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All You Need to Know About Zip Line Cables

Posted on 24 May 2016

Most zip line cables are interchangeable, but which suits your needs? I'll break it down in this blog. The rule of thumb when buying zip line cables is the longer the cable line, the heavier the cable. When the rider is soaring down the line the cable must be heavy enough to support the load increase with the acceleration. The correct size of cable can be determined by other factors such as ice/weather exposure, rider weight, anticipated use. When buying zip line cables, I must also stress the importance of buying a quality product, remember, you will be putting your faith in this cable- sometimes it helps to pay a few extra dollars for peace of mind.

WARNING: Always buy cable that is designed especially for zip lines. Other cables may fray, create friction, or even break.


First, let's look at cable lengths.

For a 100' zip line you're going to need at least a 3/16" cable, anything beyond 100' will need a stronger cable because it will not be able to support the live load.

All professional Zip Lines and those longer than 200' use 1/2" cables, all professional cable lines use this as well.

For Example: If you were to assemble a 70' zip line cable in your backyard between two trees you would want to buy a cable that is 3/16" in diameter.

If you were assembling a 300' zip line over top of a canyon you would need at least a 1/2" cable, anything less and you would increase your chances of the cable snapping under tension.

One cable that you absolutely want to avoid  is rubber or plastic coated cable wire. This can cause the line to get too hot and create friction which slows the ride and tears at the bearing of the trolley as well as the cable itself. In the worst case scenario it could heat the cable to a snapping point and injure the rider.

One helpful website that will help determine which cable is right for you is: Rigging.net They offer all of the measurements, load capacity, and how to tell if your cable is wearing prematurely. I have included an excerpt from their website below. 

7 X 19
Aircraft Cable
6 X 19
Aircraft Cable
Size W.L.L
Max load
Weight per
100 Ft
Size W.L.L
Max load
3/16 840 lb 4200 lb 6.5 lb 3/16    
1/4" 1400 lbs 7000 lbs 11 lbs 1/4" 1060 lbs 5300 lbs
5/16" 1960 lbs 9800 lbs 17.30 lbs 5/16" 1640 lbs 8200 lbs
3/8" 2880 lbs 14400 lbs 24.30 lbs 3/8" 2360 lbs 11800 lbs
1/2" 4560 lbs 22800 lbs 45.80 lbs 1/2" 4120 lbs 20600 lbs
5/8" 7000 lbs 35000 lbs 71.50 lbs 5/8" 6440 lbs 32200 lbs





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