Cam Buckle vs Ratchet Strap: Choosing the Right Tie-Down Tool

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When transporting cargo, whether for personal moves, outdoor adventures, or commercial purposes, securing your load is crucial. Two popular methods used are cam buckles and ratchet straps. A cam buckle typically involves a strap that is threaded through a buckle mechanism that uses a cam to lock the strap in place as it’s pulled tight. Cam buckles are user-friendly, making them a good choice for lighter loads and where over-tightening might be a concern, such as with delicate cargo or recreational gear.

Ratchet straps, on the other hand, offer a ratcheting mechanism that allows for incremental tightening. This is particularly beneficial for heavier, more substantial loads that require a high level of tension to remain secure. The strength and robustness of ratchet straps make them suitable for more demanding applications, ensuring cargo stability during transport. Both forms of securing methods utilize durable materials like polyester or nylon, but the difference in their mechanisms makes them suitable for different uses.

Key Takeaways

  • Cam buckles are ideal for lightweight and sensitive cargo.
  • Ratchet straps provide high tension security for heavier loads.
  • Choose based on load weight and the need for tension control.

Key Differences Between Cam Buckle and Ratchet Straps

When you’re securing cargo, you’ll encounter two primary types of straps: cam buckle straps and ratchet straps. Each has its specific use cases and benefits, so understanding the differences helps you choose the right strap for your needs.

Tightening Mechanism:

  • Cam Buckle: You pull the strap through the cam buckle to the desired tension, then the cam lever is pushed down to lock the strap in place. It relies on your strength to tighten.
  • Ratchet Strap: It uses a ratcheting mechanism where the strap is threaded through a ratchet and then cranked to tighten. This allows you to apply greater tension than you could with a cam buckle.

Load Capacity:

  • Cam Buckle Straps are more suitable for lighter loads as the tension is limited to what you can pull by hand.
  • Ratchet Straps are designed for heavier loads, providing higher tension without the need for excessive force.

Ease of Use:

  • Cam Buckles are generally quicker and easier to use for small loads and are ideal when you need to frequently adjust tension.
  • Ratchet Straps take more time to set up due to their ratcheting mechanism but offer more securement for heavier, more substantial items.

When selecting the strap, consider the weight of your load and how much tension you need to safely secure it. Cam buckle straps work well for lighter, delicate objects that might be damaged by too much pressure. In contrast, ratchet straps are your go-to for heavy-duty applications where maximum hold is essential.

Understanding Cam Buckle Straps

Cam Buckle Strap

Cam buckle straps are an excellent choice for securing lighter loads quickly and with ease. They provide a secure hold without requiring significant physical strength to use.

Design and Function of Cam Buckles

Cam buckles operate with a simple mechanism: a cam or lever within the buckle applies pressure against the webbing, holding it in place. To thread a cam buckle, you slide the strap through the buckle and pull it snug. The cam lever then clamps down on the strap once the desired tension is reached.

  • Components:
    • Lever/Cam: The part that presses the webbing
    • Webbing: The flat strap made of polyester or nylon

Ideal Use-Cases for Cam Buckle Straps

Your best bet for using cam buckle straps is when you’re working with fragile or lightweight objects that could be damaged by over-tightening. It’s also perfect for times when you need a quick, secure fit without the need for ratcheting power.

  • Examples:
    • Securing cargo to roof racks
    • Bicycles on car carriers
    • Light furniture during moves

Benefits of Cam Buckle Straps

The ease of use is a significant advantage of cam buckle straps. You don’t need much strength to fasten them, making them user-friendly. They allow for fast application and removal, saving you time and hassle. Cam straps also tend to be less bulky, making them easier to store and handle.

  • Key Advantages:
    1. Quickness: Fast to apply and remove
    2. Lightweight: Easy to handle and store
    3. User-Friendly: Minimal effort to secure

Limitations of Cam Buckle Straps

While cam buckle straps are convenient, they’re not suitable for all situations. Their strength is limited compared to ratchet straps, making them less ideal for very heavy or large loads. The lack of a ratcheting mechanism means you cannot achieve the same level of tightness that you can with a ratchet strap.

Understanding Ratchet Straps

Ratchet Strap

Ratchet straps are essential tools for securing heavy loads during transport, offering superior strength and maximum tension control due to their ratcheting mechanism. Let’s take a closer look at how these straps serve your needs in heavy-duty scenarios.

Ratchet Strap Mechanism

Your ratchet strap consists of a long piece of polyester webbing and a metal ratchet buckle. The ratcheting mechanism allows you to tighten the strap incrementally, providing a high level of tension with minimal effort. To secure your load, the webbing is threaded through the buckle and tightened by cranking the ratchet handle until it’s snug.

Heavy-Duty Ratchet Straps for Secure Transport

Due to their durability and strength, ratchet straps are ideal for heavy-duty transport needs. They are designed to handle heavy loads with a high breaking strength, maintaining tension without stretching or breaking. This makes them suitable for securing everything from cargo on a flatbed trailer to furniture in a moving van.

  • Breaking Strength: Typically ranges from 1,500 lbs to 10,000 lbs
  • Webbing Material: Often made of robust polyester

Pros and Cons of Ratchet Straps

Ratchet straps have several advantages, such as:

  • High Tension: They provide a greater tensioning ability than many other tie-downs.
  • Load Security: Ideal for items that need to remain immobile during transport.

But they also have some drawbacks:

  • Complexity: Can be more complex to use than simpler straps.
  • Potential Damage: Over-tightening can damage cargo or the strap.

Selecting the Right Ratchet Strap

When choosing a ratchet strap, consider the:

  • Load Weight: Match the working load limit and breaking strength to your cargo’s weight.
  • Strap Length and Width: Ensure the dimensions are adequate for your cargo size and type.

Material and Durability Comparisons

When you’re choosing between cam buckles and ratchet straps, the material of the webbing and the overall durability are crucial to their performance and longevity. Let’s dive into the specifics.

Webbing Material: Polyester vs. Nylon

Polyester is often the go-to for ratchet straps due to its low stretch, excellent resistance to UV damage, and its ability to withstand abrasion. This means when you’re securing heavy loads that require minimal give, polyester straps can be your ally.

On the other hand, nylon webbing, preferred in some cam buckle straps, is more elastic, which can be beneficial for loads that may shift or settle during transport. Its stretchiness can absorb shocks better but may not be as effective in keeping a load absolutely immobile.

UV ResilienceHighModerate
Abrasion ResistanceHighModerate to High

Resistance to Damage and Longevity

Your straps’ resistance to damage directly affects their durability and longevity. Polyester’s tough fibers provide strong resistance to abrasion and cutting, hereby extending the life of ratchet straps under the harsh conditions of securing and transporting heavy loads.

Nylon’s flexibility makes it less susceptible to shock damage but more prone to abrasion over time. However, it should be mentioned that nylon can absorb water, which could lead to mildew or degradation of the fibers, impacting its longevity.

Environmental factors such as exposure to sunlight and chemicals can deteriorate materials. Polyester’s resistance to UV damage ensures it doesn’t weaken as quickly as nylon might when exposed to the elements, giving ratchet straps a longer serviceable life.

Safety and Cargo Securement

The safety of your cargo is paramount, and understanding how to secure it properly will prevent damage and ensure safe transport. Both cam buckles and ratchet straps are effective tools for cargo securement, but they must be used correctly to maintain the integrity of your loads.

Preventing Over-tightening and Damage

Cam Buckles: Ideal for loads that require a gentle touch. They reduce the risk of over-tightening, which can be particularly damaging to delicate cargo. Your pressure on the cam lever defines the tension, which helps to:

  • Avoid crushing or deforming fragile items.

Ratchet Straps: Provide a higher tension capacity. They are excellent for heavy-duty cargo, but caution is advised as excessive force can:

  • Damage the structure of your items.
  • Potentially warp the cargo with excessive tension.

To ensure safety, use ratchet straps with a mechanism to gauge the tension being applied and stop at the appropriate tightness.

E-track, Cam Buckle and Ratchet Strap: How to Tell?

Sometimes, you may hear the word E-track. So what is E-track? What is the relationship between the E-track and the straps?

E-track is a cargo control system that consists of steel rails mounted to floors or walls. Cam buckle straps and ratchet straps are two types of tie-down straps used with E-track systems to secure cargo

The key differences between cam buckle and ratchet straps in relation to E-track:

Both strap types have E-track fittings to interface with the E-track rails and secure cargo horizontally, vertically, or diagonally inside trailers, vans, trucks, etc. 

E-track provides the mounting system, while cam buckle and ratchet straps are tensioning devices that attach to the E-track to tie down cargo. .

Accessorizing and Enhancements

Accessorizing your straps with the right components can significantly boost their functionality. Let’s explore how you can enhance both ratchet straps and cam buckle straps to secure your loads more effectively.

Additional Accessories for Straps

End Fittings: You have a variety of choices when it comes to end fittings:

  • Wire Hooks: These are versatile and can attach to a wide range of anchor points. When you have wire hooks on your straps, you can secure your loads to almost any fixed point capable of bearing weight.
  • Flat Hooks: Flat hooks are ideal when you need to latch onto rails or edges. Their broader surface helps to distribute the load, reducing wear on the strap.

Spool: For ratchet straps, a spool accessory allows you to wind excess strap neatly. This prevents tangling and ensures that the strap is stored compactly and ready for use without knots or kinks.

  • Keep your spool tidy by winding the strap evenly and without forcing too much strap into one area. This will make it easy for you to unwind and use the strap when needed.

Strap Covers and Protectors: These help to prevent wear and tear on the straps against sharp edges and rough surfaces.

  • They extend the life of your straps and keep them in better condition over time.

By thoughtfully selecting and using these accessories, you can maximize the longevity and performance of your ratchet straps and cam buckles.


When deciding between cam buckle straps and ratchet straps, consider the specifics of your load and trip.

  • Cam buckle straps are user-friendly and suffice for light to medium-weight cargo. They protect your items against over-tightening. This makes them ideal for fragile or lightweight items that could be damaged by too much pressure. In addition, they’re quick to secure and release, making them suitable for frequent use over short distances.

On the other hand:

  • Ratchet straps have a mechanism that enables you to apply significantly more tension. They are stronger and better suited for heavy-duty loads that require extra security during transport. While more robust, they also require a bit more effort to tighten and release properly.

Usage Guide:

Cam Buckle StrapsRatchet Straps
Light to medium loadsHeavy loads
Short, local tripsLong, interstate trips
Fragile, easily damaged itemsSturdy, robust cargo
Easy tightening and releaseHigh tension application possible
Quick securing for frequent useRequires careful handling to avoid damage

Choose the strap that best matches your needs. Remember, using the right type of strap not only secures your cargo more effectively but also helps to ensure its safety during transportation.