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 rigging types

There are many, many ways of rigging slacklines. We couldn't possibly list them all since people always find creative solutions to the same problem. Some methods involve amazing amounts of climbing and rescue equipment while others have nothing to do with climbing except for the main line being made out of webbing.

I'm working on details and a real world comparison of some of the different rigging techniques used by slackliners. My focus is on setting up the lines solo. Currently I'm limited to what climbing gear I have available, I will add more as I have time and as I can afford the new gear.

Disclaimer: I'm no master rigger. I'm doing this more to play around than to do anything scientifically. I follow the instructions I find as well as I can but I'm sure there will always be ways of improving my methods shown below. If you have good tips, please send them to me and I will re-try the rig using your suggestions. If someone wants to send/loan me two load measuring devices to use in these tests, I would be greatly appreciative and I could actually use a much more scientific approach.

Mouflage Mariner

My first rigging technique listed here isn't all that common to see on slacklines - OK, so I've never even seen it used for anything before much less a slackline. I'm not sure of the English translation as I've only seen it listed as the "Mouflage Mariner". I took the idea from the Petzl rescue rigging and hauling techniques web page. Why did I bother testing it first? Because I had never seen or used it before so I really wanted to see what this setup could do.

Mouflage Mariner Pulley System

When I ran the numbers using carabiners and not pulleys, it had the highest mechanical advantage ratio on that page that I could assemble with the gear I had available to me. You should note that I don't have nice high dollar pulleys for this test, but I did double up all carabiners to increase the turning diameter. Doubling the biners helped significantly compared to single biners, as I tried it both ways. I used all Omega Pacific oval biners for the rope to run over for as smooth as a turn as I could manage. The short rope was made from 12 feet of static rope while the blue rope is my dynamic climbing rope. I used a Petzl Gri-Gri as the first pulley on the system to lock it in place. I compared it against using normal carabiners and the increased turning diameter of the Gri-Gri actually helped the line move easier.

Hardware used
(2) Segments of rope, 12 feet and 20 feet (climbing rope 109 + 6.60 for the short rope)
Gri-Gri (could have been replaced with carabiners) ($70)
Carabiners. I doubled up each "pulley" so that meant 6 for pulleys (or 8 without the Gri-Gri) plus 2 used for the clove hitch on the webbing and one big pear biner used as a rigging plate to spread the anchor items out and another on the other end connected to a tree sling (total of 9 ovals and 1 pear) (9 @ $5 + 1 @ $12)
One extra segment of webbing was used to space out the knots ($1)
The 53 foot main line plus tree slings on each end ($15.90)

Total: high side $259.5, low side (not using extra biners and buying just enough rope) about $50

For the high side, I know I could get away with far less hardware, especially biners, but my aim was to reduce friction for optimal results and use what I already had laying around.

Test line specs
Anchor height and line length: my truck bed is 45" high, but the curb is 5" so that equals a height of 40" on one end. The other end has a lift provided by a adjustable height step ladder. The height there is 57" (4 feet and 9 inches). The main line length from anchor to anchor was exactly 45 feet. The webbing used was 1" Blue-Water webbing that is moderately stretchy. Rated strength, 4,200 lbs.

Time
It took me a good ten minutes or so to get it rigged since I was spending the time to make sure there were no crosses and everything would pull as smoothly as possible. I've rigged this setup several times before this test and it still took me that long. In one place used a webbing sling to extend pulley points to prevent knots from rubbing against the line.

Effort
I tied in a pull handle to the line and did a full body tussle with the thing to get it as tight as I could. I was able to lock it off without any tension slipping. I let the line naturally stretch for five minutes then re-tensioned it again managing a few more inches of pull without letting it slip while tying off. In short, there was no way I could get it tighter solo. Overall I felt it required a bit of thinking and rigging skills to get it satisfactory.

Mouflage rigged slackline

Result
Bottoming out at a rather disappointing 8 feet from the highest anchor. I tried re-tensioning it again twice with the exact same result.

 Me bottoming out the line

Conclusion
I will retry this rig when I have good pulleys available. Without them it seemed like it provided minimal benefits over a 3:1 Z tightening system that used significantly less equipment. Using the same gear I used, I see no reason to recommend this technique over the other more popular ones. It seems cumbersome overall and limited advantage.

With much higher anchor points it would suffice for a looser line at that length. Using two static ropes instead of just one may have improved my results as well. Again, I will retest this setup later.

 

The Deluxe Kit

The next item up is a Deluxe Slackline Kit that I sell, but could be made by others with the same results. No modifications were used on the kit from what would normally be sold. My custom slide lock was on the line, but was not used for tensioning. At it's core the ratcheting unit we use has a 13:1 mechanical advantage. Due to the webbing filling up space on the take up spool, that number gets decreased somewhat, but it always stays over a 8:1 and you don't have to calculate in friction, or at least not very much at all.

A ratchet based slackline

Hardware used
(1) 10,000 lb tensile strength ratchet
(2) tree slings - (Same from the prior test)
(2) carabiners - (The cheaper S-clips would have sufficed but I just left the tree slings in place from the first test)
(1) 53 foot main line - (Same line from prior test)

Total: $45 (but it includes more gear than used here)

Test line specs
Same anchors as before with nothing moved. The same webbing was used too.

Time
It took me under two minutes to get it rigged to my preferred tension. I'd guess and say I'm quicker than others would be since I use this rig nearly daily.

Effort
I could have pulled a lot more, but the line reached the desired tension long before I ran out of pull. It takes a little arm muscle but I certainly didn't have to try very hard at all.

Result
I was over a foot off the ground for the entire lines length and I could have gotten it even tighter.

Me walking the line well off the ground

Conclusion
Mentally, I know I'm biased towards my own gear, so do I really need to say much about the results other than it was successful and I could have went tighter?

 

Primitive setup (3:1 Pulley Ratio)

The primitive slackline is by far one of the most common rigging types. My best guess is that it is so popular with climbers because they usually have all of the items necessary already. Many swear by it due to it's simplicity of setup. You can set up a slackline using 2 or more carabiners in the tightening system plus whatever you use to attach the line and enough webbing to make the line and be pulled through the tightening system. However, for a line over twenty feet or so or lower to the ground it usually requires more than one person to pull on the line. Longer lines can be set this way, but it usually warrants having high anchor points.

3:1 Primitive SystemWhen using only webbing and not climbing rope, the friction created at each turn is significant. Since friction is the big enemy in pulley setups climbing rope can be utilized to lower the friction a bit.

In this test, I used static climbing rope in the tightening system to decrease friction. Since it is also less dynamic it should provide a more efficient pull. I attached two biners to the main line via a clove hitch. The reason for two biners is to aid the untying of the clove hitch. After that, the rope is attached the biners to the static rope then ran the rope through a biner on the other and then back through another at the first end.

Hardware used
(2) tree slings - (Same from the prior test)
(5) carabiners - (I used two in the clove hitch to aid in untying it and one on the dead end of the line to attach to a tree sling. The setup could have been completed using as little as two with no difference. I used more biners to make it efficient and easier to remove.
(1) 53 foot main line - (Same line from prior test)
12 feet of static rope (.60 / ft) (could have been made without rope, but would have been less efficient)

Total: $58 (webbing $26, rope 7.20, carabiners 5 @ $5)

Test line specs
Same anchors and line as before with nothing moved. The same webbing was used.

Time
It took me four minutes or so to get it rigged and tensioned.

Effort
I tied a pull handle in the line and did a full body pull to get it as tight as I could. I was able to lock it off without any tension slipping, which took several tries. I let the line naturally stretch for five minutes then re-tensioned it again managing one more inch of pull without letting it slip while tying off. As with the first example, there was no way I could get it tighter solo. Overall I felt it required only a mild effort to rig, but required a lot of strength to set in this instance.

Result
I ended up bottoming out 7 feet away from my highest anchor.

3 to 1 line bottomed out

Conclusion
It seemed to be just a shade less powerful that the mouflage mariner but was way more easily setup and used far less gear. I felt that to pull off a 45 foot line I would have to have raised the anchor points a lot or have had two or more people pulling to keep the same height. From what I can tell by reading up, some people have far more success than I do using this method. However, for each person who says they can tighten a 45 foot line with only a 2 foot drop there seems to be many many more who have about the same success as I do.

 

The 6:1 Slackline

There may be hope still. The 6:1 produces far more mechanical advantage than it's 3:1 cousin. Granted, friction being what it is in these devices it's no where near an actual 6:1 pull ratio in terms of energy. For a 6:1 to work well, you are going to have to have rope or thin webbing. Throwing 1" webbing over that many turns is creating more friction than it is saving so it actually becomes harder to pull than a 3:1.

Also with that much tension tying off without slippage is critical. I've heard the 6:1 can generate so much tension that it becomes necessary to add in a release hitch and you should think twice about using a Gri-Gri in the system as they can be bent. I did use a Gri-Gri, but only as a finishing hitch to help hold it in place. If it had been the first pulley in the system it could have been very difficult to have released the tension using the build in handle.

During tensioning, I was actually pulling before the Gri-Gri and then pinched the line in place while took up the slack in the Gri-Gri. It worked fairly well. I think an actual ascender or Triblok would have been easier to use, but I don't have either yet.

Hardware used
(2) tree slings - (Same from the prior test)
(7) carabiners - (I used two in the clove hitch to aid in untying it and one on the dead end of the line to attach to a tree sling.
(1) 53 foot main line - (Same line from prior test)
12 feet of static rope (.60 / ft) (I really wish I had a longer static rope for this rig, I had to pull it tight as a 3:1 then clip in the rope as I had more slack)
Gri-Gri (unnecessary but helpful)

Total: $68 (webbing $26, rope 7.20, carabiners 7 @ $5) $138 if you include the Gri-Gri

Test line specs
Same anchors and line as before with nothing moved. The same webbing was used.

Time
It took me eight minutes or so to get it rigged and tensioned.

Effort
I tied a pull handle in the line and did a full body pull to get it as tight as I could. I was able to lock it off without any tension slipping, which took several tries until I resorted to using my Gri-Gri. I let the line naturally stretch for five minutes then re-tensioned it again managing four more inch of pull without letting it slip while tying off. As with the some of the other examples, there was no way I could get it tighter solo. Overall I felt it required a medium effort to rig paired with plenty of strength to set in this instance.

Result
I ended up bottoming out 19 feet away from my highest anchor.

6 to 1 bottomed out

Conclusion
It seemed to be much more powerful that the mouflage mariner and 3:1. It wasn't all that bad to rig either. It used a moderate amount of gear, but thankfully wasn't that expensive. I really felt that with a couple pulleys or even a little extra help pulling I would have had the whole line tight enough to walk. It was close to pulling it off but it didn't quite get me there.

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