SlingFin ein selbstfinanziertes innovatives Unternehmen

SlingFin wurde 2010 mit einem einfachen Ziel gegründet, die stärkste, innovativste und kostengünstigste Outdoor-Ausrüstung der Welt herzustellen. Wir wollten es genau wissen und haben Martin Zemitis, den Gründer von SlingFin, interviewt. Das Interview erscheint im Original – in englischer Sprache.

Der Gründer von SlingFin Martin Zemitis (Mitte)

SlingFin was founded by Martin Zemitis and Tim Baka. I designed tents, packs and sleeping bags for The North Face, Sierra Designs and I was one of the founders of Mountain Hardwear. We sold Mountain Hardwear to Columbia Sportswear and in 2009 I decided to start my own company. The early name of SlignFin was Expedition Technology but that was only the working name until we received trademarks for the SlingFin name.

SlingFin employees own 95 % of the company. It was important for us to own the business since we have seen larger companies compromise on quality, materials and use inferior factories to be more profitable. Wall street and absentee owners force brands to lower the quilt of their products to reduce prices in order to sell more units and be more profitable.

We stared SlingFin since we wanted to make products without compromising. We use nylon 6,6 fabrics and 2 side silicon coated fabrics whenever possible. We use very expensive titanium dioxide fabrics for basecamps tents. Titanium Dioxide fabrics are 5-times more expensive than standard fabrics but will last several years at high altitude basecamps.

Our goal is to make tents that ar the last to fail in the largest storms.

Martin Zemitis, SlingFin

Nature can always destroy a lightweight shelter, but making tents that will withstand harsher conditions than your competiors, will give you a reputation for making great gear. We take pride in making great gear. People’s lives depend on the tents we make and we take that seriously. No amount of market hype will help you on an 8’000 Meter peak when the weather turns bad! I designed and made the only tent ever used on the summit of Mountain Everest. We have tested tents in 185.07456 km/h winds on Mt. Washington.

How did you come up with the idea to create SlingFin?

I have been designing tents for 37 years. I have been lucky to have worked with some of the most famous designers in the outdoor industry, Paul Kramer, Mark Erickson, Ingrid Harshbarger, Cheryl Knopp, Bruce Hamilton, etc. I was tired of other companies having their product managers copy everyone else and not solve design problems or improve tent design and performance. The majority of companies make tents to make money. We set out to design and make tents that work under the worst conditions on earth (and try not go bankrupt) in the process. Tent design was stagnant and I came up with a new way to pitch tents where the poles are pitched first. This concept can be seen in our tents which have the WebTruss feature: OneUp, Kahiltna Dome, CrossBow, HardShell and WindSaber tents.

What does the name mean?

Sling = climbing sling.
Fin = fin of a fish.

I wanted a short name that was unique and represented climbing (mountains) and water sports. Try coming up with a short name that you can register (slingfin.com) and obtain a trademark. It’s not easy!

Who is behind the company/brand? How did you finance the start?

The larger companies wanted me to make everything cheaper and I only wanted to make things better! It was time for me to start my own company! Employees own 95 % of SlingFin. 5 % of SlingFin is owned by family, friends and small investors that like what we do. We opened our wallets and spent every dime we had to make SlingFin a reality. I have worked for some of the largest outdoor companies in the world and I did not want to go down the path of comprise again. I have new and better ideas so it was time to head down a new path and that is SlingFin.

The majority of the employees, advisors and board members have worked at The North Face (in the early 80’s), Sierra Designs and are the founders of Mountain Hardwear. We are a new company but our expertise goes back 40 years for some of us. We turned tiny companies into large conglomerates and now it’s time for us to enjoy doing what we love to do best, make great gear that actually works for its intended use. Warranty departments are not helpful when you are climbing Annapurna or Makalu! Our tents are used all over the world in the harshest conditions imaginable.

What you are most proud of?

  1. The fact that we are making the strongest tents in the world for the weight and that we do not compromise with materials, quality or workmanship.  
  2. I am most proud of the tent I made for Babu Chiri Sherpa for his overnight stay on the summit of Everest and for the Gold Award we received at Friedrichshafen for the HardShell tent which has our WebTruss.  
  3. I love not having to answer to absentee owners!! We answer to our customers and to ourselves and that feels great!!! It’s fun!
  4. All SlingFin employees know how to sew! If you do not know how to sew we will show you the sewing machine and tell you to get busy! To be part of SlingFin means you have to love the outdoors, love gear and love improving and making gear!!!!
  5. We never look at resumes. We recycle them. The right people find us and believe in what we do. They walk in the front door and do not leave!
  6. We have product review meetings regularly. Anyone can join in and sometimes they never leave! There is a passion to make great equipment that consumes us all!

What is your vision for the future? Or the next products?

Testing and more testing: We have an amazing fabric and materials lab. We tear and break everything we can put on our machinery. If our machinery cannot do the job our neighbors run a failure analysis company and they have very large tensile testing machines they can tear apart just about everything. We have a famous speed climber (he has climbed El Cap in Yosemite over 100 times) that uses our machinery to modfy climbing harnesses so we use the heavy machinery next door to make sure the modifications are sewn properly. We probably do more UV testing than most outdoor companies.
Tensile structures are very interesting in that all parts rely on all the other parts for strength. A weak link in the chain may lead to premature failure. We are always looking for the weak link and for the strongest materials for the least weight. Sewing all the fabric and parts together so everything is equally strong is a very challenging. Why have a grommet tab attached to a piece of webbing that has a tensile strength of 300KG when the fabric or seam can only withstand 5KG. Designing a tent where the stresses are equally distributed is a fun and challenging.
Fabrics. We have new ideas for fabric coatings that we are working on.

Where can I get products from SlingFin currently?

You can buy Slingfin products in qualified outdoor retail and online shops in Germany and Switzerland. You can find a dealer list at slingfin.com or write an email to info@mountain-peaks.de. Traders in other European countries can also contact the email address above. Mountain Peaks is the Outdoor Agency of Claus Eyrich for SlingFin in Europe.

Where do you produce?

We make products in the US, Vietnam and Taiwan. I have worked with the Taiwan and Vietnam factories for nearly 30 years. They are my friends and partners and we have a great working relationship! They are family owned company that cares about their employees and the environment as much as we do.

What about environmental and social standards?

We make our tents in small batches and do our best to eliminate fabric waste and eliminate harmful chemicals from our tents. We also make products that last a long time! A tent that lasts 10 years is twice as environmentally friendly as a tent that lasts 5 years. Our production partners are highly skilled and treat their employees very well. If they did not, they would not be able to employ the best sewers in the world! We partner with The Conservation Alliance, which is dedicated to preserving the wild places where we like to play in the USA.

You use the gear yourself. So which tour do you plan to do next?

I have been a kayaker, cross country skier, backpackpacker, rafter and river guide my whole life! I have so much gear I could be a commerical outfitter but that would ruin the sports I love the most. My next trip is a 7 day trip on the Green River in Utah followed by an 8 day kayak trip down a remote tributary of the Colorado river. I will never share my special hidden places since I expect others to find them as I did.

Thanks for the interview.

Quelle Bilder: Martin Zemitis, SlingFin

About The Author Jonathan Stolz