Setting up a DIY backyard slackline, a few tips
If you’ve ever wanted a carnival in your backyard, but were nervous about fire-hazards from all the deep fryers and didn’t really feel comfortable sharing your bathroom with the carny crew, you’re in luck. Setting up a slackline in your backyard is like bringing home a carnival ride minus the riffraff. For those who haven’t tried slacklining yet, imagine a two-inch wide trampoline suspended in the air, begging to test and humble your inner-acrobat.
Okay, so it’s probably the hardest thing I have ever tried in terms of balance, and nothing I’ve ever done on it was near acrobatic, but it is so fun that you’ll see a lot of pushing and shoving to go next. Authors note: According to Yelp the quality of our neighborhood, backyard barbecues jumped from two stars to five stars since adding the sideshow of 6+ happy kids riding the line simultaneously.
Slackline anchor with climbing bolts
So, what do you need to know? For starters you must have two very solid objects to anchor the ends of the slackline to. If you don’t live in a forested, mature neighborhood, or if you aren’t homeless and living at a city park, this can be a problem. Honestly, I had wanted a slackline setup for a few years, but over the course of those years our pencil-thin backyard trees only grew to the diameter of a magic marker, and not the big novelty kind. My next move was to do what any self-respecting husband and father would do and break out the power tools. Actually, it was little less manly than this, I had to borrow a power tool… but only because I don’t find myself doing enough hammer-drilling to justify buying one of those bad boys. Regardless, I hopped online and ordered two climbing bolt hangers and mounted them per the instructions into the side of our home’s concrete foundation. I placed them a couple feet apart, one directly over the other. If your exposed concrete foundation is not high enough for a slackline (2-4 feet) you could still mount the hangers low and then run the webbing or slackline up and over something like a bomb-proof sawhorse or stump to gain some elevation. I then run a large loop of webbing through carabiners hanging from each bolt hanger and hook one end of the slackline to the middle of the webbing. The pull of the slackline equalizes between the two bolt hangars distributing the pulling force evenly. It is probably possible to do this with only one bolt hanger, but I had room and wanted to not be worried about ripping an anchor out of the wall.
It is also important, as shown in the picture, to put the hanger(s) close to a corner of the house, so the slackline can be set up to pull from the side, perpendicular to the direction of the bolt and parallel with the wall. You don’t want the slackline to be pulling straight away from the wall for obvious reasons—the expanding anchor bolts are amazing, but still.
For the other side of the slackline I usually pull my SUV into the backyard and hook it to the trailer hitch—the car stereo becoming an added benefit for party ambiance.
Worlds cheapest and easiest homemade slackline
After several sessions of messing around with tubular climbing webbing and complicated home-brew pulley systems to make a homemade slackline, I started looking at the commercially available lines for easier setup. The Gibbon Classic Slackine is a popular option and probably a good investment if you are hoping to take your slacking to the next level, but for the rest of us a ratcheting two inch tie-down strap is a perfect, inexpensive option for a backyard line. I’d get mine here. In reality they seem identical to commercial slackline kits, but with slightly different ends and not as long of lengths; not a big deal for family-use slackline. These are so unbelievably cheap that even if I wanted a longer line, I’d just buy more bulk webbing and use the provided ratchet.
A few other quick tips for new slackliners:
- Using trees as anchors is as easy as wrapping some webbing around the trunks and hooking on. Protect the trees with something like the floor mats out of your car.
- Make the slackline tighter than you think. 12-24 inches of sag when weighted with a person seems to be a good start. Once a pro, slack to taste.
- Have someone sit on one end of the line to absorb vibration.
- Don’t stare at your feet, they know where they are. Instead look straight ahead at something on the horizon.
- Relaxing, chill music is helpful. A clear mind goes a long way.
- For the kids, a secondary rope line above their heads to hold onto can help build confidence.
- A healthy bend at the knees and hands high in the air seems to be a good recipe for longer rides.
- A metric ton of practice.
Hopefully these tips will help get you closer to a family slackline party, and further from the awkwardness of bunking up with the carnys.