Taking Out the Slack

I’ve been trying to find more ways to be outside enjoying the sunshine now that it is no long unbearably hot here, so the last couple of weekends I decided to get out and throw my slackline up between a couple of trees. I haven’t slacklined in a long time, and it has been a lot of fun getting back into it.

I started slacklining four years ago at the beginning of my freshman year of college. There was a line set up at the bouldering wall of UGA, and so when my hands hurt or my arms were too pumped to climb, I would slackline as a break. After about six months I started to get comfortable on the line, and was slacklining more than I was bouldering.

I bought my first slackline that summer when I found out that I didn’t have access to the gym during the summer months. That first line was a Slackline Express Classic 50. It was a solid system, and I really liked it, mostly because I could set it up by myself. This was important to me because a lot of the time I would just go out by myself for half an hour and wanted the set up to be quick and easy with just one person working on it. I did have two qualms with the system though. First, the ratchet was very heavier than it needed to be. This made the line feel a bit odd when it swayed, but it was something that I could easily get used to. The second problem I had was that the ratchet kept eating my line. I had two lines get caught in the ratchet and create serious weak points. I have since had a chance to use a newer model of the ratchet that a friend owned and think it is a bit lighter and definitely better made, so these issues (at least the line eating issue) may be less pressing.

From left to right and top to bottom: Static rope for giving a better grip to pull on, pulley and cordelette for creating multiplier, pulley and sling for multiplier, anchors (2) and carabiners, 50 ft of 1″ tubular webbing.

However, after my second line got caught I decided to go with a primitive set up that I put together from scratch, rather than buying it as a package. Without the ratchet, I ended up relying on the generosity of strangers to help me pull it tight at times, but living in a college town, a helpful hand was never hard to find. A few months back I found a couple of videos on youtube that have helped me add a multiplier and set up a nice, flat line. My system is a bit different than what is actually seen in the video. First, I only use five carabiners in total for the line and multiplier, because that is what I had sitting around for my normal primitive setup, and I figured I could get by with just that.I use four carabiners to set up the line, and use one carabiner to attach a pulley and cordelette to the end of the slackline as shown in the video.

For the pulley that I anchor to the tree, I have a 10 ft piece of 5/8″ webbing that I tie directly to the pulley using two follow through figure eights. The pulley’s themselves do not have to be life supporting devices, and so I did not decide to spend money on a life supporting climbing pulley. Instead, I went to Lowe’s and bought 2 $6 pulleys that can be seen in the picture above.

To keep the line nice and flat, I use rings to anchor the webbing at the beginning of the primitive pulley and the connection to the anchor. I decided to use quick links from Lowes. In this case, I did not save a lot of money using these instead of purchasing rappel rings, but since I was already at Lowes for the pulleys, this was definitely quick to get my hands on and works just as well.

The cordelette I use for the pulley is a bit small for pulling, so I have taken to making a figure eight on a bight towards the end and then passing some old 11mm static climbing rope I had (about 3ft) through it on a follow through figure 8. This gives me a good grip to pull on.

One final thing I’ve found I like is that with my anchors I create a fixed loop on one end with a bowline, but on the either end I use a clove hitch each time. This allows me to make the anchors as long as I need for each new location. With 15 ft anchors, this allows for a lot of options.

With this setup, I am able to get a tight line of about 25 – 30ft without anyone’s help. I don’t generally want a line longer than this, so it works out very well for me.

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