Can You Zipline in the Rain?

Oh, darn. When you checked the forecast last, today was supposed to be clear, but this morning, you woke up to an overcast, drizzly day. You were going to take the kids zip-lining, but now you’re not sure what to tell them. Do you have to postpone or even cancel the day’s events?

Many commercial zipline companies will allow you to zipline in the rain provided there’s no lightning or high winds. While the wetness will make your zipline experience faster than usual, all those slick components can be a safety hazard, the platforms included. 

In this article, we’ll talk in more detail about ziplining in the rain, including its upsides and downsides. We’ll also discuss more severe weather conditions that can preclude you from riding as well as what you should wear ziplining when there’s rain on the horizon.

Let’s get started! 

Can You Really Go Ziplining in the Rain?

In some parts of the country, commercial ziplining companies are only in operation for a set season that usually ends around the start of winter. They can’t let a little rain stop the show, so you can indeed zip line in wet weather.

The keyword there is a little rain. If it’s drizzling or if there’s a consistent but still somewhat light rain, then that’s fine. If it’s pouring cats and dogs and visibility is terrible, then no responsible zipline company should let you ride the course.

What if a thunderstorm is in the forecast? Then your zipline ride will be delayed, either until later in the day when the storm passes or on another day entirely. The reason for this is not only that thunderstorms often bring with them heavier rains. It’s the threat of lightning.

You may have heard that lightning is attracted to metal, but that isn’t true. Instead, three factors determine where lightning might strike. The first of these is isolation, the second is a pointy shape, and the third is height. 

Depending on where you’re going zip-lining, you might be isolated on the course compared to your nearby surroundings. Commercial zipline courses tend to have many pointy shapes in the form of tall poles. You’re also up pretty high when you start your zip-lining adventure.

In other words, you’re at a significant risk of being struck by lightning, which is why your ride will be postponed.  

Light or moderate winds can accelerate your pace down the zipline, but in strong winds, your safety is at risk, so that’s another instance when the zip line crew will suspend your ride. That’s true of freezing rain as well, which can pelt riders and is generally not very safe for anyone to be out in.  

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Can I Get Refunded for the Price of My Zipline Ride If It Rains?

Let’s say the weather was severe enough that the zipline company you booked through decided you couldn’t go ziplining today. This is unfortunate news, but what happens to the money you put down for the ride?

It depends, as all zipline companies operate differently. For example, ZipLineX in Amboy, Washington states that “rain does not change our cancellation/refund policy.” 

In other words, if you saw that it was a rainy day when you were scheduled to zipline and then you called ahead to try to cancel and get your money back, you wouldn’t be able to.

No, the zipline company is not going to hold your cash hostage. Instead, you’ll have the option to reschedule the ride for a brighter, sunnier day.

What if more severe weather rolls in and you have no choice but to cancel? In that case, ZipLineX says they would offer a refund. 

However, this is but one example of hundreds if not thousands of commercial ziplining companies across the country. That’s why we recommend carefully reading the company’s policy before you schedule a zipline ride. Once you’re locked in and you’ve agreed to certain terms, getting a refund becomes much more difficult to do.  

The Risks of Ziplining in the Rain

Some seasoned zipline riders prefer a rainy day over a sunny one. The reason? The friction between the wheel bearings and the zipline cable lessens, which can speed up your ride. Even lighter-weight riders who usually don’t get to experience fast speeds will be able to whip right down the cable.

The crew at the zipline company will check all components before your ride to ensure everything is in working order on a rainy day just as they would when it’s sunny out. That includes the harness that you wear, the zip line cable, and the brakes. 

However, that doesn’t mean danger couldn’t possibly be afoot. If the zipline uses active brakes, then you’re manually required to stop yourself when the time comes. You might wear a leather glove or use a brake pad, which is something we’ve discussed on the blog before.

Active brakes are already problematic because riders sometimes forget when to stop or they don’t realize when it’s time to stop until it’s too late. The rate of injury with active brakes is thus higher than zipline courses that use passive brakes. These brakes include springs or magnets to pull the rider to a stop naturally with no effort on the rider’s part required.

Since active brakes can be so injurious on their own and now you’re adding the slickness of rain to the mix, you can see where the potential for injury would be even higher than usual. When traveling at such fast speeds, the rider might not be able to brake in time, crashing into a tree or platform. Holding onto the zipline cable with their glove when they’re in an especially accelerated state could also hurt them. 

Even if the ziplining course you booked through uses passive rather than active brakes, the wetness of the other zip line components is not necessarily safe either. For example, the platforms. 

You’ll step off the top platform to begin your zipline ride, yet if it’s wet, you might topple rather than walk off. If this is your first time ziplining, that’s not exactly the kind of experience you want to start with. 

Even when the ride ends, the second zip line platform could be wet as well, making it a slipping hazard. It won’t really matter whether the platforms are made of wood or metal, as both can be slick when wet.  

What Should You Wear When Ziplining in Rainy Weather?

If the zipline company you scheduled a ride through doesn’t refund for rain and it’s a cloudy, dark day outside, you need to dress for the weather. Whether a few raindrops fall or it’s a deluge, here is what you should wear to stay relatively dry.

Hiking or Climbing Shoes

The rain doesn’t only make the zipline course slick, but the ground around it will be wet and muddy as well. You don’t want to lose your footing on the way up the course or when you step off the zipline either. You’ll need shoes with great grip and traction for all sorts of terrain, such as climbing or hiking shoes. 

Athletic Pants or Shorts

Ziplining is a sport, and you wouldn’t wear denim when playing most sports, right? It’s a good idea to leave your jean shorts or pants at home then. Instead, wear athletic pants made of breathable, moisture-wicking materials. 

The moisture-wicking abilities of your pants in this case would come in handy for keeping you dry from the precipitation, not perspiration. 

Upper Body Layers

When you get wet, you can start shivering and shaking very quickly thereafter. By wearing layers, even if your outer layer is wet, the heat trapped within your body from the other layers will prevent you from feeling the chill much. You’ll be able to enjoy your zipline ride far more!

Waterproof Jacket

Your top layer is the most important, as it’s for waterproofing. This layer will take the brunt of the rain while your other layers stay warm and dry. If your jacket is windproof as well as waterproof, then keeping toasty is even easier.  

Final Thoughts  

Most commercial zipline companies will let you go ziplining in the rain if it’s not a heavy downpour with thunder and lightning. Freezing rain and high winds are two other conditions that can cancel a ride. 

Since the rain can make your zipline ride even faster, the next time you see showers in the forecast, don’t be upset. Instead, gear up for adventure! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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