Disclaimer – You highline at your own risk
One thing first: Highlining is a potentially dangerous sport. Accidents don’t happen too often, but if a mistake is made when setting up the highline, it can be fatal in the worst case. The tips you will find here on how to rig a highline are not enough to enable you to set up a highline on your own. We clearly recommend that you join an experienced person at the beginning to learn the necessary skills. If you do not have the opportunity to do this, we recommend attending a highline course.
We have 3 Slacktivity athletes giving amazing highline courses which will either be an unforgettable adventure for you or a start into a new sport and lifestyle.
- In France, Gaelle Joubert is giving French and English highline workshops. You can find more information here.
- In Germany, Lukas Irmler teaches highline courses in German, you can register here.
- In Switzerland, Samuel Volery is holding German and English Workshops, find more infos here.
We were aware that if we bring out some manual, it needed to be close to perfect so that everybody willing to learn from it, was guided into the right direction and not put into any danger. In the following document you can find one example, how a highline can be rigged. Nevertheless, we clearly have to state that you always rig your highlines at your own risk and we cannot take responsibility for any of your actions.
All the information in the following document is only a recommendation from SLACKTIVITY (Slackline-Gear-Manufacturer). This is not an official guideline on how to rig a highline. Every highline anchor point looks different.
Making an anchor point cannot be learned from that document only but from courses and with experience.
SLACKTIVITY is not responsible for misuse or accidents caused by these recommendations.
Human flaws are the biggest risk
This said, we also want to point out one more time that Human Flaws (and not gear failure) are the biggest risk in highlining. Because of this, both anchor points must be carefully checked by at least two competent people before the highline setup is complete and can be accessed by people. Do a partner check at each and every highline run!!! Also: It is highly recommended to be clipped in while tying the knot of the leash. The way to the highline is often more dangerous than the highline action itself.
On the following link you can find accident reports from the International Slackline Association: ISA Accident Reports
If all safety precautions are followed, highlining is a very safe and healthy sport.
How to Rig a Highline: the necessary gear
In principle, only material certified by the ISA (International Slackline Association) for highline applications should be used. You can find a list here. Currently (as of 2022) there are certified slackline webbings, leashes and weblocks. In the future, it should also be possible to certify slings and connectors (e.g. shackles).
In total, you need at least:
Most used slackline webbings in highlines
An absolute classic and the most used highline webbing worldwide is the pinkTube. This webbing is extremely dynamic, which allows for very soft falls. This webbing is often used for highline freestyle on a length of 50-90m. For highline beginners, lengths of 25m-50m are more suitable.
Possibly the safest highline webbing of all is the redTube. It has an extremely high breaking load and is nevertheless extremely dynamic. The dynamics (stretch) of the slackline is extremely important for safety on the highline! The higher the elongation, the lower the forces during a fall. This applies to the body, the leash, the anchor points and the webbing. Therefore, the dynamics of the slackline are at least as decisive for safety as the absolute breaking load.
Width of the slackline
The standard width is 25mm. This width feels good under the foot. Many parts such as Weblocks, LineGrip, HangOver, etc. are designed for this width of slackline. Very rarely, narrower webbings are also used – but at the beginning, a width of 25-27mm is clearly the right choice.
Material of the slackline
For short highlines of 20-50 metres length, nylon / polyamide is the only right choice due to its high elongation. For lengths of 50 metres and more, polyester can also be used. Polyester has approx. 3x less stretch than polyamide.
Only for really long highline lengths of 150m+ should high-tech materials such as Dyneema be used. Also, such high-tech tapes as the Y2K should only be used by experienced highliners. If a Dyneema highline is extended with a nylon tape, it can also be used for shorter distances – this is sometimes done to set up 100m+ highlines for shows that are easy to walk and freestyle on.
An “intermittent connection” is a physical connection between the mainline and the backup. In the unlikely event of a mainline failure, such a connection leads to a milder outcome:
- Lower forces on the anchor points
- Lower forces on the body
- Lower fall height
For these reasons, we clearly recommend always using a slackline with an intermittent connection for highlining!
In the video you can find tests where we cut the mainline while one person stood on the highline! Of course only with an Intermittent Connection…
How to rig a highline: Weblocks
Highlines are attached with a weblock. These devices allow the webbing to be tensioned with a webbing pulley (called Buckingham-System or HangOver-Pulley). More about this below. The seaHorse is the weblock from Slacktivity. This device is extremely robust and versatile.
Weblocks must ALWAYS be fitted with an anti-slip knot (see video) and secured back when highlining. Failure to do so is life threatening.
If the highline has sewn end loops, it makes sense to use these to anchor the highline. Sewn end loops have the advantage of being very simple to use and therefore less prone to human error. However, a sewn end loop should also be backed up with a backup loop. The redTube, LSDTube and pinkTube all have sewn end loops WITH a backup loop.
A leash is used to secure the highliner. The leash is attached to the highline (both mainline and backup) with closed rings. The leash must be hooked into the highline before the line is anchored and tensioned. Under no circumstances should carabiners be used instead of closed leash rings! A leash rope is basically a climbing rope covered with a tubular webbing. This has the advantage that you can grip the leash much better and thus climb up it more easily. In addition, the rope is better protected from abrasion and UV light.
Important to know: A fall is mainly cushioned by the dynamics of the highline and not by the leash. This is why a leash fall is not a factor 2 fall, as was wrongly assumed in the past. Therefore, the leash does not have to be replaced after 5 falls. We recommend replacement after 365 days of use.
In the past, ropes were often used as a backup. A few highline dinosaurs still use ropes today. Most highliners nowadays, however, use backup webbings when setting up highlines. These have the advantage of being flat. When the backup is wrapped around the main, you can still walk over it without your foot slipping off. Especially for highline freestyle, backup slacklines are the only right choice.
At the moment, weblocks or knots are mostly used to anchor the backup. Knots lead to a higher breaking load reduction compared to weblocks. Weblocks, on the other hand, mean another cost point and the danger of having misaligned webbing in the backup-weblock. Currently (as of 2022), there is no official recommendation as to whether weblocks or knots should be used for backups. It is important that the breaking load is not too low. A list of knots and their breaking loads with different slackline-webbings can be found here. A comparison of differently tied figure-8 knots in different Slacktivity webbings can be found here.
In contrast to anchoring the mainline, it is OK to connect the backup with carabiners as there is no repetitive force loading on backups. However, to avoid mistakes, we advise against this and always recommend using shackles.
How to rig a highline: anchoring
Highlines can be anchored to trees, rocks or buildings. It is important that the anchor point can withstand the forces of the Highline with sufficient safety margin. We recommend that the anchor point holds at least 30kN (= 3 tons) – preferably even more.
Anchoring a highline on trees
Large, healthy and well-rooted trees are excellent anchor points for setting up a highline. The lower the highline is attached to the tree, the smaller the momentum.
The highline can be attached to the tree with adjustable tree slings or with round slings / spansets. For redundancy, two slings must be used. The mainline is attached to one sling. The backup of the main line as well as the backup line is attached to the other sling. This can also be done with a master point.
Of course, a tree protection should also be used when highlining.
Highline Anchoring on rock
As recognising the rock quality requires a lot of experience, we will not go into details here. Depending on the rock quality, at least 2 – but often more – bolts should be connected with an equalizing anchor to fix the mainline. More anchor points are needed for the backup. In the pdf-document you can find a possible example of an anchor point on the rock. The round slings are attached to the bolts with quicklinks.
Depending on the position of the anchor points, you may also need redirections. To protect slings from abrasion, protective materials such as the LineSlider are recommended.
Master Point Rigging
The official ISA recommendation to rig highlines is to do it with a Master Point. This means that the two spansets get connected with a Master Point to the following:
- Main Line
- Backup of the Main Line
- Backup Line
How to get the highline accross
Connecting the two anchor points can be very easy or difficult, depending on the terrain. Often this is done with a tagline (a 2-5mm thin rope) to then pull the highline across.
To bring the tagline to the other side of the valley, a drone is often used nowadays. You can see how this is done in the video beside.
What is highline freestyle?
Highline Freesyle is a highline variation in which the rider performs dynamic tricks and combos on the line.
Do i need specific gear for highlining?
Yes, you do need specific gear and you should pick only gear certified by ISA – International Slackline Association. Check out our webbings, weblocks and leashs certified by ISA.
Is highline safe?
As long you use proper gear, as long as all safety rules are followed on the rigging process and on setup maintenance, it is a safe sport. It is also a healthy activity for your body.
What is highline freestyle?
Highline Freesyle is an highline variation in which the rider performs dynamic tricks and combos on the line.
Written by: Samuel Volery
SLACKTIVITY Slacklines co-founder, managing partner and team athlete, Samuel Volery olds multiple highline world records (1900m – September 2019) and has a spectacular and versatile style when performing highline-shows.