Gear Review: SlingFin SplitWing

The SlingFin SplitWing is a light, modular shelter system made up of a tarp, a mesh body, and a vestibule (21 ounces total). The SplitWing is going to most appeal to long-distance hikers looking to save weight and optimize their shelter for variable conditions on a long trek by only bringing the pieces they need. For example, on a PCT thru-hike, one could bring just the tarp and a bivy/groundsheet for SoCal, then add the vestibule for more protection in the Sierra, then remove the vestibule and add the inner nest for bug season in Oregon. While I wish I  could squeeze in a quick PCT thru-hike, I had to settle for testing the SplitWing on shoulder-season trips in upstate New York. No big deal, the weather’s worse here anyway.

SlingFin SplitWing Specs At-a-Glance

Weight

Tarp: 7.9 ounces
Mesh Body: 11.2 ounces
Vestibule: 1.9 ounces
Total: 21 ounces

*Pitches with trekking poles. Includes six DAC stakes, which add 2 ounces.

Dimensions

Floor Area with Vestibule (no mesh body): 37.8 square feet
Floor Area (tarp only): 27-32 square feet (depending on pitch height)
Floor Area w/ Vestibule and Mesh Body: 24.8 square feet + 6.8 square foot vestibule
Floor Area w/ Mesh Body (no vestibule): 24.8 square feet
Interior Height: 41″-47″

Materials

Tarp Fabric: 10D silnylon
Tarp Reinforcement Fabric: 30D silnylon
Mesh Body Canopy Fabric: 15D nylon no-see-um mesh
Mesh Body Floor Fabric: 20D nylon ripstop PE 1800 (Sil/PE)
Vestibule Fabric: 10D silnylon

MSRP: $315

Setup

The SplitWing configured with the tarp and mesh body.

The SplitWing has a fairly straightforward pitch. For those used to freestanding tents it will take a bit of practice, but for anyone who has pitched an A-frame tarp it will be intuitive. The pitch is never going to be as fast as that of a single-pole pyramid shelter, but it is by no means slow. One thing of note here is that the tarp comes without guylines attached to the corners, requiring that you pitch it right to the ground. While I did add corner guylines (extra cord included), I found it easier to get a good pitch with the corners staked to the ground. This could be a minor annoyance on terrain where it’s hard to get stakes in.

Interior Space and Footprint

The SplitWing is nice and roomy for one—especially without the mesh body.

The SplitWing is very roomy for a solo hiker. I would describe it as a 1+ person tent. What prevents it from being viable as a two-person shelter is the very strong taper to the foot end. You could fit two in a pinch but I wouldn’t purchase the SplitWing with that intention. Compared to the similarly shaped Yama Cirriform tarp (two-person), which I have used extensively, the floor space of the SplitWing is a bit less though the interior height is comparable due to the steeper walls. Those steep walls make for very efficient use of space, and the SplitWing feels roomier than its small footprint would suggest. The SplitWing will be able to squeeze into some pretty small campsites.

Packed Size and Weight

One of the benefits of silnylon is that it packs down super small. All three shelter components fit in the stuff sack provided with the mesh body and it can all squish down to the size of a football. As you can see from the specs listed above, the SplitWing is light. But how does it compare to others in its class? The lightest full-protection solo shelter on the market right now is probably the Zpacks Plexamid at 14 ounces. If you pair the SplitWing tarp with a simple polycryo groundsheet (1.5 ounces), you could have a crazy light 9.4-ounce shelter system. The mesh body and tarp combined weigh a respectable 19.1 ounces, only 5 ounces more than the Plexamid. In terms of packed size, however, the SplitWing will win by a long shot, as DCF shelters do not pack down well.

Materials

A pretty good pitch, but not as taut as I would like.

The use of 10D silnylon as the main shelter fabric is going to have pros and cons. The main pro is that you can have a shelter that competes weight wise with DCF for half the price. The main con is that it will be made of 10D silnylon. My one true gripe with the SplitWing is that I find the side panels are not quite as taut as I’d like, even with a good pitch. This is probably not due to design but rather the use of 10D silnylon. There’s no way around the fact that silnylon has a good amount of stretch and will sag in humid conditions. These are its main drawbacks compared to silpoly or DCF, which have little and no stretch, respectively. The fact that the silnylon used in the SplitWing is only 10D slightly exacerbates the problem compared to the more substantial 30D silnylon that I am used to seeing in cottage shelters. My preference would be for 20D silpoly or .51 DCF. These fabrics are not without flaws, but I find the stretch of nylon particularly annoying.  Still, it is hard to fault the SplitWing for this as most shelters are currently being made of nylon. I should mention here that a silpoly SplitWing would need to be heavier to compensate for poly’s poor tear strength and a DCF SplitWing would perform beautifully but be expensive and bulky to pack.

Performance

The rear end pitches by looping the guyline around your trekking pole.

Wind Resistance

Wind resistance is good but not the best I’ve seen—about on par for shelters in this weight class. The structural integrity of the SplitWing is super solid and it does not wobble in high winds or if you try to shake the trekking poles. As long as your stakes hold, the SplitWing will remain standing in any storm you’re likely to encounter on a normal season thru-hike. The biggest annoyance in strong winds is the flapping of the side panels. Again, I find that, especially after it’s been pitched for a while, the side panels are not quite taut enough, which causes the thin fabric to move considerably with the wind. This can be partially mitigated by staking out the side panels with two of the provided guylines.

Water Resistance

The SplitWing provides OK to excellent protection from the elements depending on whether or not the vestibule is used. When used without the vestibule, the SplitWing will provide adequate protection from rain in calm conditions or sheltered campsites. After thru-hikes of the PCT and CDT, this is largely what I’ve dealt with (save for the occasional nasty storm), and I would feel comfortable rolling without the vestibule most of the time. If I were planning to camp in more exposed places or in locations where I would expect a lot of rain and wind, I would take the 20 ounce hit and carry the vestibule for 360 degree protection.

An interesting feature of the SplitWing is that the seams of the fly are sewn using the “double needle lap-felled” technique that, according to SlingFin, eliminates the need to seal the seams with a silicone-based seam sealer. This is awesome, because paying extra for seam sealing or doing it yourself is annoying. So far I have not noticed any water seeping in through the seams.

The SplitWing tarp has these nifty clips on the front end that let you open the wings for easier entry. I did notice it was a little difficult to close them from the inside.

Condensation

Performance here will also vary depending on the components used. There will naturally be less condensation without the vestibule because there will be more airflow, and if you use the mesh body, you’ll have more protection from any condensation touching you. There is not much in the way of venting if you use the vestibule, so expect some condensation on humid nights. Thankfully the roomy interior of the SplitWing mitigates condensation issues in general.

Snow Loading

The SplitWing was not designed to be a four-season tent, so is it fair for me to include this? I think so, because it’s not uncommon to wake up to a few inches (or sometimes more) of fresh snow on spring and fall trips, especially in places like the Sierra or the Rockies. For such a light shelter, the SplitWing does pretty well in this category. I left it out in the yard overnight with a huge snowstorm in the forecast and went out several times to check on it. Four to six inches will be no problem, although you’ll want to tap it off periodically to avoid losing interior volume. Any more than that and the sagging and loss of interior volume are significant. After approximately a foot of snow and quite a few hours the front stake pulled out, collapsing the ridgeline. At that point, one should obviously be looking at shelters outside of this category. The somewhat steep side panels and the slippery silnylon fabric are to thank for the decent performance here.

Value

The SplitWing comes stock with Micro Linelocs. While these are lighter than the Lineloc 3s I’m used to, they are much less user friendly.

At $315 for the complete tent bundle, I think the SplitWing represents a good value for the money. To get a similar shelter in DCF you’d be looking at twice the cost. Construction seems top notch and high quality materials are used, so I have no reason to believe the SplitWing would have any trouble making it through at least one 2600+ mile thru-hike.

Recommendation

As I said before, the SplitWing is going to appeal to people who want something versatile and modular. I would fall into that category, and can see myself using the SplitWing in different configurations for many of my three-season trips. I can recommend the SplitWing for thru-hikes of any of the three long trails in the US, as long as the benefits outweigh the drawbacks for you, personally. You’re getting a very light shelter for a reasonable price, but in my opinion, that comes at the cost of a less-than-ideal fabric.

If you want an ultralight shelter but are more interested in simplicity than modularity, you’d probably prefer a single-wall tent.

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