How to build your own backyard zipline

secured zip line tree

When the time comes to install your own zip line, you want to be sure to take time to do it right to ensure lots of safe rides. Luckily, it’s not that hard to do. This guide will help explain some of the key steps involved.

Step 1: Spec out anchor points
wood block zip line

The very first thing you need to do when building a zip line is to ensure you have two anchors to attach to. Usually this entails finding two sturdy trees in the right location. Once you have an idea of where you can anchor the zip line, you’ll want to make sure the path between these two points is clear from brush and anything else that might snag a rider. As a basic rule, your anchors should provide a 6% grade/drop in cable for a good, fun ride. That means that you’ll have 6′ drop every 100′ of cable. Also, keep in mind that with the added weight of a rider, the drop could increase another 2%.

Step 2: Figure out the necessary cable length
cable clamp zip line

Let’s take the above example, using 100′ of length. In this case, 7′ is the lowest we will go. Remember to consider the 2% grade from sagging, which results in 2 feet of additional height to add. So the total height will be 9′ when you account for that.

So to begin, mark a spot on the tree at 9′ high. This is where your rider will end. Now it’s time to mark the starting point for your zipline ride on the other tree. If we assume that the ideal drop is 6%, that means we need to mark a spot that’s six feet higher on this tree, which would be at 15′. In order to protect the tree, and keep the cable from slipping down, we recommend attaching a few blocks of wood to the back side of the tree where the cable will wrap around. This will help prevent the cable from slipping downward, and protects the tree from any damage that might be caused by that happening. In addition, we think it’s a good idea to wrap the cable with some rubber to further protect the tree bark.

Step 3: Setting up the ending tree cable
end line turnbuckle zip line

Start by wrapping the chain sling around the end tree at the mark you made in step two. A helpful tip is to use a few nails in the tree to keep the chain in place as you do this (which you will remove after). Once you have the chain in place, take the jaw-jaw turnbuckle and ensure that it’s fully extended. Attach one end of the turnbuckle to the loose ends of the chain sling. Next, take the cable and attach a thimble to one end using three of the cable clamps, each spaced roughly 3″ apart to hold the thimble in place. Secure this end of the cable to the other end of the turnbuckle.

Step 4: Secure the starting tree cable
secured zip line tree

In this step of building your zip line, it helps to have two people on hand. Wrap the loose end of cable around the starting tree and tighten. At this step, you’ll find a cable puller can help fully tighten the line, although it’s not crucial. Finish the loop using 3 cable clamps; the first one you attach will be farthest from the tree. It’s best to tighten the clamp at a point that’s 2′ from the trunk. With the cable clamp around the cable, make sure the u-bolt part of it is on the dead end of the cable (the part you pulled around the tree) and get your helper to pull the cable as tight as possible. Now you can tighten the first clamp, and then slide the second one half-way toward the tree. Tighten that one, and then put the last one on. Slide it as close to the trunk as you can and tighten again. You should have three sturdy cable clamps in place now.

Step 5: Tighten the turnbuckle

Now that you’ve secured the cable to the trees, the cable should be pretty tight but chances are you have a little excess slack to get rid of. This is where the turnbuckle comes in handy. You may want to grease the threads a bit to make it easier to turn. The point is to tighten it as much as possible by spinning it.

Step 6: Test the zip line
Remember how we told you to have a friend nearby to help you? This is another time when you may want to employ their services. All kidding aside, you want to ensure the zip line setup is secure and ready for action before you send your children sliding down the cable. You should have a trolley and seat installed to do this step. If you want, you could simply attach a weight to the seat and let the zip line self-test. Depending on the weight, you’ll get a better idea of whether you need a brake block to slow down riders. The point is to stop without abruptly coming to a halt at the end of the zip line and being tossed forward with all the momentum. If you think the zip line might be too fast, use a pair of heavy duty gloves to grab the line as you approach the end. After a few test runs, make sure the cable is still tight and secure. You may want to add a few more wooden blocks beneath it on the tree trunks to further ensure it does not slip.

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