Rope is an important tool for various tasks. From securing shipments to creating homemade crafts, the uses for this material are as diverse as they are creative. For example, a rope is a particularly essential tool in the hands of professional climbers. Using the proper kind can save their life in an emergency. Learn about the different types of rope and rope accessories to ensure that you’re using the right kind for the job at hand.
Natural ropes consist of naturally occurring materials such as cotton and manila. These materials are often softer than their synthetic counterparts. They’re also good for jobs in which an individual is directly handling it—for example, when climbing and hammocking. These rope’s absorbency often makes them a perfect fit for backyard projects and flag poles, as they’ll hold up well even when battered by winds and rain. However, it’s important to note that while they’re durable, they’re not completely resistant to deterioration over time.
The softest type of rope, cotton is great for jobs that involve a lot of handling as it will cause less abrasive force on the skin. However, prolonged exposure to the elements can cause it to dramatically weaken and lose its effectiveness. This is especially the case when it doesn’t properly dry as it can begin to form mold, rot, and mildew. People typically use cotton for climbing and camping projects where it doesn’t get as much rain exposure. While these products generally only use cotton yarn, recent product lines introduced ropes with a cotton and polyester blend to increase longevity.
Developed from the Abaca plant in the Philippines, Manila rope is a great general-use material. Its durability and strength make for an effective tool for several tasks, including climbing, obstacle courses, and rope ladders. Additionally, its ability to hold knots makes it one of the best materials to use for crafts and pet toys. However, like cotton, manila is also susceptible to water and can begin to rot away if not properly dried before it’s stored.
In contrast to natural ropes, these materials are artificially developed to be durable, strong, and weather-resistant. Since they don’t absorb water as natural materials do, they aren’t as prone to developing mold or rot. As such, ropes consisting of polypropylene, nylon, or polyester tend to have a longer life span. As such, users can utilize them interchangeably between different tasks. In fact, it’s these materials that are usually used by professional climbers as they make great fall protection ropes when cared for properly. However, while natural fibers can hold up well to UV rays and prolonged exposure to sunlight, synthetics can begin deteriorating when left in the sun too long.
The least expensive of the synthetic materials, people often use polypropylene for various jobs about the house, hobbies, and recreational activities, such as boating. The lightweight nature of this material makes it extremely buoyant when on water and works well to anchor a boat to a dock. Additionally, polypropylene doesn’t conduct electricity so it’s often a great choice when working with live electrical currents. One drawback, however, is the flexibility of this rope. As the stiffest of the synthetic materials, polypropylene can be difficult to handle for extended periods with ungloved hands.
One can characterize this material by its ability to stretch—something that can come in handy when handling rope. Nylon can absorb the shock of an impact significantly better than other materials, making it less likely to break under stress. It will also wear well when used on surfaces that won’t catch or tear at the fibers. This type of rope does tend to be more affected by water than polypropylene and can weaken when exposed to it. However, it does regain that lost strength once it dries.
Polyester, while having many of the same qualities as nylon, doesn’t offer as much stretch as other synthetic fibers. But it makes up for this in its complete resistance to water, heat, and UV rays. This makes this material perfect for long outdoor excursions and strenuous recreational activities. Though polyester doesn’t absorb shock as well as nylon, this material still responds well to the occasional slip while climbing.
Another way to identify different types of rope and rope accessories is by the different construction methods and what they mean. The various ways manufacturers weave the fibers, while seemingly insignificant, have a large impact on the rope’s strength. This then impacts how well they perform specific tasks.
Twisted ropes, also known as laid rope, consists of several strands that producers hand-twist to form a coiling pattern. While this pattern boasts strength and resilience, one should note that is can be susceptible to fraying, as it exposes the ends of the fibers. Further, due to the strands being so small, it can often be difficult to visually see signs of fraying.
Double Braided Ropes
Manufacturers weave this type of rope in two overlapping diamond patterns that strengthen and protect the ends of the fibers from fraying. Since this rope is double-layered, one may construct its internal braid of a different material than the external braid. This practice can help produce a stronger product, as you’ll be getting the strengths of two separate materials.
Solid Braided Ropes
When weaving this rope, the strands all travel in the same direction and alternate between the core of the strand and the exterior. Most commonly used for utility and general-purpose rope, this pattern makes the rope extremely strong. However, because this pattern locks the fibers together, ropes with this construction are often difficult to cut.
Hollow Braided Ropes
This construction, like the double braided ropes, boasts a diamond pattern. However, unlike other types of rope, hollow braided ropes don’t have an inner core of fibers. The braiding is also looser in appearance, so one can easily break it into several pieces if desired.
Climbers put their lives in the hands of their equipment when they step off the ground. For this reason, you must have a strong and sturdy rope that you can trust. Along with your rope, you’ll need certain rope accessories to maintain this important tool and keep it strong for many climbs to come.
Some of these accessories include rope guards that slide over the fibers to protect it from rough terrain and keep it from weakening with each climb. These are great for expanding the life of your rope and keeping you safe from something suddenly severing it. These guards come in various designs and sizes to ensure that you find the right one for the type of rope you use.
Additionally, you can invest in a rope washer to ensure that your rope doesn’t develop mold or mildew. These contaminants can slowly degrade the structure of the rope, so keeping it clean can go a long way in maintaining its strength and usefulness for your jobs. Many companies also make special soaps to combat the growth of mold and prevent any future development from occurring.