Choosing Suspension Rope

You are going to be lifting your partner in the air.  You do NOT want your rope to break while doing so.  Keep in mind that, even if a rope is rated for some specific load, that rating is for static (non-moving) loads, and it is the load rating (1) when the rope is new, and has not been subject to wear and tear and (2) when there are no knots in the rope (which reduce the amount the rope can hold).

Also keep in mind that the rope is going to undergo far more strain than the simple weight of your partner, it has to hold your weight while you are lifting your partner.  (We say “your weight”.  It is really how hard you can pull, the maximum limit in this application being your own weight or you will just pull yourself off the ground…)  There are stress factors and safety factors to consider as well which I will add to this article at a later time.

So without getting into the math, here is what you are looking for:

  • Something that will hold 5 times your weight with a single strand
  • Something with good friction (not a slippery rope), especially when first learning

My recommendations:

Many riggers recommend 8mm (5/16″) for suspension lines.  They may tie their partner with 6mm and then suspend them with 8mm.  That said, many riggers do also suspend with with 6mm (1.4″) as well, as long as it meets strength requirements.

Despite what you may have heard, many riggers actually prefer synthetics for their suspension up lines.  One popular choice is Posh.  At the same diameter, it is 2-3 times as strong as hemp, but it still looks, feels and performs very similar to hemp.  This is what I personally use for up lines when I want a more traditional look.

Nylon and MFP are also commonly used for suspension.  I use them myself.  These can be great choices when your or your partner is allergic to grasses (hemp is a grass) or you want bright colors in the scene.  I do not, however recommend them when learning suspension.  In my opinion, it is better to reduce the number of variables when learning a new skill.  When possible, get reasonably skilled with one thing, then add the next.  As Nylon and MFP are more slippery than Hemp or POSH, they add complexity.  So, I recommend you learn and practice suspension skills using rope with greater tooth, get reasonable comfortable at that level first, before adding the additional complexity of using more slippery rope.  That said, this is just my opinion.  There are many people in the community that learned using Nylon and MFP, and continue to safely do so. They are not wrong for doing so.

If you want natural fiber, many riggers would recommend hemp, although jute is commonly used, too.  Especially by riggers using more traditional techniques.   When choosing natural fiber for a suspension, I personally go with hemp.  All else being equal, hemp is stronger then jute.  Due to its lower strength, I am not comfortable using jute for suspension up lines.  The Rope Incident Reports include many examples of jute uplines breaking.  If you do choose to use jute, it is especially important to inspect it prior to every use.  Speaking of which…

Regardless of what rope you choose; it is important to understand that rope will wear out over time and will need to be replacedCheck your ropes every time prior to using them for suspension.  Ropes that are retired from suspension can still find service in floor bondage or crafting.

** You can compare the strength qualities of many different types of rope at Langman’s great site (sample data below), but it is very important to understand that any strength ratings are under pristine laboratory conditions only, and are not guarantees when in practical use.  Once the rope has been under use for some time and some of the internal bits have shifted around, loosened, perhaps some of the internal fibers have broken, any rated strength is right out the window.  Rope strength can even be impacted by the knots you choose (famously it is said that having an overhand knot in a length of rope reduces the strain that rope can withstand by 50%).  So the point is, buy strong rope, but don’t rely on the rated strength like we do for metal components.

Minimum rated breaking strength of choices I prefer/recommend:

  • Posh:  6mm (1/4″) has an MBS of 554kg (1218lbs)  | 8mm (5/16) , 1000kg (2,200lbs)
  • Hempex:  6mm, 519kg (1141lbs)  | 8mm, 965kg (2,123lbs)
  • Hemp:  (Langman no longer provides ratings for Hemp)

My affiliate Twisted Monk. offers Polyester (POSH) and Hemp, and the links to the left will take you there if you want some (I get a small percentage of the proceeds).  But TM does not offer Hempex at the moment, so that link will take you to Langman’s (I don’t have an affiliate relationship with them).

The primary reason I created an affiliation with TwistedMonk was because of their guarantee.  If you have to cut your rope in an emergency, they will replace it–free!  There are, of course, some provisos and limitations, but this is still an amazing commitment to safety in our community.

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