TarpTent Rainbow in Japan
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Feb 16, 2006 at 11:31 pm #1217801
I received my Rainbow the other day and had a chance to set it up in the park near my apartment. It was a very blustery day so I had a chance to see how it works in the wind.
In a word: BRILLIANT!
Here are some pics:
Henry Shires has really outdone himeself on this design. The size is just right. I’m 182 cm (5’10”?) tall and there was room enough at the foot end for an entire pack at my feet. The height is so spacious that even tall people will feel comfortable sitting up in the middle. And the width was big enough that my wife and I would have no trouble using this tent together… though it might be a bit tight for those who don’t want to be that familiar. But definitely not overly cramped for two people who can be close together, especially considering that there is yet more room under the vestiblule.
Set up was a breeze. Slide the pole through the ridge sleeve (it might be a bit of a struggle when it is very cold and windy to find and target the pole to the opening of the sleeve…), stake out the four corners, stake out the vestibule and the rear tie-out, and voila! a rigid shelter! I had been concerned about the slant of the rear wall, thinking that perhaps it didn’t have enough aerodynamic slope to shed wind, but when seeing it in real life my concerns were unjustified: both the vestibule and the rear wall provide a nice slanted angle to the wind and shed it well; if you look at the photos you will see quite a lot of stretching of the fabric. This is the wind billowing through the tent. As you can see the tent barely changed shape.
The new stakes are wonderful. Light, strong, easily pushed in and pulled out. I think I will be using these from now on instead of the titanium stakes I’ve been using for the past three years.
Out of concern for the one-pole performance in high winds in the alpine regions of the Japan Alps, I asked Henry if he might install some guy out loops along the ridge on both sides of the tent. Henry was so kind as to do this for free, and two were sewn on each side (much like the guy out loops on the Hilleberg Akto). I intend to tie two v-configured guylines on each side of the tent, staking them out at 45 degree angles to the tent, in a large rectangle footprint. I hope this will stabilize the tent for very high winds. When I bicycled across Europe the tunnel tent that my wife and I used held very rigid during storms in the Shetland Islands and Scotland by using the long, angled guylines on the tunnel tent’s hoops. The theory should work here, too.
For most situations the Rainbow will not need these guylines; it is stable enough on its own.
The vestibule has improved upon that of the Squall 2 (which I also own, along with the Squall 1), with a much easier to close and open three strip hook-and-loop closure (as opposed to the Squall’s long, single strip hook and loop closure). I found I had no trouble opening or closing the doors, pulling back the doors for clement weather, or closing in storm mode. I could even close, as Franco did, the doors tight against the netting itself to keep out wind blowing from the bottom of the tent, though this wouldn’t be very aerodynamic.
My only gripe is with the hood over the back window… as in so many tent companies’ designs (including Hilleberg) the stiffening strip doesn’t hold its shape well. When the wind is blowing or the rain coming at the tent horizontally, I suspect that something will batter through this flimsy fabric shape. I will try the tent out for a while and see if my opinion holds up, but I may end up doing what I did with my Akto: sew a thick strip of closed cell foam along the lip of the hood so that it holds its shape. We’ll see.
The tent pole is the proprietary TarpTent black aluminum. It seems strong enough for the one-pole job, but in heavier winter weather I may end up temporarily replacing it with a stronger pole.
The top strut pole is also aluminum. While I still haven’t warmed to the Squall 2’s strut, the feel of the strut on the Rainbow is stiff and reliable. Another worry put to rest.
I still haven’t used the tent out in the mountains yet. That will come tomorrow. But so far I really love what I’ve seen. I have a good feeling that this will be the shelter of choice for me and that it will accompany me and perhaps me and my wife, for the next year or so on most of my forays and travels. I have a lot of tents and shelters, including a few that I made myself… but nothing seems to have addressed so many of features of an ideal shelter as this one. Including that, in general, I don’t like hiking with hiking poles.
Absolutely no regrets on this purchase so far!Feb 17, 2006 at 12:02 am #1350685Franco DarioliSpectator
@francoLocale: Gauche, CU.
Finally some non Franco pictures!!!
You don’t know how happy I am to hear from you because apart from your first impression you have some little gems of information in your post and I know someone else that will pick up the same ideas.
Looks like we will drive everyone nuts with the Rainbow !!!
PS Because I had not had any previous experience from Tarptents, your comments are of particular interest to me. I tent to figure out a tent by the shape and materials used but there is nothing like trying it out to find out if they work or not.Feb 17, 2006 at 11:12 am #1350708Henry SBPL Member
>My only gripe is with the hood over the back window… as in so many tent companies’ designs (including Hilleberg) the stiffening strip doesn’t hold its shape well. When the wind is blowing or the rain coming at the tent horizontally, I suspect that something will batter through this flimsy fabric shape.
All I can say with regard to the back wall vent cover is that not a drop has come through the netting in all kinds of testing at this end. That was one thing I really wanted to test and the design proved very water resistant. It is true that the stiffener is flexible–it has to be so you can roll up or stuff the Rainbow without snapping the vent cover–and that the vent cover will deform in wind but mostly it just gets pressed against the netting and shuts off the opening. Unfortunately, we don’t have any typhoons on this side of the pond and no doubt Miguel will do his best to go storm chasing and prove me wrong ;-)
-HFeb 17, 2006 at 11:41 am #1350710
Unfortunately, we don’t have any typhoons on this side of the pond and no doubt Miguel will do his best to go storm chasing and prove me wrong ;-)
Nah, “tail-chasing” more likely! (^J^)/. If I’m stupid enough to deliberately go camping in a typhoon then I deserve to find myself hurtling over the Pacific and landing under the tent in your backyard. You’ll be welcome to take my shoes then and click your heels three times.
But, joking aside, Japan really is a windy place. Much more so than what I experienced while I lived in Oregon. And while I never needed an umbrella while I lived in Oregon, in spite of the months-long drizzle of the Emerald Valley, here in Japan the rain is so hard that you’d be daft not to carry an umbrella in the city. I’ve hiked, mountain-climbed, bicycled, and kayaked all around Japan for the past 30 years and I’d say on about half of those trips I encountered strong winds or rains. It’s not just whimsy that all of the serious outdoor stores, manufacturers, and magazines here always recommend simpler, Bibler-style mountain tents. Most of the best walking in Japan is high (at least 1,500 meters, usually 2,000, and almost everyone goes up to 3,000 in the summer. Here is a typical camp site:
So you can see why wind is a great concern here (and Chris Townsend has stressed the importance of preparing for wind in Scotland).
Of course, all this talk from me isn’t intended as criticism of the Rainbow. It’s more a treatise on my ignorance of handling wind. Or more to it, my expertise in breaking wind. Or perhaps I’m full of hot air?
PS: Franco, what is it with you and “PS’s”? If I rightly recall, nearly every one of your posts ends with a PS. Perhaps I’m missing the intent of your acronym? I’m wondering if you might be reiterating the obscure by meaning “Put Simply” rather than “Post Script”?Feb 17, 2006 at 12:37 pm #1350714Alex LeeMember
What kind of stakes were included with Rainbow? The Y (or V) kind? Something else all together?
You know, with each of these threads, I’m inching closer and closer to getting one, but I prefer something more 2 person, and have some other expenses that is taking high priority. So maybe the summer.Feb 17, 2006 at 12:53 pm #1350716
I’m not sure what they are called, but they are like long, hollow aluminum nails with an aluminum head through which a loop of cord is threaded. I’ll have to take some pictures, but that must wait until next week. I’m off to the mountains today!Feb 17, 2006 at 1:15 pm #1350718EndoftheTrailBPL Member
The stake looks like this — but in blue color:
BTW, Henry has stated that he’s working on a two-person version of the Rainbow — so you might want to email him for details.Feb 17, 2006 at 1:29 pm #1350719Alex LeeMember
Ben, I’ve seen Henry’s various allusions to a 2-person model. I’m was just being fidgity and feeling left out :)
I just have the thin titanium ones, which don’t work all that well in loose ground. How much of a difference do these make?
AlexFeb 17, 2006 at 7:29 pm #1350734Franco DarioliSpectator
@francoLocale: Gauche, CU.
As soon as I hit the “Post message” I tend to remember something else that I left out, hence the PS (written after)
The stakes look like this
FrancoFeb 21, 2006 at 7:31 am #1350929
I climbed Shirouma while a typhoon was in the area and saw full-on mountaineering tents literally flattened, so I don't think the Rainbow could be expected to cope with that … it doesn't help of course that all of the high huts and camping areas are situated on ridges.Feb 21, 2006 at 8:27 am #1350934
When you say Shirouma, are you talking about the South Japan Alps three peaks ridges (with Kitadake, the second highest mountain in Japan), or of the main peak in the Hakuba area? They’re both really different geologically and weather-wise, but, as you said, all the campsites are on ridges. It’s kind of necessary in Japan because most of the mountains are so steep. Whenever I see people posting photos of the Sierras and the PCT and such I always feel envious of the long, gradual trail grades, which must make walking a lot easier. Here it seems all you do is climb up steep inclines all the time.
You are right about the Rainbow not being designed for the high ridges here (or anywhere I guess). But it can be done if you arrive in the camps early and find a spot more protected (hah!). Unless you happen to be in one of those mountain ranges where wild camping (or even any camping) is prohibited, finding a small footprint beside some creeping pines or mountain rowans or rhododendrons (or boulders) usually lets you get out of the wind.
But Shirouma in both the South Alps and Hakuba are both very exposed. Dust flying everywhere (and here the Rainbow wouldn’t work very well because of the mesh side ventilation) on the hardpan soil.
A lot of the tents that are flattened, even the hardcore mountain tents are often badly set up, with hapahazard guylines and or just complete reliance on the tent poles, which of course can’t take that much wind.
I haven’t had a chance to use the Rainbow yet (torrential rains prevented my weekend excursion), but I hope to see just how far it can go (without being reckless, of course). Who knows? Maybe it can do more than it seems…Feb 22, 2006 at 5:55 am #1351014
Yes, I was talking about Hakuba. I wasn’t offering a criticism of the Rainbow, just that, as you said, it can be really windy above the tree-line. I don’t need a tent at the moment because I use the huts, but something from Henry would be about the only thing in my contemplation. If memory serves me correctly, Kitadake, Aino-dake and Notori-dake (I think that’s the third one) are part of Shirane-san, although I think there may be a Shirouma somewhere in the Southern alps. Funnily enough when I was at Kitadake last year it was extraordinarily windy, not sure why although there were a lot of typhoons about.
I agree about the way people here set up tents: I saw a hiking programme on TV about 2 years ago where the show’s usual crew of “expert” hikers went to the Patagonia ice-cap and I couldn’t help but notice that they hadn’t pegged their free-standing tents down or built snow-walls: the inevitable happened of course … I mean the Patagonian ice-cap is widely known to be one of the windiest places on earth, so the fact they set up the tents during a lull in the wind really isn’t an excuse.Feb 22, 2006 at 9:30 am #1351028
Oops! Damian, you’re right! How could I have gotten Shirouma mixed up with Shirane-san! I’ve climbed Shirane-san five times and Hakuba twice so I should definitely know better. Important to get the information right…
By the way, how is the road up to Kitasawa, do you know? Two years ago there was a massive landslide and all traffic was diverted to the other side of the range… a very long way around (one taxi driver at Kofu station offered to drive me up an alternate route… for ¥25,000… about $200!). Has that been fixed yet? I heard there are no more private cars allowed on the road up to Hirogawara. I’d like to go to Kitadake again this year (it was my first 3,000 meter mountain, way back in 1982, when it was still a terrifying drive up a dirt road), loop around Akaishi, and come down on the Senjogatake side, so it would be nice to know if the road is open from there…Feb 23, 2006 at 8:05 am #1351112
I just checked my maps – that looks like a good trip, although there’s a big drop from Kita-dake and then back up to Senjogatake, which I presume is the big hump-backed mountain you can see from Kita.
They weren’t allowing private cars on the road to Hirogawara last July. The only way up was on the buses from Kofu Station which use the private road on the other side of the valley. I also went up 2 years ago and that time the bus company swore that the public road wasn’t open, so I took the bus – when I got there and found the road was in fact open I wasn’t very impressed.
Re Kitasawa – in August 2004 and July 2005 there were buses going on from Hirogawara, so I guess Kitasawa was accessible: when was the landslide?
If you’re planning on going up to either Kitasawa or Hirogawara I suggest ringing Elk in Kofu: the owner is a friend of mine, they’re friendly and they usually know what’s open and what’s not.Feb 28, 2006 at 9:47 am #1351532
I’ve been meaning to get back to you about the South Alps information. I was curious about your reference to “Elk”. May I ask what that is and how I might get in touch with them? Is it a coffee shop or an outdoor store in Kofu?
Do you live in Kofu? If so, though there isn’t a hell of a lot to do in the town, if you love mountains it is wonderful place to be. I used to live in Susono, on the other side of Mt. Fuji from Kofu (funny that though it is close by to Kofu on the map, because Fuji is “in the way” and the Minobu line is so slow it would take me 6 hours to get to Kofu from Susono, while it only takes an hour and a half from Tokyo, which is much further away) and I used to start a lot of my South Japan Alps hiking from there, Nirasawa, and Kobuchizawa.
There is not such a big drop from Kito to Senjo. In fact, there is a short col that connects the two going west from Ai-no-Dake to Mitsuminedake. You’d have to head a bit further south from Kita and then turn west at Aino, from where you head back to Senjo. The big problem with this route is that on Senjo no camping is allowed, so unless you are willing to spill out the dough for the mountain hut, this would be quite a long walk.
A seven or eight day route, via Senjo, would be to start at Senjo, stay at the Senjo hut, or, if you are willing to wild camp, camp half-way between Senjo and Mistumine-dake the first night, take a day off to cross the col and climb Kita-dake and back to Kuma-no-koya, and then continue south to Shiomi-dake and further south to Akaishi-dake. A long hike using a lot of energy. I’ve never been to Shiomi and Akaishi, but I hear that the crowds that scramble over the classic Shirane route thin out quite considerably. Now to get ten days off just for hiking!
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