Nobody likes leaving the dogs at home, am I right? Unfortunately, many campgrounds and public spaces enforce strict dog regulations to make the campground fun and safe for everyone—which means keeping your pup on a short leash while hanging out at the campsite.

My pup, Nala, loves to roam and explore. For a long time we avoided campgrounds because we wanted her to be able to wander and smell every smell. Instead, we chose free camping options or primitive sites where we had a little more room and a fewer people. But, if do end up at a campground, we used to tie Nala’s leash to a stake—leading to entanglements and frustration on her part and ours.

So how do we split the difference, giving our dog her freedom while keeping her close? Our new solution is a homemade dog zip line—not the kind that catapults them 1,000 feet through a Costa Rican rain forest, but one that lets them follow general campground regulations, staying on a 6’ leash while also letting them wander and explore a wider area.

Keep Your Pet Happy and Safe at the Campground with a Dog Leash “Zip Line”

With a dog zip line, you’ll likely find your pet feeling comfortable while roaming, and eventually learning the boundaries of how far they can go.

How To Make a Dog Zip Line

a dog tied to a zip line at a campground

Image from Ruffwear

Making a dog zip line is easy and inexpensive. You only need three pieces of equipment for the actual line and three items to connect your dog to it. A dog zip line is easy to adjust and create for multiple dogs and is highly adjustable when you have limited options.

The equipment needed to make one yourself includes at least 20 feet of thin nylon rope or paracord (per dog), and two spring metal clasps. You can purchase nylon rope and paracord by the foot at REI or climbing-specific stores and will likely cost less than $10 depending on length (we got 25’ of paracord at a climbing shop in Terrebonne, OR for under $5). The two metal spring clasps you can easily find at your local hardware store.

Tie one end of the nylon rope or paracord to each spring clasp and make sure it’s snug. To enforce a stronger bond, add a few drops of super glue to solidify the knot–especially if you have strong dogs who might pull on the line.

When you go to setup the dog zip line in the campground wrap one end around a tree and secure the spring clasp onto the rope. String the line to another tree so it’s as taut as possible. If the trees are close together, wrap the rope around the trunk a few times until it’s as tight as you can make it.

If you’re making a dog zip line for two dogs, secure the first clasp and rope around a tree, loop the cord around a tree 15’-20’ away, then pull the remaining rope to a third tree to complete the line. Clip one dog between the first and second tree and the second dog between the second and third tree. This will help prevent your pups from getting tangled with one another.

How to Use a Dog Zip Line

Since your dogs will be able to roam farther, you’ll want to make sure they’re safely and securely attached to the line. Do not use a collar to secure your pup to the line to prevent a choking hazard; instead, go for a harness.

A harness will prevent a choking hazard if your pooch somehow becomes tangled and will be more effective if they’re prone to slipping out. Attach your leash to the harness, and then use a carabiner to attach the leash handle to the dog zip line. Voila! A solution to campground leash laws that lets your pup roam semi-freely.

Pre-made Dog Zip Line Kits

three bundles of rope, part of a set for a dog zip line

Image from Ruffwear

If you don’t want to mess with creating the dog zip line yourself, there are a few options to purchase that are secure and less hassle (though, making it yourself takes far less time and money!).

Ruffwear makes a kit that uses rock climbing components to secure your dog to two points. The kit includes a rope, tensioning system, and carabiners and can be used as a dog run between two points, or a stake-out from one if that’s all you have available. Ruffwear’s Knot-A-Hitch runs $59.95.

Rover Roamer makes a more robust dog zip line kit which includes bumpers to restrict the length of the run when you have trees that are too far apart, a tensioning ratchet system that works quickly and easily, and a neck-safe bungee segment. The Sky Track Dog Run kit runs $104.95 due to the hardware that comes with the kit.

Megan Walsh

Megan Walsh

Megan dreams of one day being a professional recreationalist, and welcomes any and all tips on how to get there. When she isn’t climbing, skiing, or enjoying shavasana, she’s drinking coffee and furiously typing away at her computer––or watching Netflix. Her work has been featured in Climbing Magazine, Utah Adventure Journal, and on Moja Gear.