How do zip lines work? Things to know before the first ride!

Zip lining has been around for hundreds of years. It has never gone out of style. However, it has evolved with the times to become what it is today. It is now commonly associated with eco-tourism, vacation, and leisure.

This is a growing industry in many countries like the United States. In 2001, there were 10 commercial zip lines in the US. By 2012, the number rose to over 200.

Experts are talking about over 70 million rides every year. Globally, it attracts millions of people.

It has taken some work and dedication to get to this point. However, this looks like just the beginning of something much bigger. Zip lining is the right activity for a world that is yearning for more adventure through sports and tourism.

Despite being well anchored in the modern world, it is still a bit of a mystery for the bigger public. So, what is zip lining? How do zip lines work?

These two questions are still on the surface. However, if you want to dig a little deeper, there are a few others that do come to mind.

What does a good zip lining equipment list contain? What are the best zip lining tips for beginners?

Understanding zip lining means looking at those queries from various perspectives.

What is zip lining?

While it was not always the case, zip lining is mostly now a recreational activity where you can travel from point A to point B using a steel cable and a pulley.

The starting point is higher than where the ride ends. So, you need a line that is tied for the downslope.

This is a different way to focus on the scenery. Moreover, zip lining provides unique sensations that might not be suitable for everyone.

However, if going down a wire at a speed close to 100 miles per hour sounds exciting, zip lining is definitely for you. Interestingly, zip lining was not always about adventure. Moreover, in some corners of the world, it still serves other purposes.

In the not-so-distant past, it was used to bring food to people on the other side of a valley in Australia. In India and Bolivia, it still plays a role in agriculture, mainly to transport crops.

Zip lining is once again getting a lot of attention as a means of transport because it is environmentally friendly. A few countries are taking this path, but it is not clear that many more will follow suit.

After addressing what zip lining is, it would make sense to cover how zip lines work.

How do zip lines work?

Zip lines are intriguing because for them to work correctly, different elements must intervene. There is quite a bit of science behind the process.

First, gravity plays a key role in getting you from the high point to the lower one. There is not much you can do on the slope if there is no gravity. Without it, you would just stay still and not be able to go down.

Secondly, there is friction between the pulley and the cable. This is necessary to arrive at your destination quickly. Otherwise, you would only be able to go half of the distance.

Moreover, in some cases, the friction is at the lower end to help you finish the ride. There are also brakes to help you stop safely at the bottom, using an upward slope.

How do you stop on a zip line?

The top zip lines, those with professional input, have brakes along the way that give you more control during the descent. In some cases, it is the instructor who takes care of the brakes manually.

Experts like Steve Gustafson, a popular zip line tour designer and operator of EBL Zipline Tours, say it is better for beginners not to have many things to do. Gustafson prefers to leave control of the brakes to the experts.

He stated: “The person with the least experience and least knowledge is the guest. So why put them in control of their descent at 35 miles per hour? You’re asking for problems.”

In short, the braking system has two components. The first one is active; you or the instructor are in charge of slowing down. The passive one is done automatically using various mechanisms.

There is a third factor that matters a lot in zip lining and the whole science around it. It is called air resistance, and that is what you experience while riding down.

Science behind zip lining

The air resistance is directly linked to how fast you are going. When that speed and air resistance make it to a certain level, you will reach terminal velocity. The term describes the maximum speed an object can reach when going down as drag force takes on gravity.

Interestingly, the heavier a person is, the faster they will go down because of the velocity concept.

The science behind zip lining is fascinating, but it is also valuable to know more about the equipment list.

Zip lining equipment list

It is not necessary to buy your own equipment unless you are in a position to start a course. The equipment is an integral part of your safety, so it is always good to follow the best practices.

1. Helmet

Zip lining is an extreme sport, so safety matters a lot. The helmet is a must because you need to protect your head against branches, objects that are falling, and other obstacles while you are in the air.

Usually, the helmet is pretty light, and it is up to you to find the right size and make sure it is in excellent condition. You also need to ensure that it is well-adjusted on your head and strapped properly.

Tour companies make helmets mandatory and provide them to zip line riders everywhere.

2. Seat and Chest Harness

To support your body the proper way during a ride, you need a seat harness. It attaches you to the zip line using a rope. An inspection is done before every ride to make sure that everything is safe. Nonetheless, it is always best to check again to ensure that nothing is broken.

When it is time to attach and detach the harness, the instructor will take care of all that. You should just focus on your comfort level. You want to use equipment that fits properly to get the best results.

The chest harness will guarantee excellent safety, especially if the distance from the ground is important. It also contributes to your comfort.

3. Pulley

The pulley is essential for a safe experience during rides, and it can be adjusted if the conditions demand it. Without the pulley, zip lining is not possible.

4. Trolley

The trolley has two or more pulley wheels. This little machine helps the rider to slow down. It accomplishes this task by redirecting the downward force of the zip liner using wheels. It has different features depending on the riding operation.

5. Carabiner

In terms of gear, the carabiner does a simple task; it attaches accessories to the zip line trolley. Moreover, thanks to its unique shape, it makes proper orientation on the zip line trolley feasible.

6. Gloves

Gloves are crucial elements of zip lining because your hands need protection when you are ready to put on the brakes. Most protective gloves can do the job here. Garden gloves, work gloves, and bike gloves are among what experts do recommend.

7. Lanyard

A lanyard is used to connect the harness to the zip line trolley. On one end, it links the trolley to a carabiner, and on the other part, it connects the harness to another carabiner.

8. Lobster (or crab) claws

They keep zip line riders safely attached to the cables, thanks to a mixture of big hooks and webbing with locking closures.

The list of equipment shows that you need to be well-prepared before getting on a zip line ride. Safety should always be the top priority.

Zip lining safety tips

Zip lining is a fun activity, but it can only be really enjoyable if precautions are in place.

The way to do this properly is to always rely on the guide or instructor. You need to listen to their recommendations during the briefings. For example, never rush to do anything without their input.

You have to pay attention to details and check if your path is clear before starting your ride. Moreover, zip lining is not recommended for pregnant women or those with specific health issues.

There are some limits associated with weight. A zip line rider should weigh between 60 and 275 pounds. Some tour companies even take into consideration the waist circumference. However, you do not have to be in great shape to try zip lining. The activity is friendly to most.

Other than safety, there are also important tips for beginners.

Zip lining tips for beginners

Knowing about safety and the equipment is an important step. However, there are a few other ways that you can make your zip-lining experience even better.

1. Pick the right shoes. It might look unimportant, but closed-toe shoes are better for this activity. Having your shoes flying all over the place might remove some of the fun. Even if you are on vacation, flip-flops do not work for this activity.

The same rule applies to other items that you wear; they need to be appropriately attached to you.

2. Wear sunscreen if you are zip lining during the summer season. Since zip lining may take you to some unique areas, getting a bug-repellent spray could be very useful.

Also Read: How to get rid of bed bugs in car

3. Opt for clothes that are comfortable. Gym clothes that leave room for you to breathe are ideal in this case.

4. Experts say it is best not to ride with your phone. It is an easy way for you not to be tempted to take a bold selfie to impress your followers on social media. A mountable camera might be the only way for you to capture this epic journey.

5. Check your pockets and make sure that they are empty. Having things flying around during a ride is easily avoidable.

6. Pay attention to what the guides have to say. It is one best ways to keep you safe and avoid injuries. They are there to help you the whole way.

7. Enjoy your first time because it will not get better than this. You will remember this first ride for a very long time. If you follow all the safety protocols, your first reaction will probably be to focus on your second ride.

8. Zip lining is relatively safe. While there are some accidents, even fatal ones, most rides go well. Following the guidelines will reduce any risk of injury.

9. Zip lining is scary, but once you get over your instincts, you will be rewarded awesomely for trying.

10. There are some really great places to zipline that deserve your attention.

Historic Banning Mills in Georgia is one of them. The New York Zipline Canopy Tours can introduce you to something completely different. Mica Moon Zip Tours & Aerial Park in Washington State is also worth exploring.

KapohoKine Adventures will give you access to Hawaii’s unique scenery. Mega Zips at Louisville Mega Cavern, if you want to try zip lining underground, this is for you. Kentucky has the only fully-underground zip line course on the planet.

Bottom line

Zip lining opens a window into the world that is around you. It is worth exploring every portion of it. The activity can seem scary, but once you know how zip lines work, you can be in a better position to ride for the first time.

Whether it is for tourism or as a sport, there is a whole world out there waiting for you. Zip lining can be the right vehicle on this journey.

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Paul Fisher
Freelance writer with a passion for internet marketing and learning. I am happy to embrace the freedom of writing for online publications.

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