Comparison of Basic Slacklines

Each tensioning system has its advantages and drawbacks, and every slackliner will have their own personal preference. In this article we will compare the systems in regards to their rigging practices.

To start, we can confidently say the ratchet is the easiest to set up. Girth hitch connections and the simple lever-action of the ratchet makes it so anyone can understand this system within minutes. The mechanical advantage system within the primitive tensioning system is slightly more complex. It takes some memorization in order to fully understand the system, but once mastered, can be applied to more situations than just a slackline. It’s definitely a skill you should master if slacklining is your thing.

Some fun at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon.

Some fun at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon.

With that said, there is more to look at than ease and simplicity of rigging. With a ratchet system, as soon as the ratchet spool fills up, it cannot be cranked further because the ratchet can jam up and cut the slackline webbing while derigging. This limits the potential length of your slackline. On the other hand, a primitive system has no limiting factor with regards to webbing length, leaving the doors open for longer lines.

Tension is the final factor when it comes to comparing the two systems. Ratchet systems are great for high tension, shorter lines. That’s why they’re commonly used for tricklining and beginner systems. On the other hand, getting high tension on a primitive system is much more difficult. The friction inherent in the system is the limiting factor in how tight you can get the slackline. There are tricks to increase your pulling power and we’ll address them in upcoming articles.

Primitive systems

  • Beginner slackline with 1” webbing, high stretch or low stretch
  • Surfing slacklines; high tension is not needed to surf
  • Bouncing and bounce-walking where your feet do not necessarily leave the webbing
  • Slackline yoga
  • Slackline cross training for other athletic activities
  • Ankle and knee rehab (in a safe environment) 

Ratchet Systems

  • Beginner slackline with 1” or 2” webbing; low stretch webbing only
  • Beginner tricklines on 2” webbing
  • Advanced tricklines on 2” webbing
  • Slackline cross training for other athletic activities
  • Ankle and knee rehab (in a safe environment)
 
Derrick Peppers holding a static pose.

Derrick Peppers holding a static pose.