Introduction to Zip Lines from Tree HousesZip lines are great fun, but they can also be dangerous. Make sure that they are built properly, along with the tree houses that serve as the zip line launching platforms. There is a lot of variety in zip lines, and this post will serve as an introduction to the many choices out there.
Are Harnesses & Helmets Necessary?Life involves a lot of risks. Only you can decide which ones to accept for you, your kids, and your guests who will inevitably be using the zip lines and tree houses. That being said, some zip lines are less than 100 feet and the rider is never more than 7 feet off the ground. Most people on this style do not wear harnesses or helmets. But other zip lines are hundreds of feet long and start in tree houses that are 30' high, where a fall could be fatal. We strongly recommend requiring harness and helmet use in such cases as a precaution.
What about Grade?If the bottom tree is on significantly lower ground than the tree house, you have two choices: 1) raise the end cable, or 2) use a braking system. Raising the end cable to a higher point in the tree will slow the ride down and account for the grade difference. Braking systems are questionable because they can fail, especially when not properly installed and regularly inspected. In short, gravity stopping is safer, but using a brake allows the zip line to be faster.
How to get off the Zip LineZip lines are properly installed with a sagging cable to minimize tension when the zip line is loaded. As you jump from the tree house and proceed down the cable, you should install the zip line so that after you stop via gravity and/or braking system, you then coast back to a point that is not too high off the ground for an easy dismount. This typically stops about 60 to 80% of the way from the tree house to the bottom tree. Alternatively, in canopy tours, or zip lines that connect several tree houses, you will need a braking system that allows you to come to a stop at the far tree house without hitting the end tree at 30 mph or so, which really hurts you, although the tree will hardly notice it.
Be Careful...Zip Lines and Tree Houses are potentially difficult and/or dangerous to install. Please make sure that you use proper safety equipment while working on ropes or ladders, and please do adequate research to determine the proper sizes of cable and get professional grade hardware so that you don't have to worry, just have fun! Tree Top Builders is available to install zip lines and tree houses. We will also attempt to answer all zip line and tree house building questions posted to this blog as a service to built-it-yourselfers, so please ask away!