Home » Straps, Bungee Cords, and Ropes: What Is a Tiedown, Exactly?

Straps, Bungee Cords, and Ropes: What Is a Tiedown, Exactly?

You are brand-new to overlanding. Everything you have read or heard suggests that you need to choose the right types of tiedowns to keep your gear secure during travel. But everybody has their own suggestion for the best tiedown choice. You don’t know what to do. The most pressing question is this: what exactly is a tiedown?

When overlanders talk about tiedowns, they are almost always referring to some sort of cam strap. One of the more popular brands of tie downs among overlanders is Rollercam. But then ask a truck driver about tiedowns, and he might mention ratchet straps, chains, and binders. It brings us right back to the same question: what is a tiedown?

A System for Securing Cargo

American Cranes & Transport says that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations define a tiedown as any combination mechanisms and devices that are used to secure cargo. In the case of a Rollercam cam strap, the strap itself is not a tiedown. Neither is the cam buckle. It is the combination of the two that creates the tiedown.

A chain and binder system is another good example. On its own, a chain is just a chain. Likewise, a binder does no good by itself. Combine the chain with the binder and you have a legitimate tiedown.

Webbing straps can be made into tiedowns by adding ratchets, D rings, hooks, and any other pieces needed to complete a full assembly that will anchor to a vehicle and hold cargo tight. It doesn’t matter whether the person using it is an overlander, a trucker, or the pickup truck owner who lives across the street.

When a Tiedown Isn’t a Tiedown

If you adhere to the FMCSA’s definition, the same system that would constitute a tiedown for trucking purposes might not be a tiedown for rigging purposes. Take ratchet straps with D rings on either side. Imagine the straps being used to lift something with a crane.

Because you are lifting with a crane rather than securing cargo to a vehicle, you don’t really have tiedowns per se. Rather, you have a rigging solution. You have combined a number of ratchet straps to construct a sling with which an object is being lifted. Different thing altogether.

The purest definition of the term relegates tiedowns to securing cargo to vehicles. But in the real world, the technical definition does not matter much. What matters is how you use things like ratchet straps, cam straps, and chains.

Single-Piece Tiedown Options

It is interesting to note that tiedowns involving chains and straps are essentially multi-piece systems. But there are two kinds of single piece tiedowns: bungee cords and ropes.

A bungee cord is an elastic cord with hooks on either end. It is a single piece that gets connected to two anchor points. As for rope, it doesn’t need further explanation. Yet there is a reason that bungee cords and ropes are rarely used as tiedowns for commercial purposes: they don’t work nearly as well as straps and chains.

A Tiedown That Won’t Fail

Every job involving transporting cargo from one location to another involves securing that cargo in place. When you are talking heavy commercial loads, it is critically important to choose a tiedown that will not fail. Rope and bungee cords just won’t cut it.

Truck drivers prefer ratchet straps and chains. As an overlander, a good selection of cam straps is likely all you will need. They are more than capable of securing cargo for your travels. If you do prefer something heavier, go for it. Use whatever tiedowns keep your cargo most secure.