.1 oz (882 g) for shelter with optional floor, no stuff sacks, and with titanium stakes and Spectra guylines

  Floor Area

23 ft2 (2.14 m2); entry vestibule is 6 ft2 (0.56 m2)

  Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.74 ft2/oz


Length 88-96 in (223-244 cm), width is 38-44 in (96-117 cm), height is 43 in (110 cm). Length and width are with bathtub sides up or down.


$185 without floor, $215 with sewn-in floor


The Rainbow is a 1+ person single-wall monopole tent that is free-standing if you attach a trekking pole to each end. It has 23 square feet of floor area, which is identical to the Tarptent Virga 2. The tent feels larger because of its headroom and steep walls which make all of the interior space usable. It also has a 6 square foot entry vestibule that provides additional sheltered space.

Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW - 2
Several views of the Tarptent Rainbow: front with vestibule closed (top left), back showing the mesh vent and hood (top right), end (bottom left), and top (bottom right) showing the ridge pole and 18-inch aluminum strut that expands the tent.

The Rainbow’s single pole design reminds me of the MontBell Hexagon. However, the concept is executed much better in the Rainbow by adding a perpendicular 18-inch aluminum strut at the top (identical to the strut in the front of the Virga 2) to extend the sides so they don’t drape inward, and making the main pole almost vertical near the ends (see photos). The result is headroom and usable space galore.

Unlike the Hexagon’s funky end entry, the Rainbow has a convenient side entry through a split side “beak” or vestibule. Behind the vestibule is a vertical mesh entry wall with a large two-way zippered door. With the tent’s height and large door, the Rainbow is very easy to enter and exit.

I tested the Rainbow with the optional extended floor (5 ounces, $30), which is the most popular version of this tent. A floorless model is available that weighs 25 ounces (manufacturer specification), however a piece of Tyvek cut to fit the floor area weighs more than 5 ounces, so why bother? The optional sewn-in floor has 4-inch bathtub sides for splash protection; you can unclip the sides and lay them flat for more floor space in fair weather

Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW - 3
The Rainbow has a vestibule entry (top left) and mesh entry wall with a large zippered door. Inside (top right) there’s loads of room for one person plus gear. Note the floor’s bathtub walls and the silicone stripes I painted on the silnylon floor to eliminate sliding. The top vent on the back wall (bottom left) has a mesh screen, and can be used to stow small items. At the head end (bottom right) there are two small mesh pockets for storage.

The Rainbow is just as quick to set up as the traditional Tarptents; simply insert the ridge pole (I usually leave the strut in its sleeve), stake the four corners, then stake the front and rear guylines. Two minutes max, just like the other Tarptents.

In my dry climate, I had a problem with the silnylon tent body shrinking, making it very difficult to attach the ridge pole to the grommets. I fixed the problem by shortening the pole by 1 inch. A better fix for this problem would be adding a second grommet to one end for use under dry conditions.

There is a tangle of Velcro on each end of the Rainbow to allow the attachment of trekking poles, giving the Rainbow a “free-standing” pitching option. That’s nice, but to ensure wind stability, I would want to stake the four corners of the tent anyway, so in my opinion the free standing option is not very functional. I opted to remove the Velcro tangle to save a little weight and simply stake the corners. It’s much easier than attaching trekking poles.

Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW - 4
The Rainbow can be free standing if you attach a trekking pole to each end (top photo). The tension strap (bottom left) has a grommet on each end to insert the ends of the ridge pole. Due to fabric shrinkage when the tent is dry, I really had to struggle to get the tent pole tip into the grommet. A second grommet on one end would be really helpful. Velcro strips on the tension strap are used to attach the trekking poles. The stiffened brim on the high vent (bottom right) easily gets distorted and doesn’t straighten out. This was the best I could do.

Another change with the Rainbow is the use of 5.5-inch Easton 7075 E9 aluminum alloy stakes instead of the traditional 6-inch titanium stakes. The Easton stakes are actually lighter than the titanium stakes, 0.355 ounce each compared to 0.395 ounce for the titanium. The Easton stakes are a little harder to push into the ground, but you can pound on them with a rock.

Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW - 5
Tarptent has switched to Easton aluminum alloy stakes (left) which are actually lighter and stronger than the titanium stakes previously supplied. The top of the Rainbow (right) has an 18-inch aluminum strut to widen the tent. The strut is removable to facilitate stuffing the tent, or you can leave it in and roll the tent.

In the field, the Rainbow is truly a lightweight backpacker’s dream. It requires very little space and is very fast to set up. It has luxurious room inside for one person, and is minimally large enough for two people. My wife and I slept in it on several trips, and found it quite workable, especially in fair weather.

The Rainbow sheds rain with aplomb in typical Tarptent style. The canopy extends out beyond the bathtub floor, and you want to make sure the netting around the edges is pulled inward so it doesn’t channel water inside. Condensation issues are typical for a single wall tent, especially in rainy weather or any conditions where it cools down below the dew point at night. In the Rainbow, the high vent on the back wall reduces the condensation issue somewhat when there is some air circulation, but it’s little help on a cool, calm night. There’s also more headroom, so you are less likely to brush against the wet tent walls while moving around in the tent. A pack towel works great to wipe down the inside walls, and it’s easy to do in the Rainbow.

In wind, the Rainbow is a little more of a billboard compared to a traditional Tarptent. It held up well to moderate 20-25 mph winds, with some flapping and rocking. I would like to see at least two additional half height guyline loops added to the Rainbow for extra anchoring.


The Tarptent Rainbow is about the same weight and floor area as the Tarptent Virga 2, but there is a profound difference between the two tents. Having tested the Virga 2, I can easily say that I prefer the Rainbow. It has much more usable space and headroom, and overall is a more user-friendly Tarptent. It provides most of the ease of use features of a double wall tent at a much lighter weight, albeit without the condensation resistance. With a few tweaks to certain details, the Tarptent Rainbow is destined to become one of the best single-wall tents available.

The Rainbow is not the lightest 1+ person single-wall tent around. Compared to the 23 ounce Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo with 27.5 square feet of floor space and 10 square foot vestibule, the Rainbow has 4.5 square feet less floor space, but its space is more usable because of its steeper walls. The main reason for the weight difference is the Lunar Solo uses a trekking pole for support (which is not included in the tent weight) while the Rainbow uses a collapsible ridge pole (which is included in the tent weight).

What’s Unique

The Rainbow is a monopole design with a top strut to provide loads of interior headroom and usable floor space.

Recommendations for Improvement

While the Tarptent Rainbow introduces some major improvements in single wall tent design, and advances the user friendliness of the single wall tent, there are a few details that could be refined.

  • Because the ridge pole and sleeve are so long, a small amount of fabric shrinkage can result in the grommet connection being too tight. I recommend adding a second grommet to at least one ends of the tent’s tension strap to use when shrinkage occurs.
  • Although attaching trekking poles does gain a freestanding status for this tent, I don’t feel that the feature is really that functional compared to staking the corners. I suggest eliminating the Velcro pole attachment straps, which can easily become tangled.
  • The stiffening in the hood over the high vent easily becomes distorted and is difficult to re-shape, so some improvement is needed. A larger vent to provide better ventilation and views should also be considered.
  • To enable stability in serious winds, I suggest adding at least two more mid-height guyline loops.


"Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-07-12 03:00:00-06.


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Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW
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Cat Jasins
(CatJasins) - MLife
Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 07/12/2006 03:38:11 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Re: Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 07/12/2006 04:50:36 MDT Print View

Will, great review !!!
This should answer all of the many questions that have been asked and have had fragmented replies to.
A few points.
The weight listed by Henry at Tarptent does not include the stakes, as it is the norm with most manufacturers, apart from that it is pretty accurate.
Since no tent is perfect, lets have a look at the bad points.
· Very difficult to insert pole ends into grommets
· I found this to be true only after I have had the Rainbow out in the hot sun.This is a bit weird because I posted this point for the first time, in a different forum, only last night after having discussed the tent for months. I never thought that the lack of moisture made the difference but now I understand the " sponge the strip down" bit from Henry.
· Velcro attachment for trekking poles gets tangled
· Yes it does. Another user has come to your same conclusion (circumcision) but I still have my bits.
· (Ben if you are reading this, I did not mentioned who …..)
· Needs mid height guylines for wind stability
· The strongest wind I have had the Rainbow in was provably around the 20mph, no problem there, I suspect that only the side opposite to the entrance could be a problem with stronger winds.With either end or the beak facing the wind should be pretty stable.
· Hood over high vent gets distorted
· Right again, I can re-shape mine, it does not look as pretty but it works. I thought of putting something stiffer in there but decided that it was not worth the bother.
· A very balanced review, and this is from the No1 Rainbow fan.
· Franco
· The honorary goodwill ambassador for Tarptent Downunder

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 07/13/2006 01:55:20 MDT Print View

I've taken my Rainbow out a number of times now and I must say I really like it. Compared to my Squall 2 it feel so much roomier and for the small site camping that you find here in Japan the footprint is just right. Definitely my favorite tent right now. I'll be going higher up (3000 meters) this summer and hope to take the Rainbow along. We'll see how it fares in strong winds.

When I bought the Rainbow in March I initially had concerns about its stabiity in high winds, as Will pointed out, so I asked Henry to sew some loops to either side of the arch, which he cheerfully did (take a look here scroll down and you can see the loops in the photos). So far I haven't had occasion to need the loops, but when fitted with guylines they do help to stabilize the arch laterally (front and back), though the top of the arch still oscillates when I give the tent a shake.

I replaced the included arch pole with a beefier one made from Russian space program aluminum/ scandium alloy available here in Japan. I figure that the extra strength will come in handy.

For the hood on the rear window I immediately didn't like the way it flopped, so, taking a cue from European tunnel tent designs, I sewed a strip of 1/4 inch closed-cell foam into the brim. It's very light, keeps its shape and rolls up well with the stowed package.

Since I dislike velcro all my bristles (^J^)/" I cut the trekking pole fasteners from the ends of the arch. I might replace them with some bungee cord concoction if I ever feel the need to have the tent free-standing, but staking it down is what I will most likely always do, so right now I feel I don't need the fasteners.

As to the fitting-the-pole-into-the-ends-of-the-pole-sleeve problem, it's something I've been frustrated with all my TarpTents since I first got my Squall. I therefore cut some tiny trapezoidal pieces of wedges from a pet bottle, about an inch long, with the wider end about 1/8" wider than the width of the pole sleeve opening. I shoved the wedge narrow end first into the opening all the way in. Now what I do when inserting my pole is squeeze the wedge at the sides, the pole-sleeve-opening gapes open, and in I shove the pole (this IS PG rated!).

My floating floor doesn't perfectly match the attachment points inside so that often the floor tends to slack a little bit (nothing earth shaking though). I'm still considering adding cut lengths of plastic straw to the corners of the floor (like the bathtub floor corners of the SpinnShelter User Tip from Gossamer Gear) to help the side walls stay up.

With my antagonism toward furry creatures, I'm still not sure how I feel about the velcro on the door, but I'm going to give myself quite a few more times to try it out. I may possibly add a coil zipper if it just doesn't grow on me, but that is a matter of more experience with the tent.

So far condensation hasn't been much of a problem, but I am worried about the sudden drops in temperature and the blowing grit up in the Japan Alps, that has a way of getting through the perimeter netting, so I considering making a propore (if i can find the material!) sheet that I can hang from the ceiling for condensation, lowering over myself when the grit and cold are blowing into the tent, and also using under my hammock when I decide to go with that.

After I get some use of the tent up in the alpine mountains I ought to have photos so I will try to post them at the end of the summer.

Whatever little glitches the Rainbow may have it is a wonderful and versatile tent. My hat off to Henry!

Edited by butuki on 07/13/2006 01:57:52 MDT.

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Hydrostatic Head? on 07/13/2006 15:19:55 MDT Print View

A nice review that has brought me one stage closer to maybe ordering one. However, I couldn't see any mention of the Hydrostatic head rating.

Hideaki Terasawa
(trsw3) - M

Locale: Tokyo
Re: Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 07/14/2006 10:56:17 MDT Print View

This review is right. I love rainbow too! I think it's a kind of invention. I have respect to Henry.
But I want to read more review tested in the strong rain and wind condition.

Hi Miguel,
I too have rainbow and live in Tokyo Japan. And I have a plan to pitch my rainbow above 3000m peak Hodaka or Yari, in late this summer. It's same as your plan.
I'm amazed at your modification. I think it is properly right. I've a anxiety about strength of mono frame against to strong wind. So, did you obtain a scandume frame from Arai Tent?
Using trekking pole will be help to pitch it on the rock tent site. I think, there is not need to peg down all four corners, It's maybe possible to fixate it on the ground using heavy rocks to press trekking pole.

I wrote some short reviews on my blog about seam sealing. I tested it in the rain condition. It was difficult to get perfect seal around triangle window. But I've done it. You can find it on google, asking '山より道具'.
I'll receive a new tent 'Big Sky Evolution 1P' at the end of this July. I received a e-mail from Bob. I'm going to judge which is better for Japanese high mountain with light weight style.
If you are living in Tokyo, maybe we can talk about it!

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Double Rainbow on 07/14/2006 11:25:09 MDT Print View

Just got my new Double Rainbow seam sealed for my JMT trek.

I almost bought the Rainbow when it came out but couldn't decide between it and the Lunar Solo. Glad I waited. The added space, flow-through ventilation, and the dual porches on this baby are awesome and well worth the 7 added ounces.

The only nit I found is that the Double Rainbow requires fully extended 145 cm (57 inch) trekking poles to pitch in free-standing mode vs. 122 cm (48 inch) for the Rainbow. My fully extended Leki poles showed an obvious angle at the lower pole section joints when under tension from the canopy. That can't be good for the poles. I'll stick to the four corner stakes and reserve the free-standing mode for those rare times when staking is just not an option.

There is a work-around: only partially extend the trekking poles (135 cm) and use 6 inch (functionally 4 inch = 10 cm) PVC pipe pole extenders to make up the difference. That should equate to far less stress on the trekking pole joints while enabling routine free-standing setup.


Edited by wandering_bob on 07/14/2006 11:35:46 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 07/14/2006 14:05:13 MDT Print View

Hello Hideaki,

(I'm going to respond in Japanese but basically discuss some of the unique problems of using a tent in the mountains in Japan... one of the things you have to worry about here is that hiking season often corresponds with the beginning of typhoon season, so high winds are a very real concern when you are up high... as are Hideaki's points about there being no place to push pegs into the ground. Also the Russian scandium poles from Arai tent that Hideaki refers to are amazing)

初めまして、寺沢さん。ミゲールです。レーインボーの変型が気に入ってくれて嬉しいです!ウルトラライトを始まってから自分で考えていろいろ作るのがもう毎日の事になりました。ちょっとマニアックになったかもしれない (+J+)。




僕も東京です。世田谷区の手前の東調布の方です。日本でウルトラライトを使う人がまだ少ないみたいからぜひいろいろ話したいです。何回も御徒町のOD Boxに行っていろいろBackpackingLightと他のメーカのアイディアを見ましたから寺沢さんが関係有るかな〜っと何回思った事有る。楽しみです。

僕のメールアドは: butuki at gmail dot com
ブロッグも有ります: Laughing Knees (日本語の『膝が笑う』から訳した!)どうぞ見てください(ほとんど英語だけど)

Edited by butuki on 07/14/2006 15:46:32 MDT.

Hideaki Terasawa
(trsw3) - M

Locale: Tokyo
Re: Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 07/17/2006 03:23:52 MDT Print View


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Re: Re: Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 07/19/2006 17:29:46 MDT Print View

Hi Miguel,
Can you tell us were we can buy those scandium poles ?

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 08/10/2006 05:44:32 MDT Print View

Hi Franco... I'm not sure why I never noticed your question until today. Sorry about that.

The Scandium poles, as far as I know, are only available from local tent maker Arai Tent. I managed to get a length of it from an outdoor store in downtown Tokyo (Sakaya Sports) where they sell Arai tents, and they had some extra poles in a side bin. The store clerk measured and cut the pole to fit my Rainbow perfectly. One of the things I like about the Scandium poles is that the sections are shorter than on Easton poles and therefore are easier to pack.

I don't know of any other sources. Perhaps Hideaki knows? Hideaki, any suggestions?

Edited by butuki on 08/10/2006 05:45:43 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Scandium poles on 08/11/2006 19:48:38 MDT Print View

Thank you Miguel
I have noticed that Yunan (Korea) are now working with Scandium and it looks like Arai are already using them (?)

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Scandium Poles on 08/11/2006 20:39:46 MDT Print View

Mountain Hardwear uses Scandium Poles for some of their tents and on a few of their backpacks. I called them once and asked about buying a set of the tent poles - NO.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Tarptent Rainbow Tent REVIEW on 10/18/2006 10:02:26 MDT Print View

This tent is identical externally to the Phoenix Phreerunner/Phreeranger and would undoubtedly benefit from the same colour-coded guying arrangement as used by Phoenix. The designer of the Rainbow almost certainly knows what I mean. The Phreerunner never tempted me because of the length of the single arch, although I saw many reviews which claimed the tent was solid with the guys in place. I preferred the shorter, stronger arch of the Akto, and still do even though the occasional, ageing Phreeranger turns up at Backpackers Club meets.

The Rainbow looks more interesting than the Phoenix tents because a lot lower weight of fabric is sailing off the long arch. If the midge netting was really sorted, the Rainbow could be very good for summer in Scotland.

Christopher Snow
(cmsnow) - F
Rainbow, great tarptent on 10/31/2007 01:50:00 MDT Print View

Just finshed a PCT thru hike. I really grew to like the rainbow. Tons of room for 1, and 2 works in a pinch.

I don't recommend cutting off the trekking pole, freestanding velcro attachments. I mostly used tent pegs which were quicker, but was very glad for the freestanding option the occasional times where I needed it. I did find a way to twist the velcro over on it's self to keep it out of the way.

Great product!