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Rope Material Guide

This guide explains the different rope materials and our top recommendations for everyday uses.

Rope Material Guide

Selecting the material your rope is made from is the most important step in finding the right rope.

Each material has different characteristics and performance, such as weight, strength, elongation, and durability. Rope is a textile, so the materials used to manufacture rope fibers are also commonly found in commercial and industrial applications such as clothing, flooring, and medical equipment, to name a few. In general, rope material is classified as either synthetic or natural.

Synthetic materials like nylon, polyester, and polypropylene are created from human-made chemicals and fibers. Synthetic ropes are now more popular than natural ones because of their increased strength and durability at lighter weights. Natural materials like manila, sisal, and cotton are farmed or grown from the earth. These ropes are best used for indoor or decorative purposes with minimal exposure to the elements, especially water.

About cotton

Cotton is a natural product, and it has many advantages, including moisture control and insulation. Cotton ropes effectively absorb liquid but also dry out quickly. It also provides thermal insulation that protects us from the heat in the summer and the cold during the winter. Cotton is excellent for contact or architectural use because it’s hypoallergenic, odor-free, and naturally fire-retardant.


Cotton is the softest natural material that can be used to make rope. Cotton ropes have so many uses, but they’re best known for creating soft, super comfortable everyday items. Cotton is also easy to dye, and we can make the most beautiful, colorful decorative items with this material.


Cotton items are not as sturdy as those made with synthetic materials. These items will quickly swell in humidity, making them a magnet for mildew. Cotton ropes are especially sensitive to constant exposure to any type of liquid, and being in such an environment will cause damage and fiber breakage.

Common applications

  • Home decor and crafting
  • Jewelry and fashion
  • Garden tie-ups and hammocks

Shop Cotton Rope

About manila

Manila hemp is a fiber procured from the abaca tree leaves native to the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. Abaca fibers are considered the strongest natural fibers and are commonly used for woven fabrics, tea bags, and ropes. They are biodegradable, sustainable, and resistant to saltwater decomposition.


Manila rope has been used for centuries for many applications because of its durability, strength, flexibility, and resistance to water damage, particularly salt water decomposition. Its resilience and absorption provide a stronger grip for the user, making it a great choice for physical activities such as CrossFit, tug-of-war, and obstacle courses.


This type of rope is highly absorbent and is prone to ultraviolet decay, so anyone using manila rope should be careful in using it in areas where it’s always exposed to the elements. When it’s left outdoors for long periods, its surface has a high tendency to harden and rot.

Common applications

  • Outdoor recreational equipment like swings, playgrounds, etc...
  • Fitness activities and battle ropes
  • Aesthetic barriers and architectural fencing

Shop Manila Rope

About sisal

Sisal is naturally stiff and tough. 3-strand rope, like sisal, is twisted into a rope that is great for crafting, agriculture, or pet products. The sisal material comes from the agave sisalana plant fibers. Sisal is the perfect all-natural rope option for heavy duty indoor and outdoor applications for farming, agriculture, pets and animals, and crafting when you need natural elongation or stretch.


Sisal is best used in dry interior or exterior applications where a natural, UV resistant rope is needed. Sisal is great as a decorative rope, agricultural and landscape rope, and as a pets and animals uses like cat scratching posts. Sisal has excellent knotability and due to its rough texture will hold knots well. Unlike manila, sisal rope is antimicrobial, non-toxic and suitable for applications involving livestock or pets.


Sisal is heavier and less strong compared to manila. It has a rough texture that is not desirable for some applications, especially in contact with sensitive skin.

Common applications

  • Cat scratching posts
  • Decorative rope, agricultural and landscape rope
  • Gardening and farming

Shop Sisal Rope

About polypropylene

Polypropylene is considered one of the most versatile types of plastic. We often come across this material at home in kitchen utensils, athletic wear, and decorative rugs. Polypropylene’s characteristics make it ideal for a wide range of tough products, such as microwaveable containers, car bumpers, and medical tools.


Polypropylene rope is a great general-purpose material for domestic or business purposes. This type of rope is rot-proof, floats in water, and has a high melting point. It also comes in many sizes and bright colors. Given these advantages, polypropylene is the natural choice for water use. It doesn’t splinter easily and can increase visibility in low light or harsh weather conditions.


Polypropylene rope is stiff and slippery and can easily become undone. There are certain types of knots that work well with this material. And even if it's a synthetic rope with a high melting point, it can be severely damaged by prolonged exposure to extreme heat and UV. It will become discolored and frayed when left under the sun for too long.

Common applications

  • Marine requirements and swimming pool barriers
  • Construction and engineering
  • Sports and recreation

Shop Polypropylene Rope

About nylon

Nylon (polyamide) was the first synthetic material used to make rope and is one of the strongest and most favored fiber materials today. Due to its high strength, natural elongation, and abrasion resistance in dry or wet conditions, nylon rope is commonly used in dynamic climbing applications. It’s smooth texture and high shock absorption also makes it a great option for pulley and winch systems.


Nylon is best suited for products that are required to absorb shock loads like dynamic climbing ropes, winch lines, and more. Nylon's abrasion resistance is actually better in wet conditions since it absorbs water.


When nylon ropes are kept in wet or damp conditions for long enough, the material tends to become stiff and unmanageable. Compared to polyester, nylon has less resistance to UV-rays and sunlight and is slightly less strong.

Common applications

  • Rock climbing
  • Rescue and fall-protection
  • Winch lines and towing
  • Rope access and work at height

Shop Nylon Rope

About polyester

Polyester is commonly regarded as one of the best general purpose rope materials. Very similar to nylon, polyester is a mainstay for rigging and static climbing systems. Compared to nylon it offers increased resistance to chemicals and high strength even when wet. Polyester is often paired with other materials as a cover due to its high abrasion and chemical resistance.


Polyester is known for its high breaking strength and low stretch. The polyester material has advantages when resisting chemicals, UV radiation, salt water, and abrasion. Polyester maintains its high strength and resistance in both dry and wet conditions.


On the other hand, polyester's dynamic energy absorption capacity is markedly lower when compared to nylon ropes. Because of this, polyester ropes are only suitable for activities involving high impact forces to a limited extent.

Common applications

  • Static climbing including rapelling, canyoneering, and rope access
  • Arborist rigging and bull ropes
  • Sailboat rigging and dock lines

Shop Polyester Rope

About dyneema

UHMWPE ropes, also known as UHMPE or HMPE, are a family of ropes made from materials like dyneema. The acronym stands for Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. Dyneema ropes are known for their extremely high strength, yet extremely light weight. Compared to steel, dyneema ropes have 15 times the amount of strength for the weight. Though high strength and low weight are often desirable, dyneema rope is very static, meaning that it does not have much elongation at all.


The extremely strong dyneema fibers are lightweight and high-performance. Ropes made from dyneema feature high abrasion resistance and even good UV-resistance.


When dyneema rope extended or stretched, it doesn't return to its original length. Another con is that it is not dynamic and should not be used in shock load absorbing situations.

Common applications

  • Safety and rescue slings
  • Mooring lines
  • Industrial ropes and tethers
  • Steel or chain replacement

Shop Dyneema Rope

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