Webbing is a strong fabric woven as a flat strip or tube of varying width and fibres often used in place of rope. It is a versatile component used in climbing, slacklining, furniture manufacturing, automobile safety, auto racing, towing, parachuting, military apparel, load securing, and many other fields.
Originally made of cotton or flax, most modern webbing is made of synthetic fibers such as nylon, polypropylene or polyester. Webbing is also made from exceptionally high-strength material, such as Dyneema, and Kevlar. Webbing is both light and strong, with breaking strengths readily available in excess of 10,000 lb (44.4 kN)
There are two basic constructions of webbing. Flat webbing is a solid weave, with seatbelts and most backpack straps being common examples. Tubular webbing consists of a flattened tube, and is commonly used in climbing and industrial applications.
In rock climbing, nylon webbing is used in slings, runners, harnesses, anchor extensions and quickdraws. Webbing is used in many ways in hiking and camping gear including backpacks, straps, load adjusters and tent adjusters. There are two types of webbing: tubular and flat. The most popular webbing is one inch, but it is available in two and three inch widths.
Narrower webbing is frequently looped through chockstones, which are jammed into cracks as safety anchors. In other cases, webbing is looped over rock outcroppings. Webbing is less likely to inch its way off the rock than tubular rope. Note that webbing construction is either utterly flat or flat-tubular; the latter tends to handle better but knots are more likely to jam.
The most popular knots in webbing are the water knot and the grapevine knot. The latter is stronger, but uses more webbing for the knot. It is customary to leave a few centimetres extending from the knot, and in many cases climbers tape the ends down onto the main loops.
Webbing is also less expensive than rope of similar size, particularly kernmantle rope, which requires elaborate and expensive manufacturing. Unlike climbing rope, which is generally sold with recognizable brand names, webbing manufacture is typically generic. Climbing shops sell it off of a spool on a per yard or per foot basis.
Webbing is cut with a hot wire as is nylon rope, which prevents fraying and unravelling. However, when webbing does fray and unravel, the result is less disastrous than with rope, providing a modest advantage. Webbing suffers the drawback of less elasticity than perlon rope, and it may be more difficult to handle with gloves or mittens on.
Slacklines often use flat or tubular 1-inch (2.5 cm) webbing, or flat 2-inch (5 cm) webbing. Other widths are used, but are less common.
White water rafting boats use tubular webbing for bow lines, stern lines, "chicken lines" (around the exterior perimeter of the boat), equipment tie down, or floor lacing for self-bailing rafts. Rafters call tubular webbing "hoopie" or "hoopi". Rafters also use camstraps with flat webbing for equipment tie down.
Life preservers are also crafted using nylon or cotton webbing that conforms to federal standards and guidelines.
Seat belts are an obvious example of webbings used in auto safety but there are myriad other uses. Nylon and polyester webbing are used a great deal in auto racing safety for a large variety of items. Racing harnesses restraining the driver have used nylon webbing for years, but since the death of Dale Earnhardt polyester webbing is becoming more popular due to its increased strength, and lower rate of elongation under load. The nylon commercial type 9 webbing generally used in racing harnesses stretches approximately 20 to 30 percent of its initial length at 2500 lb (11.1 kN) while polyester only stretches 5 to 15 percent. Window nets to prevent objects from entering the driver compartment are constructed of polypropylene webbing, as are helmet nets used to reduce side loads to the head in Sprint cars. The HANS device uses webbing tethers to attach the helmet to the collar, and the Hutchens device is made almost entirely of webbing.
Webbing is used in couches and chairs as a base for the seating areas that is both strong and flexible. Webbing used as a support is often rubberised to improve resilience and add elasticity. Many types of outdoor furniture use little more than thin light webbing for the seating areas. Webbing is also used to reinforce joints and areas that tend to flex.
Military webbing, otherwise known as Mil-Spec webbing, is typically composed of high-tensile strength, woven narrow fabrics such as Nylon, Kevlar®, and Nomex®. When these materials are used for parachute and ballooning applications, they must also conform to PIA (Parachute Industry Association) standards.
Mil-Spec webbing is used to make military belts, packs, pouches, and other forms of webbing equipment. The British Army adopted cotton webbing to replace leather after the Second Boer War although leather belts are still worn in more formal dress. The term is still used for a soldier's combat equipment, although cotton webbing has since been replaced with more advanced materials. The webbing system used by the British Army today is known as Personal Load Carrying Equipment.
Military webbing is designed to be light enough to carry the vital things needed in battle and for outdoor survival. Generally, a soldier is also provided a pack in order to carry survival items for anywhere between 24 hours and a week. The webbing is designed so that if the soldier's pack is lost or abandoned, the soldier can survive on emergency rations, water and clothing, carried in it for up to 24 hours, or longer if the supplies are rationed.
Typical contents of military webbing equipment include cooking equipment, 24 hours worth of rations, water, ammunition, first aid or survival supplies, cold weather/rain gear, anti-gas/CBRN gear and sheltering equipment (such as a tent quarter/half, poles, rope, etc.). Items are generally stored in an ordered fashion in a combination of ammo and utility pouches. The ammo pouches are reserved for ammunition in the form of magazines, however if not all the pouches are full it is common for soldiers to store their weapon cleaning kit in the same pouch. In the first utility pouch, soldiers generally store their mess tins, pellet stoves, a lighter or waterproof matches, and enough rations to last 24 hours. In the second utility pouch is the army issue canteen and cup. The canteen can hold one liter of water. The mug has two folding metal handles which give the user a cool place to hold it while drinking a warm beverage. The third utility pouch contains a minor first aid kit, for minor cuts and scrapes, but not the first field dressing. This pouch may also contain various other items such as a pair of binoculars, a red light torch, a utility knife, or a compass. Other pouches can be attached which allow for more storage capabilities. For example the Bowman radio pouch for the PRC 349 or the PRR pouch for the personal role radio. These pouches are more expensive due to their limited manufacture.
Most military webbing systems incorporate a degree of modular construction consisting of a yoke (shoulder harness), a belt and a variety of pouches specific to different loads, for example ammunition magazines may have dividers, special waterproofing, and/or tabs to help lift the magazines out. Different combinations of pouches can be used to customise webbing to better suit the mission it is needed for. In some better models the pouches are sewn directly onto a hip pad which prevents bouncing of the pouches and makes the webbing more comfortable.
Generally it is unusual for western armies to fight while wearing a pack and so prior to anticipated contact with the enemy the pack is usually stowed away from the forward edge of the battle area and webbing is used as the immediate load bearing equipment instead. Webbing belts are also used frequently by modern cadet and scout groups, as well as police and security forces.
Tie downs, tie straps, cargo straps, E-track straps, cargo hoist straps, tow ropes, winch straps, cargo nets, and dozens of other items are used by thousands of shipping and trucking companies every day. The transportation industry is perhaps the largest user of high strength webbing in the world.
Belts, suspenders/braces, sandals and handbags/purses are woven from various forms of webbing. Corset-style back braces and other medical braces often incorporate straps made from webbing.
Dog collars, leashes, and dog harnesses frequently utilize webbing to make collars and leashes. While nylon and polyester are most common, polypropylene can also be used. These pet products are often sewn together with decorative ribbon or cotton fabric.
Webbing is often outfitted with various forms of tie down hardware to extend its range of abilities (and create tie down straps). This hardware can take the form of:End fittings (S-hooks, snap hooks, bolt/anchor plates, J-hooks, flat hooks, etc.)
Fasteners (over-center, cam, ratchet, etc.)
Buckles (slide buckles, snap buckles, etc.)
There is also hardware associated with the various end fittings to attach them to a surface, such as footman’s loops, brackets and E-track fittings.