Polyester and Hi-tech Webbing
Polyester is less stretchy but more burly than nylon. It is available in tubular and flat webbing styles. Trickline webbing used in ratchet systems is typically made from 2” wide polyester webbing. This allows longer tricklines (about 100 ft) to be rigged with ratchets and gives more power to the slackline over shorter distances. Polyester webbing comes in all sorts of configurations but the constant are its low stretch characteristics. This makes tensioning go much faster because there is less webbing to remove from the system. It also holds up to degradation and abrasion very well.
High-tech webbing is a catch all phrase for fibers such as vectran, kevlar or dyneema. These fibers have very high tensile strength and very low stretch. The benefits of these fibers is that they have a high strength to weight ratio. Meaning less material for a comparable strength polyester webbing, without the weight and stretch behind it. Furthermore, while polyester and nylon are in a similar weight range, high tech webbing, especially dyneema, is very lightweight, this makes it the primary tool for breaking records. Some dyneema webbings weigh under 40g/m while being exceptionally strong.
As great as these webbings sound, there are some downsides. They are so low stretch you probably should not use them for highlines under 150ft. This is because the load transfer when taking a whipper or line catch gets directed back to the anchor and your body without much energy getting absorbed by the slackline. It just simply hurts to catch on short pieces of high-tec webbing. Furthermore, the webbing can be slippery and require multiple wraps within the webbing anchoring device.
High-tech fibers also perform poorly in knots. There are a number of factors that go into this, but the the most important being the actual molecular chain for the fiber. These molecule chains are very long, which is why they are so strong when loaded in tension, but they do not like to bend into knots. When bent, their strength is significantly reduced.
In the end, webbing selection comes down to personal preference. We can tell you all this information about slackline webbing… how is made, % stretch, weight and the like but there is no replacing time on the line. That being said, there are a few basic things to remember about webbing that every slackliner should know:
- Nylon can be difficult to tension over long distances; especially tubular webbing
- Polyester is a great all-around webbing, medium-low stretch, variation in weights available
- Both polyester and nylon can have great bouncing characteristics
- High-tec fibers are low stretch, light weight, easy to walk yet more expensive and require a few tricks to anchoring safely
- Weight and stretch are the simplest determinates on webbing “feel”
- Try as many different types of webbing possible to determine your favorite