SlingFin Portal Tent Review

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We’re excited to see SlingFin, an innovative new company focused on high alpine tents, going head-to-head with industry leaders by releasing their lightest freestanding backpacking tent ever, the SlingFin Portal.

SlingFin’s designer (who used to craft tents for companies like The North Face, Sierra Designs, and Mountain Hardwear) created the Portal to compete with the lightest freestanding tents on the market (Like the popular BA Copper Spur UL2), but with added strength and storm resistance in mind. With an extra stable frame, maximized interior space, and top-quality construction/materials, the Portal is en excellent shelter to hunker down in while you wait out an unexpected storm.

Due to it’s excellent weight, weather protection, and interior space, the Portal has also been featured in our 10 Best Backpacking Tents List.

QUICK SPECS

  • MSRP: $485.00

  • MIN TRAIL WEIGHT: 2 lb. 13 oz.

  • DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 85 x 51/42 (head/foot) x 44 in.

  • PACKED SIZE: 5 x 14 in.

  • DOORS/VESTIBULES: 2

  • FLOOR/FLY FABRIC: 20D/10D Ripstop Nylon 

SlingFin Portal Tent Gallery

PROS

WEATHER-READY - The Portal has an ideal balance of weight to strength. It’s slightly thicker poles, internal guylines, and ability to attach trekking poles to its top crossbar make the Portal extremely solid in wind, rain, and even light snow. These features are unique for lightweight backpacking tents and are more common in high-end mountaineering shelters. The cross-pole frame design twists less in the wind than one that uses a central hub as well. Plus, internal guylines (preinstalled on one side) help stabilize the tent in heavy winds and transfer pressure down to the stakes instead of the poles and fabric.

For even more strength, you can add more internal guylines to the Portal, but you’ll have to pick up some extra guylines and tensioners to do so. Velcro straps also make it possible to attach trekking poles directly to the top crossbar for extra support, which makes the Portal incredibly solid. For these reasons, we think the Portal is among the strongest and most weather-ready ultralight backpacking tents we’ve ever tested.

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QUALITY MATERIALS & CONSTRUCTION - The fabrics used in the Portal are lightweight, but the tent feels durable with solid stitching and reinforced pressure points to withstand high winds. The rainfly is thin, but since it’s made with high-quality ripstop nylon, we feel confident that the Portal would hold up on a thru-hike or thousands of miles of use if treated with care. The 2-side silicone-impregnated fly and floor fabrics don’t stretch or sag much when wet for a taught pitch even after being soaked. It’s obvious that SlingFin sought out the best materials available for this high-end product.

BUILT TO LAST - The premium fabrics used in the Portal should last significantly longer than conventional PU-coated fabrics because they aren’t as prone to are mildew and degradation from UV exposure. The zippers slide smoothly and function well, but not only that - since zippers tend to be the first thing to wear out on tents, SlingFin thoughtfully included 2 extra built-in zippers that can be deployed if/when the door zippers fail. This will help extend the life of the tent, which we find awesome.

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MAXIMIZED INTERIOR SPACE - Most 2-person backpacking tents are intentionally tight-fitting to keep them as lightweight and compact as possible, but some clearly make more of the limited space than others. The Portal uses a wider-than-usual crossbar on top and a high peak height to stretch its side walls to make them nearly vertical for maximum usable space. The Portal also has less taper towards the foot end than other asymmetrical backpacking tents, which makes it feel less constricting. Large pockets throughout the tent make it convenient to stash gear and keep the interior organized as well. We think the Portal feels open and spacious enough to be comfortable due to these design decisions, but it still isn’t quite wide enough to accommodate wide sleeping pads. This definitely isn’t a dealbreaker, but we’ll be looking forward to the day when SlingFin releases a 3-person version of the Portal so we can fit any combination of sleeping pads we want in it.

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APPROPRIATELY-SIZED VESTIBULES - The vestibules on the Portal are small to medium-sized, which we think makes good sense for a lightweight backpacking tent. When we’re traveling fast and light with minimal gear, we don’t find it necessary to have huge vestibules. It’s also easier to reach the fly zippers since the vestibules aren’t staked down so far away, which we find convenient. Each vestibule has only 1 stake point too, which we prefer for it’s simplicity to the 2-stake vestibules that some tents use, like the REI Quarter Dome SL 2.

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EASY TO PITCH - Like most freestanding tents, the Portal is quick and easy pitch. The poles attach to the tent body using grommets at the corners and hooks that clip onto the poles easily. Our only gripe with setting up the Portal is that the rainfly is not color-coded to help users quickly figure out which side of the rainfly aligns with the proper side of the tent body. Color-coding is really useful for asymmetrical tents and helps take the guesswork out of getting the fly situated correctly, and it’s really beneficial for pitching a tent in nasty weather.

rainfly doors can be rolled back for maximum ventilation.

rainfly doors can be rolled back for maximum ventilation.

GOOD VENTILATION - The Portal has 2 nice wide doors that can be rolled back completely and clipped out of the way for maximum ventilation and views when weather permits. Having 2 large entries is really convenient, giving each hiker his/her own space to move freely and access shoes or gear. Especially in foul weather, it’s important to be able to take cover and get situated quickly without having to take turns getting in and out of the tent. High-quality no-see-um mesh throughout the tent body creates a barrier between users and the fly, to keep everything dry if condensation develops on the inside of the rainfly.


CONS

EXPENSIVE - SlingFin didn’t cut any corners in the design of the Portal, and it shows in its price tag. The Portal is more expensive than the competition, but since it's built to be durable, it will no-doubt last a very long time. The Portal is an example of what a great lightweight tent can be if the best fabrics, materials, and practices are used, regardless of how much it costs the manufacturer. The Portal is well worth paying a bit more for in our eyes if you plan to take care of it and put it to good use on the trail.

vents on fly door are a bit awkward.

vents on fly door are a bit awkward.

AWKWARD RAINFLY VENTS - Instead of having a single large top vent to control interior condensation, the Portal has ports on each side to allow for airflow. “Kickstands” prop open portions of the fly door zippers, which encourages airflow across the tent, but we found that it inhibits users’ ability to get in and out of the tent easily. In general, we tend to prefer vents that are not placed in the rainfly doors.

LIMITED DOOR VERSATILITY - Unfortunately, the Portal’s fly can only be staked down on one side of the vestibule, so you can’t choose which half you want to be open as the door. Some tents have loops on each vestibule door, which gives users the freedom to open either side, both sides, or close everything up. Though it’s only a slight inconvenience that the fly door can only be opened one way, we’d love it if SlingFin added another loop to make all the options available in future models.

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PRECARIOUS FLY ATTACHMENT SYSTEM - Overall, the Portal is designed intentionally and very well-built, but there are a few minor details in the hardware that make it feel less secure than brands we’ve known and trusted for a long time. The toggles that attach the rainfly to the poles don’t feel as surefire as the buckle clips and velcro straps we’ve come to appreciate in other models. It would give us more confidence in stormy weather if the fly connected to the top cross bar with a built-in sleeve to keep it tight and fastened at this important attachment point instead of a toggle that feels like it could easily slip out. Also, as previously stated, it would be great if the rainfly corners were color coded to make setup a bit easier. 

NOT ENOUGH STAKES/GUYLINES- It’s not a huge deal, but the guylines don’t come pre-attached on the Portal, so it takes a little time to tie knots and get it trail-ready the first time. If you want to make use of all the guyline attachment points, you’ll need to purchase some extra nylon cord as well as additional stakes, since not enough are provided to completely utilize the tent’s many guyout points. We’re not sure why, but it’s an industry norm to short customers on a couple of tent stakes. You might want to supplement or switch out your stakes for better holding power anyway because they’re fairly basic, but it’s a little annoying to have to buy aftermarket additions to complete your tent. If you do want to buy a few extra stakes, we like these Aluminum Tent Stakes because they’re inexpensive, light, and very strong. 

LENGTH LIMITATION - At 6’2”, Dave found the Portal to be just long enough to lay in comfortably. His head and feet barely touch the mesh interior at either end of the tent while laying on a sleeping pad. We wouldn’t recommend this tent for anyone taller than 6’3”or 6’4”.

SlingFin Portal VS. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Both the SlingFin Portal and its top competition, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 offer an awesome balance between weight and functionality, but the Portal slightly outshines the Copper Spur in strength and interior space (Though BA also offers the slightly larger UL3). The Portal is a few inches taller than the Copper Spur UL2 at its peak height and its crossbar is a few inches longer as well, which offers a welcomed upgrade in headroom.

Both models are extremely lightweight for freestanding tents and are within an ounce or two of each other. The Copper Spur has a minimum trail weight of 2 lb. 12 oz., which is just an oz. less than the Portal, but the Portal is slightly more compact than the Copper Spur when packed up.

The Portal’s non-hubbed poles break down 3-4 inches shorter than the Copper Spur’s hubbed poles and fold into a tighter bundle, which is a bonus for backpackers or bike-packers who have limited space. As far as the rainflies go, we prefer the rainfly attachments, air vent, door opening options, and color coordinated clips on the Copper Spur over the Portal.

Overall, the Portal feels a bit sturdier than the Copper Spur, especially when employing the trekking pole attachment system, and it has a slightly more spacious interior too. The Copper Spur has a bit more user-friendly setup and has far more convenient features on it’s rainfly. Both are still excellent options (and at the top of the ultralight freestanding tent category) depending on your needs.

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BOTTOM LINE

SlingFin’s Portal is a super light tent that’s strong and capable in stormy conditions, especially for those who hike with trekking poles to attach to its frame. The Portal’s reinforcements, with ideas borrowed from 4-season mountaineering tents, give us much more confidence when camping in exposed, windy places. We also love the Portal’s maximized interior headroom, which makes it feel more livable than the typical ultralight 2-person backpacking tent.

There are a few minor improvements in the fly-attachment system and vents we’d like to see addressed in future Portal models, and we’d love to see a 3-person model that could accommodate wide sleeping pads, but in the end, we think the Portal has the potential to become one of the top lightweight freestanding backpacking tents on the market. If you’re looking for a shockingly light and roomy 2-person backpacking tent that’s stout enough to withstand heavy weather, the Portal just might be perfect for you.

More Information

A good night’s sleep is really important in the backcountry, and we hope this review helps you get some rest out there. If you like this review, you’ll probably like this other popular CleverHiker content.

 


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