Getting to know the ropes


Words by Jess Fogarty Pictures by Jess Fogarty and various

Getting to know the ropes

A rope is a rope is a rope. Right? Wrong! There’s a lot more to a rope than meets the eye. In this article we discuss ropes, their different properties and functions, and which ones are best suited to our off-road needs. So strap yourself in; it’s going to be an educational ride!

When you drive off-road, one thing is a given: everything shakes and rattles about. If you’re unlucky, something might actually fall right off; which is why you need the right rope either to strap things down, tie things up, or recover your mate from the bog he drove into. Before we get going, let’s take a brief look at the history of rope. It has been used since prehistoric times for fishing, hunting, lifting, pulling and climbing. And still is. The first ropes are believed to have been lengths of vines or roots, which someone later had the clever idea of braiding together for added strength.

How do ‘they’ know this? Apparently, impressions of braided string and cord were found in Europe in fired clay dating back 28 000 years. The Egyptians, of course, are believed to be the first ones to have used tools to braid rope. We know they did this because the Egyptians painted pictures of nearly every day-to-day task. Before the use of these tools, long rope was created in a method known as a ropewalk: the lengths of strands would first be laid out in a covered pathway or narrow passage, with a different person holding each strand.

These people would then step over and under each other to create a braid. Using this method, a rope could be only as long as the length of the shelter it was created in. Before you read about the different types of rope on offer, there’s a bit of rope jargon you need to familiarise yourself with on the facing page.

Polyester is a multipurpose rope; you can use it for guy ropes, tie downs and static lines. It’s UV resistant, waterproof, doesn’t lose strength when wet (though it does sink), it splices easily, holds knots well and has excellent abrasion resistance. However, avoid this one if your load is subject to sudden changes.
BS 10 mm diameter: 2 290 kg*
Recommended diameter: 2 – 8 mm
Cost: R1.20 per metre**

One of the most common ropes is Polyethylene, better known as ski rope. It’s inexpensive, light and strong, and it floats; but it’s probably not your best bet. You see, it isn’t UV resistant; when exposed to sunlight, the rope quickly degrades, which causes it to weaken considerably. After a while, the surface damage is visible and you can often spot broken strands; if this is the case, steer clear! Another problem with this rope is that any knot made in it that is exposed to strain will often be very difficult, or impossible, to undo; and such a tight knot may weaken the rope.
BS 10 mm diameter: 1 100 kg*
Recommended diameter: 10 mm
Cost: R4.46 per metre**

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