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Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for Best slacklines

What began as a hobby practiced by rock climbers at national parks has become a common backyard activity that’s surprisingly easy to learn. Slacklining involves walking across a tensioned piece of fabric called webbing which is stretched between two points to create a line.

Slacklines vary in length, width, materials, and tensioning system, all of which combine to make them better suited for beginners or advanced users. In general, the longer the slackline, the less stable it is, and the greater the challenge it presents. Experienced users favor narrow slacklines for their feeling and control, while wider slacklines are a better choice for beginners seeking stability.

Some sets may include a “helpline” that inexperienced users can hold onto as they learn to balance on a slackline. Though all slacklines are similar, the variations from one set to another can make a difference and may affect how and where you choose to slackline.

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It’s common for beginners to experience some serious wobbling, but it isn’t the line that’s wobbling. With a bit of practice, your legs should become steadier and the wobbling should stop.

Key considerations

When choosing a slackline, you should first consider your skill level and who will use the slackline. Many sets are intended for beginners, while others are designed for maximum lengths or for performing tricks. The main factors that determine who a slackline is right for are the width and length of the webbing, the flat piece of fabric that you will (hopefully) be walking across.

Width

Slackline webbings generally come in three widths: 1, 1.5, and 2 inches. The wider the webbing, the easier it is to plant your foot on the line. A narrower line may be more comfortable against your foot and give you more control.

  • 1-inch webbings are the preferred choice of experienced slackliners. While this was once the standard width, it has become overshadowed by the popular 2-inch lines. If you are at ease on a slackline, you may find that 1-inch lines are more comfortable and give you better control and balance.

  • 2-inch webbings are the most popular option and work well for beginners. The extra width makes it easier to plant your foot on the line and it’s more forgiving if you aren’t perfectly centered.

  • 1.5-inch webbings, unsurprisingly, have some of the benefits of both thinner and wider webbings. These work well for intermediate slackliners who still struggle to balance from time to time.

Length

Slacklines vary greatly in length, ranging from 20 feet to 100 feet or longer. In general, the longer the slackline, the greater the potential for wobbling, making a longer line better suited to an experienced user.

  • 20- to 30-foot slacklines work well for beginners and can be set up in a variety of places.

  • 30- to 50-foot slacklines work well for beginner to intermediate users, and they can always be shortened if the maximum length is too much. The added length gives you more flexibility when finding a place to set up.

  • 50- to 100+ foot slacklines are extremely challenging and can be set up in a variety of places — even over bodies of water. The length of these slacklines results in more sag, so they must be set up much higher over the ground than shorter lines.
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Did you know?
The longer the slackline, the more it sags in the middle. This presents a challenge and can make balancing more difficult, but it can also be more fun.
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Features

Webbing materials

The first slackliners who originated the sport in the 1980s used climbing webbing, which was fat or tubular and made of nylon. While modern slacklines haven’t traveled far from their roots, there are a few more options for webbing materials.

Polyester webbing is a popular choice for its lack of stretch and its strength. The combination of these qualities makes it common in beginner sets as well as advanced longline sets.

Nylon webbing is stretchier than polyester, giving the line more bounce. This makes it popular among “trickliners” who perform jumps, flips, and handstands on slacklines. While the bounciness can be more fun, it also presents an additional challenge.

Some webbings may combine polyester and nylon for a line that is somewhere between stretchy and rigid.

Tensioning system

Despite its name, slacklining requires a good deal of tension. A slackline shouldn’t be perfectly taut — this would be difficult to set up and a lot less fun. Instead, the tensioning system should allow you to get the tension just right, whether you are simply balancing or performing tricks.

Ratchet systems are by far the most common and the easiest to set up. They use a metal ratchet that locks in place and can be easily adjusted to increase tension at any point. When you’re done, you can release the slackline by pulling a lever, packing the ratchet away with the rest of your gear.

Primitive systems use carabiners to create tension. It can be difficult to achieve high tensions with these systems and it is not possible to adjust tension.

Pulley systems are rare and are primarily used by longliners. Adjusting the tension is easy and achieving a high tension is possible, but these systems are challenging to set up.

Additional accessories

Help lines are thinner lines of webbing that can be set up at chest height or higher to give inexperienced users something to hang on to. They can hold the help line the whole time or they can simply reach for it to regain their balance.

A carrying bag allows you to keep all your slacklining gear in one place.

Tree protectors are foam or cloth pads designed to protect trees from potential damage from slacklines. In addition, they can extend the lifespan of your webbing.

Slackline prices

Inexpensive

Slacklines in the $30 to $40 range are usually intended for beginners and may include help lines and carrying bags. In this range, slacklines vary from 20 to 50 feet in length and are usually 2 inches in width.

Mid-range

For $40 to $60 you can find beginner to intermediate slacklines that may be up to 80 feet long. These sets often include accessories like tree protection and carrying bags. Some sets in this range may have narrower webbing.

Expensive

High-end slacklines for $60 to $100 are generally designed for experienced slackliners looking to perform tricks or bridge massive gaps.

Tips

Getting started can be intimidating, but with practice, you can be walking from one end of the line to the next after just a few weeks.

  • When you are just starting out, use the help line or hold a friend’s hand to get used to the sensation of walking on the webbing.

  • After a bit of practice, stop using the help line and work on just getting onto the line and balancing in place.

  • Don’t use the tree for balance. Learn to trust yourself to get onto the line without help.

  • Keep your hands higher than your shoulders as a general rule. Use your arms to balance when necessary.

  • Keep your feet pointed toward the other end of the line; don’t let your feet become perpendicular to the line.

  • Try to preserve steady momentum and always move forward.

  • Keep your knees comfortably bent.

  • Keep your eyes on the base of the other end of the line as you walk.

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Slacklining can increase your core strength and greatly improve your balance, both of which can help to prevent future injuries.

FAQ

Q. Are slacklines safe?

A. As with many outdoor sports, injury is always possible. However, when performed safely at a low height, you are at less of a risk.

Q. Should I wear shoes when slacklining?

A. It’s up to you. Most people prefer to slackline barefoot to help with grip and control. This can be especially useful when you are just starting out to help you center your feet on the line.

Q. Can young children use slacklines?

A. They can, but they should only do so with adult supervision and an adult standing nearby in case of a fall.

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