Every time my family used to go on vacation, I remember feeling a surge of panic if we had to strap anything to the roof of our family’s minivan. My dad had a bag with just three blue nylon straps fitted with cam buckles on the ends, and those were the only things holding our belongings to the top of the van as we navigated the busy 401 on our way through Toronto to our family’s lakehouse. I’ll confess that nothing ever flew, but I’m certain that that’s a miracle. The cam buckles had broken by the time I was 13, so my dad had to tie knots in them to achieve the right length.
This Christmas, I decided that the time had come to give my dad the gift of security with some brand new straps. Little did I know that there were so many options. As it turns out, between the material of the straps themselves, the material of the hardware on the ends, and the style of the hardware, the combinations are all but endless.
Webbing is the terminology for the material used in straps. There are two main types, nylon and polypropylene, and they each have particular strengths and weaknesses.
Nylon’s highly compact molecular structure makes it incredibly durable, and for that reason, it is commonly featured in seatbelts, tire cords, and ballistic cloth. It was even combined with Asian silk in World War II era parachutes. Nylon webbing is most popularly purchased in one-inch thickness, and has high resistance to abrasion, mildew, UV, oil, and grease. It is not, however, very resistant to acids. Nylon webbing also sinks in water and expands when wet.
Polypropylene webbing is also durable and often appears in straps used for hiking, rock climbing, and camping gear. Like nylon, it is resistant to abrasion, mildew, UV, oil, and grease, and is also resistant to acids. Polypropylene webbing floats in water, but it does not have as long a life as nylon.
All in all, I opted to pick up a combination of straps for my dad. I got a few nylon, a few polypropylene, a few with cam buckles, and one with a ratchet. We’re past the point of family vacations, but I’m pleased to know that I won’t have to worry quite so much when he and mom head up to the cottage with a canoe tied to the top of the vehicle. All that’s left now is to make sure he knows when to treat himself to a new set.