Ziplining is an adventurous thrill ride that was originally designed for logistics and biological research and has developed into the main tourist attraction in exotic locales such as Hawaii.
This exciting recreational activity is best experienced in remote, inaccessible areas that offer incredible views and a feeling of adventure.
However, since few people get a chance to ride on zip lines, they may naturally have a sense of fear upon trying it for the first time.
What is a zipline?
A zipline is a transportation device that utilizes a steel cable, that’s mounted on a slope, to transport people or cargo from the top to the bottom of the cable by gravity (attached to a freely moving pulley). Try ziplining in Hawaii!
These days, ziplines are still used as a commercial means of transport, but also for outdoor recreation such as youth adventure playgrounds and rainforest canopy tours.
A brief history of zip lines
Similar design concepts to modern zip lines were used as a method of transport in mountainous regions around the world over 2,000 years ago (e.g., China, Japan, India). Some were assisted by gravity.
They transported people, food, and supplies across treacherous terrains such as rivers, gullies, and valleys.
Ropeways were improved in strength and durability in the Middle Ages. Some historical accounts refer to the first recorded use of this technology for entertainment being in the mid-18th century.
Modern zip line designs were developed for recreational purposes.
Is ziplining safe?
Yes, zip lining is very safe. Especially when compared to everyday activities like driving or using an elevator.
There are more than 70 million zip line rides in the U.S. per year. Research has shown that, between 1997 and 2012, there were only 3,600 injuries due to zip line accidents in the United States (an injury rate of 11.6 out of a million).
Keep in mind, this includes accidents due to “DIY” constructions by amateurs outside the supervision of commercial operators (and without proper adherence to strict guidelines).
Although ziplining is not federally regulated, the state labor departments, Department of Agriculture, and standards organizations (such as ANSI or ASTM) provide safety oversight for commercial ziplining in the U.S.
Zipline equipment & design
Commercial zip line operators do their best to follow stringent safety standards for the proper design, construction, and operation of zip lines.
Modern zip lines are complex assemblies of stainless steel cables, hydraulics, computer control, and manual braking systems.
Small zipline courses may deploy wooden poles or use trees for support, while larger adventure tour builds (i.e., a series of lines stretching over a few hundred feet each) tend to utilize steel or concrete support structures.
Ziplines use a low-friction pulley system that’s attached to a passenger harness (or trolley frame) using carabiners or pivoting links. They need to be situated on steep slopes to allow gravity to propel riders at 25 to 50 mph.
Safety equipment for riders includes a helmet, tough leather gloves, “capture block” speed brakes, and a harness.
- Wear comfortable clothing (including close-toed shoes).
- Wear a helmet and safety gloves.
- Make sure the zip line cables have some sag/slack.
- Make sure the zip line corridor is free of obstructions.
- Inspect the zip line for weathered or frayed equipment (e.g, broken/loose wires, physical damage).
- Don’t distract yourself with personal belongings (e.g., mobile phones, cameras).
- Don’t carry unessential items that can fall out of your pockets.