Longlining for Beginners – The Complete Guide

If you are eager to try longlining (walking slacklines longer than 100 feet), here you’ll find everything you need to get started – videos and tutorials, recommended kits and a lot of other useful advice. Enjoy!

For better orientation, I have divided this guide into three main parts:

Challenges of longlining Recommended gear Videos & Tutorials

Challenges of longlining

Setting up and walking longlines takes a lot of commitment as the extra length presents many challenges for the slackliner.

And once the length gets over 330 ft (100m), both rigging and walking becomes really hard.

Eric on the 331 foot Slackline (101 Meters)

1. Rigging

Setting up a 50ft slackline using a ratchet system is really easy.

But as the length increases, ratchets become useless – even at 100 feet (30m) it already takes a good deal of strength to get the right tension.

So it’s necessary to get some mechanical advantage from pulleys, for example a 5:1 or 9:1.

Pulley system 5:1

The bad news is that they are quite expensive (the price ranges from $300 for a beginner kit to as high as $4,000 for professional setups) and more difficult to use.

2. Balance skills and physical condition

Walking a longline presents a real challenge for your body – even on a 50′ (15m) line you’ve probably felt the difference between the firm ends and looser middle part.

Now imagine what the difference is at a 300′ or 400′ monster and add also the fact that the entire mass of the line swings and there is a large sag in the middle!

Also there is no rest available, you have to be 100% focused all the time, your arms, shoulders, core muscles and legs all working hard to retain balance.

And if you are used to walking on the 2" webbing, don’t forget that most longlines are only 1 inch wide ;)

3. Safety

With the extreme tension in the line, safety becomes even more important.

The last thing you want to happen is being hit by a broken line or metal parts of the setup system.

So while the price of the equipment is substantial already, it is vital to use only high quality components and avoid trying to save some money by purchasing gear not perfectly suitable for longlining.

It’s also a good idea to backup the key parts with an additional loop around the tree (you can find an in-depth article here):

Backing up your tensioning system

Falling

And as if that were not enough, there is the danger of falling. Due to the larger sag, the end points of a longline have to be higher which presents another risk (and a psychological challenge as well).

Also you can get slapped by the line easily due to the high tension.

So it’s a good idea to practise falling and dismounting from this height before the actual walk – if that happens later on, at least you’re not caught by surprise.


Social aspect

A quick tip: While I always recommend to meet other slackliners in your city or local area, it’s even more beneficial in longlining.

Not only you can learn from the experienced, but you can also share the most expensive pieces of equipment in a group!

So get social, find groups or communities in your neighborhood and join them.

And before you know it, longlining can turn from a hobby into a way of life.

Recommended longline kits

Here I would like to talk briefly about the most popular kits – let’s divide them into a few levels, according to the maximum available length (and price of course).

Due to financial reasons you would probably want to skip some levels – but that’s okay, selecting two of them can be entirely sufficient, for example:

  • starting with Level 0 a continuing to Level 2 after gaining some skill
  • getting Level 1 and going for Level 3 if you fall in love with longlining

Level 0: Non-longline kit

Classic starter kits is where most people begin – inexpensive and ideal for learning the first steps.

So if you still haven’t bought your first slackline, get one that would form a good introduction to longlining:

BC Primitive

BC Primitive

Price: $104.95   Length: ca 55ft (17m)

A traditional carabiner setup – more complicated than the ratchet and a bit shorter but you’ll be training on 1 inch width from the beginning which is a big advantage.

   See Video

Baseline and Aggroline from Slackline Industries

SI Base Line or SI Aggro Line

Price: $69.97 or $99.95   Length: 85ft (25m) or 100ft (30m)

Ratchets are really easy to set up and enable a long 85 or even 100 feet walking distance. But it’s a 2 inch webbing, you’ll have to switch to 1" later on.

   See Videos

Level 1: Beginner longline kit

Probably the most recommended package for anyone looking to start with longer lines – enables rigging lines in the 165 ft (50m) range and the price level is still acceptable.

A simplified version of a pulley system is often used.

BC Primitive Pro

BC Primitive Pro

Price: $299.95   Length: up to 175ft (53m)

Kit designed for beginners or as a travel line – extra lightweight and compact. It uses the primitive tensioning method, just with a multiplier to give you enough power to rig a 175 feet line.

   See Video

Level 2: Intermediate kit with pulley system

Now we are getting into the traditional pulley system and lines up to 330 feet (100m) – the price investment is much larger, but you can reuse the components in all your future setups.

BC Lightweight

BC Lightweight

Price: from $552.55   Length: up to 300ft (91m)

A complete pulley system which focuses on low weight – 9 pounds only. Compact and still very convenient for travelling but also sufficient for lines up to 300 feet long.

Level 3: Advanced custom system

Now the philosophy stays the same, you just upgrade particular components or add more of them to be able to rig longer and longer lines.

As you cross the 100m mark, the price of all the equipment becomes really high so the ideal option is to share the gear between more people in a club or community.

Videos & Tutorials

So now you know about the challenges of longlining and you also have an idea which equipment to get – let’s focus on the actual rigging and walking.

I would highly recommend you this awesome series by Adam Burtle from NWslackline.org (you can also find many other useful videos and articles there).

In the first four episodes he talks about various parts of the longline system and focus on actual walking in the fifth one.

Episode 1: Slings

We’ll start from the trees – attaching all your gear to them using slings and of course – tree protection:

NWslackline Guide to longline, Part 1: SLINGS

The polyester round slings (or spansets) use a polyester fiber covered by a tubular webbing.

They offer great strength, very low stretch and are much lighter than chains or similar heavy-duty slings.

Episode 2: Webbing anchors

Next comes attaching the webbing – to the sling on one side and to pulley system on the other.

Adam will explain why it is better to use shackles instead of carabiners, how to use friction to your advantage and why the Banana style weblocks are better than rappel rings:

NWslackline Guide to longline, Part 2: WEBBING ATTACHMENT

Key points:

  • For the key parts, use shackles instead of carabiners – they are practically unbreakable and have no problems with tri-loading.
  • Also, if you use some carabiners, don’t use them for climbing afterwards (due to the stress that has been placed on them during longlining) – rather have two sets, one for each sport.
  • Banana style webbing lockers are the standard today as (unlike shackle and rappel rings combination) you can adjust the line easily without having to dismantle the weblock.

Here are some examples of the modern webbing anchors:

Examples of webbing lockers - Alpine Weblock from Balance Community, Bandit from Equilibrium Slacklines and Lynx from Landcruising

   More Videos

Episode 3: Webbing

Just a quick overview what are the important characteristics when talking about webbing:

NWslackline Guide to longline, Part 3: Webbing

The key characteristics of a longline webbing:

  • Strength: or how much tension can it hold before breaking. The longer the line is, the more tension and more strength you’ll gonna need. You can find webbing with breaking strength from 4000 lbf (18 kN) to as high as 15,000 lbf (67 kN) and of course, higher breaking strength means higher price.
  • Stretch: Low stretch webbing (as low as 2% of stretch) is easier to tension (less slack has to be pulled out of it). On the other hand, high stretch (for example 13%) is great for all kinds of tricks, jumping, bouncing or surfing. Most of the time it’s also cheaper.
  • Weight: Besides the obvious fact (carrying more in your bag), a heavier line is more difficult to walk as it creates larger forces when it starts swinging. But on the other hand it can be used for more effective training.

You can find a big comparison chart here or compare the stretch of various webbings here.

Episode 4: Tension Systems

And now a much longer, almost half an hour video about the tensioning.

So if you’re confused of all the terms like pulley, rope brake, 5:1, 9:1 etc., grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable and enjoy.

NWslackline Guide to longline, Part 4: Tension Systems

Here’s also a simple chart to illustrate the function of each part:

longline pulley system with multiplier schema

The main part is the pulley system which offers you a mechanical advantage, for example a 5:1 system uses two double pulleys and makes pulling the rope 5 times easier (and 5 times slower).

Examples of pulleys - singing rock, rock exotica and SMC

The multiplier is basically another pulley attached to the system so instead of just adding some more mechanical advantage, it actually multiplies the entire advantage of the main system! So it’s an extremely helpful way to make the process even easier – a necessity for extra long lines.

And after you achieve the desired tension, you need something to hold that in place – that’s what a rope brake is for. You can connect it using a separate sling around the tree (as shown on the picture above), use a rigging plate or connect it to one of the main pulleys.

Examples of rope brakes - Edelrid Eddy, Petzl GriGri 2 and CMC MPD

For detailed information about each part, reviews and comparison, check out this great guide by Jerry Miszewski.

LineGrip

The LineGrip is an optional part of the setup – it’s quite expensive but it can be really useful and many slackliners never rig a longline without one.

SlackTeck : Installation et utilisation du LineGrip et HighlineGrip

You can think of it as a big clamp that grabs the line – you join it with your tensioning system and after tightening the line and fixing it with a weblock you can completely remove the pulleys and the LineGrip itself.

But what are the advantages of using this piece of gear and softpointing the line? (removing the rigging system)

  • you need a lot less static rope for the pulley system
  • you can rig another longline with the system right away
  • lighter line and even safer walking (most of the metal parts are now gone)

Detensioning: You can either employ the LineGrip again or use a Soft release:

   See Video

 

Episode 5: How to walk a longline

The fifth and final part deals with some leftover from the previous episode and then focuses on actual walking – how it’s different from walking a short line, how to mount it and how to take all the equipment down afterwards:

NWslackline Guide to longline, Part 5: Walking

Key points:

  • The idea is to minimize line swings by keeping your center of gravity over the line. Try to avoid rapid movements with your legs or hips, keep the line nice and smooth, don’t fight with it.
  • Try not to look at a firm spot on the other end of the line (like during walking a short line). Focus rather on something closer to you – for example a shadow or flower – and then switch to another object as you come closer.
  • If you’re not used to walking on the extra firm line near the anchors, it’s a good idea to set one anchor lower and practise walking near that end first.
  • When falling, try to push the line to the side and away from you with you outer foot to avoid being slapped by it.

There is also a great video by Slacktivity on this topic:

Slackline-Tutorial: How to Walk a Longline

Mounting the line:

Mounting a line that is 2 feet above the ground or higher requires a slightly different approach than the traditional “knee-level” slackline. Both Adam and Sam mentioned it briefly in their videos but let’s add a few more tutorials:

   See Videos

 

Wind dampeners – what is their function?

Know-How: Stop Slacklines from Shaking in the Wind

 

Bonus: Easy and effective longlining by Jerry Miszewski

So now you should be well versed in the basics of longlining – what gear is necessary and what is the function of each part, which line to start with and how to walk it.

Jerry Miszewski talking about a longline setup

But before you start with your first longline, I would recommend you to watch the following quick videos by Jerry Miszewski – he presents very useful tips on how to make the process as easy, effective and safe as possible.

Remember, minute saved on setup is a minute that can be used for walking.

   See Videos

 

Well, that’s it. Now you possess enough information not only to start with longlining, but (after you gain some experience) even to progress to more challenging distances and advanced rigging equipment.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and set up you first longline right now ;-)

Sources and references

  • http://www.balancecommunity.com/slack-science/purchase-guides
  • https://www.youtube.com/user/BalanceCommunity/videos
  • http://www.nwslackline.org/
  • https://www.youtube.com/user/adamburtle/videos
  • https://www.reddit.com/r/Slackline/comments/3v2dqe/beginner_longline_recommendations/ + other Reddit pages
  • http://www.balancetrainingforum.com/balance-training-blog/2014/4/11/slackline-long-line-beginners-guide
  • http://www.slack.cz/homepage/page?name=longline
  • https://www.youtube.com/user/slacktivity/videos
  • http://slacktuev.org/2015/02/25/a-rant-on-rigging-safely/
  • http://www.slackshop.cz/en/content/19-tips-and-tricks
  • http://slacklink.org/SlackWiki/index.php?title=Webbing
  • http://www.slacklineverband.com/know-how/slackline-vergleich-dehnung/