Article: Building a basic slackline

You can find slackline kits on the web (like those from Slackline Express), generally in the $50-100 range, depending on options. If you don’t want to put forth any effort, besides punching in your credit card number, and remaining patient for a week or two while the kit is being made and shipped (in my experience, slackline express will require between three days and a week to ship out your orders), this is the best option. My first slackline setup was a 30′ kit from Slackline Express, but I outgrew it within a week or two.

A 50′ setup will take significantly longer to outgrow– in fact, many people will never need/want to build a line bigger than this. I am a bit of a nut, so I moved from a 50′ to 100′ line within another month or so.

Here is my one-size-fits-all suggestion for building a slackline kit yourself:

1: 75ft of 1″ tubular webbing from your local REI store. If you don’t have a local REI, use the web link, or buy from Joe @ SE (100′). You will use at LEAST 20 ft of this in your “primitive pulley system,” so beware that a 75ft line will only be about 50ft once pulled taut).

2: Slings (anchors) can be made from two 60cm runners (if you will ONLY be rigging on poles 5″ thick or less, and never on trees), two spare 10-12ft lengths of 1″ webbing (tied into a loop with a water knot), or custom slings from SE (I had Joe make these in 10ft lengths, but he will presumably make them in any length for you, just ask). I would recommend just getting an extra 25 ft of webbing, cutting in half, and tieing two slings. I would get webbing in a different color from your main line webbing, so as to make it obvious which is which when you’re unpacking your gear.

3: Four carabiners, locking or non-locking are fine. I would avoid wire-gate carabiners. If you want to spend about $5, get these. If you have a bit more to spend ($11), screwgate locking carabiners are marginally safer (and around 30% stronger), but totally not necessary until you get into 80+ft lines (imo).

4: Two rappel rings from REI, or two chain links (below).

If you buy from REI, your kit will run around $70 for a pretty darn nice kit (i.e. room to grow), or as little as $40-50 if you get less webbing, make the lockers yourself, etc. There are videos on YouTube that show how to rig the 3:1 primitive, how to tie a clove hitch, how to setup lockers, etc– but learning in person is easiest (plus slacking with others is more fun). I have yet to meet a slackliner who wouldn’t be happy to show a random stranger how to setup a line, so the best bet is either to ask how (the next time you see someone slacking), or come to one of the gatherings posted here or to the facebook group (or e-mail me, and ask when I’ll be out next).

Specific thoughts on choosing the best kit…

RETAIL vs HOMEMADE — A retail kit is easy (you do nothing but pay for it), but obviously costs more. Most vendors will have 25-50% profit margin over what you would spend to make the kit yourself somewhere like REI. Also, if you assemble a kit yourself, provided you decide to do this during daylight hours, chances are there’s an REI near you that is open *right now* and has webbing in stock; if you’re impatient like me, that’s a huge bonus. However, I do take pleasure in supporting the vendors that help advance this sport, so when I am buying bulk webbing, or spare items that I don’t need asap, I will purchase from Slackline Express. Joe Kuster (who runs SE) is very friendly and helpful, and has custom made several things for me in the past.

RATCHET vs PRIMITIVE vs PULLEYS(synopsis: build a primitive system) Most of the beginner kits on the net are based on pickup-truck-bed-tiedown ratchets. These are simple to operate, and only require one person to setup, so they are popular for beginners… but they also eat your webbing if you aren’t careful, can jam and refuse to release (I have had this happen personally), and the number one reason why I don’t recommend them is that they aren’t safety rated. A slackline is under a good deal of tension, and I just don’t like the idea of a big metal ratchet, probably made in China (with questionable metallurgic integrity), sitting at the end of my line like a grenade, ready to explode one day and send metal gears flying at my cranium. (UPDATE: Joe @ SlacklineExpress informs me their ratchets are load and safety rated.  That said, I still think they are an “unclean” way of tensioning a line, although I cannot completely justify my bias anymore, haha.)  A “primitive” setup involves tying a carabiner into one end of the line (a few feet from the anchor) and then running the line through two more carabiners (at the anchor) to serve as a basic pulley system. This allows the users to exert a mechanical advantage when tugging the line tight. A good rule of thumb is the 3:1 primitive will give you about 150-190% advantage, so if you’re 200lbs, expect you can probably put 350-400lbs of tension into the line. The upside of a primitive is that it is lightweight, quick to setup and take down, and the “pulleys” are safety rated carabiners that aren’t going to explode like a ratchet could. The downside is that for anything longer than 30ft, you may require a second person to help you pull. I can generally setup a 30ft line by myself, but 50ft requires a second person, and 80ft will require 3-5 people pulling. Lastly, there are pulley based kits (like SBI offers). These are NOT for beginners, and they aren’t cheap. They are the most efficient method of getting monster tension into your line, though– so if you plan to walk anything beyond 60ft, you had better bring several friends to help pull, or look into pulleys. I waited until crossing the 100ft mark to get pullies, and currently tensioning a 200ft line, I am using a 7:1 system I have built, plus ideally 1-3 people to pull it tight with me.

KNOTS vs LOCKERS — I’ve used knots as well as every type of locker you can imagine. In short, if you’re mega cheap, use a clove hitch. Otherwise, get a couple lockers. Line lockers can be fashioned from rappel rings, or from links of 3/8″ or 5/16″ chain with 4000+LB WLL. I prefer to use steel rappel rings, because steel is stronger and more fatigue resistant than aluminum, but I have not know anyone to have problems with forged alum rings (such as the Omega Pacific rings REI sells). The best value going really is 5/16″ zinc chain (with a 5400lb limit), as it’s around $3-4/ft at Home Depot, and each foot will yield around 4-6 lockers. The downsides to the chain lockers include a separate trip to Home Depot to obtain the lockers, and the annoyance of cutting every other link, as well as the need to file down the weld that will be on one side of the locker. I ran unfiled lockers for a while, because the weld seemed smooth, but eventually it rubbed a “burr” into my line. I should note that this was on a 100ft line, though, so you may be fine on a shorter line (less tension)

30FT vs 50FT vs 100FT vs ?? — 25-30ft is a really good beginner length. Most people will require an hour of work before they can really balance on this line, and another 4-10hrs of work before they can easily walk the line. However, by 20hrs, you may become bored and want to move up to 50ft. Because building a 50ft line is so cheap (only $10 difference in webbing cost), I would say it’s best just to start with a 50 line (rigged to 25-30ft long) in case you want “room to grow.” (NOTE: when I say “50ft” i mean the *span that you walk* is 50ft. If you are rigging using a primitive method, a 50ft line will need to be closer to 70ft in length!) Lines longer than this will require several people to pull tight, and will take months for most beginners to be able to walk. In Santa Monica (CA) I usually setup a 25ft (for beginners to try), a 40ft, an 80ft; there are only a few people who regularly slackline there who will walk my 80ft. An 80-100ft line will need to be at least 6-8ft off the ground just to accommodate the drop in the center of the line when an adult is walking it. Needless to say, you can get hurt if you fall from this height (Leo, a pretty good slacker at the beach in Santa Monica, fell off a 6ft high line a few months ago and broke his arm).



  1. mark says:

    Very interesting site, Hope it will always be alive!

  2. jon says:

    you buy your main line by the foot and attach them all together how?

    EDIT: not sure exactly what you’re asking. The main line is bought by the foot, yes (around 50-60 feet is good for a beginner line with room to grow). This is attached to one anchor/tree via a carabiner and a line locker (or carabiner and a clove hitch). You clip the carabiner into a “sling” you have made from a 6-10ft piece of webbing which is wrapped around the tree. Other end, same deal (except with a primitive tightening system attached too). See the FAQ for links to explanation on all of these techniques. E-mail me with further questions!

  3. Isaac says:

    Thank you for sharing such helpful information. I’m in the process of buying the necessary gear to setup a line for learning. Your site has been invaluable. One question: is it alright to use 9/16 webbing for the anchors on a line less than 80 feet? Thanks!

    Yep, 9/16″ will be fine. It has a break strength of around 2200lbs (I have the exact number somewhere in an article on webbing strengths on the site), and lines less than 80ft should never be getting above 1000lbs. Also, if you tie it in a loop for the anchor and you wrap this loop around a tree, so that both ends clip into the line, then the loop is in a “basket” configuration which doubles the strength (to 4400). If you don’t know what I mean by this lemme know and I can send you a pic.

  4. Alex says:

    hey! i’ve been slacklining for a while and i use the 4 biner primitive method. i haven’t beem tying off my lines after i set it up…i dont know how to tie a proper knot to tie it off. which knot should i use?

    EDIT: two half-hitches. I’m going to make a new version of the video soon that includes this, and also the “how to detension the line” aspect.

  5. John says:

    Is the milspec webbing any better for slacklining than the silky smooth bluewater webbing that REI sells (for $.02 less per foot)?

    I only ask because I prefer the bluewater stuff for climbing anchors and I feel like it would be softer on bare feet.

    EDIT: they are probably identical from a functional standpoint. It’s really just aesthetics. One might be slightly more likely to abrade you if you fell hard onto it, but I can’t be sure, heh.

  6. eric says:

    why do some people use 2″ webbing instead of 1″ and what is the difference between jib lines and slack lines?

    EDIT: 2″ webbing is less stretchy, so it’s better for trick lines. A jib line is a trick line. I’ll make a video on this in the next week.

  7. Sam Roberts says:

    I have two lengths of tubular webbing I bought for toproping years ago, 30 feet and 35 feet, which have lived in the basement and I’ve only used once or twice.

    Do you think its safe to tie them together with a water knot, and use them? In other words, home much weakness would a water knot add to the line if I’m doing short lines, like 20-30 feet?

    I’d like to avoid having 75 feet of webbing that I only use once (in case I don’t find myself doing much slacklining), since I’ve already got gear I don’t use!


    EDIT: Waterknots will reduce the strength by around 50%. This is probably safe for a line of that length. It’s sort of, well, not really ideal, but I don’t think I’d be too concerned about safety if I saw someone with a line rigged up like this (I’m sure I’d walk it). So I’d say go for it, learn to slack, if you enjoy it, buy a better line, and keep the old one as a beginner line to teach friends.

  8. Eric-D says:

    A few questions:
    1-If I were to buy a ratchet from SE would I only need a long piece of webbing or would I need any other equipment?
    You would also need anchor slings for both ends of the line, and a way to attach one end to the sling.
    2-If I buy 75-80 ft webbing, would I be able to use it at anywhere from 15 to 50 feet?
    Yep. Anywhere from 3ft to 50ft should be do-able (assuming you use the primitive rigging method)
    3-How difficult is it to take down a ratchet setup? What about a Primitive? I plan on putting up and taking it down a lot, so if I can’t I might just buy one.
    Ratchet takedown is a little annoying. The ratchet can be sort of “explosive” in its release, and often will bite your fingers. One reason I dislike them. Primitive is much easier to take down, with no realistic chance of hurting yourself (as long as you stand back a few feet when you yank the friction lock loose).
    4-Do homemade lines last as long as retail ones?
    Yes; it is the same exact material. Ratchet-based lines, in my experience, do not last very long (the ratchet eats webbing when it mis-feeds, and this WILL happen).
    5-If I get a large tree sling will it work on smaller trees?
    Yes, just wrap it a few extra times!

    Sorry for all the questions, this sitre is awesome, please and thank you!

  9. Ethan says:


    I recently discovered some of your instructional videos on youtube, and they directed me to this website. What a great resource!

    I have never slacklined before, but a guy was selling 100 ft. of 1″ webbing and some locking carabiners on craigslist for $25, so I couldn’t resist. I had seen some fellow campers showing of their slacklining tricks last year on a backpacking trip, and I had to try it out myself. I plan to set up a slackline in my backyard to hone my skills for the next trip.

    I live in North Carolina, so there isn’t much of a slacklining community, but your videos and website gave me all the information I needed. Thanks for making them clear, informative, and helpful.

    Thanks again,


  10. Daniel says:

    Hey man your site is super helpful and i appreciate your youtube vids
    Would it be ok to use ENO Slap Straps as anchors?

    EDIT: No. Please don’t try this. I didn’t know what these were, but after googling, based on the photos I am seeing, they look like they would hold maybe a few hundred pounds of tension. Maybe 1000lbs, tops. Compare the stitching on the photo I linked above to the bartack stitching on this slackline loop.

  11. Andrew says:

    Do you recommend 2″ webbing for beginners who want to learn tricks?

    EDIT: Yeah, 2″ is really only good for acrobatic tricks (jumping, butt bounces, flips, etc). I’ll make a video soon on getting into tricks.

  12. Taylor says:

    So helpful! Ive been going with a friend of mine and I am soon going to get my own, one quick question, how do you release the tension in a “primitive system” properly? My friend uses a Gibbon ratchet system and I would rather have a mechanical system using 4 carabiners. Thanks!

    EDIT: Just yank in the other direction. Keep at least 4-5 feet of slack between you and the tension lock, so your hands don’t get sucked into the carabiner!

  13. Jordan Shepler says:

    If anyone is intimidated about building/setting up a primitive set up like I was, my advice is don’t be! I regret not doing the 3:1 sooner after jamming ratchets and lots of frayed webbing… Besides a home made kit is cheaper and it grows with you.

  14. Chernoff says:

    Hi Adam. Thank you for the great site with much useful information. I have several questions I hope you can answer:

    (1) Several places online mention a “slacker hitch” (e.g., to make de-tensioning the line easier (safer?). What are your thoughts of using the slacker hitch? (Can you explain how it might fit into your primitive setup. I read some descriptions but I couldn’t figure out the hitch would work in practice)

    (2) What are your thoughts on using a separate piece of webbing for tensioning? E.g., instead of a 75′ line, cut it into 25′ and 50′. This way, if the tensioning part wears faster, you don’t have to replace the whole line.

    (2.1) When the tensioning part of the webbing wears out, is it time to replace the whole line? As a rough estimate, what is the lifespan of the webbing (when measured in number of setups/takedowns)?

    (3) What are your thoughts of incorporating 9/16 webbing for the anchor slings and tightening system (see question 2)? There would be substantial strength reduction, but using some 9/16 webbing would lower the cost (albeit marginally) and (perhaps) increase efficiency by reducing friction against the carabiner during tightening.

    Once again, thank you for the great site.

    Answer: 1, not to sound like a jerk, but slacker hitches are very outdated. In 2004 these were pretty hip for softpointing, but rigging practices have moved on significantly since then. I say “not to sound like a jerk” because I know some of the old school folks still use slacker hitches, but I wouldn’t reccommend them. To summarize for everyone who has no idea what they are, the idea is that if you wrap webbing around itself a whole bunch of times the friction will hold it in place (allowing you to tie a weak knot and not worry). This same friction will melt the webbing, however. I have seen it. It is much better to use a predictable and safety-tested rigging method.

    2, Nothing “wrong” with this, but I have webbing that has been slacked on for the last 5+ years without wearing out. I have other lines that I have slacked hard (with shoes, under way too much tension for a primitive — see my melting talk above) that still lasted 3 years of regular use. So I think cutting the webbing to increase life cycling may be a bit too paranoid for even me (and that is saying something).

    2.1, When any part of webbing wears out, that part of the webbing must be retired. This could mean you cut it into shorter pieces (e.g. a 100ft piece with a burr in the middle becomes two 50ft lines). This could mean the entire line now becomes “anchor slings”, which is what I do to my lines when they wear out (some pieces will make 10ft slings, some make 3ft slings, etc). The line wear will depend a lot on whether you wear shoes. Barefoot the line could last indefinitely. With shoes, especially rigged tightly (1000+lbs tension) for tricks, I would say 100 riggings is the minimum before significant “fuzz” appears, and probably 200 riggings on average before you get more than the occasional burr or window (tiny hole) on the line. (Small edit: everything I said here is for primitive or pulley rigged lines … ratchets tend to wear out webbing VERY quickly, although Gibbon is working on some ‘webbing safe’ ratchets that will hopefully hit the market around early 2012).

    3, I think 9/16″ is just fine for the slings if tied into a loop. Loop slings rigged as a basket (search the site for “basket” to see examples of what I mean) should be 4x the rated strength of the line (minus something for the knot), so this is still probably 5,000 or as much as 8,000 lbs for 9/16″ webbing. I made a setup for a friend’s birthday a year ago and used 9/16. I would not use 9/16 for the tightening system if you plan to use the “primitive” method. The line slips out from under itself regularly. It’s just not wide enough. Primitive half-inch lines must always be tied off very carefully, or you will end up pulling them tight again (and again, and again…).

  15. playpo says:

    So much useful content here… bookmarked!

  16. Gabriel says:

    What do you think about using 16mm tubular webbing for a slackline – i.e. this stuff:

    13kN static.. a little thinner than an inch, maybe harder to walk on?. I have a bunch of it, so that’s why I’m asking.

    EDIT FROM ADAM — I love 9/16 and 11/16″ webbing, it’s great! Just have to be careful you don’t overtension it. But it surfs and bounces nicely. I have an 800ft piece of it, actually, and it’s soooo much fun.

  17. RiskEverything says:

    Why not just use a come-along? It won’t fray the line since you only attach it to loops in the lines with the big hooks, and the line never slides through any metal pieces. It is safe and easy to tension and de-tension the line single-handed, in small increments if desired. You also don’t “waste” any line by using it as part of a pulley system. If you buy 100′ of line, you walk on all of it.

    I often see them set up this way in climbing gyms and friend’s back yards.

    — Adam’s comments: —

    So this is going to be sort of a long reply. I briefly mentioned in the video I didn’t want to really address come-alongs or chain hoists (etc) because I think they just have too many tradeoffs. In all honesty I have never used a come-along, so I can’t speak with authority about them, but I suspect not all of them have the ability to ratchet tension out (to release click-by-click under tension). So that is one featured you’d absolutely need. Then, factor in that many are made in China and have the same “might explode and hurt you” issues that ratchets do. Go to harborfreight’s website and read the reviews for various come-alongs and you will see that the “8000lb rated” ones actually disintegrate on people at even 1000lbs of load. Partly this is because, I think, they are Chinese made (no legal risks for the Chinese manufacturer, so why build a robust product and hurt profits) and partly because they just aren’t designed to be used under sustained load (we will talk about softpointing in a minute). Assuming the possibility of one exploding doesn’t scare you, or you find a strong American made one, or you use a beefy chain hoist instead, the next issue is weight. You definitely don’t want this sort of weight in the system under tension, so you’ll need to softpoint it out (tension the line then remove the tensioning system) which involves rigging techniques I will cover in a later video, plus much more precision in your webbing locker/anchor placement and stretch calculations. Assuming you know how to softpoint and you feel comfortable making those calculations for stretch (because it SUCKS to have to tension a line 2 or 3 times to get that sort of thing right), the next issue is the actual reach of the device. Most of these devices only have maybe a 5 or 10 or at most 25ft of cable/chain. In the case of a come-along, the cable doubles over through a snatchblock, so I think that cuts the reach in half, but I am not positive on how they rate them (when it says “cable length” maybe it takes into account to doubling over). Either way, for a nylon line of 200ft, you will need at least 20ft of reach/throw. So this complicates things further. Lastly, come-alongs are really not all that mechanically advantageous. Yes, people pull cars onto trailers with them, but although a car is 3000 or more pounds, you are only rolling it up a slight incline … I don’t have any hard numbers for their mechanical advantage, but it is just simple physics, which is to say it will be a result of the ratio of the “axle to outer edge of ratcheting wheel” (so the radius of the ratchet drum) compared to the length of handle (let’s assume this is about 15:1?). Then that ratio will multiply the efficiency of the drum, which is the ratio of the drum radius to where the cable collects to the actual ratchet teeth. The downside there is that this ratio decreases as the cable collects, which is annoying since you need the MOST advantage exactly when you’re getting the LEAST. Let’s assume this is about 1:1.1 when you actually need it to work (so roughly a 10% bonus basically). Then all of that multiplied by the snatchblock if you have one, which is theoretically a 2:1 pulley system (since the pulley is moving). Which isn’t too bad, actually, except that’s only in theory and looking at customer reviews on Harborfreight it seems like people have difficulty lifting even 1000lbs on the “8000lb” model. So compare the harborfreight stuff, which is like $30, to American made come-alongs or chain hoists, and although I would trust both of the CM models I linked there, they both have 1500lb capacities and push into the $300+ range (with extremely short reaches … you will need to add a few hundred bucks to get a 20+ft reach).

    In summary, there is no free lunch. A 25:1 chain hoist is going to weight close to 50lbs or more and cost hundreds of dollars. You might be able to buy a cheap come along, but the odds it (1) can’t pull enough tension into your line, (2) can’t reach far enough, (3) requires rigging methods you’re unfamiliar with, (4) and/or explodes and hurts you are just too sketchy for my tastes, which is why I glossed over them and didn’t recommend them. Although $250-500 for a rescue-style pulley system isn’t exactly peanuts, we can avoid all the other downsides I just named if we are careful, plan ahead, and understand how our equipment works. (I hope nothing I said came off as critical, if you like your come-along, I am totally okay with that; I just don’t feel great about recommending them to others is all.)

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