A slackline for kids (and adults, too) can help improve core strength, balance and make many hours of fun play in your backyard. And the best part is that slacklines are pretty easy to set up in your backyard.
Below, we’ll walk you through setting up a DIY slackline for cheap.
Materials You Need
Here are the materials you need for the job:
- A two-inch wide 25-foot tie-down ratchet set
- Two tow-rope cables capable of holding at least 2,000 pounds
- Two solid trees in your backyard that are around 15 feet apart
- Towels or tree protectors
- Plastic rope
- Two five-inch heavy-duty screw-in stainless steel eye bolts
- Ratchet straps duffle bag or a weatherproof bag
Tools You Need
Setting up your DIY slackline requires a few tools, including:
- A hammer and nail
- A high-torque half-inch drill
- A ratchet or monkey wrench
- A 3-inch self-feeding bit
- Auger bit
Step-By-Step Process for Building a DIY Backyard Slackline
Now that you have the materials and tools ready, it’s time to put your backyard slackline together.
1. Choose the Right Pair of Trees
Pick two trees that are approximately 15 to 20 feet apart. The trees should not have low-hanging branches that may get in the way while on the line. Plus, a longer distance may make the rope swing back and forth in the middle and lower to the ground.
Make sure that the space between the trees has grass and is free of rocks or other objects. Each tree should be larger than 12 inches in diameter to avoid harming delicate or young trees.
2. Build the Anchors
Protect the trees from being stripped of their bark by the line. Do this by wrapping parts of the tree that come into contact with the tow-rope cables with padding. Excellent options for padding include old towels or tree protectors.
Position the padding very low to the ground so kids don’t get hurt if they fall off.
Wrap the first tow cable around the towels on the first tree. You may need to wrap the cable a few times around, depending on the diameter of the tree. Clip the two ends together and make sure the cable sits snugly on the towel or the tree protector. Repeat the same process on the other tree to create two anchor loops.
3. Set Up the Tie-Down Strap
Unravel one end of your tie-down strap and hook it up to one tree. Make sure the hook faces down so it doesn’t come undone while your kid is on it.
Take the strap with you while going over to the second anchor. Make sure the line does not get twisted.
Take the ratchet and hook it up to the other tree.
Now feed the other end of your slackline through the ratchet’s center and over the axle. Pull at it and tighten it.
Bring the ratchet’s handle to a parallel position. Push each ratchet closed until there’s a click and it locks tight. Make sure you lock the handle behind the safety latch while in use.
4. Install the Screw-In Stainless Steel Eye Bolts
Please note that drilling a screw into your tree will leave a wound. But you can avoid long-term, serious damage by doing the task right and on suitable trees.
To keep your trees as safe as possible:
- Choose stainless steel or any other rust-proof screws for the project.
- Don’t get hammer happy because the more holes you create, the more you stress the tree.
Plus, choose healthy, sturdy trees. When drilled with a screw or nail, healthy trees start the compartmentalization process. This means the tree naturally heals the area around the wound and protects the rest of the tree from potential infection.
Choose where you want to mount the bolt on the first tree. Ensure the bolt is at least your kids’ hand level position from the already installed tie-down strap and points in the same direction.
Hammer a nail into the point, then remove it, so there’s a visible hole.
Start making the hole for the bolt using the 3-inch drill bit. Hold depth depends on the size of the bolt. In our case, it’s three inches for a five-inch bolt.
Measure depth from the cambium and not the bark. Cambium is where the bark ends, and the heartwood starts. The bark is not strong enough to hold a bolt.
Make sure the hole is level, and use the auger bit to drill three inches into the tree. Keep your drill running as you pull it out to clear any debris.
Now fix the bolt. But measure the hold you’ve drilled to get the exact depth. This measurement lets you know when the bolt is all the way in.
Hand turn your bolt as far as you can into the hole. When you can’t turn it anymore, switch to the monkey wrench or ratchet.
Repeat this step for the other tree.
5. Connect Both Hooks Using Rope
A rope is a preferred method for letting your kids balance on the slackline. The rope also helps improve hand strength, coordination, upper body strength, and confidence.
Pass one end of your rope through the eye of the bolt on the first tree and make a sturdy knot. Pull the rope taut to the second tree and make the same knot in the second eyebolt. Ensure the rope can support your kid’s weight as they walk on the tie-down strap.
Congratulations, your slackline is all set up! It’s time your kid learns how to walk.
6. Remove and Store Your DIY Slackline
Once your kids have had a fun day on your DIY ratchet slackline, it’s time to remove your creation. Remove the hand rope first from the hooks. You can leave the hooks to reduce stress on the tree and encourage the compartmentalization process. Plus, you’ll have a place for your rope on another day.
Next, loosen the ratchet. Pull the middle handle back until it locks into the open position. Pull the middle handle further into a vertical position, release the tension, and the unit releases the strap entirely.
Roll up the strap to keep them organized in storage, so you won’t have to fight a tangled mess the next time you need it. Store the ratchet kit inside the duffel bag or weatherproof bag to prevent moisture and keep your set away from sunlight.
Unclip the two rope cables and unwrap them from around the tree. Coil the cables neatly and hold them in place with a rope caddy or strap to prevent uncoiling.
Clean all your ropes and cable, and hang them in the shade to dry before storage. Ground dirt can weaken the fibers of your ropes.
This knowledge will let you store your DIY slackline materials safely and effectively. Following these steps ensures your setup is ready for many more adventures.
Beginner Tips for Slacklining with Kids
Now your kids are ready to begin slacklining! However, here are a few things you and your kids should know to ensure slacklining is a fun and safe outdoor activity. For more tips, read our entire article on slackline safety.
There aren’t many rules you need to enforce because the activity is about experimenting and creativity. Let the kids have fun.
However, be strict about allowing only one person on the slackline. Two people on the line can cause it to double bounce. Further, slacklining barefoot offers the best grip on the line.
Practice Falling or Jumping Off and Getting Up
Help your kids focus on getting on and off the slackline. The top rope helps with getting on, but you can help your kid get started seated on the slackline with their back to one tree. Getting off is learning to jump to the side and letting go of the top rope.
Your kids will think this is fun, but it may take time before they get warmed up to it. We recommend kids practice jumping off both sides of the line, so they’re ready for anything.
Focus on a Point
It’s best to find something stationary to stare at while on the line. An excellent focal point is where the DIY slackline meets the tree, so you are looking over the line. It is tempting to stare down at your feet but don’t.
Setting up and taking down your DIY slackline is not a complex process.
There’s so much your kids can do on the slackline. They can balance in place, walk, sit, jump, and even do yoga poses. The more your kid experiments, the more they learn. Stand back and see what happens.
Do you want a slackline but don’t have trees in your yard? Check out our guide on how to set up a slackline without using a tree.