Elephant slacklines – which one is right for you?


Note: since the writing of this article, new lines have become available. Check here for an overview of the entire range of Elephant products Slackline Academy now sells.

Choice, particulalry for the novice slackliner, can be confusing. With so many different slacklines on the market, how can you be sure you’re making the right decision when it comes to which line to buy? In this article, I hope to answer some common questions  about Elephant’s line of 50mm slackline kits so you can rest assured you’re making the right choice when it comes time to buy.

Background

Born of a company with almost 30 years experience producing load restraining and carrying equipment, Elephant sold it’s first lines in under the name in 2010. Based near Munich, their sponsored team of athletes has recently exploded onto the world scene, grabbing headlines both locally and internationally. Recently, team riders Niklas Winter and Florian Herla made the front page of The Daily Telegraph with their successful highlining antics at the Blue Mountain’s Hanging Rock, while in the tricklining scene Benny Schmidt took out the first ever ISPO Slackline Open in January of this year.

While Elephant slacklines have recently released a range of 25mm and 35mm setups, these are not yet available in Australia. As such, they have been excluded from the scope of this article so as not to be confusing.

Common characteristics

Before we start discussing the differences between the products offered, let’s have a quick look at what they’ve all got in common. Contrary to what many believe, the material properties of the 50mm webbing used in all of the products featured here are identical. These properties are

  • width: 50mm
  • strength: 45kN
  • stretch: 2% at 7kN
  • colours: pink or neon yellow.

This means that under the same tension, with the same length and oriented at the same angle, the lines will feel exactly the same. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve been in the fortunate position of being one of the few people in Australia riding a 50mm Elephant line for the past several months, and since making the change I haven’t looked back.

The webbing is slightly less dynamic (it stretches less) than what I was previously used to, meaning tensioning is easier, and you retain more energy from big tricks. Where as it used to be a real effort for me to keep up enough momentum through butt-chest bounce combinations, I now find myself getting launched through them with hardly any effort on my part at all.

The line I’ve had has also deteriorated significantly slower than any other branded line I’ve ever owned. This is a big factor for me – at 88kg, I ride my lines hard, and the last thing I want to be thinking about when going for a backflip is whether or not my line is going to hold! Again, these are characteristics of the line webbing itself (though anchoring system will partially affect wear and tear), and so are common to all Elephant 50mm products.

All Elephant products are also manufactured in Germany – no out-sourcing to China – and so you can sleep easy knowing they’re all manufactured to the standards we have come to expect from the Germans.

What distinguishes the products from one another are three important properties:

  • Australian recommended retail price (RRP),
  • line length,
  • anchoring system, and
  • crank.

Rookie

The Rookie is designed for novice slackliners

  • RRP: $109
  • Total length: 15m (2.5m ratchet webbing + 12.5m slackline webbing)
  • Anchoring system: girth hitch system
  • Crank: standard length.

As the name would suggest, the Rookie is designed for the novice slackliner. The girth-hitch anchoring system allows for quick and easy setup, and the 15m length is more than long enough for those just starting out. Furthermore, the crank handle is long enough to tension the line at full length at a reasonable height for all static positions, but not so long as to allow over-tightening. With a RRP of only $109, this line provides fantastic value for money and makes for a great gift idea.

On the down side, the girth hitch system can be slightly annoying, as the hitch can twist the line off horizontal. With care this problem can be avoided, but is certainly something that should be considered by the potential customer. Furthermore, the hitch results in a reduction of line length below the hypothetical 15m, as the line must run around both anchor points, and is also the source of line weakening and wear and tear. For the beginning slackliner, this wear and tear isn’t such a great issue, since the magnitude of the forces involved are much smaller, and the rubbing is greatly reduced for static holds, but if you’re looking to do massive jumps  this is certainly something you should keep in mind. Similarly, the crank handle may not be long enough to tension the line at full extension for big tricks.

In short, the Rookie is a fantastic choice for anyone just starting out, or with only limited experience. For those worried about outgrowing the line too quickly, know that it’s inevitable that in any slacklining community there will be novices without their own lines, and a spare novice line set low to the ground at community events never goes unappreciated.

Addict

The Addict allows for longer, tighter lines

  • RRP: $139 (15m) / $179 (25m)
  • Total length: 15m or 25m (2.5m ratchet webbing + 12.5m or 22.5m slackline webbing)
  • Anchoring system: girth hitch system
  • Crank: long arm.

The next level up in the Elephant 50mm catalogue is the Addict. Retaining the same anchoring system used by the Rookie, the Addict differs in the optional extra 10m of webbing length as well as the extra length on the crank arm. As a result, this system retains the simplicity of the Rookie, while not limiting the user to short lines and allowing for enough tension for big dynamic tricks and manoeuvres.

Alas, you can’t have the good without the bad, and so all the downsides of the hitch system outlined above in the Rookie section apply to the Addict as well. Likely of more consequence is the higher wear and tear induced by the hitch during powerful tricklining. The Freak solves this issue, but if you’re not keen to compromise on the additional weight or cost involved with such a line, then this is a solid alternative.

Care should also be taken when setting up shorter lines not to over-tension the system, as this is very easy with such a large crank and could lead to injury.

Freak

The Freak is Elephant’s premiere 50mm line – for the serious trickliner

  • RRP:$159 / $219
  • Total length: 15m or 25m (0.2m ratchet webbing + 14.8m or 24.8m slackline webbing)
  • Anchoring system: independent anchor slings and shackles (slings wrap around anchor point and are joined to the line/crank with an excessively strong shackle)
  • Crank: long arm
  • BONUS: 2x tree skins to minimize tree wear included.

The bee’s knees of the Elephant range, what the Freak lacks in simplicity it more than makes up for in quality of slacklining experience. The independent anchor slings take only fractionally longer to set up compared to the simpler hitch system, and while it’s arguably a little more complicated, it’s still a long way short of rocket science. You may also not be a fan of the extra weight you have to carry around in your pack… but that’s only making you stronger, right?

On the bright side, the anchoring system will stay almost perfectly flat all session long without any adjustments at all, and the additional slings mean you don’t lose any of your webbing length wrapping around a tree. These slings also distribute the load more evenly about the anchor point, leading to less bark damage on trees, and less concentrated wear and tear on the line. There is no hitch, so the line retains it’s full strength, and there is no point that is worn out more quickly than others. Furthermore, should through some freak occurrence your anchor sling sustain damage (and this would have to be as the result of a truly extra-ordinary event – those things are build to last!), replacement of the sling is significantly easier and cheaper than purchasing an entire new line.

Just like the Addict, the crank arm is extra long compared to most other slackline cranks, so while you can rest assured you’ll be able to be pulling big moves on all but the longest of lines, care must once again be taken not to over-tension shorter lines. Beyond 20m, attaining the required tension for big tricks becomes challenging for a heavy slackliner such as myself (88kg), but without a considerably more complicated tensioning system this is a difficult issue to overcome.

The only real sticking point some people may have with this product is the price. At $159 for the 15m line and $219 for the 25m line, it’s the most expensive of Elephant’s range of products. On the other hand, it still costs less than Gibbon’s Surfer line, the only comparable line on the market in my opinion, and when you consider the ease of maintenance and cheap replacement of anchor points, a Freak purchase may be more economical in the long run. In general, there isn’t a whole lot of equipment necessary for slacklining, so it may be worth spending the extra money where it’s necessary.

Summary

Too long, didn’t read? Sigh – and I went to so much effort too! Oh well, if you did skip here I suppose I’ll give you my conclusions anyway. If you got here via the article in its entirety, know that you’re a wiser person because of it!

If you’re a novice slackliner, I can’t suggest a better line than the Rookie. The simplicity makes it the perfect choice for anyone just starting out, and it will be able to cater to your needs into intermediate tricklining. Most of the downsides of the hitch are negated by the nature of novice use, and at the price stated it really is a bargain.

On the other hand, if you’re keen to do some big tricks, or even just walk slightly longer lines, you really can’t go past the Freak. The crank arm is more than long enough to produce the required tension, and the independent anchoring system eliminates all of the niggly, annoying issues created by a hitch, while making line maintenance cheaper to boot.

That said, if the extra hassle and weight of carrying around independent anchors really isn’t for you, or if you just want to save a few dollars on your initial purchase, the Addict is still a solid choice, though perhaps my least favourite of the set. In any other line-up it would be a truly amazing product, but given the high quality of its brothers in the Elephant catalogue I feel it’s simply out-shone.

You can purchase Elephant Slacklines either through myself in person (avoid postage if you can pick up in person!) or the Slackline Australia online store.

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