Cord Weight/Strength/Cost Comparisons

Types of Cord

Over the last few months I’ve been slowly pulling together a spreadsheet of specifications about different types of cordage that are commonly use by backpackers and hikers with the intent of being able to slice and dice the information in several different ways, by weight, strength, diameter, etc. I’ve recently completed the comparison table using what I consider to be the most commonly used “cord contenders”.

Before you get all up in arms about all of the cords I have not included let me say that this is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list. If you feel strongly about a type of cord that I have not included and are able to provide me with the same specifications that I have used in my table, I will happily add the cord to these tables and keep this blog post updated – but you must provide a complete row of data!

Here is an alphabetical list of the cords that I have included in my brief analysis. Some of them may already be very familiar to you, but one or two, such as Zing-It, may be new. I have hyper-linked each type of cord for information if you wish to purchase some or read more.

The following four data tables show the above list of cords sorted by particular attributes for comparison purposes.

Weight per Foot (Ounces)
Sorted by heaviest to lightest

Tensile Strength (Pounds)
Sorted by strongest to weakest

Diameter (Millimeters)
Sorted by thickest to thinest

Price per Foot
Sorted by most expensive to least expensive

I have been gathering this data on and off for some time for my own purposes and thought that it might be interesting information to share. Also, don’t forget that some of these cords, such as Kelty Triptease and EZC2, have additional characteristics like being highly reflective, in their favor. So it really depends on what your intended use for the cord might be and not just the weight per foot or tensile strength.

Take it for what it is and if it’s useful to you in some small way, let me know in the comments below. I’d also be very interested to hear what your experiences, good or bad, have been with any of these types of cord?

Gear Links: Eastern Mountain Sports | REI | CampSaver | Patagonia | Altrec

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03149043704984095410 EQUIPnTRIP

    Excellent post Brian.

    I have looked for similar comparison charts but have never found any that compare cordage of the types I am interested in.

    Your table lists the cordage I am interested in, plus some; along with the right attributes for comparison.

    Thanks for collating the information and sharing it with us all.

    Allan McDonald @
    EQUIPnTRIP

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02784130095157180086 Jolly Green Giant

    Very nice exercise and comparison.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    Allan, thank you for the kind words. Like you I had been frustrated by not having all the right information in one easily accessible place or format, so that was exactly why I started putting together my own spreadsheet. When you start comparing cords by different characteristics it becomes quite interesting. I could go even further and list those that are bear bagging friendly etc…

    Jolly, thanks too! I didn’t want to appear too geeky, but it seemed like useful data to share with the backpacking community – or at least my handful of readers :-) BTW, I tried to find your first name but couldn’t.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06177707041663366789 Geek

    Too geeky? Can there be such a thing?

    That spectra cord sure is light and strong. Is it still really slick? I used to have some spectra cord years ago that was strong and light but so slick that it wouldn’t hold a knot. I went back to paracord for that reason.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    Geek, one can never be too geeky with a name like geek :-) You’re right though, Spectra cord is definitely very slick, but Aircore 1 & 2 is so thin that it holds a knot pretty well. I’ve found that some of the thinner cords are too thin to work with easily and once knotted are almost impossible to un-knot.

    To be honest, right now I am loving the Zing-It throw line for both price and function. It’s an amazing multi-use line and at $24 for 180ft I can easily make three sets of bear bag cord with it and have a little to spare – that’s not bad at all. It also hold a knot really well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00410284354232381519 Heber

    Thanks for this. I’m also a little obsessive about the cord I use and I’ve had some fun over the years comparing different types.

    By the way, something seems to be wrong with your first table. The cost/foot column seems to be scrambled. Notice that EZC2 (my personal favorite) is listed at $.07 (I wish that were true) rather than the correct $.28. I think that column wasn’t sorted the same as the others.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    Heber, let me take a look and see if I messed up. Thanks for pointing it out!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    Heber, Thanks again! The fun of mixing Excel formulas with pasted values, which didn’t work too well I guess. Should be all fixed and updated now.

    You’ve been the only one to mention it, so good eye! I also wish EZC2 was $.07 per foot, it’s great cord.

  • http://makais.com/ Todd

    We just started carrying the 550 lb Type III Military Paracord at Makais. The brand we are carrying is called “G.I. Plus”. I wanted to offer our customers a good quality all-purpose high-strength cord, and this was the best I could find, in my opinion.

  • http://stick13.wordpress.com/ stick13

    Very nice work. Thanks for the info.

    I am about to start working on my official bear baggin items (at the moment I use random cords and stuff sacks) so I would be interested in your thought about the different “bear baggin lines.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    Todd, thanks for the heads up. I’ll definitely be checking it out and might even get some to do a comparison of what I already have.

    Stick, one of the things I didn’t evaluate as part of this was how tree-friendly each of these types of cords are. Typically your Spectra/Dynema types of cords will be very slick and ideal for bear bagging. Whereas the nylon sheathed cords like Triptease can be very rough and act like a wire saw when use as bear bagging.

    Maybe we could collaborate on the research to come up with some good data about bear bagging cords to share with the community? Just a thought :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=517425410 Gilberto Andd Jesús

    Can I use the arborist zing it throw line to hook up my 2 person hammock? the hammock is supposed to withstand 400 pounds

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Well the Zing-it is rated to 400lbs so in theory it will work. But, you’ll be pushing it to the limits. Are you going to put 400lbs of weight in the hammock? If not, you should be fine. I personally like to use a line/cord rated at least a little bit higher than the weight/stress I am going to put on.

      Also, I’m no mechanical engineer but I do know that if a cord is rated at 400lbs, that would be for a standing (still) line. If you are moving around and excerpting more stress on the line, that may actually be well over 400lbs of effort.

      • DillonJohn

        I’m no expert in cord or hammocks, but for safety’s sake I did want to mention that when choosing a suspension system for your hammock (namely the cord or webbing you use to hang it from a tree or whatever else you find). There are several factors that need to be considered.

        Many people assume that as long as the tensile strength of the cordage is reasonably higher than that of the person or gear that will be hanging in the hammock everything will be fine. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. Because of the manner in which a hammock is suspended, considerable additional force is applied to the cord or webbing. Add to that the fact that depending on the material and knot used, knotting a cord can reduce the tensile strength by as much as half of the overall rating (a side effect of knotting that is only made more notable when you consider that you’ll likely be using multiple knots on the same piece of cord).

        Jeff at http://www.tothewoods.net/Hamm… has written a very informative article on the subject. To summarize, the force applied to the suspension system of a hammock is a trigonometry function where the cord is the hypotenuse of your triangle. If you use the angle of the support to true horizontal, than h = (.5 x user weight) / sin(support angle).

        Basically, most hammock campers use 700 lb as a minimum tensile strength for their cordage and some suggest 1000 lb to be safe. Those numbers, however are based on hanging a single-person hammock, not a two-person hammock rated to 400 lb. This brings me to 2 other points that i’ll make brief. Always make sure that whatever you are using to support the hammock is capable of withstanding the forces you are going to be inflicting on it. A tree with a 6″ diameter is typically strong enough to support a single-person’s hammock but I would look for something stronger for a two-person rig.

        Finally, If you are going to be using cord to suspend your hammock, you should be aware of the damage that it will do if attached directly to a tree. When under the pressures of a full load, because it is narrow, cord will bite into a tree and can inflict serious damage, effectively strangling it, not to mention the surface damage to the bark. Cord can make for some excellent hammock suspension, and will definitely shed weight over an all-webbing setup, but should always be used in conjunction with webbing on the trees. The wider, flat webbing will spread the force much more evenly and will not damage the bark nearly as much, leaving it in good health for the rest of us to enjoy just as much as you did.

        There is a product called a Tree Hugger made just for that purpose, but it can easily be made at home with an appropriate length of nylon webbing and basic sewing skills. Good luck and have fun!

        • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

          Thanks for the detailed response Dillon. My Hennessy Hammock came with a full set of tree huggers which are not only easier to use they are better for the tree as you rightly mention. I believe they even sell them separately for those that didn’t get them with the hammocks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=517425410 Gilberto Andd Jesús

    Can I use the arborist zing it throw line to hook up my 2 person hammock? the hammock is supposed to withstand 400 pounds

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Well the Zing-it is rated to 400lbs so in theory it will work. But, you’ll be pushing it to the limits. Are you going to put 400lbs of weight in the hammock? If not, you should be fine. I personally like to use a line/cord rated at least a little bit higher than the weight/stress I am going to put on.

    Also, I’m no mechanical engineer but I do know that if a cord is rated at 400lbs, that would be for a standing (still) line. If you are moving around and excerpting more stress on the line, that may actually be well over 400lbs of effort.

  • Dillon John

    I’m no expert in cord or hammocks, but for safety’s sake I did want to mention that when choosing a suspension system for your hammock (namely the cord or webbing you use to hang it from a tree or whatever else you find) There are several factors that need to be considered. Many people assume that as long as the tensile strength of the cordage is reasonably higher than that of the person or gear that will be hanging in the hammock everything will be fine. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. Because of the manner in which a hammock is suspended, considerable additional force is applied to the cord or webbing. Add to that the fact that depending on the material and knot used, knotting a cord can reduce the tensile strength by as much as half of the overall rating (a side effect of knotting that is only made more notable when you consider that you’ll likely be using multiple knots on the same piece of cord). Jeff at http://www.tothewoods.net/HammockCampingSuspension.html has written a very informative article on the subject. To summarize, the force applied to the suspension system of a hammock is a trigonometry function where the cord is the hypotenuse of your triangle. If you use the angle of the support to true horizontal, than h = (.5 x user weight) / sin(support angle). Basically, most hammock campers use 700 lb as a minimum tensile strength for their cordage and some suggest 1000 lb to be safe. Those numbers, however are based on hanging a single-person hammock, not a two-person hammock rated to 400 lb. This brings me to 2 other points that i’ll make brief. Always make sure that whatever you are using to support the hammock is capable of withstanding the forces you are going to be inflicting on it. A tree with a 6″ diameter is typically strong enough to support a single-person’s hammock but I would look for something stronger for a two-person rig. Finally, If you are going to be using cord to suspend your hammock, you should be aware of the damage that it will do if attached directly to a tree. When under the pressures of a full load, because it is narrow, cord will bite into a tree and can inflict serious damage, effectively strangling it, not to mention the surface damage to the bark. Cord can make for some excellent hammock suspension, and will definitely shed weight over an all-webbing setup, but should always be used in conjunction with webbing on the trees. The wider, flat webbing will spread the force much more evenly and will not damage the bark nearly as much, leaving it in good health for the rest of us to enjoy just as much as you did. There is a product called a Tree Hugger made just for that purpose, but it can easily be made at home with an appropriate length of nylon webbing and basic sewing skills. Good luck and have fun!

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks for the detailed response Dillon. My Hennessy Hammock came with a full set of tree huggers which are not only easier to use they are better for the tree as you rightly mention. I believe they even sell them separately for those that didn’t get them with the hammocks.

  • Mike Matiasek

    this was very helpful! Thanks for doing this. I was out shopping today and saw MSR has a new “ultra light” cord. You might consider adding it to your line up. No worries if not… I can see how this would be a never ending project with new products coming all the time. Also, it looks like the aircore line of cords are no longer available anywhere. I just ordered up some Zing-it to lighten up my tarp. Cheers!

    • Ron

      This list is/was awesome, it could use an update. Atwoodropes all are pretty amazing and I am sure there are others.

  • ConiKat

    I live in Cotopaxi! Are the folks below hidden around here somewhere?

  • David Thomas

    Thanks for having all this data in one place – it quickly answered the question I had.

    I scored most of a 1200-yard roll of 130-pound-test braided Dacron fishing line at a garage sale (here in Alaska) years ago for $5 and have been using it for backpacking uses and giving away lengths of it ever since.

    25 feet of it is 10.0 grams or 0.014 once/foot. Walmart currently sells a 1500 yard spool for $149.99 ($0.0333/ft). Serious salt-water fishing shops should have it by the foot (they load fishing reels with it). It’s not a round weave, but flat at 0.035″ x 0.065″. A bundle of 60 (like when I make a hank of it) is 0.44″ in diameter so 0.44″/root(60) gives an average effective diameter of 0.056″. All the standard Boy Scout knots work on it, unlike with monofilament.