All About Zip Lines

Choosing a zip line can seem like a daunting task, but rest assured it doesn’t have to be. In this article we’ll offer suggestions to help you choose a site for your zip line, and then discuss the different types of kits and the various components. Making the right choice should result in years of zip lining enjoyment.


Things to think about prior to selecting a kit:

  • Where will I mount my zip line?
    • Tree to Tree – This is the most common and perhaps easiest method.  Just make sure your trees are large enough (12” diameter minimum) and healthy enough.  Contact your local arborist if you have any doubts about your tree selection.  Do not attach to limbs or branches other than a central trunk.
    • Between Structures – We recommend consulting an engineer for this method since a typical zip line can apply 800 to 3,000 pounds of horizontal force to an anchor point when loaded!
    • Ground Mount – Posts, concrete footings, or other in-ground anchoring points are typically used, but they may require an engineer’s design to ensure proper support.
  • Is there a clear pathway between your starting and ending points?
    • Trees might need to be trimmed or possibly removed to have a clear path.
    • Check for any overhead lines from electric, cable, or any other service companies that pose a danger.
    • The pathway must be located where individuals will NOT be walking and could be struck or injured.
  • Is there sufficient slope to make the zip line workable?
    • As a rule of thumb, zip lines require a 6% drop for every 100’ of distance.  Example: If your zip line is 100’ long and your takeoff point is 15’ off the ground, the termination point should be roughly 9’ off the ground. Keep in mind this assumes a perfectly flat and level yard.  If your yard slopes, then you will have to do some trial and error to get your zip line working correctly.  This includes raising and lowering each end of the zip line and testing the line until it is performing correctly.
  • How will you access the takeoff and termination points of the zip line?
    • You can build a takeoff platform.
    • You can use steps or a ladder.
  • What is the age levels of the riders?
    • Set up your zip line so that all ages can easily and safely use the zip line and make them feel independent.  You want to avoid feeling like it is a chore each time the zip line is in use.
  • What are the logistics of installing the zip line?
    • You might need help from friends.
    • You will need ladders, a portable lift, or in some cases, be required to harness up and do some climbing depending on the height and slope of your zip line.


Once you have your site and answered the questions above, we can start to look at choosing a zip line kit and the differences between them. We’ve all heard the saying “You get what you pay for…etc.” and this certainly holds true with zip lines. Not all kits are created equally so stay away from cheap plastic parts, thinly stamped metal pieces, and undersized plastic-coated cable. While their lower price tags may seem appealing, the risk of something breaking while you are zooming along at 25 to 30 mph high above the ground is not. Don’t be fooled! Purchase a high-quality zip line kit! In the end you will have peace of mind and the kids will have years of enjoyment. A good quality kit should also include everything you need to install the kit. A good kit will come with cable, slings to wrap around the tree, a trolley, a harness, a lanyard, a braking system, a turnbuckle, all other connecting hardware, and a set of instructions. We’ll use our Chetco and Rogue Zip Line Kits for the purpose of this blog so click on any link below to see more information.

Selecting a kit:

  • What length of kit should I choose?
    • This decision is going to be driven by your site or the trees/connection points available, however, the average length of kits we see purchased is between 150 to 300’.  You can use a simple string line, stretch it between two points (your connection points), and then lay the string on the ground where you can use a tape measure to get your length. Most kits provide an extra 10 to 15’ or cable to allow for connecting hardware.
  • What kit and trolley style should I choose?
    • Chetco Fixed Trolley Kit 
      This type is installed on the zip line during installation and stays on the cable all the time. Fixed trolley kits are typically only used for installations up to 200’ long because they require the riders to run the trolley back to the start using a leader rope connected to the trolley. This can be time consuming for longer zip lines or not practical if the zip line goes over water or another obstacle. Kits offered include a basic kit, a kit with one set of riding gear, or the deluxe kit with two sets of riding gear.
        •   Rogue Quick Detach Trolley Kit 
          This trolley type is placed on the cable when a rider is preparing to launch.  When the rider clips into the hole on the bottom of the trolley, it locks it on the line, so it can’t come off during operation.  When the rider gets to the end, they unclip, and the trolley can easily be removed from the line. The other benefit of this trolley style is that it can be walked back to the starting point and handed to the next rider, or you can buy multiple trolleys to reduce wait time for other riders.  They can simply take off after the previous rider has disconnected from the line. Kits offered in this style are a regular kit with one set of riding gear, and the deluxe with two sets.

      Other items to consider:

      • Zip line tensioning kit These are especially useful for longer kits where manually pulling the cable would be difficult, and they also hold the cables in place while you make final connections.
        • New cable also tends to stretch in the first few months, so you may need  disconnect and adjust the line.
        • Most tensioning kits are rentals and can be returned up to 1 year after purchase.
      • Seats, additional trolleys, helmets, harnesses, and handlebars are also popular add-ons.


      Whatever kit you choose, just remember to be safe, have fun, and email us if you have any questions or concerns.

      Happy zip lining!

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