Irreducible perfection: Sea to Summit cargo straps

I have a confession that will seem like sacrilege to some outdoor enthusiasts: I’m not fond of Fastex buckles.

Why sacrilege? If you’re old enough to remember what we had before them, you’ll understand. The common fasteners for backpack straps, cargo straps, etc., were metal buckles with a sliding toothed bar to grip the strap. They were fussy and time-consuming, and eventually rusted. By contrast, the Fastex buckle (or, generically, side-release buckle) seemed like a miracle of convenience when it was introduced.

But they’re not perfect. They’re plastic and they do break—I’ve lost count of the one-tined buckles I’ve tossed over the years, and the habit of many equipment makers to permanently sew in the buckle doesn’t help. They’re also susceptible to UV degradation: I had a sea kayak that employed them to secure the cargo hatches and every six months I had to replace them all prophylactically to ensure they didn’t start failing in sequence on a rough crossing. Constant sun exposure quickly turned them powdery and brittle.

Finally, and importantly, injection-molded buckles lack any formal kind of working load limit parameters. One is never sure just how much stress a buckle of a certain size will accept before failing—and in some applications that can be critical. 

All this was on my mind when I was shopping for cargo straps to secure my (very expensive) Hilleberg tent to the rear platform rack on my bicycle for a trip through Israel. By chance I discovered the Sea to Summit 10mm accessory straps. They employ a one-piece anodised aluminum toothed buckle impervious to UV degradation, and a relatively narrow (yes, 10mm) strap. Yet, lo and behold, on the buckle was a small tag listing a working load limit (WLL) of 125 kg. That’s 275 pounds to you non-metric people—more than enough, I figured, to safely secure a 4.5-pound tent. 

In use over several hundred miles, the Sea to Summit straps performed perfectly. While not quite as fast as a plastic buckle would have been for securing and releasing, it still took seconds per strap. And despite securing a load that varied from just the tent to a tent plus jacket plus two-litre plastic water bottle, the straps never loosened one millimeter. I soon stopped checking every few minutes to make sure that expensive Hilleberg was still with me.

If you really want a quick-release function, Sea to summit sells the same strap with a hook release, but I wouldn’t bother. The foolproof security of the standard buckle is worth the extra few seconds of setup time. Need more strength? There’s a 20mm version as well, with a 330-pound WLL. Each width comes in three lengths, from 40 to 80 inches—enough to secure very bulky items.

Highly recommended. You’ll find dozens of uses.

The straps are here on Sea to Summit’s site.