How to Build Something from Almost Nothing…
Currently, you can’t go to the gym. There’s no outdoor climbing.
How can you work on your balance?
Add a homemade, garden slackline to your home training/entertainment regime!
Luckily, using less-than-perfect materials for a slackline is ok––just keep it close to the ground. If anything fails, the consequences might be a few bruises but nothing catastrophic.
Now, here is what you need to build a slackline from almost nothing:
Most important, you’ll need two strong trees at least 12” in diameter. Strong trees are important because you’ll put them under a lot of tension. Also, the trees need to be a reasonable distance apart. For beginners, a shorter distance apart (like 20’) is a good starting place.
The best anchor material is 1” webbing, or other flat stock material, like sewn slings. Webbing is better than cord because it has more surface area. More surface area spreads out the force and reduces pressure on the tree bark (to not to kill the poor trees!). Alternatively, you could use an old rope. Wrapping the rope several times around the tree will help spread the pressure and reduce wear on the bark.
Whatever you decide to use, you’ll need two long lengths: one, long enough to wrap around the first tree; another to wrap around the second tree.
Total, you will need four to five, the bigger the better, carabiners. Locking is good, but not required.
A static rope is ideal. However, I don’t have a static rope and most likely you don’t either, so you can use a retired climbing rope like I did. Find Rules for Rope Care and Longevity Here.
For your block-and-tackle tensioning system you’ll need a cordelette/long prusik cord. Or, you could use old rope here too. However, static cord is preferred in this application. In order to get tension out of a rope, you’ll have to pull the stretch out first. Static cord transfers more power.
You’ll need twine or string to tie the two strands of your slackline together.
A pulley or pulleys are not strictly necessary but can be helpful. Two pulleys are even better, if you have two.
Putting the Slackline Together
Build the Anchors
The first step in building your low-tech, garden slackline is to build single-point anchors on each tree.
Whatever material you chose, make sure to use a double wrap. Then, spread the material out if you’re using webbing or add an extra wrap if you’re using rope or cord. Next, tie an overhand knot with all of the loops together and clip a carabineer through the loops to create an anchor point.
In the photos, I’m using quadruple-length, green slings for my tree anchors. Since these are sewn slings, I did not need to tie a knot. Instead, I wrapped the sling around the tree and clipped into each end instead. You can see that the oval, locking carabineer that creates one of the anchor points (3rd photo down) is slightly cross-loaded because the tree is so fat!
Install the Slackline
In order to make the line, double your old rope by folding it in half.
Next tie a big overhand knot on a bight somewhere close to the folded end. Clip both strands of the resulting overhand-on-a-bight to the anchor of one of the trees.
Now tie another overhand-on-a-bight in the doubled rope about 6’-8’ from the second tree and clip a spare carabiner through the bight. The remaining 6’-8’ feet will be for your block-and-tackle tensioning system.
Create a Block-and-Tackle Tensioning System
Whatever material you use, cord or rope, tie an overhand knot on one end. Clip the overhand into the anchor on the second tree. Now run the cord back to the unattached end of the slackline and clip it through the attached carabiner. Then run the cord back to the tree anchor. Clip/re-direct it again and then run it back to the slackline again. Here you can add a pulley if you have one. Putting the rope through a pulley here, instead of simply through the carabiner reduces friction. Continue by running the cord back to the tree anchor. Repeat until there are three loops (or six strands) and you are at the tree anchor.
Now, call all your family members and pull on the end to get as much tension as possible. Since this system has no progress capture, once the line is tight, you’ll need to hold on while you simultaneously tie a munter hitch and clip it to the anchor. If you have one, it’s practical to add a new carabiner here just for the munter. Finally, tie a mule hitch around all the strands and secure it all with an overhand. This should keep your tension system tight. At the same time, you can release it anytime should the need occur.
Wrap the twine around the two strands of rope that configure the slackline. This helps keep them together to form a wider platform. After all, you’re going to try to walk on this thing!
Test the tension of your line. If it touches the ground, you’ll need to heave on the block-and-tackle some more. Pull hard!
A line that is just barely off the ground, right in the middle, is a good place to start for beginner slackers like myself. Also, don’t make the line too high. Keep it below crotch height (for obvious reasons).
Not So Pro Tip:
I started walking on my slackline while it was actually still touching the ground and it was hard enough!