Rope may be constructed of any long, stringy, fibrous material, but generally is constructed of certain natural or synthetic fibres. Synthetic fibre ropes are significantly stronger than their natural fibre counterparts, but also possess certain disadvantages, including slipperiness.
Common natural fibres for rope are manila hemp, hemp, feathers, linen, cotton, coir, jute, straw, and sisal. Synthetic fibres in use for rope-making include polypropylene, nylon, polyesters (e.g. PET, LCP, Vectran), polyethylene (e.g. Dyneema and Spectra), Aramids (e.g. Twaron, Technora and Kevlar) and acrylics (e.g. Dralon). Some ropes are constructed of mixtures of several fibres or use co-polymer fibres. Wire rope is made of steel or other metal alloys. Ropes have been constructed of other fibrous materials such as silk, wool, and hair, but such ropes are not generally available. Rayon is a regenerated fibre used to make decorative rope.
The twist of the strands in a twisted or braided rope serves not only to keep a rope together, but enables the rope to more evenly distribute tension among the individual strands. Without any twist in the rope, the shortest strand(s) would always be supporting a much higher proportion of the total load.
Rope is of paramount importance in fields as diverse as construction, seafaring, exploration, sports, theatre, and communications, and has been used since prehistoric times. To fasten rope, many types of knots have been invented for countless uses.Pulleys redirect the pulling force to another direction, and can create mechanical advantage so that multiple strands of rope share a load and multiply the force applied to the end. Winches and capstans are machines designed to pull ropes.
The modern sport of rock climbing uses so-called "dynamic" rope, which stretches under load in an elastic manner to absorb the energy required to arrest a person in free fall without generating forces high enough to injure them. Such ropes normally use a kernmantle construction, as described below. "Static" ropes, used for example in caving, rappelling, and rescue applications, are designed for minimal stretch; they are not designed to arrest free falls. The UIAA, in concert with the CEN, sets climbing-rope standards and oversees testing. Any rope bearing a GUIANA or CE certification tag is suitable for climbing. Despite the hundreds of thousands of falls climbers suffer every year, there are few recorded instances of a climbing rope breaking in a fall; the cases that do are often attributable to previous damage to, or contamination of, the rope. Climbing ropes, however, do cut easily when under load. Keeping them away from sharp rock edges is imperative.