Different people have different needs when it comes to trampolines. Some people just want something their kids can bounce around on, whereas others are looking to get some exercise themselves and perhaps practice acrobatics, even competitively.
It therefore pays to know about the capabilities and limitations of each – and, of course, how large a dent it will make in your wallet.
The Springs Are the Thing
A lot of people mistakenly assume that a trampoline’s elasticity somehow comes from the jump surface. Trampoline mats, being made of woven nylon (or other another synthetic material), have a little bit of “give” when stretched, but that pliability mostly serves to make each jump safer and more comfortable. When it comes to bounce, the springs are what you should be thinking of.
The first thing to do is count the springs. Generally, fewer means that it will be less safe to use, while a larger number means lower performance (less bounciness). Now, slight differences don’t matter much and opinions vary, but here’s what we consider the optimum numbers (for round trampolines):
- 8 Feet: 48 pieces of 5.5 inches
- 10 Feet: 64 pieces of 6 inches
- 12 Feet: 80 pieces of 7 inches
- 14 Feet: 96 pieces of 8 inches
- 15 Feet: 108 pieces of 8.5 inches
You will have noticed that spring length also plays a role. All things being equal, you’ll feel more elasticity with longer springs. This is because long springs stretch further when you land on the jump surface, meaning that they push you upward over a longer distance, propelling you further into the air. Obviously, bigger trampolines need more and longer springs to make up for the larger surface area.
When checking on the springs of your trampoline choices, also look out for words like “galvanized steel” and “rust-proof” in the stats. If you don’t see these words, there is a chance that they won’t last very long, especially if the trampoline is left outside. If you’re just looking for something inexpensive, this shouldn’t matter much. However, if you’re serious about your trampoline workouts or want it to last five to ten years even when exposed to the elements, this is a feature you shouldn’t neglect.
Consider the Legs
Trampoline legs should be W-shaped and wide-set for the best stability and durability. Post-style legs are okay for small trampolines which will only be used by children, but you should still be conservative when thinking about the maximum weight capacity of any trampoline. Every time you jump, the structure has to absorb the force of a human body falling from a height of perhaps several feet, so having a sturdy base structure is key to safety.
This is another area where you should pay attention to terms like “galvanized,” “weather-proof,” “rust-resistant,” and “zinc-coated.” All of these point to increased longevity and durability, which make your trampoline safer once it has a few years on it. Stainless steel is the best material commonly used for trampoline construction, so it may be preferable to pay extra for one of these rather than one with a frame made of something inferior.
But I’m Still Concerned About Safety…
Trampoline accidents happen; that’s undeniable. There are, however, steps you can take to ensure the safety of yourself and your children on a trampoline, some of them outlined above. If those weren’t enough to set your mind at ease, though, here are a few other suggestions for safe bouncing:
- Always place your trampoline on a flat, level surface without obstructions nearby..
- If children will be using it, always purchase a trampoline with a safety net and padding over the springs.
- Inspect the trampoline and surrounding area before every use.
- Remove all jewelry before using the trampoline.
- Extra care should be taken when more than one person is using the trampoline simultaneously, as collisions can easily lead to injury.
Selecting a Trampoline for Small Children
There are trampolines made especially for people with small backyards or indoor spaces. The “beginner” trampolines on our list (such as the Skywalker Trampolines Mini Bouncer Kids Trampoline and the Sportspower My First Trampoline) are of this type and suitable for use by a single person. They are, of course, small, often measured in inches instead of feet. These are perfect for people who want to introduce small children to the sport of trampolining without committing a lot of space or money to the project.
If you’re looking for a basic trampoline for your young ones to play on, you can also go for something at the intermediate level. These may not have the best springs, but should give them enough bounce to have a good time. That being said, each trampoline has a weight capacity you should pay attention to. Though higher weight capacities usually come with higher price tags, these are the safest choice for people with multiple children or whose children like to invite guests over.
Since rectangular trampolines are known to give a little extra boost to your bounce, it’s best to choose a round option for small children. Dampening the height they can achieve will help prevent them from trying to do flips and potentially injuring themselves.
In our review for the Skywalker Mini Bouncer, you’ll also find two additional ways to ensure the safety of younger children. Typical metal springs can cause injuries, as small fingers can easily find their way in between their coils. Elastic-based springs are much safer. Another thing to consider is that if the trampoline is for a toddler, it should have a safety bar or railing for the child to hold onto as he or she jumps. A padded bar (like that on the Skywalker Mini Bouncer) helps small children strengthen their little legs without falling.
Trampolines for Sport and Exercise
What if, however, you’re not looking for something for your children to play on? What if you want to get some exercise for yourself? Alternatively, one of your kids may be serious about competitive trampolining or a sport it’s used to cross-train for, such as gymnastics. In this case, you should look for a high-quality trampoline such as those that we call “advanced” in our statistics table.
The more money you spend on a trampoline, the better the chance that you’ll get one of superior quality. This really is one kind of product where you get what you pay for. What makes a trampoline advanced, though? The following are the basic traits you should look for if you are serious about your trampoline’s performance.
- Choose one with at least 84 springs if the trampoline is 12 feet or more in diameter.
- A rectangular trampoline will give you a higher bounce, so these are best if you’re planning to do backflips and other cool tricks.
- Select one with a weight capacity of over 300 pounds. Even if you weigh far less than this, having a high weight capacity will allow you to jump higher without fear of damaging the springs.
If you’re really serious about this sport and aim for Olympic level jumping like the athlete above, the trampolines featured on this page won’t make the cut. We recommend taking a look at a website like Max Air Trampolines if you want to practice at this level.
FACT SHEET & STATISTICS - DID YOU KNOW?
Several of the trampolines you’ll find here have weight capacities far below this suggestion, but these are geared toward small children or single adult users. If you want to share this trampoline with your kid or friends – or a group of teenagers might want to use it – find something with a high weight capacity.
If you’re looking for something in the 14 to 16-foot range, we suggest finding a trampoline with 6 W-shaped legs for the best possible support.
Initially, trampolines were seen as training and exercise aids, though they soon became a source of amusement and fun.
If you want a larger trampoline that’s able to support multiple people, you should aim for one with at least 84 springs to avoid stretching or breaking springs prematurely.
Want to spend less time exercising? A mere 10 minutes of jumping on a trampoline can substitute for a 30-minute run, saving you time without compromising on your workout.