Finally. Slacking. Again.
Back on line, back at work! Second article today. And the most interesting one of them all (at least for me..)! Today we talk tube.
Sorting things out right off the bat, we will take a quick look into what tubes are, what they do and why they make you feel so fizzy inside. After that, I shall go through all the tubes I own and walked on to get a little comparison going. This article has been in the making for quite some time and I consulted quite a number of people on this topic (I apologize for not asking you) to make sure this article will cover a broader perspective than just my own. Anyhow, here we go!
What are tubes?
Tubular webbing is, simply put, webbing that is woven in the shape of a tube. This means that they are hollow inside and you can thread them with smaller webbing, which is something we will cover at a later time. Conventionally, tubular webbing used for slacklines was made from polyamide (nylon) and those will be the only ones we talk about. If you haven’t yet grasped the concept of my approach to slackline, let me spell it out:
They come in different widths, weights, strengths and weave patterns. The most commonly used one is 1″ wide, weighs in at around 40g/m and has a minimum breaking strength of slightly above 20kN. But these days, more and more different tubes enter the market, as you will see further into the article. One thing they have in common:
They are ludicrously stretchy!
What do tubes do?
Wobble. Most of the time they wobble. Now, I’ve had quite some lengthy conversations with Helmut Netzwerker on this topic and we couldn’t agree on proper terminology to approach the subject. Let me try to explain:
There is something about webbings that make them feel great. Some webbings have lots of it (like most polyamide webbings) and some have very little of it (like most polyester webbings). However, it doesn’t end there. This something manifests itself in two directions. Consider this: You want to highline. A flat environment is terrible. A non-flat environment is great. Sometimes the gaps to highline across are valleys, canyons or crevasses whilst other times one is highlining from mountain to mountain. In both cases you highline and it is great. But there is a difference between the two. And there ain’t no name for it..
It could be described as tardiness, or responsiveness, some sort of inertia or delay. I don’t know. At least not right now. You know exactly what it is when you just walked a length of T-Wave and step on a piece of climb-spec right afterwards. These two webbings would describe the polar ends of this spectrum of awesomeness. One is tube (climb-spec) and one is anti-tube (T-Wave). Type-18 would be closer to the tube side than Sonic. This much we could agree on. I hope I got the point across. If not, I need to write this article again whilst walking on tube..
If someone were to ask me this question, I’d feel insulted. Insulted and disappointed. Asking it now makes the cookies I am eating (thank you to the best roommates in the world) feel a little stale. Tubes are great. Everything about them is great. They feel fantastic to touch, walk, bounce and surf*. There is so many great things about tubes. They are the first real slacklines, they pack really small, they are incredibly versatile even outside of slacklining. There is one thing they don’t do well. Rough terrain. Whether it be rocks, branches or just you conventional slackline equipment, tubes are a little frail. Especially the 40g/m lightweight ones die rather easily, which is why I’d not recommend using the lighter tubes for highlines. The heavier ones don’t seem to exhibit the same behaviour.
*Whether they are great or terrible to surf can only be determined by yourself. More later.
Testing the Tubes!
All tubes were tested (rigged, walked, expertly examined and childishly played on) under similar conditions. The tested length was 59m for all of them. Two tubes could not be tested at that length, because the pieces we had were too short. This affects the 1″ Slack-Spec from Balance Community and the Diamond from Slackstar, which is currently not available. Both were walked at 30-40m distances. Extrapolating should be fairly accurate as these webbings tend to behave in a very predictable manner.
Still nowhere close to finding any sufficiently comparable parameters (or ways to measure them). Thus, I will just give a brief introduction to every webbing in the test and try to write in a way that conveys the certain something every webbing delivers.
Light tubes (~40g/m ~20kN):
Balance Community Slack-Spec
This webbing is identical to Sterling Ropes‘ TechTape as far as I can tell. From all tubes, it definitely is the one with the smoothest surface. Untensioned it is downright cuddly. However, it develops a sharp edge under tension. It is slightly slippery when wet and folds in half at low tensions. Quite well suited for primitive setups up to 25m (30m of webbing is required for this). It appears to take 2 tensioning processes. As soon as you step on it, you loose a lot of tension and need to retighten. I can’t say, if I like it the least or the most of all tubes I have. Today, I am going to say the least, as it’s downsides are quite apparent.
A little note: All tubes in the 40g/m region behave very very similar. Just get whatever is closest, cheapest or friendliest to you. If you want to tube, any of the tubes listed here are perfectly adequate to outshine all of the webbings you have previously walked or owned.
The X-Tube is available in different widths. It is very, very similar to the Element/Wave/Climb-Spec, which is why I won’t give a detailed description here. The weight is slightly higher, which you will never notice. Unless you prefer the colour of the Edelrid one, I would recommend buying from the slackline-specific companies (LC, EQB, BC, slack.fr or slackliner.de to name a few).
EQB Element, LC Wave, Slackstar Diamond, Climb-Spec and surely more..
The most commonly available tubes in Europe. The Element and Wave are actually identical. The other ones might be slightly different, but it is very very difficult to notice, unless you know the colours. I am not entirely sure about the Slackstar Diamond. It looks and feels thicker (heavier?), but I cannot tell. It might be resembling the Sigma N more than the ones listed here. I contacted Slackstar and wait for their response.
These tubes are fantastic. I prefer them over the Slack-Spec as they seem to be more resilient and robust. The weave stays more compact under tension and doesn’t fold in half so easily (it still does from time to time).
On light tubes in general:
The longer your tube, the greater it is going to feel. This is true for all webbings listed here. They only get better. They do need a little tension to develop their liveliness, though. Absolutely wicked for rodeos.. It takes a little while to adapt to their fairly unique characteristics. They wobble a lot without bothering you. That means you have a certain degree of free movement before you actually feel a response. This is most noticeable while surfing. For a while you move entirely unbothered without any resistance and then it starts shooting back. This umpfh increases as the tension decreases. If you go further and further the surfing won’t feel like surfing anymore. It is more accurately described as horizontal bouncing. Some may love this and some may hate this. You have to try for yourself. All tubes are very dynamic. The lighter ones lack the strength to throw you off, which makes them rather easy to walk. Heavy tubes, however, are quite a challenge. Which is why we are headed there next!
Heavy tubes (above 50g/m):*
*Heavy tube does not imply heavy line
Excluding the name, someone really thought about this. This webbing is brilliant. Brilliant in many ways. It is stretchy (18% @ 10kN [same stretch as all tubes on this list]), heavy (76g/m) and strong (32kN). Not very strong for it’s weight, but strong for a tube. The reason for this lack of strength is a different choice of polyamide (which comes in various types, Nylon 6.6 being the most prevalent in slacklining) to achieve a different walking experience (and presumingly a lower price). This webbing is great in all dimensions in which conventional tubes may fail to deliver. It is plenty strong, robust and thick, so it’s reasonable (check 2 articles back for the definition of reasonable) to highline on. Admittedly the roundest edges of all webbings I ever touched. Kickass powerful, even at low tensions. Wobbly to the degree that it is sometimes intimidating. Not as bad as the T-Wave, but certainly not a tame webbing. There is only two negative thoughts that ever crossed my mind about redTUBE. One, it is really heavy to carry. And two, it comes cut in defined lengths and the longest one is 100m.
DAMN YOU, SAM! 100m? What were you thinking? This is not a toy, is it?!
Slackliner.de Sigma N
Jormungand. That is one badass name. Okay, I came up with it. This is to say, I am partly responsible for the existence of this webbing, which in turn means I am in no position to write a review on it. Despite my affiliation with this webbing, I will only state truths here, I promise.
The Sigma N is in between the conventional light tubes and Slacktivity’s redTUBE. It was explicitly meant to bridge this gap. With 55g/m and 26kN MBS it does so on paper. In real life, and that is how I feel, it does more than that. The number one reason for this is the option to buy it in pink. Otherwise, I’d say it is just as good as any tube. And that is magnificent. Soft, round, lively, stretchy, bouncy, wobbly, rowdy, and on and on. There is nothing special about the Sigma N in the way as there is nothing special about any of the tubes.
Why tubes? AGAIN!
They are all fantastic. They are all brilliant. And I am seriously surprised how few people have a long piece of tubular to tell bedtime stories to. Come on people, think! They are fairly cheap (1,04€/m for the Element, 1,15€/m for the Sigma N) easily outshine most of the other webbings on the market. The one actual reason to bring forward at this point to not buy a tubular webbing is the necessity to perform as a highline webbing. Well, there are still 2 tubes that do the job. And with the Sla’Knot which we have previously covered*, tensioning your desired length of tube shouldn’t be an issue. Even a primitive on tube will take you places you have never even dreamed about before. Especially in Europe, with the widespread use of ratchet beginner kits and without REI, people don’t start on tubes anymore. It is like a disease. Please, slackline companies, bring back the damn primitives with tubular webbing!
This is what slacklining always was. And what it should always be. You, 3-6 carabiners, 2 rings, 2 slings, treepro and a length of TUBE!
End of story. Eat some pictures of our last day of tubing: