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How to Build a Zip Line

Setting up your first zip line can seem daunting. Let us help take the uncertainty out of the project. Let’s tackle some of the basics of how to build a zip line.

Please note that you are responsible for your use of any advice and instruction. Any advice, written or spoken, is not a guarantee of safety from Sleaddventures, LLC dba Zip Line Gear.

Prior to installing your zip line an appropriate location must be selected. You will need a clear runway for your zip line with a sturdy anchor on both ends, and enough slope in the cable to propel your participants from one end to the other. Although there are relatively few locations where a zip line cannot be installed, some locations will provide for a safer and more enjoyable ride than others. READ FULL SITE SELECTION ARTICLE.

Cable Drop

  • For zip lines with a braking system, the ideal difference in cable height between start anchor and end anchor is approximately 6% of the zip line’s length. (The zip line should drop approximately 6 feet per 100 feet of Cable.)

Cable Sag (Cable Tension is measured by Cable Sag)

  • The Cable, when bearing a test weight, should sag below the end where cable is attached.
  • The sag needs to be approximately 2% of zip line’s total length. (2 feet per 100 feet of cable)
  • The sag is measured at the cable’s lowest point.

Use a laser Level or a sight level to find a level line over your terrain. Have a friend assist in measuring (A). (see diagram above) The Elevation Change (C) of your terrain is (A) minus (B). Use worksheet below. Set your END ANCHOR HEIGHT based on THE SUM OF CLEARANCE (7 feet or greater) AND SAG.

Set your START ANCHOR HEIGHT based on THE END ANCHOR HEIGHT plus the DROP (6 feet per 100 feet of zip line) MINUS the Terrain ELEVATION CHANGE.

Print off this worksheet to help you calculate your elevation change.

 

Typically zip lines will be installed between two trees. These trees will need to be at least 12” in diameter.

READ ANCHORS ARTICLE. 

 

CHOOSING YOUR HARDWARE AND EQUIPMENT

Your zip line hardware and gear will vary based on the length of your zip line run and your anticipated height above the ground.

Safety riding gear is required for any height and terrain where a fall could result in injury.

If your zip line's height above the ground will be a distance that could result in injury after an accidental fall then you will need to purchase a zip line Harness, lanyard and carabiner. Otherwise, your zip line riders can enjoy their exciting ride with a Handlebar or a Drifter Zip Line Seat.

 Zip lines of less than 200’ will likely be looking for a zip line set up such as the following kits:

Shop the Basic Chetco Zip Line Kit Here.  We've also created various kits combining our most popular accessories.

Chetco with Stop Block Chetco with Drifter Seat Chetco with Kid's Harness Chetco with Bungee Brake


 For zip line lengths over 200’ you will be looking for a kit similar to the Rogue Zip Line Kit.

 

Or, you can build your own zip line kit.

 

Depending on which kit you purchase, the installation on your zip line will vary. For zip lines over 100ft you will most likely need to use a Zip Line Tensioning Kit on install. This handy device is a life-saver when it comes to setup and installation. Feel free to borrow one of ours.

Your first step will be to set the main cable by extending both Turnbuckles and attaching them to your anchors with the Cable Slings. You will be stretching the cable from one turnbuckle to the other (if you have 2 turnbuckles in use, otherwise see the Chetco Zip Line Kit Installation Guide).

Step A: Attach the looped end of your main cable to the turnbuckle on which ever end is least accessible.

Step B: Unwind your cable to the opposite end, pull it as tight as possible (by hand), and attach your come-along or Tensioning Kit to the cable via the cable Grab.

Step C: Crank your tensioning device until the cable hangs near the desired height.

Step D: Bring up the slack end of the cable, and fix it to the other turnbuckle using your Cable Clamps and Thimble as shown in the diagram below. Position the clamps so the U-bolt is against the folded-back end of the cable.

These steps are modified and pulled from our Installation Manuals.  You can find all of our zip line kit installation manuals below:

Chetco Zip Line Kit Installation Manual

Rogue Zip Line Kit Installation Manual

Bungee Brake Installation

Most zip line kits will have a Bungee Brake Kit in the package. These brakes are pretty simple to install.

Your bungee stop is installed near the end of your zip line and it is designed to catch the Trolley and slow it down to a stop. The block should be bolted together around the cable, with the rubber pad facing the top of the ride. The 30’ bungee cord then runs from the block to the anchor Lag Screw, which can be screwed into a nearby tree or post (use the 3/8” Quick Links to connect the bungee cord to the anchor and the block). The Bungee Cord has a safe stretch limit of 175%, so make sure the cord is NOT stretching to more than 50’ when riders are hitting the brake. If you are stretching it longer than 50’, try doubling the bungee back so that you have two 15’ cords providing increased resistance, and make sure these are not stretching past 25’ in length. If you are still over extending your bungee, you will need to purchase more bungee cord or decrease the slope of your zip line.

Assemble your riding equipment

Most zip line kits will come with a few components to assemble together for each rider. The trolley will typically be removable from the zip line, except for the Chetco which is made to stay on the zip line. This trolley will have various attachments that can lock on it via carabiners, such as Handlebars, Seats, and Harnesses.

Test your new zip line

Weight Test: The weight test should be done at the center of the zip line with 200-350 lbs of load (hang a rope from the pulley and have two adults bounce their weight on it). Then check/retighten all cable clamps, bungee block bolts, and turnbuckles. Never exceed 350lbs in the actual operation of the zip line.

Speed Test: Have a test rider sit on the seat, and lower them down the zip line by walking or running alongside them holding a rope attached to the trolley. Increase the speed of each run until you are confident that the zip line will not be too fast or over extend the bungee brake if the riders are allowed to zip freely. Once accomplished, your zip line is ready to roll!

© Zip Line Gear 2016

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