Webbing Failure Modes
Webbing is susceptible to Abrasion, UV and chemicals. The main concern usually is abrasion. Webbing, like rope, cuts very easily when under tension. Whenever there is risk of webbing coming into contact with an abrasive surface, that surface needs to be padded or removed. A common scenario where this is neglected is when girth hitched ratchet lines are anchored around rough concrete or squared steel pillars. This is another reason to use padding. It does not only protect the trees and anchors, but also protects your anchor slings.
As far as UV degradation goes, it seems that damage to most webbings is done in the initial weeks of exposure (such is the case if you’re setting up and breaking down every time). That being said, slacklines left outdoors for long periods of time can become more susceptible to UV damage. Exotic materials, such as dyneema can lose significant strength over time if left exposed to sunlight. Chemicals can also have a detrimental effect on webbing. Gasoline, solvents, urine and especially batteries can corrode your webbing. Battery acid FUMES from leaking batteries can also tear through nylon very quickly.
Webbing gets dirty. To prolong its life expectancy it’s a good idea to give it a bath every once in awhile. One can simply rinse it out the bathtub with straight water or add a small amount of non-petroleum based soap for a little extra help. It can also be run through a machine without detergent if it gets really smelly or dirty. Generally, synthetic materials are not severely affected by mold. However, over time dirt, salt, sand and other material particles can embedded in the webbing and become abrasive to the fibers. We recommend storing your webbing in a cool, dry place away from anything that wants to eat it (chemicals or critters).
We have covered the mechanical properties of slackline webbing without getting too far into what these characteristics actually mean in regards to the walking experience. We also discussed some basic webbing care guidelines. Now it’s time to get into the the nitty-gritty of what different webbing generally feels like while slacklining.