How to Set Up a Slackline: Ratchet System

A good quality ratchet (notice the doubled up cog plates) with spacers to accept  1’’ webbing.

A good quality ratchet (notice the doubled up cog plates) with spacers to accept  1’’ webbing.

Ratchet tensioning systems are slightly faster to set up, but more limited when it comes to webbing selection. Concepts such as static and tension side anchors are the same at with the primitive system. Common ratchet slackline systems require you to build the system by girth hitching both the ratchet side anchor and webbing to the trees/anchor points you’ve selected. To do this, pass the end (either the ratchet or walking webbing) through the stitched loop. Once all the webbing is passed through the loop, pinch the webbing in half where it makes contact with the sewn loop. This will keep the slackline flat once under tension. Also make sure that the ratchet lever is facing down, so its weight does not twist the line and the lever is out of the way.

It’s important to pinch the webbing at the girth hitch otherwise the slackline will not lay flat.

It’s important to pinch the webbing at the girth hitch otherwise the slackline will not lay flat.

Once the ratchet and walking webbing are connected to the anchors you can then connect the two and start applying tension. To make the connection, pass the end of the walking webbing through the ratchet and pull the webbing tight by hand. There can be slight variation between styles of ratchets, so make sure you’re loading the webbing into the ratchet correctly. Before you start cranking tension, verify that everything is straight and there is no opportunity for binding or pinching of the webbing. When done tensioning, it is important to lock the ratchet by closing it all the way. Visually verify that the ratchet lever has fully locked closed, and give the handle a good shake to make sure things are staying in place.

You can also choose to pad the ratchet with something soft if having a big metal ratchet in slackline is a little disconcerting. Some companies make sleeves for this purpose. A towel or shirt and some tape also does the trick.

Unlocked ratchet lever (left); Locked ratchet lever (right).

Unlocked ratchet lever (left); Locked ratchet lever (right).

You might also run into kits that use round slings and shackles for the anchoring material and hardware. These types of systems are designed for performance and are standard for hard core tricklining. These are anchored in a manner that resembles the primitive system but with stronger gear. It can be nice to upgrade a basic girth hitch kit to slings and shackles because more of the walking webbing can be utilized.

Using a spanset (large sling) and shackle to make the static side anchor. This is a good way to get a little extra length out of your ratchet system.

Using a spanset (large sling) and shackle to make the static side anchor. This is a good way to get a little extra length out of your ratchet system.

To de-tension a ratchet simply unlock the ratchet by pulling out the lock release and rotate the lever all the way to the open position. Be aware that when the ratchet releases it can sometimes be startling and somewhat violent. Be sure to keep fingers and hair away from the internal components of the ratchet. This is especially true at high tension. Other options exist to de-tension the ratchet and we will cover those methods in an upcoming article.