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Parachute Tarps: The Fuzzy History of Ripstop Nylon

Sometimes, knowing the history of a product helps us to utilize it to its fullest potential. As such, we tried to figure out the history of ripstop nylon as it relates to the parachute tarps we sell. Unfortunately, that history is somewhat fuzzy. What we do know tells us just what makes ripstop nylon such a great material for truck tarps.

For the record, ripstop fabric does not have to nylon. You can buy ripstop fabric as canvas, polyester, and even silk. Nylon is the preferred choice for ripstop fabric because of its unique properties relating to weatherproofing and weight. With all that said, let us talk a little bit about history.

Ripstop and WWII

As best as we can tell from our research, the idea behind ripstop fabric was first proposed during World War II. Those in charge of making combat uniforms and parachutes wanted a material that would be more resistant to rips and tears on the battlefield. They also wanted a material that was lighter.

A year before the start of the war, DuPont introduced a revolutionary synthetic thread it called nylon. This revolutionary thread turned out to be the first commercially successful synthetic thread despite its predecessor, rayon, having been pushed as a replacement for expensive silk.

DuPont’s original plan for nylon did not involve military applications. Instead, it was thought that nylon revolutionized the fashion industry. That didn’t stop the military from looking at it as an option for parachutes.

Parachutes but Not Uniforms

Nylon did end up taking off as material for parachutes during the war. Parachute designers came up with a new ripstop weave that became the precursor of modern ripstop, but nylon fabric would largely disappear from the fashion scene following World War II. It was never seriously considered as a material for uniforms.

At the same time, DuPont really wanted nylon thread to be its mainstay for women’s hosiery. That was their original plan for nylon. So they began pitching the thread, eventually deciding to license it to third-party producers in 1951. Although it enjoyed fairly good success in the hosiery market, nylon thread wasn’t seen as practical or attractive for the rest of the fashion industry.

Nylon’s use as an industrial material continued through the 1950s, 60s and 70s, until the outdoor industry brought it back to front and center as a material for all sorts of camping gear. By the late 1970s, nylon was everywhere.

Parachutes, hang glider wings, etc. were dominated by ripstop nylon. And by the 1980s, ripstop weaves had been perfected. The same weaves preventing rips and tears in parachutes were making tents, backpacks, lean-tos, and camping chairs lightweight and strong. It was only a matter of time before ripstop nylon became a favorite material for tarps.

Modern Ripstop Nylon

Fast-forward to 2019 and the modern ripstop nylon we use today is the best iteration of the product ever. Not only is ripstop nylon still the material of choice for parachutes, it is also used heavily throughout multiple industries, ranging from outdoor gear to logistics.

Ripstop nylon is changing the way we do things in the trucking industry as well. For the longest time, truck drivers have been looking for a tarp material that is lighter and easier to deploy under a variety of weather conditions. Ripstop nylon is that material. It is more durable than vinyl and significantly lighter than canvas. It offers the best of both worlds.

How fascinating that a thread originally intended for the fashion world evolved to become a fabric used in parachutes and truck tarps. And now you know.


A Basic Guide to Parachute Fabric

Mytee Products recently introduced a line of truck tarps made of parachute fabric. Our parachute/airbag tarps are a great alternative to both canvas and vinyl thanks to their lower weight and greater strength. We would be happy to answer any questions you have about these tarps prior to purchase.

In the meantime, we thought a basic introduction to parachute fabric was in order. This guide should help you to better understand the fundamentals of parachute fabric and why it is such a great option for truck tarps. Feel free to browse our complete inventory of parachute/airbag tarps if you are ready to buy.

Multiple Textile Options

Contrary to common perceptions, parachute fabric is not a specific type of textile. Manufacturers can choose any number of textiles to make parachute fabric. Most frequently used textiles include canvas, Kevlar, nylon, Dacron, and silk. Our parachute fabric truck tarps are made with ripstop nylon.

This material is ideal for truck tarps for multiple reasons:

• It is lightweight but strong
• Ripstop nylon is interwoven with reinforcing threads for additional strength
• It is woven with strong warp and filling yarns to reduce tearing
• Ripstop nylon is water resistant, fire resistant, and tear resistant
• It offers an attractive strength-to-weight ratio compared to other materials.

The strength-to-weight ratio is very important to truck drivers tasked with covering their own loads. As you already know, tarping a load is a lot of work – even under ideal weather conditions. Throw in a little wind and rain and tarping can become a nightmare.

A lighter tarp is easier to handle and deploy under such conditions. Still, the driver does not have to compromise on strength with a ripstop nylon parachute tarp.

Characteristics of Good Parachute Tarp

All the parachute/airbag tarps we carry are of the highest quality and craftsmanship. You can depend on them just as you do any other product purchased from us. Should you decide to shop elsewhere, be very careful about what you buy. A good parachute fabric is identified by the following characteristics:

Strength – The strength of any material determines its usefulness as a truck tarp. Our tarps are made using ripstop nylon because it is one of the strongest options. It offers a rather high breaking strength that holds up well at highway speeds.

Tear Resistance – If there is one thing that truck drivers cannot afford during transit is a tarp that tears away. A good parachute fabric is extremely tear resistant. Even where a small tear already exists, it will not easily spread except under extreme conditions.

• Elasticity – The elasticity of parachute fabric influences how easily it unfolds. This is key when a truck driver is attempting to get a load tarped as quickly as possible. With a flip of the wrist and a quick swing of the arms, a good parachute tarp will generally unfold without issue.

• Low Permeability – Permeability is the characteristic of allowing liquids and gases to pass through a substance. Parachute fabric has low permeability, which is good for truck drivers. Tarps are intended to keep moisture and debris away. Parachute tarps do an excellent job.

We are thrilled to have been able to add parachute/airbag tarps to our inventory. Doing so was yet another way for us to serve our customers with the latest and greatest products in the industry. We invite you to take a serious look at parachute tarps as you prepare to restock your truck this winter. Give them a try. Who knows, you may decide to never go back to vinyl or canvas after using a parachute tarp just once.