Highline How To

A highline will keep your animals safe and secure while in camp. The highline is also a way to protect our backcountry resources. The Perfect Highline: A versatile system that protects the resources, your stock and your gear.


A highline setup in northern California's Trinity Alps Wilderness

Highline Equipment:

Loops: 40” length ¼”(5mm) “accessory cord” (less than $0.50/ foot)
Carabiner: variety of types and locking mechanisms ($5-15 each)(optional)
Rescue Pulleys: $15-20(optional)
Highline Rope: 1/2-5/8 cotton-poly blend or yacht braid or “static” climbing rope”. Tree Saver Straps: widely available. Wide, web, “Seat Belt” type straps.

Things to Consider:

A. Tree considerations
1. Use tree saver straps.
2. Use on trees 8” diameter or larger.
3. Tie stock away from tree trunk to avoid root damage.
B. Turf considerations
1. Use on durable surfaces.
2. Rake area free of pine cones and debris before stock use. Rake back into place afterwards.
3. Move stock at first sign of over-use or damage.
C. Easy to tie, adjust and untie.
1. Basic Prussic loops.
2. Coupling loops with carabiners and pulleys: Mechanical advantage.
D. Animal considerations:
1. Secure system: All components are strong.
2. Easily adjust distance between animals after the highline is tightened.
3. In an Emergency simply cut loops to free animals.
E. Versatile uses of components.
1. Highline used as lash rope.
2. Loops can be used for rope extenders, etc.
3. Carabiners can be used to hang lanterns to a dining fly, etc.
4. Safety and rescue applications. Use loops on vertical rope for foot and hand holds. Carabiner and Prussic loop Come-along.
5. Carabiners can be used for pack hitches.

Setting up a Highline:

The Prussic Loop:
The Mechanical Advantage:
The Prussic Loop can also be coupled with Climbing Carabiners and pulleys to make a Highline tightening system. The following photos step through the process of creating this system with about a four-to-one mechanical advantage. Click to enlarge pictures.
Step one: Start with one loop about 4 feet from the tree.


Step two: Add pulley and carabiner.


Step three: add second loop.


Step four: Close up of Pulley.


Step five: Two loops and pulleys.


Step Six: Final tie-off (shoe string loop knot).


Step seven: Lead rope tie.


The Prussic Loop can be tied with several different knots ( Square, sheet bend, bowline, etc) but the traditional way to close the loop is the Prussic knot or Double Overhand knot.


Above: Prussic Loop Knot


Above: Prussic Knot or Double Overhand Knot

Highline Overview:

The higline rule of sevens:
  • The highline should be about seven feet high.
  • The animals should be at least seven feet from any tree trunk.
  • The animals should be at least seven feet apart.
  • The length of leadrope from highline to halter should be about seventeen inches.


Highline Overview (Click to enlarge)


REI Stores carry carabiners, climbing cord, rescue pullys and more.

Northern Mountain Supply in Eureka, CA carries carabiners, climbing cord, rescue pulleys and more.

The Halter Lady, Pat Frederickson will make lead or lash rope in any length and color of Yacht Braid rope.

Check out the BCHC's Highline pamphlet. Print and stow in your saddle bags for a handy guide on the trail! The BCHC has many helpful brochures and pamplets available online for free.