There are many different materials, types and widths of webbing used in the Outdoor industries. Webbing is a strong fabric woven as a flat strip or tube of varying widths and fibers often used in place of rope.
Modern webbing is often made from exceptionally high-strength material, such as Nylon, Polyester, Polypropylene, and Kevlar. Some webbing characteristics that lend themselves well to outdoor gear is that it is easily sewn, it is strong, and it works well with hardware. From tree straps to backpack straps to your belt there is rarely any person on a hiking trip without some form of this underappreciated material.
Materials- One of the biggest variations is often the hardest to see. The proper material for webbing is determined by the loads, stretch and other properties needed. Here is an outline of the most common ones used in the outdoor industry.
- Nylon– Nylon is probably the most commonly used webbing in the outdoor industry and because of that it comes in a wide range of styles from your backpack straps to your life saving equipment in rock climbing. Its characteristics are that it is very strong and comes ina wide range of types. Climbers often use nylon tubular webbing in fall protection because of its high strength and elasticity. Nylon is fairly resistant to UV degradation and as long as it isn’t left exposed to the sun for months, you will not see much more than 30% loss of strength of Nylon 6 and nylon 6,6. The elasticity that makes it good for climbers makes it a bad choice for hammock suspension. Nylon absorbs water and adds to the weight more than just surface moisture.
- Polyester– Polyester is very common webbing. Its properties that make it a great choice are its strength, it doesn’t stretch, it is fairly UV stable, and it doesn’t absorb water. It also comes in a wide range of widths and strengths. It is about 90% as strong as nylon and it is one of the most UV stable webbings commonly used. These properties make it a very good choice for hammock suspension and backpack straps.
- Polypropylene– Polypropylene is much weaker, has a lower melting point, and is less resistant to abrasion than its nylon and Polyester counterparts. However it is much lighter and will absorb the least amount of water weight. It is a good choice for backpack straps, tarp tie outs, and wider tree straps. With a tree strap wider than one inch, polypropylene becomes a good choice because it is so low in weight and stretch.
- Kevlar– Kevlar has a great weight to strength ratio. It is also abrasion and heat resistant. Its notoriety is in bulletproof vests but has recently become a lightweight tree strap alternative. The downside to Kevlar in the outdoor industry is that it has a very low resistance to UV degradation. With as low as 40 hours in noontime sun, Kevlar can lose up to 50% of its strength. Caution should be used when using it for human suspension and exposure to too much UV light should be avoided. Using it at night and in the shade, along with not exposing to UV light while being stored is recommended when using this for outdoor products. However, it is very light weight and packs down very small.