Saturday 12 March 2016

How to set a slackline up in your garden

At Christmas I was lucky enough to get a slackline from my in-laws. Last year we moved into a new house with a bigger garden and trees just asking for me to bounce up and down between them. It took a bit of work to set things up, so I thought I would write a little blog about it in case anyone else was looking to do something similar.

Dog not included.

Step 1: Buy a slackline

I'm by no means any sort of expert on this. As far as I'm concerned, they all look like the straps that you use to attach things to your roof rack. However, I'm reliably informed that it's a bit more complex than that, though I have no idea whatsoever what I should be looking for. To keep things simple, I asked for a slacklining kit from Ultrasport that contains everything that you need: a slackline, a ratchet, and a couple of tree protectors (essentially a bit of felt that wraps around the tree to protect the bark). If you shop around you can get some pretty good deals, although I suspect that if you're more deeply involved in the sport there are more expensive options (bouncier, narrower, etc). I don't plan on doing much more than falling off it repeatedly though.

A very slack line.

Step 2: Anchoring to a tree

We have some fruit trees in our garden, some of which are big enough to act as an anchor. It's pretty easy to attach one end to the tree. Just wrap the tree protector around the trunk (don't want my fat ass rubbing all of the bark away), wrap one end of the slackline around the tree, then feed it through the loop at the end. Pull it tight, and voila. You just need to make sure that the loop doesn't slip off the tree protector, and it's as tight as possible as you don't want anything giving way when you jump on.

Why? Y knot.

Step 3: Anchoring with a ground anchor

There are a few options if you don't have any trees to use as an anchor. You could plant a tree if you're not in a hurry. Or you could dig a pole into the ground and concrete it in place like a fence post. I went for a slightly more inconspicuous option; a ground anchor. I started with an auger ground anchor, which simply screws down into the ground. Unfortunately I hit rocky ground and could not get it in (phnar). Instead I dug out a Dead Man's Anchor. 

First cut out any turf and leave to one side (I dug mine out of sight into the base of a big bamboo bush so didn't have much), then dig out a large channel perpendicular to the slackline, big enough for a chunk of roughly 50x50x1000 mm fence post to lie in. Then dig another channel perpendicular to this, leading towards where the slackline will start. This will create a T-shaped hole. The second channel needs to be such that the chain will come up and out of the ground at an angle. Wrap a chain around the piece of wood (fold it in two, throw the looped end around the wood, then thread the hanging two ends through the loop), and lay it down in the ground. This is your "dead man". The two ends of the chain will then run up the channel, where they will be connected by a carabiner. This will hang out of the ground, with everything else covered. 


Finally, fill in the hole. The first time I did this, my dead man rose from the dead like a rotting zombie. After taking a chainsaw to it (in reality a terrible weapon for a zombie apocalypse), I tried again and made sure to really stamp the mud down as I went. We have very clay like mud here, but if yours is dry it may help to wet it as you go. Add the turf back (to avoid being shouted at by your wife) and your done. No one would ever know. Unless the dog digs it up. Which she inevitably will.

No one would ever know.

Step 4: Build an A-frame

If you are using trees as anchors, it's very simple and you can jump straight on. If using ground anchors, you will need something to maintain the slackline above the ground. Most people use an A-frame for this. I looked at a couple if pictures online, then put one together which seems to hold... 

First, I purchased the wood I needed. This was simply two large lengths of 25x50x2400 mm pressure-treated wood, and one 50x50x2400 mm fence post. 

There's a joke here about "having wood", but I'm far too sophisticated for that kind of low brow humour.

I cut one of the bits of wood in two for the side pieces. I cut the other in two to give me a base piece, then cut the other half in two again for the two struts. You could use a mitre saw to cut the ends to 45 degrees, but I just did it by eye which worked fine. Finally, I cut the fence post into three chunks to act as supports to the frame. This allows a couple of different heights for the slackline. 

That's quite an erection.

I predrilled all of the holes, then used large wood screws to hold everything together. Finally I added some M16 160 mm bolts through the gaps in the A-frame to give the slackline a smooth surface to lie on. 

I didn't have any trouble getting it up.

Step 4: Learn how to slackline

This is the step I'm on now, so you're on your own on this one! As you can see it's going well so far...

Keeping it up however...

I'll post again soon with an update of how I'm getting on/how many injuries I have suffered. Hopefully this is helpful to anyone else looking to set one up at home. 

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