The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday 27 April 2013

Some Thoughts About Our Henry Shires Tarptent Double Rainbow

This isn’t a review. It’s just some thoughts about the tent and why we came to the conclusion that, for us, it’s a ‘tent for situations when you probably don’t need a tent’.

That likely makes it sound as if we don’t think much of this tent, but that’s not true at all. We lived in her for five weeks last year and can’t think of any other accommodation we would have preferred on that trip. We wouldn’t hesitate to use her again for similar trips where cold and wet conditions were expected to be few and far between.

Here she is sitting happily in the desert in California:


Not fantastically well pitched, but we were on sand in a stiff wind!

That was one of only two occasions in the five weeks we were in California that we spent the night with the porches closed. Usually, we spent the night like in the photo below, with the porch doors tied back, the breeze blowing through and with the dual benefits of night-time views but with full bug protection:

Day 23_7

That was quite a stunning pitch!

The tent is simplicity itself to pitch. You pop the single pole through its sleeve (a job which would be easier if the end of the pole sleeve was offset, so that you can find the opening without having to separate two seams which are lying against each other* – it’s one of two mods that I would like to see Henry Shires introduce), put four pegs in (one in each corner) and adjust the adjusters**. If you’re using the porch, you need two extra pegs. If you want to use guy-lines to stabilise the pole, then you’d need a total of eight pegs all in.

Within two minutes you have a nice spacious shelter ready to use. It’s so quick and simple to pitch that we regularly popped it up at lunchtime to keep the flies off us.

Whilst we loved the tent in California, we were never convinced that it would work for us in the UK. In hot dry weather (moreover in bear country) we never had the need to cook under cover. For the same climatic reasons, we were always able to put our bags inside with us (this is a long tent – the packs happily fitted at the one end of the tent, our bits and pieces at the other end, with the sleep mats in the middle. We also only had a couple of nights when we had a modicum of condensation.

Our concerns for UK use were:

  • Would wet packs fit in the porches without encroaching on the inner?
  • With the packs out in the porches, would there be enough room to cook comfortably?
  • Even without the bags, would there be enough room to cook in a porch?
  • With so much mesh on the tent (particularly the two strips along the bottom of the short ends), would we get water ingress in wet and windy weather?
  • With so much mesh, would it be too cold?

Our trip out to Bleaklow last night turned out to be ideal conditions to explore our concerns. We didn’t get the rain we were looking for, but snow was an excellent substitute. There was certainly quite a good breeze blowing.


The morning of 27 April, on Bleaklow

What we found out was:

  • On the positive side, our finding in California was borne out again, that she doesn’t flap unduly in the wind.
  • The mesh combined with the large gap between flysheet and ground (unsurprisingly) led to a very draughty and cold night. Mick found that he couldn’t lie facing his door as the wind in his face was too great. We both prefer a higher degree of draught exclusion.
  • The porches aren’t high or deep enough for me to be comfortable with cooking in them  – particularly on a less than flat pitch where I need to fish around in the porch for somewhere flat enough for the stove.
  • When the fabric slackens in the wet, and when it’s so cold out that you can’t be moved to go and do something about it, and if the wind then swings around, the porch fabric can be pushed against the mesh side of the inner tent, transferring moisture through.
  • When it’s snowing, there’s lots of scope for snow to make it through the vents in the fly and then through the mesh of the inner.
  • It’s just not as comfortable for us as our Terra Nova Voyagers.

We didn’t explore the use of the ‘storm flaps’ which are designed to allow you to get in and out of the tent in the rain without the inner getting wet. We had enough information to inform our decision without doing that.

So, even though the Double Rainbow has the huge attraction of weighing a smidge under 1350g, in a situation when we’re going to want to spend waking hours inside of the tent, and to cook under cover, I’d rather take the weight penalty of the Voyager.


*I’m not sure that I’ve explained myself particularly well there, but I know what I mean even if you don’t!

** If this was a review, I would put lots of photos in to illustrate what I mean when I say ‘adjust the adjusters’ or ‘the mesh at the bottom of the fly on the short end’, so it’s a good job this isn’t a review.

(There are lots more observations I could make, but I’ve wittered on enough for one post. If anyone has any particular questions about our experience of the Double Rainbow, feel free to pose them to us.)


  1. The Moment and Scarp 2 pole sleeve is the same and i agree an offset edge would make a big difference.
    When i had the Moment doorway modified i wish that i had had it made in ripstop rather than mesh. So i agree with you that it can get draughty. I also wish more than anything that the bottom edge of the tent touched the ground. You can get rain, snow, grass being blown in and that the zip was 2 way.
    I have never had an issue with the roof vents other than keeping them open.
    very good non review that Gayle.

    1. As this was only the third night that we've spent with the fly sheet sides down, we've not really noticed the roof vents too much, except that we did have snow blowing in this weekend - even through the one which we had clipped into the 'closed' position. Thinking about the fight I had with getting the vent into the closed position, I didn't get the feeling that getting the vents to stay open would be an issue on the Rainbow.

  2. The vents are completely different on the rainbow to the Scarp and Moment. I think on the 2013 Moment the vents have been moved into a position not dissimilar to the rainbow. Maybe they will be more of a problem now.

  3. Hmmm, that's all quite interesting. I have looked at the Rainbow but obviously we have the Superlight, plus the fact that I had been doubtful of it's suitability in Scotland. Quite right too!

  4. Having noticed you where using a Henry Shires Rainbow, my interest was piqued. Having traced it back to this earlier blog, I was interested in your comments. Some time back I had an earlier version of a single Rainbow. There where several problems, the worst was a velcro fastened door,(now replaced by a zip) . The guy points needed further reinforcing. Porch space was limited and there where other niggles. My conclusion was that it was not up to the variations of British weather. Finally I got rid of it.