SlingFin recently introduced a new tarp to its offering of shelters. I got to try out the Splitwing UL Tarp for the last two months and have been pretty impressed with its weight to cost ratio, as well as its weather worthiness.
First some specs:
My SplitWing tarp was a scant 7.9 oz (as advertised) and with all guylines, stakes, and stuff sack weighed just 11.3 oz, a bit more than the advertised 11.1 oz on the website, but a negligible difference. *Please note this is for the tarp and the weight does not include the modular components that can work with the tarp (foot print, mesh, vestibule beak).
The tarp is made out of 10D Nylon 66 Ripstop Sil/Sil with a 30D weight at the tarp’s reinforcements points. SlingFin claims that this fabric,
“...[W]on’t hydrolyze like PU coated fabrics and absorbs less water so it doesn’t sag as much as PU coated fabrics and makes it resistant to mold and mildew growth.”
I’m not really sure what hydrolyzation is but sounds good to me!
What I like about the Splitwing UL Tarp
Lightweight & reasonable price - I was especially impressed with the weight for a non-Dyneema shelter, not to mention the MSRP (cost) of the SplitWing of $164.99. For reference, comparably weighted shelters can be in the $400 - $600+ range when Dyneema Composite is the textile of choice.
Super packable - I was also impressed with how packable the Nylon66 fabric is. I often baby my Dyneema gear when putting it in my pack for fear of damaging the fabric. As most long distance hikers know, Dyneema is not very abrasion resistant. On a long hike, holes and degraded fabric are a foregone conclusion. It’s still too soon to speak to the longevity of my SplitWing Tarp, but I am optimistic to this end as repeatedly stuffing it in the tiny stuff sack is no problem and folding is not necessary.
Versatile - When temperatures soared, I pitched the tarp high for maximum ventilation; and when I was concerned about the potential for inclement weather, I pitched it low to the ground. The SplitWing can also be used (and indeed was used) as a hammock tarp with a ridgeline. I especially liked the ability of the tarp to pitch in precarious places e.g. on the edge of a lake near some heavily beaver chewed Birch trees.
Sets up taut - The tarp was very sturdy even without staking down all the extra guy-out-points. I have lots of confidence in the tarp in adverse weather conditions. Luckily for me, I have yet to experience such weather.
Things to note:
Practice before you leave — in terms of setting up, at first I found it rather confusing, even after using tarps for thousands of trail miles. Perhaps I’ve forgotten a bit of geometry or need to cut my teeth some more on tarp pitches but it took a bit of head scratching as well as trial and error to get the pitch taut the first time around. All of that being said, the consecutive pitches afterwards were much faster and less confusing. Understanding how your gear works beforehand is one of the many pre-hike rituals I try to undertake to ensure a more pleasant outing — maybe I should heed my own advice more often.
After my initial confusion, and if we’re being honest, mild frustration, I realized I didn’t give the SplitWing a fair-shake having haphazardly set it up as fast as possible so I could escape the mosquito horde in favor of a swim in the northern Ontario lake that I chose as my basecamp.
It’s also worth mentioning that I mistakenly placed the bottom trekking pole (where my feet would go) UNDER the tarp instead of using the tie out and affixing the trekking pole TO the tarp.
Either way the tarp pitched exceptional well, even in the face of my obvious faux pas (a definite feather in the cap for SlingFin and a question mark for my mental capacities).
Another user error I ran into without instructions was guying out the wrong tie out points for the front end of the tarp. Instead of using guylines for the vestibule carabiners, I just attached them together. This made me question the weather-worthiness of the tarp (but in retrospect this was completely my fault).
Leaves you somewhat exposed - My one reservation is that the SplitWing Tarp (sans mesh, vestibule beak, footprint) may not protect from all the elements. At the very least I would recommend getting the vestibule beak as well to cover the tarp opening. However, us hikers are cheap, and creative. If you carry an umbrella, I believe it would be a great replacement to the vestibule beak with a similar effect, albeit a less form-factor-fitting component.
Overall, I think this is an amazing value when considering cost, weight, performance, packability, protection from elements, and longevity. I’m looking forward to putting more miles on the SplitWing but for now I’ll enjoy my lake-side digs.
Dahn Pratt is an avid taker of walks having recently completed his two year/10,000 mile project, Chasing Summer. You can live vicariously through his misanthropic adventures on instagram.com/dahnhikes