By Jon Sharp
Tents are heavy. Tents also insulate to keep you warmer. They keep the wind at bay. Tents keep you dry. Despite the weight, for these reasons, backpackers carry tents. Those looking for the truly light-weight sometimes turn to using light-weight tarps as basic shelters for inclement weather. In 1999, Henry Shires took this idea further and built a simple shelter that weighed a paltry 18 ounces. Since then, his company, Tarptent, has expanded their line drastically. Tested here is their newest tent, the Rainbow.
The Rainbow is considered a 1-2 person tent. I'd say it is a roomy 1 person tent with enough room for another person in case of emergency. But, you'd really better like each other. (I did sleep once in it with my 4-year-old son, but it was tight.) Like all Tarptents, it is made of silicone-impregnated nylon. There are two ways to set up the Rainbow. Either stake it with the supplied ultra-light stakes (6), or, if you are one to hike with trekking poles, it can be pitched free-standing by using the trekking poles as part of the structure. The Rainbow has one long pole that extends the entire length of the tent. There is also a short (around 1.5') pole that is sewn into the tent widthwise at the apex.
As with all their tents, the Rainbow has many options in how to configure it. When purchasing, you can choose to have the floor sewn in, or separate. Knowing my aversion to crawly things, I chose to have the floor sewn in. There is mesh connecting the tent with the floor, and the floor has 3" sides to keep ground water from entering. The side with the door is mesh netting and the outer fly can be pitched for storm protection, or rolled away for better ventilation. There is also a vent at the apex of the opposite side. That vent is always opened, though with a beak protecting it from the elements. However, it can be expanded by folding back a few flaps for better air flow. There is one small pouch for personal belongings.
Besides being very light (at 30 oz), the Rainbow is also very simple to set upeither with trekking poles, or with stakes. Though not made for winter camping, I was able to use it on snow by pitching it free-standing (with the trekking poles). I found the Rainbow to be totally comfortable to spend time inno doubt due to the 43" apex height. At 5'9", I had more than enough headroom to sit up in the tent.
The first thing I did when I got the Rainbow, and the first thing you'll have to do, was set it up and seal the seams with diluted silicone (see the Tarptent FAQ for instructions). The first rain I slept through let in a few drops. To fix it, I re-applied the siliconethis time in a more generous fashionand afterwards had no further problems in the rain. Make sure not to skimp on the silicon when sealing the seams.
Summary: At $215, the Rainbow is priced very wellespecially for a tent this light. It is quite roomy for a single person tent, and can be used for two peoplethough only in emergencies. Tarptent stands behind their products and repair tents as needed for only the cost of materials. Construction is solid and everything fits together and works well. If you're looking for a light-weight backpacking tent, check out the Rainbow. Also, be sure to check out the other Tarptents. If the Rainbow doesn't fit what you're looking for, chances are another Tarptent will.
Weight: 30 oz.
Apex height: 43" (110cm)
Floor Width: 38-46" (96-117 cm)
Floor Length: 88-96" (223-224 cm)
Jon Sharp is a contributing editor for GearReview.com. Read his blog.
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