How to Build A Zip Line

kerrianne rudderow

Posted on March 23 2018

How to Build A Zip Line

Whether you're looking to build a backyard zip line from yourself or you're thinking about buying a kit you first need to understand the basics. First and foremost you must decide how long you want your zip line to be, you'll need two sturdy anchors to accomplish this. (Most zip lines range between 100 to 200 feet.) Next you'll need to determine how much work you want to put in - DIY kits will allow you to more easily customize your zip line. You can choose your own trolley, length, and seat/harness. Complete zip line kits offer a similar flexibility, but many people tend to get nervous because the kits offer a fixed length - don't worry! If you have more than you need you can either wrap it around your anchor or cut it. Also, ALL of our zip line kits include 12 feet of additional cable to allow you an extra 6 feet of cable to wrap on either side of the zip line. To check out our kits look here:

Zip Line Cable Elevation and Slope


It is recommended that the zip line has at least 7-foot clearance over the entirety of the zip line terrain.

The recommended height difference between the beginning and ending of a zip line (the anchors) is a 6% decline of the zip line’s total length. 
An example of this is: A 100 foot zip line will have a total of 6 feet in height difference and a 200 foot zip line will have a an approximate 12 foot height difference.
Starting with the first anchor, look through a sight level, holding it steady and focusing it on the ending anchor. When the sight bubble aligns with the center line in the sight, have helper mark the level point on the end anchor.

Use this formula: Subtract (A) the height of the sight level off the ground from (B) the height of the end anchor’s point off the ground to find (C) the elevation change of the ground. B-A=C

You can now factor in the elevation change to calculate beginning and end anchor heights. To measure the distance between trees you can utilize a measuring wheel.

Zip Line Cable Sag

When a zip line is properly hung it will never be guitar string tight, there will be a natural sag that develops which positively contributes to the acceleration of the rider down the zip line.

When testing the cable with a weight it should sag below the end anchor, and approximately 2% of the zip line’s total length. (don't worry it doesn't have to be perfect.)

The zip line cable should also have a 7 foot ground clearance as well.

Example: For a 100 foot zip line, the end of the cable would anchor 2 foot higher than the lowest point of the cable when a test weight is on the line. The minimum height on the ending anchor would be 9 foot to accommodate 7 foot ground clearance. 

To purchase zip line cable check out:

DIY Zip Line Cable Kit


Treeszip lines

All tree anchors must be at least 12” thick in diameter. Only healthy, sturdy trees are suitable as anchors. Never attach cable to trees with excessive decay, cracks, exposed roots, diseases, excessive lean, lightning damage or poor tree architecture.

Poleszip line pole anchor

Free-standing poles (without guy-wires) must be 12” diameter, minimum. Poles must be sunk into ground at least 4’ or 2’ plus 10% of the pole’s height, whichever is greater.


backyard zip lines


Eyebolts that are used to terminate a zip line to a pole or tree must penetrate the anchor entirely in order to be secured with a washer and nut.


Bolted Trolleys

If the trolley does not mount freely on the cable, be sure to thread the cable through the trolley before terminating the zip line to the anchor. 

Otherwise, the trolley wheels can be un-bolted to allow the trolley to assemble onto the cable. 


Cable Tension

If you are using a cable sling:

Wrap Cable Sling around Anchor. Pull up to designated height, create loop at open end of Cable Sling and adjust so loops of Sling meet at a distance half of the anchor’s diameter.

cable sling

Clamp end of Cable Sling into small loop using Three Cable Clamps. Clamps should be spaced 1 to 2 inches apart and tightened with a wrench moderately past snug (≈30ft. lbs.)

If the cable is too difficult to tension a cable by hand, hitch the loop to a vehicle or winch. A cable tensioning kit and cable grab combination is most practical, requiring no cable loop.

Cable Clamps

U-bolt portion of clamps should press against dead end of cable. Space clamps 1-2 inches apart.
Tighten clamps with a torque wrench to “moderately past snug” Approximately 30 foot per pound. Buy Cable Clamps.


Turnbuckles are used to adjust cable tension. While major adjustments require a winch and cable grab, the turnbuckles are useful for fine tuning.Turn the buckle to screw the shafts in or out. This often requires a bar or wrench, slid into the buckle, to leverage the rotation. Buy Turnbuckles

Turnbuckles are an essential component of most zip lines. Turnbuckles are primarily useful in adjusting zip line tension once your zip line is operational and the cable stretches from use. 

It is recommended in the zip line industry to back up every turnbuckle with a cable and clamps.

Note: Turnbuckles extend the start of the zip line ride even further from the tree, so if your platform is too small, you may not have the space to safely mount on the cable.

Riding Gear

Do not under any circumstances use chain link carabiners, only link attachments directly to trolley. Multiple carabiners can link to trolley. Do not put more than one attachment in a carabiner.

For any life support connections, (where the link is bearing the rider's weight) use a locking carabiner.


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