There isn’t a family out there that doesn’t value keeping their children fit; however, with all the demands and expectations that we place on our kid’s time and attention it’s hard to come up with activities that they really enjoy that provide a good workout. Fortunately, trampolines provide the solution.
We haven't met anyone who doesn't get a giddy thrill out of bouncing around on a trampoline. All across America, companies are cashing in on our fascination with getting some air, opening trampoline gyms in every corner of the country where kids can go jump their hearts out.
But why spend tons of money every year on those indoor gyms when you can have just as much fun in your backyard? Backyard trampolines are fun for the whole family, with all of the safety features and construction quality necessary to put even the most worried parent's mind at ease.
If this sounds like as much fun to you as it does to us, read on as we discuss all of the information you need to bring home your very own bouncing paradise.
WHAT SIZE AND SHAPE SHOULD I BUY?
The biggest question is where do I start? What factors should I keep in mind when I am trying to make a purchase? Price is in the forefront of everyone's mind when making a larger purchase, but that isn't the only important choice you have to make.
Let's look at the other factors to consider:
Round trampolines are the most popular style, and while it does have its advantages, it’s not the best choice for all scenarios. In a round trampoline, the springs impart their reaction force evenly around the perimeter of the trampoline, which means jumpers tend to move toward to the middle.
This is certainly fine for one jumper, and it would be easy enough for two jumpers to avoid collisions, but it becomes much more dangerous with large groups of jumpers. At that point, everyone is responsible for their whereabouts on the trampoline, and we all know that self-awareness is not a strong-suit for kids.
Of course, if your children jump by themselves, it must be pointed out that a round trampoline that directs them into the middle of the jumping surface will reduce the likelihood that they accidentally fall out of the safety net.
So what sizes are available for round trampolines? The smallest is 6 feet in diameter, but these work better as personal exercise trampolines, rather than recreational trampolines. The bounce won't be as high and the usable surface area is small, so you won't get much more than a simple up-and-down jump. Kids may get bored with this quickly. Eight-foot trampolines are much more common and allow more space for a child to move around, but it is still a one-at-a-time size.
Medium trampolines in the 10-12 foot range are much better for two jumpers at a time. This is the range where trampolines move from personal exercise machines to real playtime powerhouses. The bounce is bigger, and you have much more space for tricks and flips.
Trampolines in the 14-16 foot category are the largest you'll find in a round shape. If you’re a daredevil or you plan to get all of your friends in on the fun, you'll want a trampoline that is at least 14 feet in diameter. A 14-foot trampoline is also necessary if you as the parent want to have a good time too.
Round trampolines are the least expensive shape. This is because a circle is an exceptionally sturdy structural shape, so the frame for the trampoline can be lighter while still being robust enough to hold up.
With an oval shape, jumpers still drift to the middle. An oval design offers a larger jumping surface than a similarly sized round trampoline, but the reaction of the forces around the edge of the surface is close to the same. Thus a trampoline with an oval shape offers the best hybrid of a round and a rectangle design. Due to its oval shape, the frame is thicker steel and heavier than a round trampoline.
Oval trampolines are ideal for multiple bouncers because the length of the surface allows for several bounce areas that don’t interfere with one another much. When multiple people are using the trampoline, this makes it easier to avoid bumping into each other. When only one person is bouncing at a time, you can jump longer distances from one end to the other. The elongated shape also makes it easier to fit the trampoline into irregular spaces without it looking like it takes up too much room.
Oval trampolines sizes don't vary as widely as the other styles, but our two available models could fall into the categories of "medium" and "large."
Square trampolines are strikingly different from their circular counterparts. On a square design, the springs on each side don't react as they do on a circular model, so jumpers stay in place more easily. When you jump straight up on a square trampoline, you will land exactly where you started.
Square trampolines make better use of space in your backyard since most yards are rectangular. If you are working within a fenced-in area, you can fit it tighter to the fence on each side than you could with a round or oval shape. You'll still have to keep enough room in between to maintain a safety zone though.
Rectangular trampolines share bounce characteristics with their square brethren, reacting only in the area nearest the jumper. Rectangular trampolines offer the largest area of all available shapes, which is why they're often used in competitive gymnastics and trampolining. In fact, rectangle trampolines are very popular, if not the most popular shape of trampoline in the USA. They’re also a classic. In 1934, George Nissen, the inventor of the trampoline, used a rectangular shape in his first design.
Small rectangular trampolines sit in the range of 7'x10', whereas larger competition-style trampolines go up to 10'x17'. The larger the trampoline, the more surface area, so the more jumpers it can accommodate at one time, but you might find that the largest, professionally-oriented trampolines are more expensive than you need for some simple backyard fun.
Rectangular, as well as square, trampolines are also relatively easy to assemble, store and transport. This enables you to take your trampoline down when it’s not in use, such as in the winter months, to create more room in your yard.
Because their structures handle the force of the jump differently, square and rectangle trampolines have heavier, sturdier frames. This makes their fully assembled portability much worse than a round design. It is entirely conceivable that you could get a few friends to pick up a round trampoline and re position it in the yard. With a larger rectangle trampoline, you'll want to pick the right spot the first time.
2. HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH?
Each different shape has its advantages regarding how it fits into available space, but let's look at some basic guidelines that we can use to determine how much available space we have to work with.
To accommodate a trampoline safely, you should have about twenty-four feet of overhead clearance. This seems like a lot, but the last thing you want is to have someone crack their head on a tree branch. Ideally, the only thing above the surface of your trampoline is clear, blue sky.
Two to six feet of clearance around the perimeter will ensure that if someone should accidentally fall out of the safety net, they land on the ground and not on some other potentially dangerous surface.
3. WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO PUT IT?
Grass and soil are the preferred surfaces for your trampoline. They will better absorb the forces that are transmitted through the frame of the trampoline, taking the stress off those critical structural components.
You should also set up your trampoline on level ground. Not only will this be more fun, but it will also prevent bouncers from getting launched down a hill because the trampoline is on an incline.
Finally, make sure the area under the trampoline is clear. Jumpers should not have to worry about injuring their feet or legs when they hit the surface to spring up for some serious air.
4. CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS
Size and shape aren't the only factors to consider. To get years of fun out of your investment, you want to make sure you choose a trampoline that uses high-quality materials.
So what materials should you look for in a trampoline?
Some of the most durable safety nets consist of Polyethylene (PE). Polyethylene is inert, which means it is naturally resistant to dust, moisture, and organic material (bugs, germs, fungus and all that other stuff). What does this mean? Your net will last longer before it breaks down or needs a good cleaning. With a quality PE safety net, it won't need cleaning at all.
All nets are coated with a UV-protectant spray - something like sunblock for your net. This is important if your trampoline sits out in your backyard all year around. PE nets wear that coating a little better, so the natural breakdown that occurs in safety nets won't happen as quickly in a PE net.
Polypropylene (PP) and Polyester are more rigid than Polyethylene, which isn't a good thing for a safety net. You want your net to have a little give and elasticity to move with your children as they jump around and have fun. Resilience is good, and you want to choose a material that will return to its original shape. Rigid materials like Polypropylene and polyester are more prone to tearing and ripping, and one small tear in any part of your net means you'll want to replace it as soon as possible.
A well-constructed security door consists of more than just a simple zipper. Reinforced stitching on the zipper track will make sure that the weakest part of your net is strong enough to withstand everything your kids can throw at it. Having a zipper on both sides of the net makes it much easier to get in and out.
How your safety net attaches to the frame of your trampoline is as important as the safety door, because this is the other place your children are likely to roll or fall out of the net.
Net makers have come up with several designs for these. One being a safety net that is secured beneath the surface of the trampoline, so there are no space or holes at the bottom of the net. Another is a net that uses a heavy-duty rope that runs through v-rings spaced no more than a few inches apart along the entire bottom perimeter of the net. In either case, a properly secured net will not have any space underneath for children or their limbs to slip through.
Regardless of the brand or the quality of your trampoline, the basic design will be the same - strong steel springs stretched between the frame and the jumping surface. These steel springs are obviously hard, and they have sharp edges and can catch hair and fingers. To provide your kids with the safest possible environment, you want to choose a pad that will provide secure coverage and adequate cushioning for the springs. Your children and their friends wouldn't often come in contact with this safety pad in a well-designed trampoline, but that's no excuse for skimping on protection in this important area.
Make sure your trampoline pad has enough padding to break a fall, and an outer material sturdy enough to handle the elements year-round. You probably don't want to take your pads off to store them inside for the winter, because they provide vital protection from rusting for the steel springs underneath.
Frame tubes are generally created from some proprietary alloy of galvanized steel and hopefully coated with some material designed to provide weather-proofing. The heavier-gauge the steel is, the longer your frame will last, but you don’t have to use tube-gauge as the final indicator of quality. Chances are you’ll be keeping your trampoline up year-round, so you want to make sure the metal and welding will stand up to the elements.
Jumping mats are all made of similar materials, so when shopping for a trampoline, you want to focus on the number of stitches and sewing and labels like “waterproof” to indicate the quality of the jumping mat. It is the most-abused part of the trampoline, as well as the primary point of failure, so you don’t want to cheap out here.
You want to find a trampoline with components that are constructed with quality in mind, rather than cost. Well-designed and sturdily built equipment won't be cheap, but you'll appreciate the cost-savings in the long run when you don't have to replace the safety net every summer. In general, a high-quality trampoline will incorporate quality parts everywhere, so if you trust the strength of the springs and the safety net, you can be sure the jumping mat will last too.