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Rope Materials

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by campforums, Nov 16, 2013.

  1. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    It can often be confusing to choose what type of rope you need since there are so many out there and often an entire isle when you go to the store with varying thicknesses, textures and prices. Here's a little information about the most commonly used materials.

    The characteristics of a rope depend a great deal on the fibers that make it up. The names of the materials may be somewhat confusing because chemical names like polyester are often used interchangeably with brand names such as Tergal, Darcron, etc.

    Natural Fibers
    Natural fibers have now almost completely been replace by synthetics, but the most commonly used were hemp, manilla, cotton and sisal. It is still possible to come across rope made of hemp, which up until recently was the best material available for rope because of its tensile strength and excellent resistance to wear.


    You probably recognize that as the type of rope you would climb in gym class. Probably because it is very rough and therefore easier to hold onto than the smooth and slick synthetic ropes. Although it can still give you a nasty rope burn.

    Synthetic Fibers
    Synthetic fiber ropes are those that are made from plastics compounded from oil or coal. They are shiny, non-absorbent and do not rot but have low melting points. The can also generally be much thinner than a rope made of natural fibers and have more elasticity. In general an increase in the ropes strength is correlated to a decrease in its flexibility and abrasion resistance. The most common of the synthetic fibers are polypropylene, polyamide and polyester.

    Polypropylene Fibers
    Polypropylene is a type of synthetic fiber, it is popular mostly because it is the cheapest kind of synthetic fiber. Although it light weight (it even floats!), very flexible, resistant to chemical abrasion and approximately 1.8 times stronger than manila fiber rope it is also vulnerable to sunlight which degrades the fibers and makes it weaker.


    Polyamide Fibers (Nylon)

    Another type of synthetic rope. Important characteristics are strength and elasticity which make them capable of absorbing sock loads better than other materials. They do not rot or float and variants of this type of rope are used for mountain climbing and fishing line because of their smooth texture.


    Polyester Fibers
    Polyester describes a family of synthetic materials which share a similar chemical structure. The most common polyester is polyethylene terephthalate (PET) although polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and naphthalate (PEN) ropes are also available.


    Polyester ropes are a good choice because of their physical properties and low elasticity. They are highly wear resistant and can be pre-stretched to reduce deformation under strain. They also have a smooth texture and low friction but do not float.

    Polyethylene Fibers
    This types of rope should generally be avoided. Polyethylene ropes are very cheap but not very strong and stretch and slip easily so they do not hold a knot well. However they are very resistant to atmospheric agents and float so sometimes they are used for lifelines to rowboats or rafts and as tow lines for water skiing.

    Last edited: Dec 25, 2014
  2. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    There are many uses for rope and it depends on what your needs are to figure out which type of rope is best for the situation your using it for. Rock climbing or holding up a tarp, boating or preventing a bear from eating your food. If your in a dangerous situation such as this one which of the above ropes would you want to be hanging onto and which one would you avoid?

  3. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Probably an organic fiber rope like manila, since those are the types or ropes they use for rope climbing activities I assume that the must do it for a good reason. Natural fiber ropes are generally much thicker because they don't have the same strength as synthetic blends which in combination with the rough texture would make it easier to get a grip on. There is no way you're going to slip once you have a good hold on a rope like the one in the first picture I posted. The only downside I could see would be possible rope burn but in the situation you described I reckon that would be the least of your worries.
  4. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    For all-around general purpose use, I love hollow braid polypropylene. It's about as cheap as rope gets, has decent abrasion resistance and it's easy to put loops on the ends using a tool known as a fid. A lot of pre-packaged rope, available at your local hardware or big box store comes with the tool. Among other things, I use it for hanging my larger tarps and on my canoe for anchoring and docking lines. The only real drawback I see to poly rope is its lack of UV resistance. In more critical applications - like I really would hate to lose an anchor - I tend to replace it every other year or so. I save the old rope until I have a good bagful, then it goes to the local recycler.
  5. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Well I suppose it is pretty cheap... Usually less than $10 for a 100m bag around here I usually go with Nylon rope because the texture feels nicer to me and I don't like how the polypropylene rope is stiff and prone to fraying. It is a little more expensive but generally still pretty affordable and especially if you live near a shop which sells rope by custom lengths.
  6. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    Well whaddaya know? Went looking for hollow braid nylon rope and the first site I found that has it is a Canadian company with a U.S. warehouse.
    Novabraid.com. When a site doesn't list prices, I automatically think expensive, but if it ever comes down to something I can't live without, I'll pay it. I imagine some Spectra fiber rope would be really nice to have one day.
  7. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    That reminds me, I should probably add some info on the different types of braids ropes come in. Were you looking for large quantities or some special specifications? I always found Nylon rope to be a fairly inexpensive and generic product that most stores carry. Or maybe you were just browsing... I don't really need any rope "custom" so I doubt I'll be making an order with Novabraid.com anytime soon.

    There are all sorts of different types or ropes out there beyond the ones I mentioned but most of them just aren't worth the hassle or extra price, I do imagine that in 50 years there will be all sorts of different ropes than there are now.
  8. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    Me? Nah... I've got more rope, and paracord, and twine, and bungees, and wire, and cable, and straps than any one human could possibly use. :p
    I was just curious if anyone made nylon hollow braid rope, so I just did what I always do and went a-browsin' to see what's up. Novabraid just happens to be the first page I hit and I thought their site was interesting enough to mention here.
  9. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Oh okay, Is hollow braid your preference? And isn't most Nylon rope hollow braid? At least for small to medium thickness Nylon ropes that is what I've found. Twisted seems to be more common for much thicker ropes and for those bright yellow polypropylene ropes.

    Also speaking of Paracord I have been thinking of using it to sleeve some cables because I absolutely love the look and texture of it.

    Sleeving3_zps331c461b.jpg DSC_5824.jpg 39124976_rappo1.jpeg FKI7S4EHD7TZFDO.LARGE.jpg

    @BMWPOWER I'm tagging you here :p
  10. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    At least to me, hollow braid is the easiest rope to work with. But I'd never seen nylon hollow braid, only polypropylene. Nylon is a bit more abrasion resistant then poly, which is why I went to see if anyone had it. I've either never seen it or just missed it at the local stores. As for the hollow poly, I've found it in different colors and sizes up to 5/8 inch. Can't remember where - I'll have to check my bookmarks.

    That paracord sleeve idea looks cool. I'll probably have to incorporate that in my next PC build.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
    campforums likes this.
  11. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Cool, it sounds like we share more than 1 hobby then.

    I think I might be confusing the different braid types then, what type of braid do you commonly see Nylon rope come in? And yea, I like it because it is very abrasion resistant.
  12. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    I usually just see twisted nylon. I used to buy it in bulk before hollow braid became common - or maybe it was just after I found out it existed. I've probably got a bit of OCD 'cuz really like the neat loops over knots. I know it's also possible to use a fid to work twisted rope, but that's an art and a skill I don't have. If hollow braid wasn't so easy to work with, I'd probably have to learn how to work with twisted. The OCD is also probably the reason I'll now be obsessing on Spectra rope 'til I go buy some. I'm a downsize nut, and Spectra fiber will allow me to get thinner rope and still maintain the strength I need.
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