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Webbing is a strong fabric woven as a flat strip or tube of varying width and fibres often used in place of rope. The name webbing comes from the meshed material frequently used in its construction, which resembles a web. 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Originally made of cotton or flax, most modern webbing is made of synthetic fibers such as nylon, polypropylene or polyester.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.
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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 which in earlier days were often used in lieu of climbing harnesses. Wrapped around the waist several times, they were less bulky and more comfortable than the old school method of tying the rope around the waist. More elaborate configurations would include leg loops, which were essential to hold a climber who had fallen or otherwise found themselves dangling. If left supported only by rope or webbing wrapped around the waist, the diaphragm could be constricted and many climbers died as a result of asphyxiation. Narrower webbing is frequently looped through chockstones which are typically metal in shapes such as hexagonal, square, tubular, T, etc., and which are jammed into cracks as safety anchors. In other cases, webbing is looped over rock outcroppings. Unlike tubular rope, webbing is less likely to inch its way off the rock. 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 couple inches 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 rope, which has manufacturers seeking brand identification and customer loyalty, webbing manufacture is typically generic. Climbing shops sell it off of a spool on a per yard or per foot basis. It 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, which is another advantage, albeit minimal. 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.
Automotive and racing safety
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.
Webbing is used to make military belts, packs and pouches, and by extension also refers to the items themselves. 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 and is informally called "webbing".
In many modern armies, this webbing system is designed to be light enough to carry the vital things needed in battle and for outdoor survival. It is made so that if the backpack or bergen is lost or abandoned the soldier can survive and fight on emergency rations carried in the "webbing" for up to 24 hours, although this can be extended if supplies are rationed, and also so that the soldier can have fast and easy access to essential items of equipment or supplies such as ammunition, water, short range communications equipment and other fighting gear. Most webbing systems incorporate a degree of modular construction consisting of a yoke (a type of shoulder harness), a belt and a variety of pouches specific to different tasks, for example pouches designed to carry ammunition magazines may have dividers or special waterproofing. Different combinations of pouches can be used to customise webbing to better suit the mission it is needed for. Generally it is unusual for western armies to fight with a cumbersome, complete backpack or bergen. Prior to an anticipated battle the main backpack is usually stowed away from the forward edge of the battle area and "webbing" (perhaps with a smaller day pack,) is used as the immediate load bearing equipment instead, or the pack is dropped quickly on contact to be recovered later.
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.
Pet Collars and Leashes
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.
- 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.
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