10 Types of Rope All DIYers Should Know
Rope can be a valuable tool, but each type has its strengths and weaknesses. Join us as we cover the types of rope DIYers might want to know about.
A good length of rope has plenty of uses, and experienced DIYers know you can never have too much of it. From tying up packages, climbing purposes, or simply setting up a tire swing for backyard fun, rope is up to the task.
But there are a lot of different types of rope, and which one to use for a particular situation isn’t always crystal clear. This guide will point out the 10 types of rope all DIYers should know as well as the best uses for each.
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When most folks think of rope, the natural variety is usually the type that comes to mind. Natural rope is a product made from the fiber of plants. Common natural rope sources are jute, cotton, coir, sisal, manila, and hemp plants.
Natural rope is strong, and there are plenty of uses for it. It does quite well in high heat environments, but it’s not great in moisture-heavy or marine situations because it rots and loses strength easily. The exception is manila, which actually does quite well in these settings.
Best For: Packaging, gym equipment, pet chew toys, decoration, garden uses, nautical purposes (hemp only)
Editors’ Choice: This 100-foot length of manila hemp rope from Lykoug (available on Amazon) is soft to the touch and safe for garden projects and decoration inside and out.
The term “synthetic rope” encompasses many, many types of rope with one thing in common: they’re made from man-made materials. These materials include polypropylene, nylon, polyester, polyethylene, and other plastic-based chemicals and fiber.
Synthetic ropes tend to be very strong, but more importantly, they’re excellent in wet environments as they don’t absorb much water and they’re chemically composed to be mold and rot resistant. They’re also abrasion resistant, so they’re suitable for high-friction scenarios like wrapping around winches for off-roading, sailing, vehicle cargo tie-downs, and similar situations.
Best For: Vehicle winches, water applications, sailing, outdoor settings, tent construction, cargo tie-downs
Editors’ Choice: Azamia’s Synthetic Winch Rope is lightweight but very strong. Although it’s designed for vehicle applications, it’s suitable for most outdoor uses (available on Amazon).
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3. Single Braid
Single braided ropes are synthetic ropes most commonly used in sailing and other hand-maneuvered situations. These ropes consist of eight or 12 strands of synthetic material wrapped around a solid core, half spiraling clockwise and half spiraling counterclockwise. As these strands pass by each other, they weave in and out of one another, creating the braided pattern for which they get their name.
These ropes are lighter and stronger than simple twisted lines, but they’re very flexible and don’t kink easily. They’re also soft and forgiving, which makes them excellent for nautical situations where a sailor might be adjusting the sails or sheets by hand. Because they’re so flexible, they also form snug knots.
Best For: Sailing, camping, survival, outdoor scenarios
Editors’ Choice: Kalyon’s Single Braided Polyester Rope is soft and flexible, and it’s available in several thicknesses and lengths (available on Amazon).
Many confuse plaited ropes with braided ropes, but the two differ in their construction. Plaited ropes are similar to braided ropes in that they both use woven strands, but plaited strands do not run clockwise or counterclockwise. Instead, each strand wraps around two other strands, similarly to a traditional hair braid. Each plaited rope is made up of an even number of strands, and they’re usually made from a synthetic material.
Plaited ropes are very flexible, and they do an excellent job of resisting kinking. They’re also very comfortable in hand, so they’re suitable for a variety of knot-tying needs.
Best For: Tying knots, outdoor applications, camping
Twisted ropes are the most common and traditional type of rope. Usually, twisted ropes are made from natural materials such as cotton, hemp, or jute, and they consist of two, three or more thick strands made up of many plant fibers. Those strands twist around each other forming a twisted rope.
Twisted ropes can offer a lot of grip, so they’re commonly used in climbing ropes, tug-of-war ropes, or any scenario where a firm handhold is important. The downside of a twisted rope is that they’re prone to fraying or separating. Due to their knobby texture, they can hang up on edges when being pulled.
Best For: Decorative uses, exercise climbing ropes, gym equipment
Editors’ Choice: SGT Knots Twisted ProManila is a synthetic version of a typical manila rope, offering more strength and durability (available on Amazon).
6. Double Braid
Double braid ropes consist of two single braid ropes married together for ultimate strength and durability. These ropes have a single braid rope as the core and a second single braid rope as a jacket over top of the core, offering twice the strength without sacrificing hand-held friendliness and flexibility.
Double braid ropes are typically used in marine settings, as they can wrap around winches without losing their shape. They also tend to float, and they’re highly water resistant. Variations of double braid ropes are popular in rock climbing, as they’re not only strong, but they also offer a bit more shock absorption.
Best For: Rock climbing, dock lines, sailing, boating, winching
Editors’ Choice: Seachoice Double Braid Nylon Dock Line is available in several colors and sizes, and it comes with a pre-spliced eye (available on Amazon).
Hollow ropes consist of a series of woven strands with nothing in the middle, and they’re available in single braid or plaited varieties. This rope type isn’t very common outside of the nautical world, but they’re well suited for other wet environments as they’re less likely to trap water in their fibers, allowing them to remain lightweight and easy to manipulate.
Since these ropes are hollow, they often lack the strength of a double or single braided rope, even though they commonly include the same synthetic materials. However, their hollow design does allow them to lay flatter when needed and makes them easier to splice than braided lines with rope cores.
Best For: Nautical settings, mooring lines, water sports, wet environments
Editors’ Choice: SGT Knots hollow braid polypropylene rope is moisture and chemical resistant and comes in several sizes and colors (available on Amazon).
Manila is a form of natural rope once made from manila hemp. These days it comes from the abaca plant. It’s very strong compared to other natural ropes, and it’s more moisture and rot resistant. It also offers excellent abrasion resistance and very little stretch.
Because manila rope is so strong and rot resistant, its uses are many. Ancient fishermen used manila rope to make fishing nets, while common uses today apply to any outdoor or marine setting—ideal for a rope-swing. This rope is flexible and easy to knot, but once wet, manila will shrink, likely making any tight knots permanent fixtures.
Best For: Outdoor work, decoration, fishing nets, marine applications.
Editors’ Choice: Dedu’s 1-inch manila rope consists of four twisted strands of natural fibers treated with a special process to improve its durability (available on Amazon).
If you’ve ever seen the ropes dividing swimming pool lanes, you’ve seen a polypropylene rope. Polypropylene ropes are synthetic, specifically designed from man-made materials to excel in wet applications. This lightweight rope material does not absorb water, and it’s oil, mold, mildew, and chemical resistant. And, to make it even more applicable for wet environments, polypropylene rope floats.
Polypropylene ropes come in braided and twisted versions, and they’re also available in single, double, or hollow braids. The special chemical- and moisture-resistant design makes these ropes suitable for use as dog leashes or horse leads and tack.
Best For: Nautical settings, horse leads, dog leashes, anything in a wet environment
Editors’ Choice: Rope Ratchet’s long solid braid polypropylene rope works with the company’s ratchet systems, ensuring their high strength and durability (available on Amazon).
Nylon ropes are the strongest variety of all the common types of rope. Their synthetic material allows them to lift extremely heavy loads. It’s also very flexible and stretchy, returning to its original shape after stretching. Nylon rope also is an ideal choice when shock resistance matters.
Nylon ropes are abrasion, mold, mildew, and chemical resistant, so they’re suitable for outdoor and industrial environments, as well as for gym and exercise applications. They’re also available in braided, plaited, or twisted varieties, with braided being the strongest and most useful.
Best For: Shock absorption, heavy lifting, recovery, survival, camping
Editors’ Choice: ACY Marine Double Braided Nylon Dock Line comes in 20-, 25-, and 35-foot lengths, with a pre-splice eye and excellent strength (available on Amazon).