Introduction: How to Make a Awesome Safe Zipline

Picture of How to Make a Awesome Safe Zipline

this is my first Instructable so be nice also I do not own all but 3 images and those three are bitmap images the rest I grabbed from google. that being said have a great time building and riding this

Step 1: The Materials

Picture of The Materials

OK these materials are redially available to me because I rock climb but most other materials are redially available at home depot and REI (I am in the USA so it might be different for you if you live elsewhere)that being said I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE IF YOU HURT YOURSELF ADULT SUPERVISION IS REQUIRED AND BY ADULT I MEAN RESPONSIBLE ADULT ALSO PLEASE JUST USE COMMON SENSE so with that all out of the way here is what you need...

1. rock climbing harness
2. 2 100 foot lengths of rock climbing rope or steel cable
3. 1 come along AKA hand winch
4. a couple caribeners (3-4 max)
5. a ladder
6. a large pulley

Step 2: Locate Your Trees

Picture of Locate Your Trees

now if you have a large backyard with many trees as i do this is a relatively easy task but below is the tree formation you are looking for basically a tree formation in a "T" completely onobstructed by bushes and other trees (also i apologize for the horrible bitmap image i am not too good at digital drawing)once you have located your trees move on to the next step.

Step 3: Setting Up Rope 1

Picture of Setting Up Rope 1

this is where your responsible adult comes in now depending on the height of your zip-line set the ladder up on the base tree climb the ladder and firmly secure the rope to the tree with good knots then walk the rope to where it is in-between the other 2 trees

Step 4: The Yoke (that's What I Call It)

Picture of The Yoke (that's What I Call It)

the yoke consists of a length of climbing rope stretched between your 2 trees the yoke rope is suspended off the ground and is connected to your main rope (the one coming from the base tree) using a caribeaner the base rope AKA the main rope is actually suspended in the air by the yoke so to build the yoke string the rope and pull it TIGHT with the come-along but be mindful to thread the main rope with the pulley before pulling the yoke tight

Step 5: Now Ride That Thing!

provided you have done all steps correctly you should be in business all you need to do is put on your harness climb the ladder on the base tree clip in to the pulley and go down as for getting off the zip-line have a responsible person bring you a ladder to step on while you get off now with that all being said have fun be safe and don't let your friends strand you by not bringing you a ladder


Mary TaylorB (author)2017-07-02

We have made a 250 zip line. All I need to know now is how to manually retrieve the trolly. We have a disc seat on the zip line trolly. Do we just attach a rope to the rope under the disc seat and pull it back up the line. This zip line is ove a very big pond. Thanks

sbtuttle (author)2016-12-08

Do you leave the come along attached?


kutz (author)2011-07-03

Another thing you want is location, cedar forests are beautiful and tall and quite peaceful to hike through, its also difficult to kill cedars in that particular way (strangulation, fungus ect) and the only way that it could damage something is if you lot the rope rot and try to go for it after a few years or if logging companies dont check the tree first and damage the sawblades cutting the cable :P

kutz (author)2011-07-03

Just go vanilla and tie the rope from a high branch, tarzan it up :P

Im not a mountain climber but I can agree about double safety lines and such

About the whole murdering trees buisness, the reason that the tree strangulates itself when you put the cable around it is because the tree gets nutrients through the inner bark and the core, and you basically cut off its supply above the cable, same thing will happen if you cut a deep ring around the bottom.

Assuming that this is going to be a permanant zipline, you probably want to use an old tire or two the stop it from killing the tree quickly (like under 20 years)

My friend has a fairly large one in his backyard and he didnt do any of the above suggestions with safety gear or tree health, and he hasnt had a problem for over half his life :3

romac (author)2008-09-04

tying ropes or strapping around trees is not advisable you can actually kill a tree this way the life-line of the entire tree is the few layers of soft living tissue just beneath the bark if the zip-line is used much you can rub off all the outer bark, and even rub right through the inner bark - killing the tree or if the tree grows and something very tight and very strong is tied around it, it can strangle itself as it grows a much better alternative is to drill holes and insert lag bolts to mount something to, or use huge eyebolts

sk3lton (author)romac2011-04-16

actually strapping things to trees is fine just try not to use soft bark trees and if you do use a tree/line protector. I Slackline which requires strapping a line between 2 trees. Surely drilling into the tree is going to be more harmful than tying something around it.

BobMarleyFan (author)sk3lton2011-06-15

Contrary to popular belief, drilling into a tree isn't that harmful. The tree will just grow around anything inside of it and continue on

sk3lton (author)BobMarleyFan2011-06-19

to be fair now that i think about it there is a tree round the corner from me and it has a 3 inch pole going right through it and it is still very much alive (this pole has been going all the way through the tree as long as i can remember - at least 10years)

romac (author)sk3lton2011-04-16

it depends on many things - the most important issue is how tight is the strap, how wide the strap is, how much friction is caused by the strap, and how long it's left on the tree - most people making a zip-line will normally want to leave it up for a long while if not years, and in those cases it's pretty important imo to try to avoid killing the tree.

the image below of the tow-strap being used looks fine and dandy to me

anyway it's a good issue to bring up so that people at least consider it

sk3lton (author)romac2011-04-18

That's a fair shout I'm strapping 2inch webbing to a tree and it is very tight but it is only attatched to the tree for a max of 5 hours at a time so not much damage to be done to our beloved trees. if i was to leave my line up for a long time then i would get tree protectors for my line.

fight4gipper1 (author)sk3lton2011-04-29

Ya, sk3lton is right. If anything, the trees will start to grow over the rope.

passerby06 (author)romac2009-11-12

Being 58 years old, having spent most of my life (so far ) around trees and in the woods, and having built more than a few ziplines in my day, I can assert that screwing lag bolts or eyebolts into the tree is much less damaging to the tree than putting a strap around it.  A (permanent) strap around the tree will, in time, strangle it, but an eye or lag bolt is a relatively small puncture wound that will scar over and seal around the fixture in a short time.  A healthy tree will not suffer any great or permanent damage from it.
However, if you're just setting up a temporary zipline (like for the day or weekend, not a week or more), a strap is probably OK.  As mentioned elsewhere, tho', use a strap where both ends are secured to each other, away from the tree.  Not a "noose" where one end is slipped through a knot or loop at the other end and cinched tight against the tree.  The potential is much greater for real damage to the tree, and likely will make it more difficult to take it all down when you're done with it.

jtpoutdoor (author)romac2009-05-29

so that the tree gets infected with bacteria and fungus

bedbugg2 (author)romac2009-04-26

drill holes in the tree?

lane29 (author)2010-03-06

fudge saftey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ilpug (author)lane292010-06-21

thats ironic. your profile picture is a safety notice.

dragonsniper (author)ilpug2011-03-27


ilpug (author)2010-06-21

i have been on several home made ziplines. one was about 200 feet long, and used steel cable somewhere in the range of 3/4 inch. it was between two trees above a pond. you would go out, and lose momentum in the middle, where you would simply drop into the water (about fifteen feet). its great fun.

julian_blnc (author)2010-05-11

me and my buddy would use 3/8 rope that we would tie around the oak trees. We used a  rope rachet sold at home depot  and a pulley with a rope handing to a 2 by 4 seat. Didnt hurt the bark but we took it down each time.

hifatpeople (author)2010-03-20

if you had four trees in a square then you could string four cables around all corners and put deer stands in them.  Have one high and zip to the other deer stand, which zips to a lower one, which goes to an even lower one, and then it brings you to the bottom of the first ladder. 

lane29 (author)2010-03-06

y not use a swiss seat instead of the harness

CameronC (author)2009-05-27

1) whats the winch thing for 2) why do you use a yoke and not just another tree 3) make it over a swimming pool (so that it finishes there) then have a stick or thick dowel that you hold onto and drop off at the end into the pool make sure you can hold on well and that its not overly high also make sure that your pool is deep enough i acept no responsibility for missing limbs etc :P

jtpoutdoor (author)CameronC2009-05-29

I think the idea of the yoke is as a brake so you run the pulley along the main line and it stops at the yoke. it's difficult to tell as the instructions aren't that good. The problem is that if you overtension the system you could end up with the rope failing.... A proper zipline should have a second rope for safety or use steel cable (overtension this and have it snap on you and it will take your head off!)

thecheatscalc (author)jtpoutdoor2009-09-27

fortunately, the chances of snapping steel cable (moderate gauge) is next to zero! That is if you're tightening it by hand. You just can't humanly generate enough force to do it. A power winch... well maybe. I'd definitely suggest steel instead of a rope. The rope will weaken and fail if left in the elements. Also, don't get the cable super tight, and tie it between two trees, not three. Why? If you set the geometry up right, when you get close the the second tree, you will hit the 'sag' in the rope and slow down safely. No brake needed! (we had a zipline in our backyard for a while. it was about 200ft long, between two trees, and had a drop of about 15ft. However, it's nearly impossible to get that cable tight enough that high up, so you would slow down to a perfect speed to kick off the tree when you got there.

brokengun (author)thecheatscalc2009-09-27

thecheatscalc: You are probably right about just one or even two people pulling on it. However my friends tried to put up a zipline and got a bunch of kids to yank on it.... well it snapped and luckily no one was seriously hurt although some kids got little shards of cable in their arms and hands. Really the moral of the story is, be careful. Despite the fact that cable is rated for a certain strength, stressing it in certain ways can multiply the strain on the cable and cause an unsafe situation. It's also a good idea to not have the cable completely straight with a person on it. Giving a little bit of slack will take some tension off the cable and add a small margin of safety.

thecheatscalc (author)brokengun2009-09-27

what gauge cable was it? Ours was was around 3/8" if I remember correctly... Now that I think of it, you could probably snap the smaller cables by hand if you're not careful. In our situation, the cable was rated to ~10,000lbs, or 5 tons. (if it was 3/8 that is, I distinctly remember it being thick)

brokengun (author)thecheatscalc2009-09-27

I believe the one that snapped was around 1/4 inch... I'm not sure (as the cable wasn't mine) but it was in good condition too when it broke.

CameronC (author)brokengun2009-11-15

So I set up a zipline in my garden (Summer boredom).

Basically, an 8mm woven spinakker rope (Free ^^ from a friend), a £10 pulley (380kg rated), and 12mm poly rope.

The spinakker rope has the pulley on it, and it between 2 trees, tightened with 50kg of lead, and tied to an old railway sleeper 3ft underground, after going over a thick branch 10ft up.

The poly rope is tied around the main line 2m from the end, then to a tree slightly to the side, and behind of the run.

I use a webbing strap and a thick dowel as a harness (Hopefully you can see how that will work)

Firstly, does this sound safe (It's not very high anyway...)?

Secondly, is this what you would call a yoke?

thecheatscalc (author)CameronC2009-11-16

The pulley is fine, the 8mm rope I'm a bit worried about. It's a LOT of tension it'll be under in the middle of the ride. Say it's tight and is at an angle of 20 degrees in the middle of the ride with the weight on it. There's going to be a significant amount of tension, (much greater then just hanging!) AND the tension keeping the rope taunt. That usually why steel cable is used.

Also, I'd worry about the sun damaging the rope. If it sits outside for a little bit, it'll be destroyed pretty quick.

jtpoutdoor (author)thecheatscalc2009-11-16

The more you tension the rope the more force will be exerted on it not just along it's length but with the downwards pull from your weight as well. This weight can run into many tons of force for a normal sized person. In fact the tension  is greatest at the ends of the line as it is not shared evenly along the rope (check out the web there is a site relating to crane hoists and stropping which gives you calculation for this type of thing).
The other problem is what you are anchoring it all to at the ends as they are subjected to the same forces.
Whatever the pulley is attached to needs to be strong enough to take twice the force that is being exerted on it as the pulley is effectively doubling you pull strength.
There's a reason why you use a second line as a safety- it's in case the first one breaks!
There's also a reason why you back up your anchors as well- it's the same reason as above.

brokengun (author)CameronC2009-11-16

 I would agree with thecheatsclac on this. There is a whole lot of tension on that rope more than you would intuitively realize. 

I think the tighter you pull the rope, the less weight you can support on the pulley as well... I'm not sure though. 

Either way, I would suggest over estimating by a lot with the rope size just to be safe. You want to have fun on a zip-line not worry if it's going to give out on you. 

ronmaggi (author)thecheatscalc2009-10-02

I once snapped a come along while tightening it by hand. So, yes, it is possible to snap steel cable.

BOOM5601 (author)CameronC2009-09-27

You would smash face-first into an unforgiving tree if you used one instead of yoke.

Speedmite (author)CameronC2009-06-07

Winch.... HMMMMM.....Tightening the rope possibly???? And swimming pool thing would be dangerous, and who wants to get their equipment wet? Swinging rope seems to be what you want.

climbhard (author)2009-10-18

 I also rock climb and made ziplines before with the same material. Being a little bit experienced  I would suggest getting a daisy chain or  sling to keep you away from the rope since with out it you would be way to close to the line and could get you fingers caught. At the end of the rope you should take excess slake and wrape the rope tightly around the line with a foot of distance between the end of the line and where you wrap the rope. When you hit the end you the pulley will compress the knot and dampen the fall

ilpug (author)2009-10-04

i would like to point out that the guy in the captain zipline picture is HOLDING ONTO THE STEEL CABLE!!!! never do this, because you can burn, break, or remove your fingers by doing this. I have had plenty of fun on ziplines that you hold onto a rope for.... the harness is extra money. Alos, you don;t need two ropes, one rope between two trees is actually safer...

Skyfinity (author)ilpug2009-10-05

I went Zipline-ing over a rainforest in Costa Rica a few years ago. They were obviously much more serious than the average backyard zipline, spanning an entire valley thousands of feet above the ground, but each person had on a harness and a pair of leather gloves, so that you could hold on to the rope to steady yourself if you lost all momentum and climb to the next tower. Although Captain Zipline is the supreme ruler of all things zippy, I'm pretty sure he is just showing of his extreme-zipline-ing garb.

stncilr (author)2009-10-03

I don't think this guy ever built a zipline since there are no pictures. Therefore I would never try to build this project relying on the instructable since it is just based on theory. Things like this are very dangerous and could fatally injure anyone attempting to ride on it.

geekazoid (author)2009-09-28

Very nice. Just one thing. I'm pretty sure it's "an awesome", not "a awesome". Do correct me if I am wrong.

jongscx (author)2009-09-28

Also, make sure you use properly rated climbing equipment for this... They make ropes that all look similar and carabiners that can't support any weight. Check all load ratings, etc. on your stuff, or better yet, get someone who knows what they're doing to do so for you/help you.

Marsh (author)2009-09-27

I would definitely use cable for this and add a garage door spring to the starting end to absorb the sudden impact of when you hit the finish. Also, you left out the fact that you need a few feet of distance between you and the pulley so you don't touch the passing zip line. Sounds daring and fun, but it needs a few safety features. The sudden stop at the end would be considered a "fall" in climbers jargon and the equipment you describe is only designed for so many falls before it should be removed from service. The number is quite low. Once or twice for rope. Possibly as few as ten times for a harness. Find a way to eliminate the sudden stop. Wear a helmet, gloves and safety glasses too. Consider full body armor.

CathoHolic (author)2009-09-26

should warn that the clip on harness that you can buy for cheap is very dangerous to use for heavy weight uses

Z.. (author)2009-09-26

In the spirit of 'be nice'...., I like your tree house! Thank-you for your innovation. I guess there are some valid tips here...

aceLED (author)2009-09-26

made one between 2 trees once using a pvc pipe and some rope it was godly i got way to much speed and rammed into a tree so do urself a favour pad were ever ur going towards or find a way to make some bbreaks like the pros do ;p

Tinker_001 (author)2008-09-13

A greener way to protect the tree would be to use a two or three inch wide nylon tow strap like the ones 4 wheel/off road drivers use. This way the cable does not cut into the bark.

jtpoutdoor (author)Tinker_0012009-05-29

photo 2 extremely dangerous and likely to fail due to stresses on the strop

mman1506 (author)2009-01-01

in my zipline instructable i used a rope strap and it so tight its unlikely to break the bark its also safer and produces less shock to the tree

SirSkobes (author)2008-11-06

This instructable would be much more helpful if you described what knots you used to rig up your system, and how you used them. Pictures are also helpful. It might even be nice to see a video of the zipline in action.

explosivemaker (author)2008-08-06

......please get yourself a camera....or mooch one from somebody.....

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