Lesser-known but highly engineered SlingFin has released the WindSaber, the latest in its Alpine Zone tent line for 2016, as the ultimate lightweight four-season tent. Ideally suited for foul-weather backpacking and other expeditions, the WindSaber is inspired by the highly durable and functional base camp tents used by mountaineers world wide, many of which were actually designed by SlingFin founder Martin Zemitis.
Zemitis was part of the legendary outdoor industry crew dating back 30 years to the old Sierra Designs days in San Francisco, who went on to work at The North Face, and then co-founded Mountain Hardwear as one of the top equipment companies in the world at that time. SlingFin is the evolution of his passion for technical, functional design.
SlingFin is still small and based in Berkeley, California, where TNF and the others mentioned above got their start, and has since 2010 developed a reputation for high-end expedition domes and tents for mountaineers and guides. In 2015 the brand launched into backpacking tents, carrying down its proprietary technology into a line of versatile 3-season tents. The WindSaber is the first 4-season backpacking tent in the line.
Coming in at less than 5 lbs., the WindSaber has a 28-sq.-ft. floor plan – a fairly standard two-person size – but the footprint is wider at the elbows and has tall sidewalls to maximize this amount of space. There’s one zippered door and one tunnel entrance, and 2 vestibules (5 sq. ft. + 5 sq. ft.) complete the picture.
Unlike some of the other Slingfin backpacking tents, the WindSaber is not intended for multiple configurations, ie., without the tent body, fly only, etc.; instead it is solely intended to be a lightweight 4-season tent inspired by expedition grade real-world conditions like high winds and snow. And we tested it in both at 9,000 feet in Roosevelt National Forest.
The tunnel entrance is something you won’t find in other tents in this category. It’s a highly specialized, fool-proof design borrowed from the alpine basecamp tents of yesteryear, found in iconic designs including the TNF Tuolumne, Saint Elias, the Sierra Designs Glacier and the REI McKinley. The tunnel takes some of the zippers out of the design, since that’s the first thing to fail on a tent both from wear and tear and freezing. And when you’re camping with multiple tents close together in basecamp, the less zippers you have to hear opening and closing all night, the better. The tunnel is old-school, simple and reliable, long valued by mountaineers and now brought back in this extremely sturdy lightweight backpacking tent with some improvements in size and shape for easier ingress/egress and storage options.
There’s also a second tunnel port designed for airflow and ventilation, even through the fly sheet, which also has a port to the outer world. Accessing the tunnel as pack and boot storage from the tent interior is easy and intuitive, and it helps keep out snow and dirt.
The floor plan maximizes usable space with the emphasis from SlingFin being “lightweight but livable,” designed for volume, not just footprint, including the tall sidewalls and the clever elbowroom. “Not just what looks good on paper, but when you’re actually using it, outside of the showroom,” SlingFin’s Richard Ying to the Gear Institute.
Internal mesh pockets of course allow quick accessibility to all gear and sundries such as eyeglasses, phone chargers, headlamps, etc. Also, all of SlingFin’s 3-season tents can be set up with trekking poles for extra strength and weight savings, allowing you to leave the top cross-pole behind.
The innovative WebTruss system is what gives the tent extra strength and allows it to be set up in high winds. You can set up the pole and truss system first, then the fly if you need to stay dry, then set up the tent body once it is staked down, making all the difference when compared with other tents in its class.
The unique clip system allows you to use the WindSaber with or without the WebTruss, the first of its kind from the brand. SlingFin proprietary ridge clips are lightweight but extremely strong and versatile, like little hammock carabiners. They allow you to pull extraordinary tension on the tent body and fly for a stable set up, and are made to be functional, especially when used with the WebTruss system, in high wind conditions. And speaking of high winds, I even had the tent pull its stakes (when empty) and blow 250 feet away up off of the Continental Divide near my home in Nederland, Colorado, into some trees, and it was not hurt or broken in any way.
All images courtesy of SlingFin
The advanced feature sets and innovative design, the extreme sturdiness of the WebTruss frame system, the lightweight materials, and the throw-back tunnel entrance, all made me not want to give this tent back.