Slackline Express
Slacklining: Verb, The act of having an unbelievable amount of fun walking and doing tricks on a piece of webbing pulled tight between two points, also used as a form of meditation, physical and mental training.
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Slackline Frequently Asked Questions

Here's where we answer some of the questions regarding the sport of Slacklining we've received.

For FAQs on our gear, our company or us see our Company FAQs

"What is a slackline?" / "What is slacklining" / "Why would you do it?" / "Where did it come from?"
The premise of slacklining is that it is a fun balancing activity. It's easy enough to learn, loads of fun and has lots of nice physical benefits. It is a lot like tight rope walking but is almost always done close to the ground and the line is bouncy and to the observer looks like a rope with slack in it. In reality it's springy webbing set tightly between two points and it stretches once your on it, but the concept is the same, but it feels a lot different than rope.

A typical slackline setup is consists of a line of webbing (usually tubular 1" nylon) pulled tight between two upright and sturdy objects, preferably trees but telephone poles and vehicles are frequently used as well. There are lots of variations on how to get the line tight and some creative minds have found interesting ways of setting up slacklines without trees as well. The basic idea is walking it like a tight rope. It behaves differently since the nylon webbing stretches and bounces under the slacker's weight and has a very "live" feel.

Besides being incredibly fun, walking on webbing was used for a new type of concentration and balance exercise. Some people use it for meditation or to bring their balance and concentration to a new level for performance in sports. Others just find it relaxing yet exhilarating as a sport it itself. Most importantly though, it was for fun. The sport has evolved a lot since the beginning of just a handful of slackers being in the loop to lines popping up around campfires and climbing gyms across the world. Our goal is to push it one step even further by introducing non-climbers to the sport as well.

Slacklining has its origins the rock climbing arena. For days off or evenings after a hard days climb, climbers in Yosemite Camp 4 were walking chains between posts just for fun as a balancing trick. Eventually someone came up with the idea of walking nylon webbing usually associated with climbing. It provided a more "live" feel and instead of being a static balancing act, it would bounce and recoil against your moves making for a really fun dynamic ride. That idea spawned into a sport of it's own and there are now slackers all over the world.

The sport is strongly linked to rock climbing but it is starting to grow to include non-climbers as well.

For the most comprehensive history of slacklining that we've seen, see Scott Balcom's post on RockClimbing.com

"How hard is it to slackline?"
To get started, not very hard at all. More accurately, just about everyone who wants to, barring some physical disability, can get the basics down. With good instructions and good spotters average is standing confidently and taking a step or two in five to fifteen minutes. If they keep at it within an afternoon most people can walk at least most of a 25 foot line. Your basic balancing skills have a lot to do with how quickly you can pick up the sport, I've witness pure naturals able to take steps on the line on their first try more than once but also those that took all day to stand up. However, in the end they all got it down. The real thrill is that you can constantly bring your skills further as there is almost no end to the tricks you can do on a slackline. Heck, we even play Frisbee between two lines.

"What are some of the ways to rig a slackline?"
Rigging a slackline basically includes rigging the two anchor points to study places and somehow putting tension on the line. You will almost always want the slackline tighter than what you'll be able to pull by your own hands so the idea is to resort to some type of mechanical advantage.

On the basic physics front, we have four main ways of amplifying force (mechanical advantage): pulleys, levers, gears and hydraulics. Since hydraulics are very heavy by nature and more suitable for extreme pressure but small movement, they aren't used on slacklines. A gear box is usually ruled out since it is so heavy and relatively expensive but people have done it before with things like boat winches. Pulley systems are the most common and can be made using climbing gear and levers are used in the form of a ratcheting device. Currently all of our main kits we sell use leverage but we'll make you a pulley style system if you certain you want one.

We're working on a page dedicated to many of the different rigging techniques and real world comparisons. The ones we have tested and done photos on so far are on our Rigging Types page.

For a reference guide:
Primitive setups (pulley style except pulling webbing over biners) ** Please check out why pulley style systems aren't for everyone
How mechanical advantage works, pulleys, levers, gears and hydraulics

**Autolocking 3:1 slackline that uses webbing and carabiners (scroll down)
**Ellington 3:1 system that uses thinner webbing for the tensioning system to reduce friction

Pulley style systems that use more than just webbing and carabiners
**3:1 slackline that uses webbing, carabiners and rope
**9:1 slackline that uses webbing, carabiners and rope and a release hitch
Using actual pulleys to tighten a slackline (scroll down)

and of course: A list of all of the major commercial slackline makers out there

If you want more information on advanced pulley systems, piggy backing and large  go get a roped rescue book - they have a wonderful selection of good books out there that can describe the physics and proper selection of techniques for each scenario.


"What is the cheapest and easiest way? / "What is the bare minimum I need to make my own slackline?" / "Where can I buy slacklines at?"
Those terms are more or less mutually exclusive (contradict each other). See a decent explanation of why along with basic minimum ingredients for different setups on Rockclimbing.com's Slackline FAQs It also includes a series of links to the major companies.

"What are these primitive slacklines I keep hearing about and how can I make my own?"
 A primitive slackline is a slackline using nothing but webbing and carabiners for the main line and tensioning system. Refer to What are some of the ways of rigging a slackline for lots of ways of making them. The term primitive isn't something we made up, it's just a common name for the method and it doesn't imply that it's less powerful or anything, just that it uses very basic components to do the job. Variations that turn it into a more powerful pulley system include items such as using static rope, ascenders, prussic knots and other climbing related tricks of the trade but for the most part primitive means just carabiners and webbing. The typical system uses anywhere from 2 to 6 carabiners and uses some of the webbing in the tightening system. One end is tied off to the tree the other is ran through the tightening system which requires pulling on the webbing to create tension.

While this is the most commonly used technique, most climbers agree that it can take a good deal of pulling to set one up, especially with new stretchy webbing. Most people cannot set up anything except short lines without help pulling using this method. The setup is based on looping the webbing back and forth through carabiners which provide a mechanical advantage. The more carabiners used in the looping back and forth (which act as a pulley), the more mechanical advantage. For each extra pass through the carabiners it almost doubles the amount of pull that is created. For instance if you can pull 100lbs and you have three carabiners in a Z style 3:1 mechanical advantage, it would theoretically equal 300lbs. I say theoretical because that would be in a frictionless setup, in reality it is closer to 125 lbs of pull due to the friction drag of the webbing, that's a lot of inefficency. The only real guarantee is that for every 1 inch you pull, it only tightens 1/3 of an inch - that usually equates to an easier to pull setup but friction becomes a big problem to overcome with the more turns in a system.

Webbing creates a lot of friction when it is ran over carabiners and by adding more carabiners it increases the conglomeration of webbing which can be overlapping and increase friction. Using pulleys with climbing rope drastically reduce the friction involved in the system. The main reason everyone doesn't use pulleys is because they are fairly expensive, not many people have them, they require other gear you may not have and they can be a bit cumbersome if your not experienced with setting them up.

If your interested, we can sell you the gear you need to make one. Even though we don't use them ourselves on a regular basis, we still understand that there are people out there who want to make their own, and still get a good price on it. The list pretty much goes like, 40-80 feet of webbing and 3 to 8 oval carabiners. We sell the tree slings pre-made so you can have nice sewn slings with adjustment gear if you'd like as well.

Before you get too hyped up and buy all of the stuff, read on to see why we don't recommend pulleys for everyone.

"How much of a difference does friction really make?"

Short answer: a whole bunch. Long answer: read Technical Analysis of Friction in Hauling Systems
 

"Ok that primitive setup doesn't sound so bad, why don't you guys recommend it?"
We sell them because they can work, but they don't work well for the majority of people. For some people, especially climbers and river guides we do strongly encourage at least knowing how to making a primitive tightening system (Z system/3:1/whatever you call it). It's a useful tool for lots of things but when it comes down to ease of use and cost effectiveness other options can be very worthwhile to look into while your at it. Hey, more techniques and knowledge just mean a free new tool for your mental toolbox so why not learn all of the methods and pick the right one for your needs.

If you are a climber who wants to learn all about rigging techniques and think you might need to set a haul line for an injured climber or do multipitch with lots of gear, then you'll want to spend the time to at least try the pulley style types of mechanical advantage. This information and experience can be critical to self rescue and you owe that to your climbing partner and yourself. You'll also be more likely to plunk down the cash for a nice pulley system such as the CMI Double uplift pulley and matching pulley (big bucks $$$ but sweet gear) if your wanting to use the same techniques for slacklines. There is a BIG IF in the equation though - If your just wanting to slackline with as little effort or cash as possible then leverage (ratchet) based systems are HIGHLY effective as well and require a lot less effort and skill from the slacker to use. If you already know the other rigging methods then our kits still make sense since you won't have to dedicate your climbing gear to slacking and it's still less labor intensive to set up and almost always still just as cheap or cheaper than making your own. The downside is you won't be working on rigging skills.

On a side note for the lazy (that includes us), a typical 2" ratchet unit makes a 13:1 pull advantage that varies down to 10:1 depending on how full the spool is and a typical primitive is a 3:1 but friction reduces it to a 1.25:1. I know I'd rather only have to exert 35 to 45 lbs of pressure on a comfy handle on a lever than have a friend and I pull 225 lbs of tension on a piece of webbing to get that 350 lbs of tension on a medium sized line moderately tight.

***Important note you need to know before making your own or purchasing incomplete kits from other places*** all the carabiner companies we've talked to specifically recommended keeping slackline biners separate from your live saving climbing equipment, so to be safe your looking at $15 to $30 just in dedicated carabiners. The webbing also gets extremely stressed out and should never be used for life saving purposes like climbing anchors afterwards. Repeat after me "I _your name_ promise not to use my slackline gear for climbing purposes as I will end up killing someone due to the weakened and stressed condition of my gear."

Cost wise once you add up the dedicated webbing and biners plus the webbing that isn't actually used to walk on and at 30 to 40 cents a foot for all of your webbing cost it adds up. If you get a great sale or already have tons of extra equipment you can trim that number down a lot but it's a catch 22, if you have the climbing gear to make a good slackline system you shouldn't use it for climbing anymore as it stresses the heck out of it. That's part of what makes pre-made systems so nice, it comes with everything you need and it won't be compromising your climbing gear and it will almost always cost less but give you more features.

"Where can I get some good trick info at?"
Our site under Slackline Tricks Section for one and if you want even more good tips, tricks and a good slack lining community check out http://www.rockclimbing.com/  RC is a really great climbing board and you should consider joining it for all of the other information available on it; I've been known to lurk there quite a bit. Basic getting started tips and tricks are also in the manuals included our kits or at the links above.

"I want to make a custom setup, what size of webbing do you recommend?" / "Why is 1" a standard size for slacklines?"
Sorry to tell you, girlfriends lie, size does matter. Traditionally slacklines use 1" webbing for the most part because it is usually the easiest to find because it is used in so many other things; so climbers usually already had extra 1" tubular laying around. It seems to be a good flex but still not hurt your feet.

9/16 or 3/4 work well too, but are little bit harder on your feet - but otherwise behave about the same. If your walking they are just fine and dandy, if your jumping or doing tricks it might be considered a bit harsh without shoes. 1/2" is ok to surf, bearable barefoot but leaves big welts from whipping you if you fall. Thinner than 1/2" and I'm not sure it'd be fun at all. If you wear shoes while on the slackline it is a lot less of an issue. From what I can tell most hard core super tape fanatics wear shoes when on it. Also worth noting is that many 1/2" webs may not be strong enough to work for a slackline.

2" is "ok" I've tried it but it seems more like walking rope than slacklining. It swayed but didn't really stretch for the expected bounce. Might as well use hemp rope and tightrope or "slackrope" since it has a much less dynamic property to it. If you've got the 2" webbing, give it a try it isn't "bad" or anything just different.

As for the thickness/ type of the webbing, thicker usually means heavier duty, but not always - check the specs of the webbing as some thick weaves are light duty. Most of the 1" webbing out there is strong enough to slack with on a normal setup - but I'd recommend going with proven strengths.

Polypro: very light, cheap, not too terribly strong, water resistant, usually feels slicker and looks a bit shiny. I've used these on quick and dirty 30' lines and they feel pretty good - oddly I never got them to show any wear at all, but it was slick so I didn't spend as much time on it as the others. This stuff comes in all types of thicknesses and strengths so don't buy it unless you know it'll be strong enough. We use a strong variety of it for ultra light custom lines. I've never seen the variety we use break, but supposedly it's a bit weaker than the flat nylon we used in the past.

Flat nylon: moderately light, a little cheaper than tubular but about half the strength of it. If its a thin weave you'll find it curves under your feet, so instead of contacting 1" of webbing, it makes a a kind of upside down U so it is kind of rounded. If it's a thicker flat weave it will only do it a little. Flat nylon is usually fairly thin, but can still be strong, again there are varying strengths out there ranging from very low tensile strength to an amazing 6,000 lbs tensile strength. We used to use flat nylon on our intro kit's main line.

Tubular nylon: preferred for a good slackline. It is thicker and stronger, costs a bit more but won't wear out as quickly and gives a much more flat feel since it doesn't buckle under much at all. All of the webbing in our kits are 1" tubular nylon (4,000 lb test) or 2" tubular nylon (10,000lb test).

Your mileage may very, but I've set up good lines with all three. Keep in mind that narrow webbing stretches a LOT; it's very dynamic so plan on having high anchor points or really cranking it down. If you'd like, we can make you a line or even an extra for occasional use in whatever size you'd like. We do Poly Pro 3/4" for a cheap way to try your hand at thin and tubular nylon 5/8" for those a bit more serious at super tape. We'll even double the line and sew the entire length for a bit less dynamic line if you want it. Check it out in our Custom Kits and Accessories

"How do I know when it's time to replace my webbing?"
Eventually the webbing will need replaced since it is a wear item. Unfortunately, it's a pretty hard question to answer since there are so many variables and ways to invisibly damage the webbing. Here's the conundrum though, if you replacing webbing too soon, it costs you more money and your being wasteful, something which our kits are specifically design to not do. However, if you go too long on a sketchy line, it will break and you will fall. Now most people are used to falling on slacklines, but by the time you wear a line out, you'll probably be very good at it and doing some pretty wild tricks and jumps and if it does break, it'll be during something like that and you could seriously mess yourself up. From my point of view, I don't want to be looked at as trying to force feed people replacement webbing at their cost nor do I want to let anyone get hurt.

In order to best answer this question we've put into place a 5 year maximum expected life time on our webbing. If it is older than 5 years even with the lightest of use, it needs to be retired as nylon does degrade over time. For wear related damage take a look at our Slackline Webbing Wear & Recommendations page.

If you stressed the line out enough to distort or break a carabiner, I'm not sure what the heck you think you were doing but don't do that and consider your line suspect, so inspect it very carefully.

Remember, we don't sell highlines - so at no point in time should our webbing be the only thing keeping you alive.

"I don't have trees, how can I set up a line?"
This has been answered a lot of times. You have to get creative. See the Slacklining Without Trees page.

"How much tension does a slackline need?"
It varies a lot depending on how loose you like it. As just an estimate we'll say around 400 lbs of tension for a medium tight line that is around 30 to 40 feet, but they get much looser and much tighter than that and the longer it is, the more tension is required to keep from bottoming out. That is just to hold the line tight but when someone is on the line physics amplify that number by a good margin, which is why it is necessary to have very solid anchors. Eric Matthes has a really interesting Technical Analysis of a Slacklines on his site. He calculated the amount of tension put on a slackline by the amount of sag. I highly suggest technical info geeks check it out. We simplified his equation into a Slackline Force Calculator.

"How can I get my university/college to allow us to set up slacklines?"
We did get SMSU safety and grounds to give their official blessing on us setting up slacklines. Here's a Quick Facts About Slacklining word document that worked for us. People don't trust what they don't understand or seems too new. Give them some information to help open their mind up first. Make sure to emphasis that it is both safe and not harmful to the trees. Another tip is bring in a tree sling with a tree friendly so they can see what it's about. Also, do not try to do it all over email or the phone, you'll probably receive a much better acceptance in person. Whatever you do, don't act like a rebellious punk when someone asks you to take it down. If you act like one, they will treat you like one. We often work as a liazon between Universities, Cities and Slackers as a semi-official representation of the sport to help explain why it isn't an unacceptable risk to life & limb nor will it damage their property if properly set up.

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