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Backyard Flying Fox (Zip Line)

9 March 2011 9 Comments

A friend of mine at work recently gave me a flying fox (known as zip lines in other countries!) that his kids had grown out of. It had actually been passed down to him by another workmate of ours several years earlier, when his children had grown out of it!

A mate came over and helped me set it up. It’s definitely a two-person job!

The backyard flying fox (zip line)

The first thing we had to do was find a pair of trees to string it between. We have lots of trees on the property, but it still wasn’t an easy task. We needed sturdy trees that were far enough apart to get a good ride, but we had to stay within the length of the cable I had. The trees also had to provide a decent downhill slope – not too steep or the zip line would go too fast, and not too flat or it wouldn’t go at all.

Flying fox cable attached to tree

To minimise damage to the trees, we passed the cable through a piece of rubber hose which we slipped around the tree. We then used clamps to secure the flying fox cable.

The other end of the cable had a large turnbuckle attached to it. We loosened it right off, secured both ends of the cable as tight as we could pull them by hand, and then wound up the turnbuckle to get as much tension in the cable as we could.

The turnbuckle also serves as an end-stop for the cable car (an old pulley), so the kids don’t slam into the bottom tree :-).

Home made zip line pulley

The cable car was built long ago in a workshop at the BHP steelworks. It’s made out of a set of bicycle handlebars, bolted to the pulley bracket. It’s pretty cheap and simple, but very strong and works great.

Because we have small kids (and sometimes even smaller visitors!), we strung a plastic swing seat underneath the cable car. Kids can hold onto the handlebars if they like, or if they’re a bit small or unsure they can sit on the seat.

The kids love their new flying fox. It’s a simple piece of play equipment that provides hours of fun, and cost us nothing. Perfect!


  • Donna said:

    what a great idea… My kids would have have loads of fun on something like this….

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Donna: Bring ’em down and they can have a go!

  • Inner Pickle said:

    I have serious flying fox envy!!! We’re on a hill here, I’m googling how to build a flying fox!

  • Darren (author) said:

    Hi Inner Pickle! I see you’re in the Illawarra too (I’m guessing not far from me, since your blog mentions you’re surrounded by dairy farms). You’d be welcome to come around sometime and let the kids have a go, and check out the construction of the flying fox. Will email you separately.

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