Slacklining: How to Get Started

Sierra Trading Post recently added slacklines to our inventory. Keep reading to learn how to get started with slacklining.

Slacklining is a sport which involves balancing and walking on a flexible piece of webbing which is tensioned between two anchor points, usually two trees. Originating in the climbing world back in the seventies, slacklining has evolved into sport all of its own. It is practiced in backyards, on college campuses, city parks, and even 3000 feet above the ground.

People who Slackline say that the sport improves your core strength and balance. Others do it for a meditative purpose seeking a higher state of mind.

Beginner Slacklining Tips

New to Slacklining
For those new to the sport there a few things you should know. First, there are two sizes of webbing used in the sport. The usual questions are "what's the difference in the lines?" and "which line should I get?" The answer to the first question is one inch is the traditional style of slacklining and tends to be a looser line for walking or static poses. This is not necessarily harder than 2 inch, but is a different style lending itself better to long lines that won't be as taught. (A tighter line is often easier for beginners).

Two Inch slacklining is great for beginners or for tricklining as the line gets much tighter with a ratchet system. The main consideration here will be material and then length. Static, shorter lines will be the easiest to learn on, but all are adjustable in length. Two inch slacklines with easy to use ratchet tensioners offer a tighter feeling line and a little more margin for error in foot placement. These are the ideal kit for beginners.

Tree Protection
Tree protection is very important and is the responsibility of each slackliner. When setting up any slackline be sure to first select appropriate trees (mature and at least 24 inches around with thick bark). Always use some form of tree protection to keep both the trees and your line safe from abrasion.

One very good form of tree protection is a wrap of vertical blocks (1" x 1" cut into 6" pieces) strung together by drilling a small diameter hole through the center and running cord through them. Blocks are spaced evenly to prevent the anchor slings from contacting and abrading the outer bark and the length of the blocks distributes the load vertically as opposed to horizontally compressing a continuous line around the trunk. The addition of a carpet square between the block wrap and the outer bark is considered ideal among slackliners.

Slack 4

Set Up
The most common slackline set up includes two separate sections. The first section is a long piece of 2-inch or 1 inch webbing with a loop sewn on one end allowing it to cinch tightly around a tree. This piece is usually 30 to 100 feet long. The second section is typically much shorter usually 10 feet and has a similar sewn loop on one end allowing it to cinch around a tree while the other end of this shorter piece of webbing is sewn to a ratchet. The ratchet allows these two sections of webbing to be connected together and tensioned to the users specifications. The NUMBER ONE MISTAKE people make is overloading the ratchet by not pulling the slack through first. This will cause your line to get stuck and you may have to cut it, YOU DON'T WANT TO DO THIS.

To release the slackline pull on the small lever inside the ratchet to unlock and then push the main lever open all the way so it's completely flat. You will hear a loud crack or pop, this is normal and you can then pull the slackline out.

Getting Started
Set up your slackline low, typically knee height of whomever is using it, but no more than a foot from the ground. Start practicing your balance one foot at a time, trying to stay on each leg for 20 seconds. The best tips are to bend your knees, have your arms overhead with the elbows above the shoulders, and engage your core to gain balance. Look ahead, focus on your destination just like in skiing or biking. Keep your feet straight on the line with your hips and shoulders square to the anchor. Don't run, take your time walking the line and really use your balance.

I hope this post gives some insight to those of us who have not heard of or are new to slacklining. Give it a try and have fun.

The Gear Doc

*This post is from Kevin, the Sierra Trading Post Gear Doctor
Andy Hawbaker
posted by
Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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