Best Overall Slackline
Slackers Wave Walker
Great for beginners - comes with a hand line to practice balance
Webbing has nice bounce to it
Not very attractive
Graphics are printed on both sides, which makes it harder to rig twist-free
Excelling at almost all aspects of the sport, the Slackers Wave Walker
was easily our favorite line of all the models we tested. It's a high quality line with a few added features that does a marvelous job of pleasing both beginner and intermediate slackers. The webbing has a bit more bounce than their Classic Series Kit, and the overhead hand line is great for novice walkers to help gain their balance, and for aspiring tricksters to start to get the feel for going airborne. The price point is moderate and for all the people you can entertain with this line, well worth it!
Read full review: Slackers Wave Walker
Best Bang for the Buck
Slackline Industries Base Line
A good beginner set-up
Set-up is easy
We've given the Slackline Industries Base Line
our Best Buy award because of its affordable price and all its additional features. While it is a basic kit for beginners, the line and ratchet are well made and durable. It comes with a video to help you learn how to set it up and take it down, plus it gives an introduction to walking and basic tricks. This line also comes with tree protection, something we wish was standard in all kits. If you're looking for an inexpensive kit to get started with, this is a great choice.
Read full review: Slackline Industries Base Line
Top Pick for Traditional Slacklining
Balance Community Primitive Kit
Several lengths to choose from
More complex to set up than a ratchet system
Difficult to rig alone
Our Top Pick for Traditional Slacklining award goes to the Balance Community Primitive Kit
. This is a specialized one-inch system with the highest quality components we tested, and it's a must have for any long term slacker. The pieces of this kit grow with you as you move through the various disciplines, and their high quality ensures they will outlast even the most motivated slacker. As two-inch models increase in popularity and ubiquity, the Balance Community Primitive Kit is a big win for the traditional slackers out there. What makes this kit really stand out is the way it tackles the main drawbacks to primitive lines. They've included two highly durable and independent anchor pieces, which leaves your main line out of the anchor system and increases its longevity. The multiplier ring helps combat the largest drawback to primitive lines: tensioning. This simple addition enables you to tension much longer lines with ease.
Read full review: Balance Community Primitive Kit
Analysis and Test Results
The act of being on a slackline is often referred to as a form of "moving meditation." Participants must focus their attention, center their body and let go of their daily distractions. Over the years the simple process of walking a line has transformed into various disciplines beyond just walking, from yoga to gymnastic-like tricks. The eight new kits we evaluated in this updated review cover the most commonly practiced forms of slacklining. Whether you are new to the sport or are a seasoned veteran trying to learn more about the updates in slackline technology, we wrote our review to address questions you may have regarding the perfect kit.
Julia Reardin gets her zen on walking the 1-inch Yogaslackers eLine.
Selecting the Right Product
Slacklining originated from climbers looking for entertainment on their rest days. They grabbed extra one-inch webbing they had lying around, strung it up between two trees, and the sport was born. Nowadays, it has grown into a multi-disciplinary activity with some highly specialized kits. Selecting the right model to fit your needs is crucial as there are many options available. A beginner is not going to have the easiest time learning how to walk on a bouncy professional trickline, and someone looking to advance in the sport will quickly grow out of the basic beginner models. Keep reading to see what's the best option for you, and for more on the evolution of the sport, check out our History
We tested eight of the top models on the market to evaluate the best of the best.
Types of Slacklines
There are several different styles and setups available. For this updated review we evaluated a range of different products and sizes from the following categories:
— uses carabiners and loops of the main webbing to create a tensioning system.
— uses a ratchet on one or both ends of the line to crank the slack out of the webbing.
— original width at the beginning of the sport. Either nylon or polyester.
— newer style and wider. Most common choice for beginners and trickliners. Often a blend of polyester and nylon.
— requires bouncier, trampoline-style webbing.
— typically a low-stretch one-inch line is used.
— one-inch webbing of variable stretchiness based on preference and line length. Pulley system for tensioning. (We did not review any highline specific models.)
— one-inch webbing and pulley system for tensioning. (We did not review any longline specific models.)
Please refer to our Buying Advice
article for a more in-depth explanation of the different types of webbing and tensioning systems we reviewed as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each style.
Criteria for Evaluation
Waterlining is another fun variation on the sport that is growing in popularity.
Ease of Setup
After many years of slacklining and being familiar with dozens of different setups, we continue to be amazed at how intricate and often physical the process of setting up a line is. Whether it is 30 feet long and two feet high or 1000 feet long and 3000 feet high, each line presents its own unique challenges. When contending with a system that potentially has thousands of pounds of tension, and a system that must be adaptable to different terrain, there is no end to the variables that complicate your rigging. Because setup is rarely intuitive, it is therefore important to be aware of the different types of lines and what the process involves.
For the most part there are two general categories of tightening systems: primitive systems and ratchet systems. (Advanced systems are also used for complicated highline rigging and involve pulleys, line lockers, brakes, and line grips, but those are beyond the scope of this review). Primitive systems are more traditional and use carabiners and line lockers for tensioning. This setup is more complicated and less popular with beginners than the more prominent ratchet-based systems. Most of the kits that we tested are ratchet-based.
For the primitive system, the main one-inch webbing that you walk on doubles as the tensioning system, creating an integrated and elegant low-tech slackline. It seems confusing at first but with a little hands-on practice, this system quickly becomes nearly as easy as a ratchet. To rig a primitive line, you attach the non-tensioned end to one anchor with a line lock, knot or girth hitch, and extend the webbing towards the far anchor. With a few feet left before the anchor (usually about 85 percent of the length of the line), the line is wrapped through a metal ring and connected to a carabiner using the "line lock" hitch technique. The line then continues to the anchor and goes around a carabiner clipped there. Next, it heads back to the line locked carabiner. In order to create the friction brake that is integral to this system, the webbing must be placed under the loop of line that is already around the carabiner. Pull the free end till you have achieved your desired tension and viola. Slack on! If you need some visuals to go along with that description, check out the directions for the Balance Community Primitive Kit here
The primitive eLine setup is more complicated than a ratchet tensioning system but it goes up quickly with a little practice.
The Balance Community Primitive Kit
takes longer to rig than most ratchet systems, however there are some advantages to this method. It uses gear that is easily replaceable if the parts wear out or get lost. This system is also gentle on the line; the lack of sharp edges means much less fraying of the webbing. The main drawback of primitive rigs is that they are quite difficult to tension at distances over 30-40 feet. Of the two primitive rigs we tested, we did prefer the Balance Community Primitive Kit and gave it our Top Pick for Traditional Slacklining award.
One of the downsides to a traditional setup - we needed three people pulling on the system to get this line to our desired tension.
The introduction of ratchets into the slackline world has greatly simplified the rigging process for beginners. With a ratchet system the line is up and going within 5-10 minutes, even for first-time users. Typically, you run the line around your first tree (or anchor) and through a loop in the end of the line, creating a girth hitch. The free end of the line then runs out towards your second tree (or anchor) where a sling with a ratchet at the end has also been girth hitched. The free end of the line is then placed into the ratchet and all the slack is removed. Open the ratchet handle, crank the line tight and you are ready to go.
Don't forget to completely close the ratchet handle once you've finished tensioning. This ensures that the ratchet is locked and can't accidentally open, which causes tension to be lost dangerously fast.
The use of ratchets has helped spur the popularity of this new sport.
The ease of setting up a ratchet slackline is undeniable and represents one of the top reasons for purchasing a ratchet system. But these lines are not without problems. One inherent limitation is that these lines are all sold as complete kits, so if something breaks on your ratchet you must purchase an entire kit, line and all. Also, you are limited in your choice of anchors due to the length of the ratchet sling. If the ratchet and sling are six feet long, and your anchor tree's circumference is greater than that, you have to get creative in rigging your line by using additional rope not included in these kits. Another negative aspect of the ratchet is its composition; it's made of metal and has sharp edges. There is a tendency for the line to get caught in and rub against the sides of the ratchet, which chews and frays the line.
Ratchets are a great and easy way to set up your line as long as you have the right size trees or posts. This 6.5 foot anchor line barely made it around this one.
Most of the ratchets found in the two-inch kits currently on the market are essentially indistinguishable from each other. This makes their setup pretty similar. Their mechanism of action is identical and the main difference we noticed was the shape of the handle. Some handles, like those found on our Editors' Choice winning Slackers Wave Walker
, are slightly more comfortable to use, but this difference was not large enough to create an actual disparity between the lines. Aside from the Voodoo Fearless line that is a tad more complicated because of its double ratchet trickline system, ratchet systems are surprisingly uniform.
What once was an activity that didn't branch beyond basic walking has now grown into a multitude of sub-specialties. The traditional progress of walking longer and longer and higher and higher lines now has the company of incredible aerial assaults, the integration of yoga, and even fire spinning, juggling, and uni-cycling on a line. People are interested in utilizing a slackline for a variety of things, and beginners often approach the sport without knowing where or in what direction it will take them. To acknowledge and incorporate this diversity into our review, we consider the versatility of a kit an important metric in our analysis as it ensures a purchase will last as one grows in the sport.
The versatility of the different models is one of the key factors that distinguish these products from one another. Models like the Gibbon ClassicLine
offer little to the consumer beyond the initial phase of learning to walk and practicing static poses. In contrast, our Editors' Choice selection, the Slackers Wave Walker, is a versatile line that meets the needs of a variety of users, from brand new slackers to budding trickliners. We also like the versatility of the Balance Community Primitive Kit. The kit comes with a tensioning ring that helped us rig the line tighter and try some jumps and bounces.
The different models we tested are all top-notch in the industry. Because high forces are inherent in the sport of slacklining, the equipment is designed to be strong and withstand a beating. As the industry has grown and progressed, the equipment has gone from good to great. It is easy to make across-the-board statements of quality for two reasons. First, these lines must be rated and comply with high safety standards because of the high forces in play. Second, according to one industry insider, some of the different brands are even made in the factory. The individual companies have tailored specific unique traits for their own pieces, but on average the webbing and the ratchets are extremely similar. They are all high quality and there is currently little difference between the various brands in this respect.
Our testing aimed to really beat up the equipment, using it and abusing it above and beyond the way most users do. We specifically focused on quality with respect to safety, as we felt a slackline failure and possible injury is one of the worst things that could happen for this product. Worst case scenarios that start with improperly loaded or misaligned webbing make de-tensioning difficult or even dangerous. Each ratchet line, from the Slackline Industries Trick Line
to the Gibbon ClassicLine, suffered potentially dangerous fraying when rigged carelessly. However, with the advances in ratchet design, if the rigger is diligent about lining things up straight while tensioning, these lines and ratchets will last for years. While the ratchet lines all got chewed up when assembled without care, this was not the case with our Top Pick for Traditional Slacklining, the Balance Community Primitive Kit, which rated high in this category. The primitive setup is easier on the line, and the high quality products in this kit and the ease of replacing them should they get damaged or lost helped this line stand out from the rest.
Diligence when rigging is the main factor that will increase the longevity of your ratchet line. Always make sure that your webbing is in proper alignment through the ratchet when tensioning and de-tensioning. Attention to this detail will keep your kit in good shape through years of use.
Previous generations of ratchets had a tendency to break. While we have experienced this in the past and know many people who have lost springs or bent their ratchet, the growth of the sport has also lead to significant improvements in the durability of the gear. While it is still possible to damage a ratchet, this thankfully happens with much less frequency than in years past. We did not experience any damage to any ratchet during our testing period. While ratchets tendency for damage has changed, they haven't gotten any lighter. They are bulky and add weight to the line, something that's noticeable as the line gets longer and tighter. In particular, the double-ratchet Voodoo Fearless is exceedingly heavy and bulky.
This two-year-old Gibbon line has withstood two full summer seasons in Yosemite. It's weathered and stiff, but still usable.
Because most of the lines we tested were similar in terms of quality and durability, we also considered the quality of the experience while on the line and how well it did what the manufacturer said it would. The Slackline Industries Trick Line fell short of being a good trick line.
After hours of walking, bouncing, balancing, sitting and growing exhausted on your line, the last thing you want is a difficult, scary, or even dangerous experience when de-tensioning it. From a disassembly standpoint we specifically considered both how easy it was to pack up and head home, and more importantly, what could happen or go wrong that makes this process dangerous to you or anyone else around.
With respect to disassembly and safety, ratchets, which make setup simple and straight forward, also have the tendency to make break down more complicated. As a result, the two-inch lines with ratchet systems generally scored on the lower end as we had many examples of lines getting caught in the ratchet and people having to fiddle with a high-tension system in order to get it to release. Having to pull with all your might to get it loose and having the system suddenly go POP
makes for a scary experience. Our top scorers in this category was the primitive setup: the Balance Communities Primitive Kit.
If you aren't careful when de-tensioning your line, the webbing can jam in the ratchet, damaging the webbing and making it difficult or dangerous to disassemble.
In addition to a basic line and tightening system, some kits have unique features that set them apart. Manufacturers are starting to include carrying cases, instructional DVDs, protection for the metal ratchet, rubberized grip on the line itself, tree protection, back up lines to protect from ratchet failure, overhead hand lines and subtle modifications to the tightening system that make it a little easier or more convenient to work with. Contrary to our previous review, we now feel that the different manufacturers have done a great job of providing various quality components that help the consumer decide between lines that are otherwise quite similar.
We were a big fan of the overhead hand lines that came with the Slackers Classic Series Kit and Wave Walker. This feature enhances the experience for first time walkers or those looking to try out dynamic tricks. On the other hand, the ratchet cover that came in the Gibbon ClassicLine kit doesn't really add any value to the setup and is just a piece that quickly gets lost or forgotten. This was the one exception to the otherwise quality features that most of the lines had.
An overhead hand line helps slackers approach new challenges with confidence.
As if heeding our previous review that mentioned the disappointing lack of tree protection, Slackline Industries now includes tree protection with their Base Line and Trick Line models. Unfortunately, that product was not available for us to test but is now included in all kits. Also, our Best Buy winning Base Line comes with a DVD to help with setup, take down and getting started on the line. Gibbon has also started including tree protection with some in their lines, but those kits are more expensive than their basic kits. Finally, the Slackline Industries Trick Line and Voodoo Fearless line have sticky rubber graphics to aid in traction
during dynamic tricks and flips.
If using trees as anchors when setting up your lines you need to protect them from the rubbing and cinching that will occur. Not only is this mandated in many parks and public areas, but it's also good slacker etiquette. Padding options include old towels, large sticks, sleeping pads, or you can buy padding from the manufacturer, like the Gibbon Treewear.
The slackline serves as a vehicle for astounding feats of balance, agility and athleticism. The dynamic colorful webbing, strung between two anchor points, is a relatively modern piece of equipment. Yet the idea of walking across a rope to bridge a gap is ancient. The evolution from a tightrope to the modern stretchy webbing has its roots entwined with Yosemite Valley's Camp 4 climbing culture, and from these beginnings it has spread to all corners of the world.
The bouncy line, which is commonly seen rigged up on college campus greeneries and in city parks, differs greatly from the tight rope. However, the birth of the "slack" line would not have been possible without the inspiration of its rigid older brother. The term for rope walking, known as funambulus (lat. "funis" — rope, "ambulare" — to go) dates back to Ancient Greece. The Greeks revered it as a display of artistry, but did not consider it to be athletic enough for an Olympic sport. Rope walking also played a part in ancient Asian cultures. For example, the ropewalking tradition of Jultagi is a Korean form of acrobatic storytelling accompanied by music. Historians speculate that it originated in the Silla era (57 BC — 935 AD).
As in Asia, rope walking was an especially revered art in Europe. It was a form of entertainment reserved for lavish royal events. As early as 1389, a tightrope walker carrying candles was known to have "walked along a rope suspended from the spires of the cathedral to the tallest house in the city" to celebrate Queen Isabeau's coronation in Paris. Madame Saqui, one of the most well-known funambulists from the late 1700s, was a regular performer for Napoleon Bonaparte's parties. Upon the birth of the heir to his throne, Saqui awed guests by walking between the towers of the Notre-Dame cathedral.
The popularity of ropewalking continued to flourish with athletes of the modern era pushing the limits of the art form. In the early 1960s, climbers looking for mental training and physical challenges began walking the chains between posts in Yosemite Valley parking lots. While the links did not offer the dynamic stretch of webbing, they did provide swinging side-to-side movement, similar to that which a modern nylon or polyester line produces. This climber's pastime became known as slack chaining. From slack chaining, people began to experiment further, rigging up old climbing ropes instead of the rigid metal links. These chains offered the most dynamic sensation to date and contributed with the transition to slacklining as we know it today.
In 1979, at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington two college students, Adam Growsky and Jeff Ellington, began walking the steel cables in the central campus plaza. They pushed the sport in a new direction by rigging the first piece of tubular webbing and began to learn and appreciate the swing and bounce that this new material offered. Ellington invented a locking pulley instrument to ratchet the line, creating an easy way to adjust the tautness. In 1983 they took their sport to the next level by rigging a steel high wire at Yosemite's Lost Arrow Spire. However, at that time neither made the crossing from one end to the other.
It wasn't long after when Scott Balcom and Chris Carpenter were inspired by the endeavors of Growsky and Ellington to rig a highline with nylon webbing at a spot named The Arches. It spanned a 30-foot long interval, 120 feet high between two arches under a bridge in Pasadena, CA. This was the first documented, successful high walk on nylon webbing. The summer following this feat, the pair of brave athletes along with Darrin Carter set up a nylon highline on the Lost Arrow Spire.
No one succeeded in crossing the highline until Scott returned a year later and accomplished the Lost Arrow crossing. Nearly ten years after Scott's feat, Carpenter became the second person to successfully follow this accomplishment. Subsequently, Carter completed the same feat. However, he accomplished it without a tether to the rope, which would have caught a potential fall. In 2003, the infamous Dean Potter walked it both ways un-tethered. Finally, in 2007, Libby Sauter became the first woman to successfully cross the now-famous Lost Arrow highline.
Damian Cooksey becomes the first person to slackline over Yosemite Falls.
Today, many different variations of the sport have evolved, such as urbanlining, waterlining, tricklining, freestyle and even yoga slacklining. Each variation shares the same simple gear yet offers contrasts in terms of technique. Variance in terms of setup also have great effects on how the line responds to the user's movement. For example, increased ratcheting tension lends well to the precision required of trickling. On the other hand, looser rigging enables fluid swings and surfing. While each may differ in stylistic ways, all require balance, concentration and creativity of the mind and body.
The practice of funambulism is no longer reserved for daredevil circus performers in royal courts — the invention of the slackline has made the ancient balancing art available for everyone. All it takes is two stable points between which the line is secured and a willingness to play. From there, the sky is the limit in terms of the creativity and athleticism.