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Synthetic Rope Comparison

Comparing the Major Synthetic Rope Materials

When deciding what rope best suits your need, it is often a matter of compromise.

There are 5 major synthetic ropes in use for boat and marine applications. Polypropylene, Polyester, Nylon, UHMWPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) and Aramids (Kevlar®, Technora®, Vectran®, etc). Each has outstanding virtues and each has faults.

Rope Manufacturers often combine different fibers and add specialized coatings in order to benefits from the good quality of each material.

This is often the case of ropes like Kevlar® which are very strong but UV sensitive and water absorbent.

Synthetic Rope Comparison Table

  • Floats
  • Inexpensive
  • Not sensitive to chemical attack
  • Tough, abrasion resistant
  • Resists wetting
  • No loss of strength in water
  • Degrades in UV
  • Not as strong as other synthetics
  • Stiff, slippery, knots come undone (some softer braids are made)
  • Low melting point
  • Stretches (not as much as Nylon)
Dinghy Mainsheets, Rescue and tow lines, Water ski lines, light anchor lines.

Shoreline Marine Polypropylene Anchor Line, 1/4-Inch x 100-Feet

Rope King HBP-381000Y Hollow Braided Poly Rope - Yellow - 3/8 inch x 1,000 feet
  • Good UV Resistance
  • Absorbs shock (stretches)
  • Good chemical resistance
  • Moderately priced
  • Very stretchy
  • Weaker when wet
  • Smoke is nasty when burning (cyanide)
Stretch reduces shock load so Anchor lines, Some tow lines, Mooring lines, Safety lines.

Attwood Nylon Twisted Anchor Line with Thimble (1/2-Inchx100-Feet)

Norestar Braided Nylon Anchor Rope, 150-Feet x 3/8-Inch
  • Excellent UV resistance
  • Moderate stretch
  • Abrasion resistant
  • Good chemical resistance
  • Keeps strength when wet
  • Moderately priced
  • Not unpleasant to handle
  • Sinks
  • Quite stiff
Best all round line when you don't need ultra strong or light lines. Most common halyard rope material for boat use.

1/2" X 100' Double Braid/Yacht Braid Premium Polyester Halyard Rigging Line

1/4" By 100 Feet Double Braided Polyester Rope
Spectra®, Dyneema®
  • Very Strong
  • Doesn't wet
  • Very Chemically resistant
  • Abrasion Resistant
  • UV resistant
  • Light and floats
  • Good flex fatigue resistance
  • Slippery, hard to knot
  • Low melting point
  • Creeps under constant load
  • Ropes tend to distort under load unless coated
  • Knots tend to undo
  • Expensive
High performance yacht lines, winch lines, fishing lines.

AMSTEEL BLUE WINCH ROPE 1/4 inch x 50 ft - MILITARY GREEN (9,200 lb strength) (4X4 VEHICLE RECOVERY)

AMSTEEL BLUE WINCH ROPE 1/2 inch x 100 ft Blue (34,000 lb strength) (4X4 VEHICLE RECOVERY)
Kevlar, Twaron®, Technora®, Nomex®
  • Very Strong
  • Low stretch
  • Low creep
  • Fire Resistant
  • Good chemical resistance
  • Cut resistant
  • Not Electrically Conductive
  • UV sensitive
  • Sensitive to shock loads
  • Sensitive to Chlorine, protective gloves cannot be bleached with chlorine.
  • Poor flex/fatigue resistance
  • Weakened by knots, often special terminals.
  • Sensitive to internal friction
  • Expensive
Winch lines, Sometimes as steel rope replacement where weight saving is important. Used in large ships where having a non conductive cable with no electromagnetic interference is useful. Not much used in boats except for stays. Lifting straps, paracord/survival line.

X-cords Paracord 850 Lb Stronger Than 550 and 750 Made By US Government Certified Contractor (100' BLACK DIAMOND KEVLAR ON SPOOL)

SGT KNOTSĀ® Technora 950 Survival Cord - 100 Feet

HRC has technora/nomex sheath.
New England Rope New England HRC X 50 ft

This synthetic rope comparison is offered for general information. New materials are developed every day.

I try to be accurate and check my figures, but mistakes happen. Check the suitability of any material against the technical information provided by the manufacturer.

Many of the strength figures I quote come from Wikipedia or from the actual manufacturer if available. I sometimes make mistakes (!!?!) in transcribing the data.

There are many companies manufacturing synthetic fibres to be used in ropes. They have many different trade names. I have not tested any of these other than in a casual sailor use. I don't make specific recommendations of specific brands. It's useful to have links in order to compare prices and availability, my links are not endorsements.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine [HOME]