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How to cut and seal backpack straps?

4

My backpack has straps that are way too long and I would like to shorten them, both to save weight and to make it more organized.

How can I cut the straps and then seal them so the ends don't come unraveled, and should I sew them back to itself before sealing?

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2 comments

I'm assuming you mean the webbing adjustment straps here, not the padded shoulder straps? ArtOfCode about 1 month ago

@ArtofCode correct Charlie Brumbaugh about 1 month ago

2 answers

3

I'll echo what Sigma has said: the best way to do this is heat, by one application or another. If you know someone who climbs or otherwise works with ropes, talk to them - they may well know of some good ways to cut ropes cleanly that would work on webbing too.

I work for an outdoors adventure company, and the tool we use for cutting ropes is a small Dremel Versatip butane torch with a blade attachment:

(That image has the soldering tip attachment on it, but you can imagine a small blade attachment instead.)

If you're not likely to use it more than once, that might not be worth the expense for you, but there's also a cheaper alternative: an old butter knife you don't mind destroying, and a lighter to heat the blade up.

I wouldn't recommend trying to sew the strap to hold it together: webbing is tough stuff and anything short of a sailmaker's needle will just stab you rather than the webbing. Even most machines short of industrial models aren't set up to handle that kind of material.

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3 comments

I wonder where the line is for that on the coarseness of the webbing. I've done a lot of sewing with an ordinary machine on straps and can only think of two cases where I broke a needle, both where I was working with several layers of heavy fabric along with the webbing. I'd be concerned that continued exposure on the sealed end would eventually lead to the melted portions cracking and fraying anyway. Sigma about 1 month ago

Additionally this could cause an issue of the adjusting buckles coming unthreaded because there is no stop loop at the end of the strap, but that depends on the size / tightness of the buckle relative to the webbing, so maybe not an issue. Sigma about 1 month ago

@Sigma heat-sealed ends are the industry standard way of cutting ropes to length - as long as you make a reasonably quick cut at high temperature, your seal will remain reasonably flexible, so you don't get any cracking within the lifetime of the rope. ArtOfCode about 1 month ago

2

I assume you mean the nylon webbing straps. There are a couple good ways to do this! I recommend a practice run or two with the unwanted end so you have a good idea what you're doing. Also, make sure any buckles and snaps are above where you wish to cut. Orienting and rethreading these is not fun.

Scissors and candle

You can easily cut webbing with a pair of heavy duty or fabric scissors. Trim any fuzz or irregularities.

To seal the ends, run them quickly close to the flame of a candle or lighter. Be careful not to burn or overmelt the ends as they will create a big ugly blob of brittle plastic; you just want the strands to fuse together at the very tips.

Hot cut

You can either use a soldering iron / hot knife, an actual knife heated with a torch (please don't use a good one), a pair of heated scissors, or any other hot sharp tool to cut the material, doing both the cut and fuse step in one. The best temperature is slightly above the melting point of the material - any hotter and you tend to get burning. I slightly prefer this method as the pressure of the cut pushes the nylon strands together, helping them fuse.

After cutting and fusing

You should sew the ends after fusing them with a heavy nylon thread. If you have a serger you can use that; otherwise a few passes with a zigzag or locking stitch is fine. Make sure to use a heavy needle. If you are just trying to keep the ends from unraveling or buckles from sliding off, you can fold over the inside twice and stitch over the end as below. You can also make a larger thumb loop if desired, though I've never been thrilled with how they catch in scrub.

Note: if you have canvas webbing, run a couple rows of locking stitches before folding over. Don't try to melt it.

Alternatives

You can purchase metal clips that will "lock" the ends of the webbing. I've used these on canvas webbing before with no issues - search something like "metal webbing ends" or "belt end tips" on amazon for examples. Since you mention being concerned about weight this probably isn't ideal for your situation, but they look great on certain styles of pack.

Also not addressing the weight, but if you occasionally share your backpack with someone who would appreciate the extra length but want to keep everything tidy the rest of the time, safety pins or rubber bands are a very viable non-permanent solution (also there's no such thing as too many safety pins when hiking).

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