NWslackline Guide to longlining (Part 4): Tension Systems

It’s taken a few months, but this is the climax of our longline video series.  Here’s where we get into all the nuts and bolts of how to actually get your line tight in a safe manner.  First off, I should say, there are ways to do this that don’t involve pulleys.  In the interest of keeping this video series under an hour, we’ve focused exclusively on pulleys.  Chain hoists and some other methods are popular in certain circles, but they are expensive, weigh a lot, and can be even more dangerous than pulleys if rigged improperly (I know at least one person who had a chain hoist fly through the air, just missing a bystander, when a piece of rigging failed).  So the video will cover pulleys and all the other elements we use to make the pulleys work, to hold tension, and to keep everything securely in place.

Rather than re-write everything that’s in the video, I will mostly let it stand for itself.  Instead, I’d like to use this space to give my recommendations on what you should buy for your first longline setup.  We will consider three price levels.

The “broke college student” longline setup:

  • Two CAMP or Fusion or similar double-sheave pulleys ($70-130)
  • 150′ of 11mm (or 7/16″) static rope ($120)
  • A used Petzl GriGri 1 (the original GriGri) ($50)
  • A couple 5/8″ CM shackles, a couple steel carabiners ($50-80)
  • A used Petzl ascender ($30)
  • A prussik multiplier (20-24″ of 6mm or 7mm cord from climbing shop) and mini single climbing pulley ($20)
  • Two shackle line locker setups (5/8″ shackles, webbing sleeves, 2″ rings, etc) ($60)
  • Two 8′ spansets (~$60)
  • Total: $460-540


The “graduate student who just got an extra grant check but also enjoys fine beer” longline setup:

  • Rock Exotica or SMC double pulleys ($162-180)
  • 150-200′ of 7/16 (aka 11mm) static rope ($120-180)
  • Petzl GriGri 1 or Petzl RIG / I’D ($50-200)
  • Small or large rigging plate (I’d say small for Rock Exotica, large for SMC) ($30-50)
  • 2x AWL, Gibbon LineLock, Landcruising Lynx, etc ($240-300)
  • Petzl Ascender (1 handled, 1 non-handled) (~$80)
  • Some ball-bearing 2-3″ single pulley for multiplier (SMC, Bluewater, etc) ($30-70)
  • 8′ spansets (~$60)
  • Couple of 5/8″ shackles, couple of steel carabiners ($50-80)
  • Total: $822 – 1200


The “my uncle just left me some serious money, I know some day I want to walk a 500′ line, and I hate upgrading” longline setup:

  • Two SMC 3″ PMPs (maybe buy 2 more for later when you want to go 9:1) (~$180-360)
  • 200′ of Sterling HTP, 600′ of sterling HTP (~$150-700)
  • 2x: AWL or MonsterLock, or… 2x Zilla (~$250-500)
  • 3″ SMC single pulley ($70)
  • Double SMC large rigging plates (~$100)
  • Petzl I’D or MPD (if you can afford it) ($250-650)
  • 2x handled ascenders, plus a chest ascender (~$150-200)
  • Several spansets of various lengths (~$100-200)
  • Some 5/8″ shackles, some 1/2″ shackles, several steel carabiners 50kN or more rated (~$100)
  • Maybe a dynamometer (Dillon ED JR 10,000LB — $1400)
  • Total: $1300 – 4280 (depending on options)


So maybe the most important thing to note is that none of the above lists include any webbing.  You will need to buy this in addition to everything on the list above.  If you go for list number one, I’d buy a 200′(ish) piece of nylon tubular from your local climbing shop, or from BC if you’re ordering other stuff from them (so the shipping will be amortized).  If you go for list number two, I’d order either Type-18 webbing (200-300′), a medium length piece of Mantra/Flowline/Proline (I prefer the Proline) or something polyester from Europe (reviews coming soon for all of these), or just stick with a 200′(ish) piece of tubular nylon for now.  Maybe do the tubular nylon and a piece of mantra/proline and decide what characteristics you like best for future purchases.  If you’re on the last list, well, buy a 300′ piece of Type-18, a 300′ piece of something polyester (Mantra/Proline), and then something really long (500’+).  You won’t want to carry your 500′ webbing around with you all the time, so it actually makes sense to have duplicates of this (as well as a 200′ and a 600′ rope) of the stuff you really like.

I hope this helped clear some things up.  If there is anything I’m unclear on, just drop me an e-mail and I’ll try to amend this post/video — I know this will surely be a work in progress because there was just so much to cover (not to mention the rate at which the sport and rigging evolves!).


1 Comment

  1. Mitch Stevens says:

    Hey Adam,
    Thanks for this whole great series, it has been really helpful as I’m getting into long lining. One question though, does the Camp or Fusion double pulley attach to the Balance Community 1/2″ shackle (http://www.balancecommunity.com/1/2-Shackle-Line-Locker-Kit)? Thanks for all help!

    EDIT: I can’t say for sure but I would suspect not. The profile of the side plates on these pulleys is not very thin — basically they taper in right at the last centimenter or two before the end of the main becket, so I would suspect that even a wider shackle would bump them in a weird way. That said, with a bit of extra hardware, like a steel carabiner and two quicklinks/forgedrings/etc you could easily make it work. Not the cleanest solution but only adds a tiny bit of weight and a few inches of hardware to the rigging. Let me know if you want pics of what I am describing would work.

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