Types of Ropes and Cords

Key Factors to Consider

The three most important factors to consider when selecting rope for pioneering use are strength, how much or little it stretches, and how easily it handles. Other considerations are how well it resists mildew, its ability to stand up to repeated wetting and drying, and whether or not it retains kinks from knots after having been under a hard strain, making it difficult to use a second time.

Manila rope in 1/4-inch diameter comes in a standard 1200-foot coil, while larger diameters come in 600-foot coils. Most other types of rope come in 600-foot spools as a standard package. Shorter lengths are available from retail suppliers.

Types of Rope

ManilaMANILA – Manila rope should provide the bulk of the rope needed for your troop’s pioneering kit. (Its cost is mid-range.) Properly cared for it will give good service for quite a few years. Pure manila rope is by far the best all-around rope. It’s easy to handle, has good strength-to-size ratio, and does not have an objectionable stretch factor. It handles well in three important pioneering areas: knot tying, lashing, and in using a block and tackle. Manila rope can be spliced easily and withstands repeated wetting and drying cycles.


SisalSISAL – Sisal rope has much the same appearance as manila rope, but it’s quite inferior in strength and does not handle well when used for lashing or knot tying. When sisal rope, tied into a knot gets wet and then dries, it becomes useless because of the kinks that remain. Even though it costs less. it is not cost effective because it breaks down quickly during use, so the cost is high when compared to other types of rope that can be used again and again.


PolyPOLYPROPYLENE – Rope made of this man-made plastic fiber should be considered for pioneering activities because it is lightweight and its strength-to-size ratio is good. Size for size it is twice as strong as manila rope, but has a little higher stretch factor. It’s strength makes it suitable for anchor strops and for any application involving heavy strain. Though it stretches under a hard pull, this should not pose a problem if taken into consideration beforehand. It is easy to splice in a twisted three-strand form. Because it is somewhat slippery, four tucks should be made instead of the usual three tucks. Cut ends should be both melted back and whipped with a good flax cord. A disadvantage of polypropylene is that long exposure to sunlight has a weakening effect on the fibers. But, all things considered it is worth including in your pioneering supplies.


NylonNYLON – The most prevalent disadvantage of nylon rope is that it has a 20 percent stretch factor. But, in cases where the stretch factor can be taken up with adjustment to the strain on the line, its strength can be an advantage. Nylon rope also has a tendency to slip when a hard pull is put on some knots. Because of these two factors, it is almost useless as a lashing rope.


ParaPARACHUTE CORD – This popular cordage is very strong for its size, It’s abrasion and mildew resistant, easy to use, and available in different colors. But, it’s also designed to stretch. This makes it fine to use in building most camp gadgets, but not advisable to use when building pioneering structures that need to bear lots of weight and withstand plenty of strain.


PolyesterPOLYESTER – This man-made fiber rope is usually seen in the braided form. It handles well, is strong, and its stretch factor is less than nylon. It costs more than manila or nylon, but some sizes and lengths could be used in pioneering activities on a selected basis. A 6-foot length of 1/4-inch diameter polyester rope makes an excellent rope for practicing knot tying.


PolyethPOLYETHYLENE – This is the cheapest of man-made fiber ropes. It is most often seen in braided form and has a distinctive shine. Don’t let the low cost lure you into buying any quantity of polyethylene for pioneering or camp use. It is not suited for either knot tying or lashing because it holds kinks after being under a strain.


CottonCOTTON – Cotton rope in both twisted and braided forms is outclassed in strength by other types and today there is little use for it in pioneering and camping.


BINDER TWINE – Binder twine is made from loosely twisted jute fibers that are treated with oil during manufacturing. Its principle use today is for tying up bales of hay as the baling machine compresses the hay. Binder twine is readily available in varying quantities at hardware and farm supply stores. Its low cost makes it a throwaway item after use. But don’t be too quick to toss it in the trash—a balled up handful of discarded twine makes a very good fire starter in camp. Here are some uses:

  • When pioneering projects call for the use of poles less than 2 inches in diameter, binder twine can be used for lashing. (Do not use binder twine as a replacement for 1/4-inch rope in general pioneering use or lashings.)
  • Use binder twine to make a simple strop lashing with six or eight wraps and a square knot.
  • Two strands of binder twine quickly twisted together will equal a light cord.
  • Use binder twine for the back stays of anchor stakes.
  • Use binder twine for the construction of light camp gadgets.

Care of Rope

Always dry out any wet rope before putting it away. Store it in a dry place. Never hank natural fiber rope as this will cause kinks. Make large coils and bind them together with either a clove hitch or draw hitch. Color-coded coils of the same size lashing ropes can be combined and bound together for easier storage and access. Before using ropes for any project that will bear weight, separate the strands along the length of the rope and check the fibers for wear and rot. Replace any worn out lines.

More Information
Video: Lashing Ropes and Pioneering Spars
Preparing Manila Lashing Ropes
Get Pure Manila and Don’t Be Fooled
Poles for Pioneering
Ropes and Spars Further Information

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