You know that yellow nylon rope that's dirt cheap and comes included in the package when you buy a budget tarp or tie-down kit?
You can do better than that.
There's nothing as frustrating as trying to tie down a tarp system in a storm with a piece of crappy rope that won't hold a knot. Or throwing a rescue line to an unintentional swimmer and having it sink.
Knowing a little bit about what rope to get for the job will make your outdoor experience a whole lot better. Here's a description of rope types and how you can use them.
Nylon Double Braid
Need an anchor or docking line? Nylon has some stretch so your fittings won't break as they might with a line that has no give to it. The 1/2" thickness is great for horse or dog leads as well - it's nice and thick and doesn't fail at the buckle end of things as quickly as cotton.
Nylon has great wear resistance and resists UV light and chemicals really well. Being a double braid, this rope is better than a 3-strand nylon in that it handles a lot softer and doesn't kink up as easily.
Low Stretch Polyester
Polyester is strong, tough, slightly stretchy under load and resists UV light and chemicals. In other words it's fantastic rope material. In sailing it's used primarily as halyards to raise sails with. This stuff works fabulously as boat tie-downs on your vehicle, horse halters, basic running rigging lines, and on anything you want to stay put and not move.
You can also get a pre-stretch polyester, which has even less stretch than this stuff. It's good when you need a precise length that won't stretch under load, such as for some scientific testing applications.
Another tough polyester rope with a poly core and brushed poly cover. Sailing folks like this one as the brushed cover gives good grip when it's wet and knots stay firm without having to crank on them.
The great thing about these ropes is they both float and are water resistant. Transport Canada mandates that every boat on the water needs to have 50 feet of floating line on board: this is your stuff. It's what you find in throw bags and it makes great painters for your boat too. Plus it's easy to knot.
Amazing stuff. It's a multi-strand single braid that is stronger than stainless steel cable. A lot of guys are replacing the winch lines on their quads with this as it's more flexible and easier to work with. It has no stretch at all, is incredibly wear-resistant, and it floats.
This comes in a variety of sizes and is useful for everything from climbing to archery to tent guy-lining. It's got some stretch and is usually cheerfully bright and colourful. It's handy to have a spool of small diameter cord in your camping kit or vehicle - it's incredible the number of uses this stuff has.
Good old bungee. Useful in tent poles, kayak deck rigging, tarp tie-downs, backpack accessorizing and a whole lot more.
Not really a rope, but it fits here. Because it's hollow (a tube), it's ultra-strong. Often used for climbing purposes, it's great for a variety of uses and even makes a good slackline (just ask Sarah).