By Josiah Finley

Riding a zip-line is an adventure like none other. However, flying through the sky across yawning canyons, betwixt ancient trunks, or across skyscrapers requires a degree or two of preparation. But fear not brave souls; we have you covered. For decades we have been zipping through the Redwood Forests of Northern California, and today we have distilled our collective knowledge into seven simple steps. Follow these seven recommendations to discover how to prepare for your zip-line adventure.

Origins of Ziplining

The exact origin of the zip-line is cloaked in ancient mystery. Historians believe they may have simultaneously developed in the Alps, the Himalayas’ and the steep river gorges of inland China. Although today they are mainly used by thrill-seeking adventurers, zip-lines were originally an invention of necessity. It is no coincidence that zip-lines appear to have originated in mountainous terrain that was difficult to traverse by foot. The early zip lines were a method of transportation that allowed the first riders to cross dangerous landscapes with ease.

For most of their history, they remained just that – a “primitive” method of transportation used largely in areas without the advantages of modern infrastructure. However, in the 1970s a group of scientists based out of Costa Rica changed all of that. These rainforest biologists were attempting to catalog the biodiversity of the canopy, but gaining access to the highest parts of the forest was difficult and dangerous. To help scientists gain non-disruptive access to the hidden paradise amidst the branches, doctorate student Donald Perry designed the original professional-grade zip-line.

Within a couple of decades, people started to take notice and the first recreational course was build in Costa Rica in 1992. Ten years later the first zip-line course was constructed in the United States, and now there are over 400 recreational zip-lines in America alone. Millions of passengers experience the joy of zip-lining every year, but despite the popularity, it is still a niche activity. If you are thinking about going zip-lining, it’s important to know how to prepare.

Seven Steps

To prepare for your zip line adventure we’ve pulled together our experience and put together this list of seven steps to prepare you to have the greatest zip-line experience of your life! If you want more personalized expertise, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-888-499-9150.

1. Choose your location

There are thousands of zip-line courses around the world. This gives you plenty of options when you are starting to prepare for your adventure. When you are trying to decide on a potential course it’s important to think about both the type of course, and the setting of the course.

The zip-line world is a broad one with many different types of courses at varying degrees of difficulty. There are beginner courses that will barely top-out at a hundred feet, and expert level courses with zip-lines running into the thousands of feet in length. Some courses are only a singular zip-line while others offer many different lines, sky-bridges, rappels, and even treehouses.  Putting together a good idea of what you’re interested in will make it easier to decide on a zip-line course.

The course itself is important, but so is the setting. Zip-line courses are often designed to give a rare perspective of a unique setting. For example, there is a zip-line that lets participants zip right through the strip in Las Vegas, another where you can cross the Grand Canyon, and our particular favorite, one that offers a stunning birds-eye view of the Coastal Redwood forests.

2. Book your reservation ahead of time

Don’t wait till the day-of to start your adventure. Most courses require reservations ahead of time. And even courses that allow walk-up bookings prefer reservations. This is because each course is unique and requires some preparation including waivers, certain clothing, and different timing-constraints.

Booking ahead of time allows you to rest-easy possessing all the relevant information, knowing that your tour spot is saved just for you and your party. 

3. Show up well before the tour

To further save yourself worry, plan on showing up well ahead of the tour time. Our recommendation is to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour time. This will allow enough time and preparation for the check-in part of your zip-lining experience. Many zip-line tours operate in remote areas without cell service as well. Load your location before your departure and leave  with plenty of time for rest-stops and traffic.

It’s impossible to predict the unpredictable, but you can allocate time for the unexpected. 

4. Bring your friends and family

Quite simply, zip-lining is best experienced with the people you love. Although we certainly understand the lone-wolf appeal of the solo-rider, zipping through the trees is so much more fun with friends and family. Discover which one has a fear of heights, which one is a daredevil, and which one has the loudest scream.

Zip-lining is often a bonding moment where a family comes together to experience something beautiful and at times difficult together. Whether it’s marveling at the beauty of the wilderness you’re zipping through, or coming together to help someone get over their fears, zip-lining is best experienced as a group.

5. Dress for comfort, not the “gram.”

When you’re zip-lining, you wear a harness to mitigate risk and ensure safety on the course. The exact style of that harness will change depending on the course and venue you choose, but regardless of the brand or design, it’s sure to be a tight fit. While that’s great for safety, it could put a damper on certain styles of clothing. 

To fully enjoy your zip-line experience, dress for comfort, not for the social media post. We recommend loose-fitting casual or athletic wear. Additionally, hats and helmets do not pair well, so plan on leaving the headwear behind. Although this may limit your fashion choices, in a full-body zip-line harness, everyone looks like a superhero.

6. Trust your equipment

Zip-lining is a high adrenaline, thrill-seeking adventure. Participants fly across impressive distances, at high speeds, far above the ground, suspended only by a steel cable the thickness of your pinky. For those with any fear of heights (i.e., normal humans) it can be quite a scary experience. While the perceived risk is high, the actual risk is surprisingly low. Over the past 50 years, advancements in zip-lining technology have allowed the creation of a relatively safe experience, without sacrificing the thrill.

Zip-lining is exciting, but it’s only going to be enjoyable if you trust the equipment. The cable, the trolleys, the harnesses, have all gone through rigorous testing and are regularly checked for wear and tear. All actions in life carry some inherent risk, but your daily drive to Starbucks is statistically much more dangerous than going zip-lining. To ensure maximum fun, let go of the stress, relax, and trust your equipment. 

7. Let your guides do the work for you

This goes hand-in-hand with trusting your equipment. Your guides are experienced zip-liners have been leading tours for many years or even decades. They’ve seen just about everything that can happen and are equipped and trained to deal with a wide array of situations. From high winds, to mid-line rescues, a seasoned zip-line guide is an expert in mitigating risk and protecting guest-safety.

Let your guides take care of all the logistics and hard skills. Relax and watch the experts transfer every lanyard and clip every trolley. All you have to do is have a good time, enjoy the work of your experienced guides, and focus on having a wonderful adventure as you fly high above the earth.

Sonoma Zipline Adventures

Here at Sonoma Zipline Adventures we have welcomed people into the Redwood Canopies of Northern California for over a decade. Helping people experience wonder and the wildness of the coastal redwoods through zip-lining is our passion and our purpose. We lead guided zip-line tours through the magnificent forests two hours north of San Francisco. Our thrilling eco-tours have invited hundreds-of-thousands of guests from around the world into the beloved forests we call home. To learn more or to schedule your zip-line adventure, click on this link or give us a call at 1-888-499-9150.