Setting Up a Backyard Zip Line

Riding a zip line can be an exhilarating and memorable ride.  Many customers have asked how to set one up in their own backyards.  It can be a fun and easy family project to provide a ton of fun, but there are some important things to think about to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride.

Location  First you will need a clear, straight run or path for the zip cable.  A slight slope to the ground will help, though fairly level ground can be used with the use of a take-off platform.  Generally, the zip line cable needs to have a 5 – 7 degree slope, or a 5 – 7 foot drop for every hundred feet of length.  The area should be free of brush, branches and obstacles for at least 4 feet above and to each side of the line.

Anchors  For residential zip lines, existing trees are the obvious choice to anchor each end of your zip line, though posts or poles can be concreted into the ground.   The zip line cable can be attached to the anchors with heavy duty eye bolts through the tree trunk, or by wrapping and clamping the cable around the trunk.  If this method is used, boards should be used to support the cable off of the trunk to protect the tree.

Hardware  Galvanized hardware is best for long life and rust resistance.  However, steel cable, or even non-stretch static rope can be used for short runs.  Just remember that hardware materials should always be alike, ie. steel on steel, galvanized on galvanized and aluminum on aluminum.  The recommended cable for most residential zip lines is galvanized, aircraft cable 5/16 inch in diameter.  This will give you the strongest, longest lasting cable.  Wire clamps and turnbuckles will allow you to tension the line properly, based on line length, height above ground and weight of riders.  The tighter the line, the faster the ride, but more strain will be put on anchors.  A slight sag, or deflection, in the line with the proper angle will provide a fun ride and help slow the rider towards the “downhill” anchor.  Braking blocks or an old tire can be mounted on the cable to slow the rider.

Tools   Basic hand tools found in most home shops are all that’s needed to install a zip line – adjustable wrench, screw driver and, drill and bit for eye bolt anchor systems.  A saw to cut 2×4 boards will also be needed if using the trunk wrap method of cable attachment.

For more information on setting up a residential zip line, contact Pinnacle Arborist Supplies at 501-663-8733.  The next Zip Line blog will discuss the pulleys, riding and safety gear you’ll need to start zipping around the yard.

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