Rigging the Aerial Sling

By Kevin Nesnow and Quynbi Ada


The aerial sling is one of the aerial world’s beloved apparatuses, rising to great popularity in recent years. Also known as the aerial hammock, the fabric apparatus lends itself well to elegant explorations in the air for beginners and pros alike. 


The hammock also presents an interesting rigging scenario, owing to the fact that it must attach at two points with its tricot loops. 


Many come to aerial arts with little or no training in rigging. But if you are a practicing aerialist, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the finer points of rigging. This is definitely true if you’re working on aerial slings, which can be rigged in a few different ways. 


Weighing the Options

So what exactly are the differences between aerial hitches, O-rings with carabiners, and rigging directly to the carabiner? 


One of the pros to using a yoga hitch with your aerial hammock is that they are so easily adjustable, making switching out between users a breeze.


The O-ring, while also convenient to clip into, introduces an extra piece of metal-on-metal that will need to be inspected on a regular basis and eventually replaced. 


Many people are trained to rig directly to the carabiner to maximize safety, with the logic being that the more components you use, the higher the possibility for failure.


In this industry, generally less is more. Thus, affixing an aerial hammock directly to a connector (carabiner) is an acceptable solution. This option is less expensive, and it involves fewer components to inspect.


Pros and Cons

The main benefit of adding a second component (like an O-ring, hitch, 8, etc.) is the ease of connecting the aerial hammock/sling. Generally, connectors (carabiners), when used directly on silk, are oriented head down. This is true if they're auto-lock or if they’re screwgate. This is often due to the head of the carabiner being wider than its tail, thereby better accommodating the bulky silk. The carabiner doesn't have to be oriented this way if it’s auto-locking, but that is common practice.


A problem arises when the user needs to unclip the connector, either to adjust the height of the hammock/sling on a daisy chain or remove the hammock/sling completely. For most, an upside-down oriented carabiner can be a challenge to operate. Couple that with a bulky silk knot eating up part of the carabiner's gate opening space and it can be a real pain to use. Adding a secondary component alleviates most of this issue.


This would be a benefit of the O-ring. Does this advantage outweigh the risks of metal on metal, increased inspection surfaces, and added costs? That is for the user to decide.


As far as friction hitches go, their benefit is also nominal. There are a ton of materials that can accomplish the hitch. Using a Sterling HollowBlock  Prussik Loop is great, but expensive. Will hitches accomplish the same result as knotted connectors or rings? Yes. Any added benefit?  Sort of. While a friction hitch is adjustable, how much adjustment gained is the real question. In truth, only perhaps 6" - 12" before the whole system needs to be readjusted.


Imagine a yoga hammock with hitches and stopper knots placed at the near end of the silk. While the adjustability of the hitch is impressively easy, just how much can a user lengthen that hammock/sling? Not much if the hitch and stopper knot are already at the silk's full length.

To gain a wider range of adjustment, both longer and shorter, a tail (or both tails) of the hammock/sling would need to purposely be left long. Then a user can lengthen and shorten along that added capacity. But there are two variables being adjusted here. The ground clearance AND the silk’s usable height.


So, for example, if a tall student needs the yoga hammock raised higher off the ground to be able to down dog properly, the instructor simply slides the hitch down and replaces the stopper knot. But what happens when the student stands in the hammock for tree pose? Now, instead of silk under their armpit, it's a carabiner and prussik cord, as the overall usable silk has been diminished (i.e. shortened).


These are exaggerated examples illustrated as food for thought. The end result is that the hitches work great for micro-adjustments (including sharing a performance sling with varying height performers or students in class). But does their benefit outweigh the increased costs and inspection resources? That’s up to the user to determine.


No matter what system is used, a ladder would still need to be present to adjust them safely. And so at the end of the day, when adding more components to your aerial sling/hammock set up, how much trouble are we really saving here?


Personal Choice

There’s often more than one way to accomplish a single task. But when it comes to rigging an aerial sling, some pros might outweigh the cons. When you approach the task with safety as your foremost concern, you’re already ahead of the game. 


We hope this information has been helpful and informative. Do you have questions or comments on this matter? We would love to hear from you! Contact cirquedevol@gmail.com


August Aerial Rigging Workshop with Kevin Nesnow

If you are searching for professional rigging education, click here for Kevin Nesnow’s upcoming workshop. He is also available for rigging services and consultations. Register HERE.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not constitute advice or professional guidance. Aerial arts are fun and exciting, but you ultimately participate at your own risk. 

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