A Slackline for Papa: Homemade Slackline Setup

Watching my children play always reminds me of how open and free and capable we are as kids. I’m trying to re-capture that feeling by doing things that are pure fun and serve no other practical purpose in my life. Like slacklining.

Slacklining does have physical benefits, but that’s not the point for me. It’s that feeling of being centered, being balanced, and trying something that is difficult in order to learn more about myself.

I use the ‘primitive’ slackline system, which uses climbing webbing and carabiners for tensioning, but there are some pretty slick kits out there that are quicker to set up and easier to tighten. If you want to set up a long line, you’ll probably want to get a ratcheting tensioner. I haven’t had to yet.

My homemade slacklining setup consists of 60 feet of 1″ tubular webbing, 6 carabiners (three sets of two, with a pair of locking ‘biners as one set), and some climbing slings, both pre-sewn and homebuilt to fit different sized trees. I use either duct tape covered cardboard or a scrap of carpet to protect the bark from the webbing (a tree-saver), whichever one is handier.

It would probably just confuse you if I were to try to explain the exact setup for a primitive slackline in my own words, but this video shows you what you need to know:

How to Set up a Homemade Slackline:

And then you can start to rip:

One of my goals is to walk a highline, mostly just to do it, but partly because I love the adrenaline rush that comes from pushing the boundaries of my physical body, and being that far off the ground, even in a harness, is kind of addicting. I don’t think I’d walk it without a harness and tether, like this next guy, Dean Potter, but I get a huge rush just watching him…

Having a slackline can provide hours of fun and fitness for parents and children alike. Slacklining is a fun way to stay fit and work on your balancing skills. It really works the core muscles and all the stabilizing muscles in your feet and calves. It can also be unpredictable as hell, so your reflexes get pretty sharp after a while.

I love it for the mental time-out it gives me. Everything else disappears just for a second… All I see is the line.

Slacklining is also a lifelong challenge. Once you’ve got the basics of walking the line down, there are as many variations as you can think up: slackline tricks, surfing, yoga, partners, and highlining.

Resources to help you on your way to a slackline addiction:

If you’ve got a couple of trees in your yard, or a park nearby, get a slackline and get balanced.

[This post is one from the archives, previously published in March of 2009. I got the urge to republish it when the bag with my slackline setup in it fell out of my closet and onto my head. I am taking that as a suggestion that I need to set it up and start slacking again.]

Image: Lively Images at Flickr

13 Responses to A Slackline for Papa: Homemade Slackline Setup

  1. I have been thinking about setting one of these up for quite some time now. I have been wondering if there is some way to set one up in my house so that we could play on it in the winter.

    • The only issue I could foresee is finding anchors in your house sturdy enough to take the tension. Let me know if you figure it out…

      • My daughter who has walked the Lost Arrow Spire highline got me into slacklining and I set one up in my basement to use all winter… You just need a piece of stong Angle Steel and 2 or 3 3/8 inch wedge anchors to mount into the concrete wall… Then the other side is a standard basement column (and if you have several you can vary the lengths of your line). But a Ratchet at Home Depot and you’re good. I’m going to highline at Moab with my daughter this summer in my first year and I just turned 57 this month…

        • Tony, thanks for the info! And kudos for wanting to highline – I’m envious! Right now I’m recovering from a broken ankle, and can’t wait to get back into it once it’s rehabilitated.

          • Derek — Once you get some mobility back in that Ankle, I guarantee that Slacklining will help it. My left knee is totally toast and it’s much more functional know than before I started. By the way, I’m out of the basement into the backyard. For tensioning longer lines (up to 50 feet) without expensive pulleys, buy a “Comealong” at Home Depot and use Type 18 Webbing which is less stretchy than Tubular… Don’t Quit!!! –Tony

  2. Me and a friend tried to set up a slackline at the camp where we worked (just for us adventure staffers NOT for kids) and we kind of failed miserably. We couldn’t get it tight enough *sigh*

    I’d like to set up one in my backyard (now that its been mentioned) if I can find a way to do it pretty cheaply. We have a few pine trees that aren’t doing anyone any good (and we can’t afford to cut them down) so might as well make them some fun, right?

  3. Excellent little summary on slacklining, I’m a field educator for a youth conservation corps in Alaska, which involves living outdooors for the summer, gunna have a slackline out everywhere we go, doin a little summary myself for them, big help, thanks

  4. nice slacklining post! i agree re: making time to play as adults. i do my best thinking when my mind zones out and starts floating.

  5. This is awesome. I’ve never wanted to play on a slack line before (tried a couple times at a climbing gym, utterly gave up in defeat.)

    Now, though … it can’t happen soon enough. I need to find info on how to find enjoyment in it when you can’t stay on the line for more than a second. Hah.

  6. We set up something similar, but a bit different for the kids… A zipline! http://j.mp/bVfbUU

    Anything to keep us all outside! Thanks for the inspiration for the slackline.

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