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Deciding On The Right Rope

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ropes come in many shapes and sizes, each type with specific characteristics that make it ideal for particular situations.  Price alone does not dictate how well a rope will perform, nor does breaking strength.  Therefore it is important to understand the different aspects of each rope.  Here is a brief overview of the main types of rope on the market today.

Single Braid Rope
Single Braid Ropes are relatively easy to manufacture, and their braiding pattern--according to some--resembles the scales of a fish.  Because their strands are relatively linear, single braid ropes are inherently strong.  They are constructed from a variety of materials including polyester, nylon, polypropylene and specialty fibers like Spectra and Dyneema (some of the strongest fibers available today).
Double Braid Rope
Double Braid Ropes are often used by our arborist customers for rigging / lowering operations.  They are most commonly constructed of polyester or nylon, or sometimes a combination of the two.  A double braid rope is essentially two ropes in one.  The outer sleeve works together with the core to create a strong balance, with both pieces bearing the applied load.  The manufacturing and splicing of double braid ropes is more complicated than with single braid or 3-strand ropes, therefore they are typically more expensive (although this is not always the case).  Aside from our arborist customers, double braid ropes are commonly used by marine enthusiasts (sailboats, large boats and even ships), utility workers (underground pulling rope) and lifting slings (found on utility truck winches and used by helicopters for hoisting).

Nylon Rope
Once considered the "standard" general purpose rope, pure nylon rope is not selling as fast as it once did.  A big reason for this is the advancement of rope fiber technology.  Blended ropes (such as Poly/Dac), polyester ropes and even high-performance ropes are gaining in popularity as more users become aware of them and their attributes.  Still, nylon has great properties like UV resistance, reasonable tolerance to chemicals and tremendous stretch.  It is typically used in towing, retrieval work and marine environments.   Nylon rope can come in many shapes and sizes, and the three most common braids are 3-strand, 8-strand and double braid.

Climbing / Rescue Rope
In recent years the development of rope fibers and braiding technologies has really taken the climbing and rescue rope market to new heights.  There are many fibers being used, and the combination of braids and rope diameters seems almost endless.  There are many good manufacturers too, so take your time and choose a rope that is just right for you.  With our customer base, the most common climbing rope that we sell is typically a 1/2" 16-Strand product.  Most devices, such as cammed ascenders, descenders and prusiks, are designed to work with 1/2" rope.  The 16-strand braid style is popular because it is tight and durable, yet still knots well and has a familir handle to many climbers.  Again, this is the most common type of climbing rope that we sell, but certainly not the only one.  Other great new products, like Rocket Line (a smaller 24-strand product), are really gaining in popularity.  Be sure to look at all the options before you decide on a climbing rope.

When it comes to rescue ropes, there really isn't anything better or more popular than static Kernmantle.  And, we have some of the best American made Static Kernmatle on the market today.  It is manufactured in the state of California in an ISO 9001 facility.  It features a polyester cover over  a nylon core and is one of the finest choices available for fire and rescue operations.

Talking about these two ropes leads me to shed some light on dynamic vs static ropes.  Many people are not sure which is the right rope for their climbing application.  While that question may have more than one correct answer, I can probably narrow down your choice by providing some information here.  Think of dynamic ropes like strong bungee cords.  They are designed to stretch and elongate and absorb the load generated when a climber falls, thus reducing the risk potential to the climber.  Static ropes are not designed to stretch or elongate in the same way.  Rather they are designed with strength and durability in mind, and are typically used by experienced climbers in technical and / or rescue scenarios.

Synthetic Winch Lines
A discussion about rope today wouldn't really be complete without talking about the expanding market for Synthetic Winch Lines.  Use by off road enthusiasts, tow trucks, aviators and many others, synthetic winch lines are quickly gaining popularity because of three main reasons.

First, the material they are made from is stronger than steeel cable, size-for-size (make sure you are getting true Dyneema product and not a cheap knock-off).  For example, our 3/8" Swift Line has a breaking strength of nearly 20,000lbs!

Secondly, they are not as dangerous as steel cable when they break.  Because they don't store energy in the same manner, many users describe they're broken synthetic winch line as "falling to the ground".  If you've ever wathced a piece of wire rope or chain break under tension, the violent recoil is dangerous and quite an eye-opener.

Lastly, they are much easier to handle.  They weigh approximately 1/10th the same size of steel cable and because they are made of fiber, you don't have to worry about being poked by broken wires.  The end result is a much more enjoyable user experience.  Still, remember that synthetic winch lines are still made of fiber at the end of the day.  Proper padding, clearing of obstacles and fairlead maintenance are necessary to maintain a good lifespan.

4 Comments:

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I think, Nylon is the best choice for many applications string.

It is very strong, but perhaps more importantly is highly UV and abrasion resistant, so it will take a long time . Nylon is the strongest easily available rope material. Although not being strong enough to lose about 15% of its strength when wet. It should also be noted that there will be very dense and sinks.

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thanks


I've just enrolled in an indoor wall/rock climbing gym and boy, there's a lot to learn. Everything is interesting and fun to do. My instructor has given a thorough talk on basic safety and choosing the right gear and equipment for this sport. When the topic on ropes came up, there were a lot of questions regarding what to get, the quality and the costs we have to shell out. I was reading on ropes and wow, there's a lot to learn. Nylon and polyester ropes have really caught my attention and are great for exercise climbing. I just stumbled on this site that has lots of tips and information, it's a great resource site: http://backpackingmastery.com/skills/how-to-climb-a-rope.html



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